Dark Indie Rock (and stuff)
1. “Plastic Skateboard” – Brave Baby. It’s rare that a sound comes along that has its own internal logic and consistency. I could namecheck (Fleetwood Mac, Suburbs-era Arcade Fire, mopey mid-’00s electro, etc.), but ultimately their indie rock sound stands on its own. Impressive.
2. “Scar” – The Lonely Wild. Setting up a distinct feeling an inhabiting it is a sure way to hook me, and this rock tune gives us the sound and shape of desperation.
3. “Modern Times” – VSTRS. A killer drummer will always stand out, no matter where he or she lands: this minor-key rock track gets its propulsive energy from the frantic drumming. With the vocals, synths, and loping bass pulling the opposite direction, the drums still push this track onward relentlessly. The tension creates a great tune.
4. “Dear California” – Water District. It’s been almost twenty years since Bush and Incubus were cool (!!), so it’s time for their close-up. This chilled-out track calls up the best of those polished alt-rock slackers.
5. “Young Burns” – Fine, It’s Pink. Like a cave of wonders, this tune starts off with an icy, sparse electro intro before unveiling rooms of soaring, impressive indie-rock sound.
6. “Dirty Deli” – Creature from Dell Pond. An alternate vision of post-punk: jazz-inspired rhythms, dissonant chords, speak-sing vocals, occasional dance-rock dalliances, and a careful use of space. This tune scrambles along to its own idiosyncratic vision.
7. “Going Home” – Stomatopod. It’s a great-sounding old-school punk song. What else do you need?
Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks to Spaghetti Westerns are iconic and oft-parodied. But the theme to “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” isn’t itself the butt of jokes; it is more often the punchline.
Morricone’s works are majestic examples of structural music: you can’t appreciate them by themselves. They are incredible soundtracks, but they are simply that — something must be happening for them to make sense. You can put anything in the frame that the Italian’s scores create; just think of all the different places you’ve heard the classic “wee-ooo-wee-ooo-woo” opening. The humor comes when the situation in the frame doesn’t live up to the (exaggeratedly) high tension associated with the original scenes. It’s an easy and endless joke. It’s also why The Lonely Wild is great.
The Lonely Wild is a band that appropriates the sound of Spaghetti Westerns and puts indie rock in the frame. The band creates pieces with incredibly high drama by taking social cues (clip-clop rhythms, distant reverb) for Spaghetti Westerns and stapling indie rock to them. The songs on their five-song EP Dead End naturally acquire the sort of odd tension that Spaghetti Westerns themselves have. If you buy into the whole piece of art, the drama has reached a breaking point; if you haven’t, it just seems a bit overblown.
I’ve always bit on white hats vs. black hats, much to my sophisticated self’s chagrin. (Not every movie can be an ethical dilemma like Crash or Do the Right Thing.) Similarly, I’ve fallen for The Lonely Wild’s crazy idea. That’s why “Hail” (trumpets, guitar tone) and “Right Side of the Road” (Whistling, faux horsebeats, plodding rhythms) are my favorite tunes here. The members sell the shtick hook, line and sinker. It’s so completely melded together that “Dead End,” which features almost no distinctly Spaghetti markers, feels like it should be from some other band. The swooning pedal steel doesn’t count.
On the other hand, it could just be that it’s a lesser tune. “Out of My Mind” doesn’t have a whole lot of Morricone influence either, but the wry melody is so infectious that you’ll remember it regardless (again, the pedal steel doesn’t count towards its Italian-ness). The shared male/female vocals are another element that make “Out of My Mind” (and the whole EP) stand out.
There’s still room to grow here; none of these songs are the total knockout that this band is capable of. The songs are well-thought-out, the performances are tight, and the recordings are immaculate — but there’s no Arcade Fire “Wake Up” here. This is a band that I feel is capable of a “Wake Up”-type smash, so I’m holding it to nothing less than that.
Definitely check The Lonely Wild’s Dead End out. They’ve been relentlessly self-promoting their DIY ways, and that’s always to be lauded. But in addition to that, they’re vastly creative and entertaining.