Nice, Nice, Very Nice is more than just nice. Mangan expertly blends folk rock and country with expressive lyrics that build vivid stories.  Mangan's voice has the gravelly tones and vulnerability of Damien Rice or Conor Oberst, but with a deeper, heavier quality. Most of Mangan's...

Sebastian Blanck's Alibi Coast is a folk album with an intimate feel. Blanck's vocals are heavily doubled in an attempt to sound harmonized and choral (think: Fleet Foxes). As the album plays, the songs begin to melt together, making them seem more like one long...

The online indie shop Insound have put together a series of poster and t-shirt designs for a bunch of bands that are the who's who of indie rock right now. Here are some of the posters from that series -- the best ones, actually. Some...

Menomena have always seemed like a happy-go-lucky bunch. With an arbitrarily-chosen band name reminiscent of The Muppets and lighthearted album titles like I Am The Fun Blame Monster!, the Portland band established itself early on as hard-working yet fun-loving. The band members worked tirelessly towards their success without sacrificing their artistic integrity; they employed DIY promotional methods and remained loyal to Pacific Northwest record labels when they probably could have gone to "bigger and better" ones. They took pleasure in simple projects, buffering their live shows with innovative ideas and devoting their second full-length as an instrumental accompaniment to an experimental dance performance. As Menomena constantly pushed the limits of what it meant to be a creative indie rock force, all pieces pointed to a well-functioning musical machine.
Fast-forward to nearly a decade since the band's first live performance. During that time period, Menomena has released four albums and signed to three different Pacific Northwest labels. The band's long-awaited fourth full-length, Mines, was released in mid-2010, more than three-and-a-half years since their previous release, Friend And Foe. On record, the time seems hardly to have made a difference. Menomena sound as united as ever, the same thoughtful songwriting and complexity one finds on their previous albums present on Mines.

A deeper look, though, reveals that the three musicians behind Menomena – Danny Seim, Brent Knopf, and Justin Harris – aren't actually quite as compatible as they might seem. In fact, they've openly admitted that the creation of Mines was punctuated by countless soul-crushing arguments, and it seems remarkable that they were able to complete the album at all. Despite their obvious creative quirks, the members of Menomena are actually quite serious when dealing with one another; it seems the musical relationship they operate within is a gnarled one.
In their self-crafted statement for Mines, percussionist Danny Seim describes the creation of the album, saying, "Nothing holds up a process like an indispensable band member being both a perfectionist and a control freak. Especially when your band features three of these types. And we certainly haven't gotten any more agreeable in our old age – quite the opposite. However, in the wake of brutal disagreements, unrelenting grudges and failed marriages (not to mention a world full of modern terrorism, natural disasters and economic collapse) somehow this band is still standing."

Mines is the silver lining on a cloud that represents years of creative stagnation, difficulty, and compromise.

In 2009, Portland record label Marriage Records released Merrill Garbus' first album under the moniker tUnE-yArDs. The album was called BiRd-BrAiNs, and only one month later, Garbus was signed to 4AD, a reputable label known for their work with everyone from Deerhunter and Blonde Redhead to The Mountain Goats. With only one month of buffer time between her record release and her label signing, what was it about Garbus that captured the attention of such a huge label?
To put it concisely, Garbus is a helluva woman. Armed with a ukelele, free music editing software, and a digital recorder to capture samples with, Garbus created the lo-fi BiRd-BrAiNs in as DIY a manner as possible. She channeled the hopelessness from a particularly low point of her life into an experimental album – one which feels positive in its instrumentation but has hints of cynicism in its lyrical content. The album is chock full of rhetorical questions -- hypothetical what-ifs one might ask when questioning oneself.

"At a certain point in my mid-20s, I hit real rock bottom -- I mean, in terms of, feeling I wanted to exist on the planet. When I realized that if the choice was between dying versus doing something that made me want to live and made me want to be a part of the world, that was the obvious choice," explains Garbus. "And I guess through my music, I found that."

Listen to "Hatari" - DOWNLOAD MP3

The first two tracks off The Harvey Girls' new album, I've Been Watching A Lot Of Horror Movies Lately, exemplify what the band does best. A horde of subtle manipulations, unusual samples, and simplistic looped guitar lines greet the listener as the folksy vocals of Hiram Lucke drone on like mantras. The husband-wife duo know how to take successful baseline ideas -- like ridiculously ingraining acoustic guitar concepts or fax-like synths -- and base entire songs around them, using ever-so-slight production embellishments to keep the listener's ears occupied.

 

Lately, there's been an influx of bands like Look Mexico, Daikon and Everyone Everywhere who are taking cues from great bands like The Promise Ring, American Football, and Owls -- all the great Jade Tree and Polyvinyl groups that made making mixtapes and sweater vests...

Dan Sartain begins Dan Sartain Lives, his sixth album, with paranoia and his life under threat in "Those Thoughts"; "I don"t wanna know who"s at my door.../ I don"t wanna hear your gunshots," he sings. Thereafter, the mood changes, until he ends the collection with "Touch Me," a lyrically optimistic track which describes the tangibility and goodness of other lives: "Everything"s made right when you touch me/ Just a touch of your fingertips will make the shadows disappear." The connection between the beginning and the end is a connection between life and death which pervades this album, and, contrary to its often dark sound, Lives is a hopeful offering. Even the artwork contrasts notably with his previous two album covers, which depict his suicide.

 

The ironically life-affirming "Atheist Funeral" has a bassline which creeps like the Grim Reaper beneath lyrics about controlling one's own life: "We die, I know/ And we all must go.../ Don"t speak about God at my funeral." This deicidal attitude is also heard in "Praying for a Miracle", over the reincarnated chords of Iggy Pop and Ricky Gardiner's "The Passenger." Here, Sartain places the difference between life and death not in the power of some benevolent God, but in one's own hands: "Heaven and hell may not exist/ And I don't believe any of it/ Nobody's looking out for you."

Parlovr are a three-piece out of Montreal, crafting a self-professed "stripped down, salacious and spastic" breed of indie pop. Their self-titled debut is bristling with nervous energy, somehow corralled into concentrated, three minute bursts of melody. Underneath all their shambling glory, many of the songs...