Last Friday, September 25, while most of my fellow Nashville concertgoers were headed to the first night of Taylor Swift’s 1989 stop at Bridgestone Arena, a friend and I were on our way to the Ryman to see West Coast indie pop/rock group, The Neighbourhood. My friend had never been to the Ryman, so this summer when tickets went on sale at a fairly low price we decided to just go for it (little did we know that Sufjan Stevens would be announcing a show there merely 2 months later…sigh). The Neighbourhood seemed like a strange choice for the Ryman, as they had certainly lost a good deal of relevance (and not to mention, airplay) since the release of their first album in 2013. Despite that, I was excited mostly to see if they could pull off their unique experimental tracks live.
In the first seven years of the new millennium, Modest Mouse released their most critically acclaimed album The Moon and Antarctica (2000), their most popular song “Float On” (2004), and an album that reached #1 on the Billboard 200, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (2007). In the seven years since that impressive run, the band has been relatively silent, with only sporadic festival appearances, a b-side EP, and promises of collaborations with Outkast’s Big Boi to remind us Modest Mouse was still a thing. After years of tantalizing rumors and false alarms, Modest Mouse is back for real with Strangers to Ourselves.
Courtney Barnett names her songs things like “Avant Gardener” and calls her backing band “The Courtney Barnetts.” She’s a clever girl. In 2013, her silly word play succeeded in accelerating her soothing, monotone drone of a voice across the twangy landscapes of The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. The double EP blew up, sending Courtney Barnett and the Courtney Barnetts touring around the world and off towards developing their first true “album.”
Last week Ms. Barnett dropped her grooviest and homiest little track to date, “Depreston,” the second single off her highly anticipated Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. With a guitar tone that sounds borrowed from Mac Demarco’s 2, “Depreston” has Barnett experimenting sonically, and hints that she isn’t going to hold back from treading new ground.
“Depreston” features Barnett telling a story about house hunting in some undistinguished suburb chock-full of low crime-rates and cul-de-sacs, just far enough out the city to “feel depressing.” The tune begins with her trying to convince herself that she needs to grow up and settle down as she weighs the advantage of brewing her own coffee versus buying fancy lattes from baristas. But soon she finds herself standing in an open-house, contemplating the implications of death, grief, and regrowth after discovering the fate of the home’s previous owner. Barnett sings “If you’ve got a spare half a million, you could knock it down and start rebuildin’” until her incredibly Australian drawl submerges itself into the oceanic groove. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is due out March 24th on Mom + Pop.
Indie rock is a fickle playing field, rivaled only by rap perhaps, in terms of its endless hum of hyped artists rising up only to evaporate into the void. So in terms of indie longevity, The Dodos are doing pretty well it would seem. With six albums and almost 10 years of experience touring, recording, and writing music, Meric Long and Logan Kroeber have led a confident path of exploring the ranges of their own sound, while also releasing excellent music. 2013 saw the release of Carrier, a quiet stunner of a record, one that grappled with the death of Christopher Reimer, former guitarist of the terrific and now defunct Calgary band, Women. Reimer had joined the Dodos and his influence on the band can be heard in Carrier‘s precise electric guitar lines and its understated melancholy.