Finding my way into the world of indie music
February 4, 2005 8:06 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to give the indie music world a go, but have no clue where to start. Yeah, there's a whole blogosphere of indie downloads and reviews, but I can't seem to find a particular feature [more indieside]

Are there any sites which compare particular indie artists or groups to, um, mainstream faire? I'm looking for indie music along the lines of, please don't hate me, Counting Crows, Third Eye Blind, Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls, and the like.

Yeah, yeah...bad taste, you say. So help point me in a better direction...
posted by icontemplate to Media & Arts (52 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Epitonic has always been good for me. Thier mp3 section is large and diverse, and they come with fairly informative descriptions.
posted by jonmc at 8:21 AM on February 4, 2005

It sounds like you want something along the line of a Playschool's My First Little Indie Rocker Fun Kit. You should probably start with the major magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin and dip your toes in the water that way. Since they're geared to a more mainstream audience their indie recommendations might be a little easier for you to relate to. Many of the sites and magazines that most "indie types" read are going to be pretty dismissive to what you're looking for.

You're going to end up buying some stuff you hate when you start delving into any new musical genre no matter how much advance reading you do. Just jump in and figure out if it's for you. Indie music is a pretty broad term that for me lost it's meaning many years ago, so there's not a reliable single go-to spot for newcomers.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:22 AM on February 4, 2005

Maybe not exactly indie, but check out Paul Westerberg's Stereo/Mono album. Goo Goo Dolls want to be the Replacements, Westerberg's former band.

As for Counting Crows... if you like their slower, prettier songs, maybe take a look at Trashcan Sinatras out of Scotland. The singer's voice is not scruffy, but the nice accoustic/clean electric instruments are there. You might also enjoy some of Wilco's less adventurous stuff, and I'd recommend checking out Anders Parker, formerly of Varnaline.

Not sure about any sites that compare indie acts to mainstream counterparts. It's kind of an abstract excercise anyway, as the goal of most indie music is to NOT sound mainstream. Having said that, Epitonic has a box of "similar artists" on their band profile pages. Amazon, of course, has similar features. Check out their "lists" made by users, some of them do have themes along the lines of what you're asking for.
posted by edlundart at 8:23 AM on February 4, 2005

My suggestion is to seek out Independent music, rather than Indie music.
posted by angry modem at 8:25 AM on February 4, 2005

Two good starts:

PitchFork Media is a good daily-updated indie news/reviews site. Extremely indie-snob, but they do do a good job of covering nearly all of the current indie world, from indie rock to indie pop to indie hip hop to etc.

Epitonic is a more band-focused site, so you kinda have to wade through it, but they have thorough reviews of each band, searchable by genre, and a ton of samples per band.

Off the top of my head, check out: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Matt Pond PA, The Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Modest Mouse, British Sea Power, and The Shins.
posted by The Michael The at 8:26 AM on February 4, 2005

It's a problematic request because the aesthetic of the indie rock scene is incompatible with some of the groups you mention. Vocals will be downplayed often, song structure will differ ('where are all thoses catchy choruses I love?'), and the at least hint of punk will usually be there...

I suppose the closest modern equivalents would be like The Shins or White Stripes. Consider The New Pornographers or Ted Leo. Maybe that Ryan Adams record, Gold (which technically isn't indie, and technically kinda sucks). The Pixies are both seminal and accessible. These are the smallest baby steps I can think of.

Personally, I'd go oldschool. Start with Iggy's Raw Power and the collected works of Velvet Underground. If you enjoy these, there is hope for you...
posted by drpynchon at 8:29 AM on February 4, 2005

Insound has a lot of full song downloads and good reviews.

Also, there might also be some helpful stuff in this previous question.
posted by milovoo at 8:35 AM on February 4, 2005

Start with the Strokes, then work backwards 'til you hit the Velvet Underground.

Other bands I've found good for breaking people in are Neutral Milk Hotel (In the Aeroplane over the Sea is a good album), the Flaming Lips (start with Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots) and the latest Modest Mouse album.

Also try Pavement's Terror Twilight and New Pornographer's Mass Romantic for two very different takes on 'indie pop'.
posted by sid at 8:38 AM on February 4, 2005

You could try Allmusic. For example, start with the Goo Goo Dolls, go back to the Replacements, and see which indie bands followed them. FWIW, I would highly recommend Tommy Stinson's post-Replacements solo material (under his own name, Bash & Pop, and Perfect). He is nowhere as famous as Paul Westerberg, and arguably less gifted, but he's much more consistent.

If you don't mind print material, CMJ's record reviews are based, in part, on comparisons to other bands. And each issue comes with a free CD.
posted by subgenius at 8:40 AM on February 4, 2005

Congrats to you for wishing to expand your musical horizons to the less corporate, less pre-processed world. As you've probably anticipated, you will encounter people who will express a certain superiority complex (I am often guilty of being one of these people). Don't let them (us) get to you - we're just pissed off because we were less popular in high school.

I would suggest that you listen to the streaming audio at KEXP, a real-life "terrestrial" radio station that also has a very significant presence on the Internet. The morning and afternoon "variety mix" shows are the best place to start (John Richards and Amanda Wilde). Even if you're not listening at that time of day, you can listen to archived streams. The web site will tell you exactly what you're listening to and what label it is on.

I second the recommendations for Insound and Epitonic (I have discovered a lot of new artists that way) - also read the record reviews on Metacritic.
posted by matildaben at 8:43 AM on February 4, 2005

New Pornographers, Pixies, Superchunk (oh my gosh do I loves me the power-pop), Big Star, dB's.
posted by Vidiot at 8:49 AM on February 4, 2005

I will second Pavement's Terror Twilight, then move to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. If you like Pavement, check out Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, particularly the first album. (it has a more quirky fun feel than their latest)

A good measuring stick for friends has always been Fugazi, Hum, Polvo, Rocket from the Crypt, and Sweep the Leg Johnny. All "indie" in their own right and all very very different, but each gives a good start on very classic distinct styles.

I also like reading up and sampling at CD Baby. They have a large list of independent bands, with user ratings and recommendations.
posted by Benway at 8:50 AM on February 4, 2005

Best answer: I have never seen anything like this, but Allmusic is adequate for their "sounds like" "influenced by" and "followers" section on each band's main page. Which won't necessarily point you towards any indy rock bands per say.

But, from your list, it looks as if you like jangley, guitar oriented music - so here are a few "hip" bands that you might like.

(Caution - Indy rock is all about what is "hip" right now, so you kind of have to try and keep up. Read Pitchfork, most Indy rock fans I know will never admit it, but mysteriously get into whatever is on their "best new music" section - my self included. Writing style aside - they are the tastemakers right now).

Current fave's of jangley, guitar oriented music

The Shins (both albums are great)
Flake Music (the Shins before they were the Shins)
The Rogue Wave
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
A.C. Newman - The Slow Wonder
The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic
Chad Vangaalen (track down his infiniheart album - sooo goooood!!!)
Death Cab for Cutie (start with "The Photo Album")
Hood - Outside Closer
Jets to Brazil (the closest I can think of in this genre that would compare to the Counting Crowes - especially the Four Cornered Night and particularly the song "One Summer Last Fall")
Koufax - It Had to Do With Love
Promise Ring - (You know that U2 song "The Sweetest Thing" - I would bet money that they wrote that song after listening to their album "Nothing Feels Good" - all of their albums are great. Probably my favorite band of the last 10 years)
Maritime - Glass Floor (this is the new incarnation of the Promise Ring)
American Football or Owen - both projects of Mike Kinsella
Pedro The Lion - start with "It's Hard to Find a Friend"
Sloan - especially "Twice Removed"

Then, when you're tastes have improved (and only then) - you are allowed to listen to Guided by Voices - "Bee Thousand" and "Alien Lanes." At that point, you will reach enlightenment.

drpynchon has it though - get yourself some Velvet Underground and Stooges albums. Or a copy of "Pet Sounds."
posted by Quartermass at 8:51 AM on February 4, 2005

Oh yeah, you may also enjoy 89.3 The Current from Minnesota Public Radio. They have a high-quality audio stream, and the playlist is basically catchy alternative music (AAA or Adult Album Alternative). For example, over the last two hour they played:

Phantom Planet - Big Brat
Cibo Matto - SciFi Wasabi Radio Version
Chic - Good Times
The Thrills - Whatever Happened to Corey Haim
Shivaree - I Close My Eyes
Perfect - Better Days
Ivy - The Best Thing
Jolie Holland - Black Stars
Travis - Slide Show

This is not a bad way to find music you've never heard. It won't be ideal for the die-hard P'fork / ILM / Williamsburg scenester, but you're not in that camp. Yet.
posted by subgenius at 8:55 AM on February 4, 2005

I think the whole thing with independant music is that they don't do as well with the one thing the corporate music industry actually seems to be useful for, advertising, marketing, and distribution. So it's gonna be harder to find digested and comparatative studies, cause basically, if they're big enough to get noticed you've probably already heard of them.

My suggestion is to spend a few days listening to random stuff on (the slow as hell) IUMA and maybe, like me, you'll be surprised at how much of the music on there is actually pretty damn good.
posted by 31d1 at 8:57 AM on February 4, 2005

Seek out college radio webcasts. In no particular order, here are some. (UT-Austin), (Case Western Reserve), (Princeton), (Vassar), (Seattle), and on and on.

And (saving the best for last) when you've oriented yourself in this new world, hasten to and never leave.
posted by scratch at 9:05 AM on February 4, 2005

I also second everything Quartermass said (I love you, Q). God do I love "Nothing Feels Good." Never got the cred it deserved...

However as much as I love'em, I'd be wary of Neutral Milk Hotel, The Decemberists, or Arcade Fire. I would definitely not consider these good starting points, or anything remotely like the music you alluded to initially.

Here's two more classics that fit, if you're willing to dig back several years...

Built to Spill - "There's Nothing Wrong with Love"
Braid - "Frame and Canvas"

For everything you find that you like, definitely allmusic the band and see where it leads you.
posted by drpynchon at 9:06 AM on February 4, 2005

If you like indie music, KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic is a great show. New new artists, many of which will impress the indier-than-thou.

The show is from 9-noon, PST and many times Nic has a band come in for a live set in the last hour. And it's not a morning show in the sense of a corporate radio show but it's all about music. No gags or jokes or anything nonsensical (except for the occassional pledge drive, but it's a public station so donate).

Another great resource is radio paradise. Not as cutting edge as MBE but he still plays new indie music all day long.

my newest love is jesca hoop and, not so new but still haven't hit the bigtime which is why i'm still recommending them to everyone I see, metric. And of course, the band and songwriter that got me through high school without killing all the mc hammer listeners, Paul Westerberg/The Replacements.
posted by Tacodog at 9:23 AM on February 4, 2005

oh yeah, and audioscrobbler is, I'm told, pretty good in recommending similar music. I signed up for it but never got around to loading the plugins and such. Worth a shot.
posted by Tacodog at 9:26 AM on February 4, 2005

Ack! Tacodog just beat me to it, but I second the (free) Audioscrobbler plugin for your music player; it's a collaborative filter that watches what you listen to, then makes reccomendations based on what others listening to similar music are listening to as well.

Scan over your list of reccs and there are sure to be a handful of indie bands you haven't heard that would be right up your alley.
posted by thomascrown at 9:39 AM on February 4, 2005

All of this advice is good--though I'll note that specific band recommendations, in which the internet abounds, aren't really part of the question, right? So I won't make any, even though it's fun.

I used to DJ at WPRB in Princeton, which is a great indie station, but any old indie station will do if there's one in your area. And I think that Spin is actually a pretty good place to start. It's a mainstream magazine with what you could call an artsy or vaguely independent sensibility. Pitchfork is quite good, but if you've never listened to anything non-mainstream-radio before, it will be bewildering, though rewarding. Also there were a fair amount of records in Rolling Stone's Top 50 this year that could be considered 'indie': honestly these records would be a pretty good place to start (Arcade Fire, Interpol, Dizzee Rascal, Wilco). The reviews of those records are written for people who are new to indie music.

Personally speaking, I got into 'indie' music by reading CMJ, which publishes reviews of new records with a fair amount of regularity. CMJ's reviews are actually surprisingly mainstream, and feature a 'you'll like this if you like that' format. But the best thing to do is just to spend a few hours reading some reviews and then put down $60 on four records that sound interesting. (One note: quote-unquote-indie sensibility sometimes ends up meaning 'twee': but this is not all that there is to indie music by any means.)
posted by josh at 9:40 AM on February 4, 2005

drpynchon- I disagree...NMH were one of the first indie bands I loved.

Also, I came from a similar musical background, so here's some stuff that I like, many of which have been mentioned already. (I still have a fondness for the Counting Crows.)

Arcade Fire
Teo Leo
Bloc Party
Postal Service
The Blow
Built to Spill
The Decemberists (You want catchy? They've got catchy.)
Ryan Adams (Start with Heartbreaker. It's his best and really nice.)
The Secret Machines
TV On the Radio
Bright Eyes
Rilo Kiley
Fountains of Wayne (Less known, but not really indie)
They Might Be Giants (Indie...kind of.)
posted by amandaudoff at 9:51 AM on February 4, 2005

Once again, everything that Quartermass said.

I also second Pitchfork. Say what you will about them, when they rave about something, you should check it out.

KRCW is also excellent

Other bands I feel are being woefully neglected:

Belle and Sebastian
My Bloody Valentine (listen to Loveless)
Rilo Kiley
Elliott Smith
The Magnetic Fields
The Decemberists (even though one person mentioned them... mmm, The Decemberists)

Also, as was mentioned, listen to the bands that inspired all this stuff - give yourself a healthy dose of The Beatles, Nick Drake, The Beach Boys, and The Smiths.

When I first saw this question, what immediately came to mind was that site where you could type in a band name and it would graphically represent all the bands that were similar or in some way related. I think it was posted on MeFi some time ago, but I searched and couldn't find it. Anyone have the link?

On preview: amandaudoff wins.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:09 AM on February 4, 2005

Other people have mentioned some great bands, but you also might want to try listening to the IndiePopRocks stream at SomaFM. You can also check out CBC Radio 3 (if you are on Canada and can get CBC2 locally, you can also listen to it on Saturday evenings from 8:30 too the wee hours of the morning).
posted by synecdoche at 10:09 AM on February 4, 2005

However as much as I love'em, I'd be wary of Neutral Milk Hotel, The Decemberists, or Arcade Fire. I would definitely not consider these good starting points, or anything remotely like the music you alluded to initially.

I'm also going to have to disagree with that statement.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:11 AM on February 4, 2005

The Daily Refill by Jen Carlson is a good site to check every now and then. Lots of links to free downloads.
posted by mds35 at 10:12 AM on February 4, 2005

Pitchfork, Insound, Pavement, The Shins, are all good suggestions for starting points. I will say that if you have iTunes they let you sample parts of all their songs before buying. Pavement can be inarticulate which is very unlike those mainstream bands. They Might Be Giants is an acquired taste. I'm going to suggest the Magnetic Feilds (69 Lovesongs, I) since they have some of the best lyrics ever written.

Also, check out Largeheartedboy's blog. The best (independent) music blog I've come accross. Email him and I'm sure he can help.
posted by scazza at 10:22 AM on February 4, 2005

I just purchased 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields, and I'm greatly enjoying it (and I usually don't care much for what's sometimes labeled "indie" music). The lyrics, especially, are amazing.
posted by Prospero at 10:31 AM on February 4, 2005

Neutral Milk Hotel, The Decemberists, or Arcade Fire

Despite my unbounded respect for amandaudoff in these matters, I have to agree with drpynchon here. As distinctive and compelling as all three of these are, accessibility is not among their virtues.

I would say that Rilo Kiley, Death Cab For Cutie, and The Shins represent the mainstream-palatable edge of indie music right now. For fans of the straight-up guitar rock, I would also recommend "The Meadowlands" by The Wrens and any of the last few Ted Leo and the Pharmacists records.
posted by jjg at 10:37 AM on February 4, 2005

Neutral Milk Hotel, The Decemberists, or Arcade Fire

Despite my unbounded respect for amandaudoff in these matters, I have to agree with drpynchon here. As distinctive and compelling as all three of these are, accessibility is not among their virtues.

I can at least see where you're coming from about The Arcade Fire and NMH (even though this is only relative inaccesibility we're talking about here - that stuff is still very melodic and not that tough to get into, IMO), but come on, my parents love The Decemberists. Now, maybe I wouldn't recommend The Tain or Shanty for the Arethusa for a first listen, but there's nothing at all difficult about Grace Cathedral Hill, The Gymnast High Above the Ground, Red Right Ankle, California One/YABB, and a large portion of their oeuvre.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:56 AM on February 4, 2005

suggested indie:
Godspeed You; Black Emperor!

A Silver Mt. Zion
Set Fire to Flames
Sigur Ros
Deathcab for Cutie
Modest Mouse

suggested pseudo-indie:
The Arcade Fire
The Strokes
The White Stripes
And You Will Know Us By the Trail Of Dead . . .
posted by Ryvar at 11:04 AM on February 4, 2005

How is Modest Mouse (on Sony) more indie than the Arcade Fire (on Merge)?

My $0.02: I think the records in this thread are too twee. The Wrens, The Hot Snakes, The Exploding Hearts, Guided by Voices, Luna, Clinic, Fugazi, Killing Joke, and a lot of bands are also indie bands--i.e., bands signed (or signed, in the past) to independent labels. There is a huge indie universe out there that is very large and not all the Shins and Bright Eyes; as Slack-a-gogo says way upthread, today 'indie' is often meant as an aesthetic term that describes a very particular subsection of the music that's out there. You might also just be looking for music that's not top-40 radio, in which case there's a ton of independent music that's distributed on relatively big labels: Wilco, Primal Scream, Spiritualized, and so on.

I love the Shins like everyone here, but you should definitely do your own snooping around, listen to college radio DJ'd by punks that play rawk and roll and get some badass music in addition to, say, The Decembrists! Sonic Youth, for example, is 'indie,' but it is not boys and girls singing together about love. It is awesome and loud and I don't think the word

Not like the music getting recommended here isn't great; but it's only a very specific subset. I'm just saying--indie doesn't necessarily mean 'indie.'
posted by josh at 11:51 AM on February 4, 2005

*don't think the word 'indie' describes it aesthetically.
posted by josh at 11:52 AM on February 4, 2005

Once you start finding some things you want you might want to check out eMusic as a cheaper source than iTunes (and it gives you straight mp3s) to acquire songs. They have a lot of indie stuff. They used to have some better mechanisms for helping you find related things based on user suggestions, but there are some friendly people in the forums there that can help you out as well.
posted by babar at 12:09 PM on February 4, 2005

Not like the music getting recommended here isn't great; but it's only a very specific subset. I'm just saying--indie doesn't necessarily mean 'indie.'

Yeah, but he named a bunch of melodic pop/rock bands as the kind of stuff he's into, so I think the recommendations here make perfect sense.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:22 PM on February 4, 2005

Personally, I'd go oldschool. Start with Iggy's Raw Power and the collected works of Velvet Underground. If you enjoy these, there is hope for you...

I agree strongly with drpynchon's sentiments here. There's a lot to be said for starting at the beginning, and the VU is the beginning. If you don't want to pony up for the whole box set, get yourself a copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico and either Loaded or, if you really want to jump into the deep end, White Light, White Heat.

As for the roots of the whole melodic post-punk guitar sound, you need some Mission of Burma. Download a copy of "Academy Fight Song" right this minute. You won't regret it. Then buy the album, 'cause you're an honest man.

Also, some Joy Division and, if you're feeling bold, The Fall (there's a new "greatest hits" collection out).

As for newer music:

Have you signed up for the MeFi cd swap yet? It's a great way to get introduced to new music...

Let me also second (or third, or whatever) the recommendation of Pitchfork. Yes, I know that they're intolerable indie snobs who can barely put together a competent review, but their tastes align so well with my own it's scary.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:57 PM on February 4, 2005

Reading this thread off and on today, I definitely got the impression that responses were skewed toward meeting the original poster's requests in relation to the bands he listed. This is good! But I also appreciate the dissenting opinions that recommend icontemplate seek out other "othered"/"indie" bands. It seems like an imperative if you are looking into alt music of any sort.

There's a ton of stuff upstream that I'd heartily second or third, and many methods like listening to KEXP and checking out magazines that I also think are valuable when exploring music (I used to love big takeover and skyscraper for that, but I haven't been to a magazine stand in awhile -- the blogs have taken over much of this).

I'm super tempted to list more than two here, but everyone has already worked hard to give you their lists so I'll leave out some favorites of my own, things like Yank Crime by Drive Like Jehu, and suggest that you check out these two early-mid pre-whatever-"indie" albums:

Violent Femmes by the Violent Femmes. For me this album defines so much of what a quirky college rock and later indie pop band should do to speak to me. It has some great music. Amazing lyrics. It is upbeat and melancholy; sarcastic and sincere. It might not do the same for you, but it has inspired many many people. A friend once had the opportunity to approach Gordon Gano and speak to him. In awe of one of his heroes my friend told him that the first Violent Femmes album inspired him to learn the guitar and become a singer-songwriter. Gordon apologized.

Spiderland by Slint. This album had a huge impact on me for its storytelling, quiet beauty, powerful yet intricate rock and perfect sense of dynamics. I tried to imitate it and failed miserably. It's one of those near perfect albums: right time, right place, right thing all coming together.

On Preview: mr_roboto is dead on with both the Mission of Burma and Joy Division recommendations, too.
posted by safetyfork at 1:52 PM on February 4, 2005

I'm definitely in the "start at the beginning" category as well. To that end, one of the all-time essentials for any music collection is the Clash's London Calling. (You needn't necessarily worry about getting the recent reissue with all the extras -- the basic remastered version will do you nicely.) It's really an amazing, uplifting amalgam of tons of different styles run through the blender -- punk, rockabilly, reggae, etc. As the original Rolling Stone review put it:

Merry and tough, passionate and large-spirited, London Calling celebrates the romance of rock & roll rebellion in grand, epic terms. It doesn't merely reaffirm the Clash's own commitment to rock-as-revolution. Instead, the record ranges across the whole of rock & roll's past for its sound, and digs deeply into rock legend, history, politics and myth for its images and themes.

Other bands of the same period that are wonderful starting points would be the Ramones, the Buzzcocks, and the Jam. For more melodic stuff beyond the punk era, the first two that come to my mind are Crowded House and XTC (both brilliant bands, both almost criminally overlooked in the U.S.). And speaking of brilliant-but-overlooked bands, you can't go wrong with Big Star, one of the most influential (semi-)obscure bands on whole swaths of alternative music (most notably, perhaps, REM). Oh, and speaking of them -- I'd suggest checking out something from their "indie years." (Reckoning might be the most immediately accessible.) If you find you like any of this stuff, feel free to email me to discuss further. Have fun!
posted by scody at 2:32 PM on February 4, 2005

Am I the only person who doesn't wholly subscribe to the 'start with The Strokes and work your way back to the Velvet Underground' theory? There's much more to the story than that one particular line of development, especially for the melodic verse chorus verse type of music you are looking for. But to be practical: another vote for Epitonic here. You can download mp3s there, or sample music from bands that are better known, and the recommendations are both valuable and accurate.

PS Buy a copy of The Bends.
posted by jokeefe at 2:41 PM on February 4, 2005

Oh, and not to overwhelm you even more, but you may want to check out this thread from last summer, which might be helpful for the more melodic side of things.
posted by scody at 2:58 PM on February 4, 2005

indie p O p.
posted by glibhamdreck at 3:12 PM on February 4, 2005

RE: London Calling.

Got a copy on cassette 15 years ago. I have never been able to get into it. I have tried over and over again - but to no avail. On the other hand, I love the Clash's S/T debut.

If you want to go old (and you do), I will second Big Star, and add that if you like that you could go even further back and check out Alex Chilton's prior band The Box Tops.

Remember the scene in Almost Famous where Lester Bangs was in the Radio Station?

"Did you know that "The Letter" by The Box Tops was a minute and 58 seconds long? Means nothing. Nil. But it takes them less than two minutes to accomplish what Jethro Tull takes hours to not accomplish! "

I mean - does it really get better than "Sweet Cream Ladies?"

No, it doesn't.
posted by Quartermass at 3:24 PM on February 4, 2005

that site where you could type in a band name and it would graphically represent all the bands that were similar or in some way related. I think it was posted on MeFi some time ago, but I searched and couldn't find it. Anyone have the link?

ludwig_van: it's prolly they've licensed the content from allmusic and made a little flash application to graphically link all bands together which are represented as spheres in a 3D space and you can zoom in and out and fly around everywhere. whee.
posted by sammich at 5:43 PM on February 4, 2005

ludwig_van: Maybe you meant MusicPlasma?

icontemplate: Rather than any specific band, label or zine, might I suggest reading a few mp3 blogs to get a feel for what you do/don't like? Said the Gramaphone does a great job of covering the jangly guitar-type indie rock, Music For Robots is a bit more eclectic with coverage of electronic and hip-hop as well as indie, and while The Tofu Hut isn't particularly indie-focused, you get a great selection of eclectic music and features on other mp3bloggers that specialize in all sorts of different styles.
posted by arto at 8:05 PM on February 4, 2005

jjg- I'd like to point out that my grandmother likes the Arcade Fire. The last band that I played for her that she really liked was Barenaked Ladies....just sayin'.
posted by amandaudoff at 8:28 PM on February 4, 2005

And both are CANADIAN!

posted by Quartermass at 8:54 PM on February 4, 2005

As far as the classics go: Try listening to just about everything R.E.M. made before Green (post-Green is good, but not as good).

I'd specifically recommend Lifes Rich Pageant and Chronic Town, their first E.P., which can usually be found stuck onto the tail end of Dead Letter Office, their B-sides collection.

I also don't think anyone's mentioned Shonen Knife, who have some of the greatest covers on planet Earth; their cover of "Daydream Believer" alone makes their Happy Hour album worth the price.

For ongoing education, you might also check out Questionable Content, a fairly funny and very sharply-drawn webtoon which makes mention of about four or five indie bands per week. The artist even has a recommended listening page.

And you just can't beat Jets to Brazil.
posted by hifiparasol at 9:15 PM on February 4, 2005

Sorry, when I said "webtoon" I meant "web comic." Consider the hair split.

I also forgot to mention Le Tigre, my absolute favorite punk band.
posted by hifiparasol at 9:21 PM on February 4, 2005

Oh, hey, there was a post recently on the excellent Crooked Timber blog that seems almost calculated to be useful to you: they got various people to suggest good, listenable but obscure songs, paired with more popular songs with a similar sound. You should check it out.
posted by moss at 11:46 PM on February 4, 2005

icontemplate: A really useful resource to start with might actually be's artist profiles, which have a tab called "Similar Artists". You'll see a scattering of bands with the same general sound or sensibility, and at the top you'll see two links: "More mainstream" and "More obscure". e.g. Artists Similar to Counting Crows.

I'm using recently myself, but LAUNCH has a feature called the Band Name Fan Station, which lets you listen to the music in that similar artists range, and rate it. The more you rate the more the music presented to you will fit your tastes, which isn't as reductionist as it sounds. Judicious use of that "more obscure" link will lead you in directions that are good. LAUNCH also recently beefed up their catalog in a number of significant areas, although the stuff they present on the front page is very mainstream by definition.

I like epitonic, but I seem to have discovered it at the end of its life. I'm suspicious that it isn't getting updated seriously anymore, as of last summer. If anyone can contradict that I'd be pleased (obviously the glory days of 1999's burn rate are not to be seen again). is great because it keeps track of what you actually listen to. It doesn't work the way LAUNCH does in that your radio stations are based on other listeners, rather than bands and genres, but that's good too in that you'll get exposed to a broader range. I like to just bounce around the similar artists lists and find things that way.

Oh: and are tools that let you enter multiple band names (within a reasonable artistic range) and get a band similar to at least one of them. Also, Wikipedia and MusicWiki are decent places to look up bands you've never heard of.
posted by dhartung at 1:28 AM on February 5, 2005

ludwig_van: Maybe you meant MusicPlasma?

That's the one.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:23 AM on February 5, 2005

I have in my aggregator. Its many aggregated blogs have introduced me to lots of great music.
posted by britain at 10:10 AM on February 6, 2005

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