Your favourite indie band sucks.
April 10, 2007 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Music nerds! All these indie rock bands are starting to bore me. I want something different... something unique, unconventional, magical, soulful, challenging, uncategorizable, fun, heartbreaking, bizarre, and all or none of the above.

I think as part of my mourning process for the recent disbanding of the Rheostatics, I got to wondering what made them so special. Their particularly fervent Canadianness aside, they were uncompromising, unorthodox, smart, witty, idiosyncratic, and I suppose a little avant-garde. They're the one band that grew with me from highschool into adulthood and helped me learn to broaden my musical tastes and embrace the awkward, the geeky, and the unconventional in everything.

The more I reflected on the band these past weeks, and how much their music meant to me and excited me, the more I realized just how disheartened and bored I am with the current crop of hyped indie bands like the Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Broken Social Scene, Death Cab, Wolf Parade, etc. etc.

All fine bands, but just not what I'm looking for (and without a doubt one of you was going to suggest the Arcade Fire, admit it!) My disinterest has made them all start to sound the same.

That said, in addition to the Rheostatics, here's a quick list of stuff I have been digging: Talking Heads, early Elvis Costello, Magnetic Fields/Stephin Meritt, Lambchop, Pavement, Man Man, Stereo Total, Prince, TMBG, The Polyphonic Spree, Smog, Gogol Bordello, early Bowie, Jens Lekman, Crooked Fingers, The Go! Team, Optiganally Yours, The Russian Futurists -- much of which I don't know how to classify (which in itself is a desirable quality). My profile may be a good barometer, too.

But don't limit yourself to rock/pop. Different is good! Bring on the exceptionally incomparable country, soul, doo-wop, hip-hop, bluegrass, exotica, electronic, folk, blues, polka, jazz, and punk! Bonus points for banjos, vocoders, and toy pianos.
posted by Robot Johnny to Media & Arts (114 answers total) 139 users marked this as a favorite
The Books! Half-Handed Cloud. Final Fantasy. Grizzly Bear.

All cool with the indie crowd, all a bit off their rockers. Send a message to if you want to know more or want more recommendations.
posted by tylermoody at 5:44 PM on April 10, 2007

I'm bored with my music too. I saw this video yesterday and thought you might find it as refreshing and fun as I did.
(Knights of Cydonia - Muse)
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:45 PM on April 10, 2007

Try the New Duncan Imperials. It's been ages since I listened to them, but they are a really great band with a sense of humor. In college in the early nineties, I attended a show they did at a punk club where my friend and I, and maybe a couple of other people, constituted the whole audience, and yet they played their hearts out anyway.
posted by jayder at 5:47 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: a few suggestions

The Cat Empire
Rodrigo y Gabriela
The Hold Steady (may fall under etc etc)
Amy Winehouse
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Andrew Bird
Mindless Self Indulgence (in the unclassifiable category)

and without hesitation the new Weird Al album.
posted by edverb at 5:49 PM on April 10, 2007

Korpiklaani for a little change-up.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:50 PM on April 10, 2007

• jon brion (he produced a lot of elliott smith's "shinier-sounding" stuff) - lots of vocoders, toy instruments, innovative arrangements.
• tin hat trio - also a lot of fun, toyish sounding instruments.
• curtis mayfield
• charlie hunter
• ben folds five
• unwound
• lush
• my bloody valentine
• also, please let me direct you to mefi's very own chococat. simply put, his stuff is fantastic.

that's a good and somewhat varied list to get you started.
posted by numinous at 5:50 PM on April 10, 2007

I really like this local-to-Richmond-VA, kind of nationally known band called Carbon Leaf. They're just...really interesting and cool. Good introductions would be Echo Echo, Indian Summer or ... that live thing they did. 5 Alive? They're an amazing live show - I've caught their acoustic gigs at The Birchmere in Alexandria in the past and have just been blown away by the inventiveness and the talent. No banjos that I know of, but you'll hear mandolin, bowed bass, bouzouki, and random percussion and penny whistle. Honestly - check them out - they have a liberal show-taping policy, so you'll find stuff on

Also, Morcheeba, Patty Griffin and Gillian Welch okbye
posted by ersatzkat at 5:53 PM on April 10, 2007

uncompromising, unorthodox, smart, witty, idiosyncratic, and I suppose a little avant-garde.

That would be The Fall.

Also, seconding The Cat Empire: mindblowingly great Aussie band, mixing reggae, latino, hiphop etc in mostly outrageously happyfun vibes, with a soulful song or two thrown in.

I could probably list at least 100 other bands, but that would just be overkill.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:53 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: Well, according to, we have "Super" musical compatibility, so I'll drop a suggestion or two. (My username is the same there as here, for the record.)

If you're looking for something literate and musically interesting from the rock genre, try Steely Dan. (Can't Buy a Thrill is straight rock, later albums move more toward jazz-fusion.)

If you're digging early Elvis Costello, check out anything from Nick Lowe's early years (The Jesus of Cool, Bowi, etc).

For fun indie-type sounds, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are a great bet. I've been oddly addicted to The Rapture lately, too.

Feeling quiet? Try the Mountain Goats (Tallahassee, The Sunset Tree, etc), or maybe Regina Spektor if you want some female vocals.

Banjo: try Tarkio, which was Colin Meloy's band before The Decemberists. A little rough around the edges, but fun stuff.

As for toy piano: The Boy Least Likely To (so twee-pop, it'll make your teeth rot. In a good way, of course.)

Finally, I can't help but throw a nod to a few great Canadian bands: the Tragically Hip, and Odds.

So much to hear, so little time...
posted by theoddball at 5:55 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

16 Horsepower and then if you like that Woven Hand.
posted by drezdn at 5:56 PM on April 10, 2007

The Virgins (Rich Girls is the best)
Fabulous Entourage (Theme Song, quid)

... and I cannot emphasize enough how great Radio Nova is. Really surprises me, it is like listening to my own playlist only it doesn't repeat and the selection is better.
posted by geoff. at 5:57 PM on April 10, 2007

Bonus points for banjos, vocoders, and toy pianos.

You, my friend, want the neo-rustic lo-fi cross-pollination of blues, country, and broken electronica that is Califone. (Metacritic review roundup here; wiki entry here; Myspace page here.) If you're sufficiently intrigued, I would heartily recommend starting with either Roomsound (first full-length album and my personal fave) or Quicksand/Cradlesnakes (also an awesome record), in conjunction with Roots & Crowns (most recent album).
posted by scody at 5:57 PM on April 10, 2007

something unique, unconventional, magical, soulful, challenging, uncategorizable, fun, heartbreaking, bizarre, and all or none of the above.

if you remove 'fun' & 'bizarre' then i cannot recommend highly enough The Necks - Aussie piano, upright bass & drum "jazz" band - they mostly play improvised pieces around an hour long that start off quiet & slow & build & build & build through subtle changes withing a relentlessly hypnotic framework into the most mesmerising crescendos that you could imagine.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:59 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: Polysics

Japanese Devo-esque rock and roll on an energy-drink high.
posted by SansPoint at 6:00 PM on April 10, 2007

The Unicorns
Gentle Giant
The Flaming Lips
Van Der Graaf Generator
posted by flod logic at 6:00 PM on April 10, 2007

Jan Johansson, especially Jazz på Svenska and Jazz på Rysska (melancholic Scandinavian folk standards, serenely jazzified).

Tobias Froberg -- another sensitive Swede, but that shouldn't be held against him.
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:00 PM on April 10, 2007

Tokyo Jihen.
posted by subtle-t at 6:02 PM on April 10, 2007

Frog Eyes! Okay, occasionally they can lurch into indie-rock territory, and they DID share a member with Wolf Parade, but I believe they're exactly what you're looking for. Very Bowie.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 6:05 PM on April 10, 2007

The Decemberists! Oh yes, most definitely.

TV on the Radio is awesome as well, in a very different way.
posted by jbickers at 6:06 PM on April 10, 2007

TV on the Radio.
posted by cosmic osmo at 6:06 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: Some of my faves that tend to be overlooked by many:

Os Mutantes (Brazilian psych)
bob hund (Swedish indie rock)
Townes Van Zandt (just fucking awesome)
posted by dhammond at 6:09 PM on April 10, 2007

The Notwist, though you'll want to avoid all but their last three albums. They started out as a pretty generic numetal sort of group, but turned into what The Postal Service wanted to be.

Also check out their merger with Themselves, called 13 & God

To go further down the band relation path, Themselves features Doseone of the band cLOUDDEAD

Mind you, all this is veering off the indie rock path, and into the woods of electronica/IDM/rap, but all these bands really deserve a listen.
posted by fnerg at 6:12 PM on April 10, 2007

Pram fits 3 out of 4 of your list of adjectives, with toy pianos to boot. They sound like stereolab doing a soundtrack to a haunted house.
posted by umbú at 6:12 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am not suggesting that you download it, but google "indie rock playlist" (in quotes) for monthly torrents put together by some wonderful person out there with great taste in music. All brand new indie music! I've discovered quite a few new favorites through these torrents. There's monthly torrents going all the way back to last June, I believe.
posted by sian at 6:14 PM on April 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Unicorns.
posted by djgh at 6:15 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: I second Andrew Bird in the most emphatic terms possible and I nth Ted Leo. Perhaps also the Long Winters (quirky, clever, mopey, have opened for TMBG), the Meat Purveyors (cracked-out bluegrass), Erin McKeown (smart, wildly talented electric indie folk with a ton of jazz/swing influence), and Flogging Molly (Celtic punk, with pipes and the whole nine yards).
posted by clavicle at 6:23 PM on April 10, 2007

I have not been able to stop listening to Mountaineer - When the Air is Bright they Shine. Check it out.
posted by aubilenon at 6:25 PM on April 10, 2007

Oh, and I think Veda Hille might fit the avant-garde bill.
posted by clavicle at 6:25 PM on April 10, 2007

I suggest that you listen to the streaming audio of DJ Riz Rollins's variety mix show on KEXP (my local iindependant station.) Riz plays everything from The Staple Singers to A Silver Mount Zion to Ornette Coleman to Piano Magic. There's a certain amount of standard indie fare in there too, but it's minimal. Whenever I'm hating the state of music, Riz cheers me right up.

(And make sure you listen to the variety mix and not Expansions. Expansions isn't a bad show, but it's limited to electronica, so it's not the miraculous smorgasbord his other show is.)

(Also, second the recommendation for Os Mutantes. Os Mutantes makes me frolic like a year-old terrier pup.)
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:31 PM on April 10, 2007

The Junior Boys, Why? (RIYL the Russian Futurists)
Shearwater (RIYL banjos, Smog)
posted by statolith at 6:35 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: Seconding Os Mutantes.

Also, everybody really should have Can in their collections.

Toy instrument list:

Mum, from Iceland: dreamy, nursery-rhymey atmospheres

CocoRosie: nursery-rhymey takes a walk on the wild side

Nurse With Wound: quite out-there experimentation with all kinds of instruments. Crazy theatrical-circusy soundscapes.

Current93: twisted, often very poetic psychedelic folk - go for the later stuff, ie the past 10 years or so. More on the bizzarre folk side than the toy instrument one.

A Hawk & a Hacksaw: Aussie producer (of hiphop act, The Herd) remixes gypsy-style / electronica crossover music. A bit toy instrumenty, but more of the folk-gypsy tip.

The Tiger Lillies!!!!!!!!! YES YES YES!!!!! Falsetto pantomime numbers about suicides & prostitutes, all on miniature instruments!!!!!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:35 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

wow! thanks for the chococat there. once upon a time i got "in the rain" but couldn't find more from the artist (since i kept searching for "bgm"...because i'm dumb).
posted by mittenedsex at 6:40 PM on April 10, 2007

In addition to a lot of the suggestions above (especially the Mountain Goats, though I recommend the older albums like Full Force Galesburg or Sweden over the newer, more polished stuff, and here's a youtube for you); also I've been really into M. Ward recently (a youtube or two of him). And The Thermals are fun.

Also, you know about Joanna Newsom, right? Just checking. If you picked Milk-Eyed Mender up and couldn't get through the first track, I totally understand and urge you to listen to it again.
posted by jacobm at 6:41 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: You've got good taste in music, Robot Johnny, and cheers for looking into things that're a little different.

I've got to second Frog Eyes. My favorite Canadian band right now.

You like Man Man; do you know Captain Beefheart and Rain Dogs-era Tom Waits very well? If not, you should give these older blokes a listen. Also, I've never been able to get into Frank Zappa, but he seems to fit your interests and a lot of people like him a lot.

And hey, while you're trying Frog Eyes on for size, you could do a lot worse than to give Destroyer's Notorious Lightning EP a spin. Destroyer can sound a little classic-rocky sometimes, but he's a winner if you like Bowie. And Frog Eyes support him on that EP. (You should also get 'Thief,' 'Streethawk: a Seduction,' 'This Night,' and 'Destroyer's Rubies' if you like what you hear on Notorious Lightning).

Hermann Dune is a little twee, but he's fantastic. If you like Jens, you might like him.

Oh, God, can't forget 'Bee Thousand' by Guided By Voices.

You seem pretty on top of things as far as the current indie scene goes, so you've probably already been through your Fiery Furnaces phase. If not, though, get 'Blueberry Boat.'

Anything by Deerhoof.

I put Bjork's 80s band, The Sugarcubes, on playlists alongside Prince and Talking Heads. Maybe you should too.

Third Unicorns. And also 'Return to the Sea' by their spinoff band, Islands.

Sparklehorse makes fantastic--and surprisingly melodic--use of toy pianos and strange instrumentation in general. He's got a new album out, but I haven't heard it. I did spin 'It's a Wonderful Life' until it broke.

What else?

Some Robyn Hitchcock can get pretty avant-garde, but he's a folky at heart.
If the only Neutral Milk Hotel you've heard is the essential 'In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,' check out 'On Avery Island' for more out-there instrumentation and song structure.

Oh! Scout Niblett might be up your alley. The new Danielson record is sublime.

This is in a totally different direction, but Joanna Newsom's new album, 'Ys,' is quite unusual (by pop/rock standards) and quite challenging--but most of all incredibly rewarding.

If you like early EC, check out either of Joe Jackson's first two albums and the Graham Parker record 'Squeezing Out Sparks.'

That's all I can think of! I hope some of these catch.
posted by scarylarry at 6:41 PM on April 10, 2007

Also: Regina Spektor
posted by statolith at 6:49 PM on April 10, 2007

I'm with you that indie rock is feeling pretty tired. Here's some recent alternatives:

The Knife
(swedish electro pop)

The Pack -- strange hip-hop

Here's some hyphy -- the latest underground hip-hop sound from East Bay.

For avant garde weirdness, there's the great, if disbanded cLOUDDEAD, made up of Why?, Doseone and Odd Nosdam. The best stuff.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:51 PM on April 10, 2007

The Old 97s. Not avant garde, but very fun (and funny) literate alt-country.
posted by rtha at 6:53 PM on April 10, 2007

I'm not exactly hip with the indie scene but I have heard John Sakamoto play a lot of great music on the Toronto Star's "Anti-Hit List" podcast.

When I am bored with the usual or need to do some soul-searching, I like to listen to Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

You did have a "none of the above" choice, right? :)
posted by SteveTheRed at 6:53 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: If you're willing to dip into the hip-hop realm, I'd highly recommend Busdriver. He spits these hyper-intellectual, abstract free-associative lyrics at breakneck speeds to some of the catchiest, jazziest hooks ever. He's been even known to sometimes rap to the melody rather than the beat. Plus, he kind of a geek, which is cool.

Check him out on YouTube. First link is really fun stuff. Second link is completely mind-blowing.
posted by kmtiszen at 6:55 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: Scott Walker's The Drift
The Books (who are playing the Opera House on Friday)
CocoRosie 2nded
Dirty Projectors ('specially Getty Address)
Panda Bear
Angels of Light
Stars of the Lid and The Dead Texan
Jackie-O Motherfucker (sometimes called JOMF)
Herman Dune and his Yayahoni project as well
Akron / Family
Why?'s Elephant Eyelash
Eleni Mandell
Bonnie Prince Billy
MeFi's own Fake
Glissandro 70
Sandro Perri
Devendra Banhart
The Icy Demons (opened for Man Man a few weeks back)

Note: I love Smog but The Rheostatics bore me to sleep. ;)
posted by dobbs at 6:56 PM on April 10, 2007

Ahhh, y'alls missing the point. The Unicorns? The Decemberists? When the OP was complaining about soundalike indie bands? Pfft.

I have this exact problem, and here's some bands I use to bypass the pitchfork-enforced hegemony of mediocrity:

The Fall's Perverted By Language. There are no words to describe it, except maybe "savage."

Listen to Leadbelly, he's a 30s black folk musician; I would call it proto-folk-punk but it's more like the other way around.

This Heat, Deceit; few other bands would write a song with the refrain "We are Romans, unconscious collective."

Pere Ubu, particularly the song "30 Seconds Over Tokyo."

NoMeansNo is a bluesy sardonic indie metal band which I greatly admire, plus they have the best album cover in the history of awesome:

New Model Army has been around since the late 70s, their singer Justin Sullivan is so earnestly and intelligently angry about the world that it's impossible to be ironic about it. I recommend the album Thunder and Consolation. Probably my favorite band, but damn if they don't have some ugly fans.

The Nation of Ulysses was one of the first emo bands (more situationist than emotional, if you ask me), but genuinely good and genuinely idiosyncratic. Their first album 13 Point Program To Destroy America is fantastic. Read up on them on the 'net, you'll see why they're amazing.

Of course, there are some great 80s post-punk bands: The Chameleons, The Church, Comsat Angels, The Au Pairs.

You don't need me to tell you about Sebadoh, right?
posted by nasreddin at 6:57 PM on April 10, 2007 [3 favorites]

Oh, and Fake and others I listed can be sampled here.
posted by dobbs at 6:58 PM on April 10, 2007

NoMeansNo is a bluesy sardonic indie metal band

Huh? Since when? Metal? You're kidding, right?
posted by dobbs at 6:59 PM on April 10, 2007




Alvin Lucier?

Iannis Xenakis?

Keith Rowe / Toshimaru Nakamura?

Joseph Spence (with or without the Pinder Family)?

The Frogs?

Portland Bike Ensemble?

Cornelius Cardew?

Morton Feldman?

Christian Wolff?

Luigi Nono?

Arvo Part?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:01 PM on April 10, 2007

Metal? You're kidding, right?

Maybe we're listening to different bands? "My Politics"? "I Got A Gun"?
posted by nasreddin at 7:03 PM on April 10, 2007

Well they can have metal-tendencies I guess but I'd call them funk or rock or hardcore or jazz before metal came to mind. Pretty sure they consider themselves a punk band, mostly, though. At least they did when I saw them play 20 years ago.

They also do an awesome a capella cover of the Dead Kennedy's Forward to Death.
posted by dobbs at 7:12 PM on April 10, 2007

Darren Hayes has gone indie and very electronic - there's a sample of his first new single and a video for it on his website.
posted by divabat at 7:12 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: Banjos, vocoders, and toy pianos? Kevin Blechdom. She's dreamy.

My tastes fall very closely in line with yours, and yet you didn't mention Ween, a longtime favorite. Check them out if you haven't, or maybe give them another listen if you thought of them as a novelty act.

The Gourds are a great country/folk band out of Austin, who I discovered after buying and loving the more experimental side project from their frontman: "Buttermilk & Rifles" by Kev Russell's Junker.
posted by contraption at 7:21 PM on April 10, 2007

Once again, I must recommend the massively talented Department of Eagles.
posted by saladin at 7:21 PM on April 10, 2007

how about Animal Collective anyone?

also seconding Pere Ubu, my new favorite band, as well Dirty Projectors and Flaming lips.
posted by Bengston at 7:24 PM on April 10, 2007

You need some showtunes in your diet, my fried. Please pick up the cast recordings (not soundtracks! Movies have soundtracks, shows have CAST RECORDINGS) of the following shows:

Striking 12
A New Brain
The Color Purple
Floyd Collins
Elegies: A Song Cycle

Many, if not all, of these shows are available on iTunes.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:27 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Blacks

The Tiger Lillies

posted by edgeways at 7:32 PM on April 10, 2007

Apollo Sunshine is a great upbeat, quirky band. Both of their albums are great.
posted by deansfurniture5 at 7:33 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: Gogol Bordello (Multi Kulti Somethingorother)
Tom Waits
Edgard Varese
Frank Zappa
Ken Valitsky (Species Compatibility)
John Zorn
Ken Nordine (Colors!)
Prime Time Sublime Community Orchestra (or something like that)
Steven Mackey (Heavy Light)
Sun Ra
Weather Report / Jaco Pastorius
The Shaggs
Carlo Gesualdo
Harry Partch
John Cage
George Crumb
Rebirth Brass Band
posted by Alabaster at 7:34 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: You MUST MUST MUST check out "Crazy Rhythms" by The Feelies. This is what edgy art-pop was meant to sound like. Seriously, if you don't like it you can come over to my house and punch me in the face.

Like everyone else who likes music, I love Andrew Bird. He's a quirky multi-instrumentalist but has a great pop sensibility, plus some songs have whistling. Check out "Armchair Apocrypha" or "The Mysterious Production of Eggs."

Also, do you like hip-hop? There's a lot of great indie hip-hop out there; I'd start with the MF Doom/Danger Mouse collaboration "Danger Doom." MF Doom has a hyper-literate lyricism and a mumbly style that really grows on you, and since Danger Mouse produced it you know the beats are going to be good.
posted by myeviltwin at 7:44 PM on April 10, 2007

posted by Mach5 at 7:45 PM on April 10, 2007

Heartily seconding the Tiger Lillies, 16 Horsepower, Carbon Leaf...

...but if you like Gogol Bordello, have you already heard Firewater? It's the current band of Tod A. from Cop Shoot Cop, with a line up that's included members of the Jesus Lizard, Elysian Fields, Soul Coughing, Foetus, and Big Lazy. The sound is...well...klezmer meets ska meets carnival music meets spy movie soundtracks meets...oh, just go hit their official site and you can listen to all of their last non-covers album online. (Most of the folks I know who are into GB found them by way of association with FW, so there definitely seems to be some compatibility there.)
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 7:53 PM on April 10, 2007

trentemoller -- last resort or his BBC essential mix (which I can send you if you'd like, email in profile)
posted by milarepa at 7:54 PM on April 10, 2007

Never be bored again:

Live Stream
Weekly Archives
posted by The_Auditor at 7:55 PM on April 10, 2007

The Dresden Dolls??

And seconding The Cat Empire and The Avalanches from Australia as being exactly what you're looking for.
posted by chronic sublime at 7:55 PM on April 10, 2007

Smilla reminds me to recommend Soul Coughing's Ruby Vroom.
posted by dobbs at 8:05 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: A few more not-too-obscure but still reasonably unique acts - these don't necessarily always follow on from those of your tastes that I know, but I would put these down as some of the better & more distinctive / unique indie acts I can think of:

swans (seconded)
akron / family (seconded)
bonnie prince billy (seconded & underlined)
pere ubu (seconded)
jah wobble
bill laswell
mazzy star
flaming lips (seconded)
dirty three - post-rock gypsy violin
decoder ring
sigur ros (quadruply underlined)
godspeed! you black emperor!
explosions in the sky
set fire to flames
coda (disclaimer: friend of band - violins, bass, electronic beats: unclassifiable)
cat power (supremely awesome)
straightjacket fits (jangly / melodic NZ pop)
headless chickens (!!! - also from NZ. brilliant!)
the chills (more jangly NZ pop)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:10 PM on April 10, 2007

Anthing you don't recognise on this list is worth a look.

Hottest 100 2007
posted by kjs4 at 8:16 PM on April 10, 2007

bleagh. too many men in these suggestions.

i would recommend basia bulat quite highly. her album hasn't gotten a north american distributor, yet (despite her being canadian), so ... legal options aren't yet viable. but, uh, other ones are.

the new laura veirs album is very good, if you haven't gotten it, yet. and, actually, feist's new album is ludicrously good (i wasn't, to be honest, expecting great things, and i'm presently eating my hat).

idunno. i also like maria taylor's new solo record (she is one half of azure ray, if you know them). it's maybe a bit on the adult contemporary end of the spectrum.

frankly, i saw camera obscura listed on your profile, i'd just listen to them more often.
posted by wreckingball at 8:26 PM on April 10, 2007

Don Omar, Daddy Yankee, archangel, zion y lennox,
wisin y yandel, hector y tito, hector el bambino and tito el bambino

if you like gogol bordello, you'll like flogging molly. both perform ethnic punk and both shows are pretty much the same except flogging molly has whiskey and gogl bordello has vodka.
posted by Stynxno at 8:26 PM on April 10, 2007

Black Mountain
Comets on Fire
Pink Mountaintops
Howlin Rain
Animal Collective
TV on the Radio
Field Music
Cola Wars
The Thermals
The Earlies
13 Ghosts
Secret Machines
The Pinker Tones
Pop Levi
Electric Six
posted by culberjo at 8:28 PM on April 10, 2007

Bob Schneider
posted by magikker at 8:47 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: Some women for wrecking ball:

Nina Nastasia
My Brightest Diamond
Essie Jain
Marissa Nadler
Jana Hunter (and her band Jracula)
Candi Staton
Juana Molina
Edith Frost
Tara Jane Oneill
Karen Dalton
The Blow
Heartless Bastards
The Bellrays
The Detroit Cobras
The Now Time Delegation
Vashti Bunyan

and again for Nina Nastasia, CocoRosie, Joanna Newsom, and Eleni Mandell.

Some of the artists I and others listed can be heard at, which I linked on the blue yesterday. emusic also sells 95% of my recommendations.
posted by dobbs at 8:48 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Country I'd recommend:

The Star Room Boys
Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys
Don Walser
Lefty Frizzell
Geroge Jones' really early stuff (look for the buzzcut)
posted by dobbs at 8:55 PM on April 10, 2007

George, that should say.

World Music

Kletka Red
Amadou and Mariam
Jorge Reyes
Jewlia Eisenberg
Rob Burger

Minimalist or ambient

Philip Glass
Wim Mertens
Stars of the Lid
Michael Nyman
Dead Texan
Pauline Oliveros
posted by dobbs at 8:58 PM on April 10, 2007

You want Norwegian black metal played on flutes, honky tonk piano, and a Hammond organ? Of course you do! You want Borknagar! (Their MySpace page has songs and videos.)

It sounds like Yes and Cannibal Corpse deciding to jam after an aquavit bender, with Elton John popping in once in a while.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:03 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Violent Femmes - once you get past "Blister in the Sun", there's some pretty amazing stuff in there.
posted by davey_darling at 9:09 PM on April 10, 2007

Some have been mentioned above, but here's some I like:

Hawksley Workman, Regina Spektor, Dismemberment Plan
Fiona Apple, The Walkmen, Jonathan Fire Eater, Cuff The Duke, Jonathan Richman, Gang of Four, Guided By Voices, Fiery Furnaces, The Fall, Grandaddy, LCD Soundsystem, Olivia Tremor Control, Tom Waits, Soul Coughing, Old Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, Townes Van Zandt, Fugazi, Jeffrey Lewis, Velvet Underground, Public Enemy, Tiga
posted by backwards guitar at 9:14 PM on April 10, 2007

Seconding the Necks, with a side order of Bevis Frond.
posted by flabdablet at 9:25 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: Some options:

Marnie Stern is what happens when you mix a chorus of eight-year-old girls with a speed metal band. Probably an acquired taste.

Someone told me two years ago that if I liked the Go! Team, I'd really like Handsomeboy Technique. Start with "Season of Young Mouss." Also worth tracking down is Halfby. Two reasons why Japan = AWESOME.

More current music: a round of seconds for Broadcast and Pram for the minimalist psychedelic electropop, and Tara Jane O'Neill for the low-key, offbeat folk-rock. If you liked Camera Obscura, you might also like the Essex Green (who put out a fantastic album last year and opened for Camera Obscura on their recent tour) and Ladybug Transistor.

I've also found that listening to old stuff helps with the indie malaise. Recent obsessions include—wait for it—the Price Is Right soundtrack, the Popshopping series (there are two albums, both chock full of groovetastic German commercial jingles from the 60s and 70s), 70s jazz like Bobbi Humphrey and late-period Donald Byrd (by way of Blue Note compilations by the likes of DJ Mitsu the Beats, yet another awesome Japanese artist), and of course the Rhino 60s girl-groups box set, something I haven't even begun to dig into yet but has already revealed several gems.
posted by chrominance at 9:36 PM on April 10, 2007

The wierdest shit I've heard in a while award goes to Tera Melos.

I second Estradasphere too.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:38 PM on April 10, 2007

Oh, and I forgot! Since you're in Toronto, there's a better than even chance that you've already heard of her, but just in case: Laura freakin' Barrett.
posted by chrominance at 9:41 PM on April 10, 2007

Kris Demeanor makes me cry, in a good way. Shades of Jim Carroll.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:53 PM on April 10, 2007

I don't usually answer these, but we do seem to like many things in common, so: since you like some old new wave, let me suggest the reasonably uncategorizable The Teardrop Explodes, especially Kilimanjaro: stompy, slightly psych new wave with horns and a jerky swagger to it. Since you like old Elvis Costello, second old Joe Jackson. Since you like TMBG, have you heard the remarkable John Linnell solo record, State Songs? It's better than almost any of the last 7 years of TMBG. Since you like Magnetic Fields and also some bands that gesture at pre-rock styles, what about The Divine Comedy? The best-of, A Secret History, is a good introduction.

Finally, for some reason, I think you might like the experimental Japanese Pixies tribute album Tribute to the Pixies.
posted by escabeche at 10:41 PM on April 10, 2007

The Be Good Tanyas have both Canadians and banjo.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:45 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: Cardiacs
posted by Grangousier at 11:46 PM on April 10, 2007

Best answer: The Lovely Feathers?
posted by wsquared at 12:17 AM on April 11, 2007

Off the top of my head..

Ken Andrews. His past projects include Failure, Year of the Rabbit, Replicants, and On. He's just going by his name these days.

The Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Talk about a band who can't be pinned down in a genre. Really. If you remember that "Zoot Suit Riot" song from around '97. That was cool, but forget that. As usual, that one song is never an accurate picture of a band. Check out their earlier albums. Awesome band. But probably not for everyone..

Enemy. I don't know what to say about this little known band.. their vocalist/guitarist says this is his "big dumb rock band." They only have one album, but I dig it a lot. The aforementioned vocalist is Troy Van Leeuwen. He's been involved with Failure and A Perfect Circle in the past, and he's currently with Queens of the Stone Age.

That's all that comes to mind right now.
posted by VegaValmont at 12:39 AM on April 11, 2007

I've seen a few suggestions of John Cage and Harry Partch and the like, and I'd like to issue you a warning on them: while there is multitudes to find in their music, it is not without a steep barrier to entry; in all likelihood, your first experiences with their music will come off to you as a step above noise.

Given that, I'd like to suggest composers of contemporary/modern music whom use both tonality and atonality in their compositions, and whom, I would argue, compose music that is more emotionally informed, as opposed to the highly abstract and intellectual exploration you'll find in Cage and Partch and Stockhausen and etc.: Leo Brouwer is a Cuban classical guitarist and composer who writes primarily for guitar, and his music is some of the most emotive, affecting and powerful I've ever heard. Somewhat similar is Ernesto Cordero, a composer/guitarist from Puerto Rico. Both of them use traditional rhythms and melodic forms in their pieces to great effect. Branching off from there into the wide world of modern music in Latin America, we have the guitarist/composers (perhaps by now you've figured out what my main instrument is :p) Antonio Lauro, Manuel Ponce, and Joaquin Rodrigo. Outside of the guitar realm are such composers as Bela Bartok and Erik Satie. Later you may find yourself willing to approach the works of Stravinsky. All are worth listening to and may act as a good bridge between strict tonality and strict atonality (although, in all honesty, I have very little taste for the latter).

Another fascinating oddity in the history of modern music is Conlon Nancarrow, who composed pieces for the automated player piano that are unplayable by human hands.

Samuel Barber is an under-appreciated modern composer, well-known for his Adagio for Strings.

Going back into the classical canon, Ravel is one my favorite composers of all time. I particularly recommend the piano suite (later orchestrated by the composer himself) Le tombeau de Couperin. Beyond that, whatever your feelings about classical music are, Beethoven's music remains a treasure, and his later string quartets (13+) are of particular interest to the modern ear.

If you want to hear some of the best banjo work ever committed to any media, anywhere, give a listen to Flatt and Scruggs. If you find yourself falling in love with bluegrass (and you WILL, oh you will...), you can continue on to its daddy, Bill Monroe, whose songs are still part of the repertoire of every bluegrass musician today. (I think Blue Moon of Kentucky is the first bluegrass song I ever learned how to play).

Someone I really like to listen to is Boubacar Traore, a folk guitarist and singer from Mali. It's almost bluesy...real interesting stuff.

Finally, the last of what I'd call my favorite genres is salsa. Fania All-Stars, Eddie Palmieri, Hector Lavoe, Johnny Pacheco, Celia Cruz and co. don't disappoint for great music.

As for "rock"...

You might like Anathallo. They're an "indie band," but they do interesting things with instrumentation and vocal harmony, and their stuff is particularly euphonious and layered. See Floating World, my favorite album of theirs.

And finally, things I am seconding: the Books, Joanna Newsom, Os Mutantes.
posted by invitapriore at 12:40 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

OH, and one other thing I forgot: Van Dyke Parkes. He's the guy who collaborated with Brian Wilson to create "Smile," and his albums are fantastic, especially his first, Song Cycle. He also is responsible for orchestrating Joanna Newsom's most recent album.
posted by invitapriore at 12:41 AM on April 11, 2007

Best answer: OK, here's some stuff no one has mentioned:

- Ken Stringfellow - "Touched" - this guy is one half of the Posies, and this album is sheer gold, from the first cut to the last. One of the most gorgeous pop-rock recordings of all time. And while we're on The Posies, "Frosting on the Beater" is just delightfully rich and satisfying.

- Chris Whitley - "Dirt Floor" - an almost unknown guitar player, he had more emotion in one molecule of one finger than many of his peers had in their entire bodies. You want banjos? Listen to the track "Ballpeen Hammer". You've never heard banjo like that. One of my favorite albums of all time.

- The Residents - "Freak Show". Listen to "Harry the Head" and try not to smile. I dare you.

- Larry Fast/Synergy - "Electronic Realizations For Rock Orchestra" - released over 30 years ago, this is one of the most influential albums in the short history of electronic music.

- Kathy McCarthy - "Dead Dog's Eyeball: Songs of Daniel Johnston" - much more listenable versions of Daniel Johnston songs. And if you haven't seen "The Devil and Daniel Johnston", well jeez louise, grab the DVD and prepare to be astounded.

- R. L. Burnside - "Come On In" - take a classic Delta blues guitarist, stir in modern beats and stand back. I've never heard anything else that sounded like this album.

- Weird Al & Wendy Carlos - "Peter and the Wolf: Carnival of the Animals" - this might be the most bizarre musical collaboration of all time, and the CD is now a bona-fide collector's item, but it's truly one of a kind.
posted by dbiedny at 5:27 AM on April 11, 2007

I second Deerhoof. They play crazy, avant-garde type stuff that's not hard to listen to at all. You could also put The Fiery Furnaces in that category.

I also recommend the Mates of State, Aqueduct, the Clean and the DC Snipers.
posted by Andy Harwood at 5:44 AM on April 11, 2007

For something out there, mixing both noise and pop, try Ifihadahifi.
posted by drezdn at 6:13 AM on April 11, 2007

Latin Playboys

... a twisted and avant-garde take on roots music. Latin Playboys draw from blues, border music, experimental studio trickery, and cinematic sound textures ...

Found via Tom Waits writes about his 20 most cherished albums of all time. (No. 18)
posted by Otis at 6:14 AM on April 11, 2007

Best answer: Can't believe people mentioned jangly NZ pop and made no mention of the complete works of one Neil Finn (including solo work, Crowde House, Split Enz and the work he's done with his brother Tim)


n+1 Ben Folds (start with 'rockin the suburbs'), n+1 Sigur Ros

joe jackson
imogen heap
explosions in the sky (all instrumental)
the autumns
the ditty bops
the dead hensons
mike doughty's solo record
the cranes
posted by softlord at 6:20 AM on April 11, 2007

From Otis' last link:

[re: Dylan]: "so the bootlegs I obtained in the Sixties and Seventies, where the noise and grit of the tapes became inseparable from the music"

That's pretty bizarre considering in the 80s Tom Waits was pretty adamant that he never listened to Dylan in the 60s and 70s. He even says so on the documentary Poetry in Motion.

His recommendation of Lurie's Lounge Lizards is spot on, though. I prefer No Pain For Cakes as a starter.
posted by dobbs at 6:22 AM on April 11, 2007

Also, World Inferno Friendship Society.

Wiki's description of them:
Punk Cabaret group from Brooklyn. It is a rotating cabaret of punk/klezmer/gospel featuring horns, piano, guitar, a number of percussionists, as well as a variety of other instruments, such as accordion, xylophone and orchestra bells.

Quite awesome and put on a great live show.
posted by Constant Reader at 6:25 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Bee and Flower (homepage).
posted by The Straightener at 6:29 AM on April 11, 2007

!!! (pronounced chk chk chk)

Cadence Weapon (Canadian MC/producer guy that has tight rhymes, and even tighter beats)

Of Montreal (their new album is so fab and so 80s)

LCD Soundsystem

Hot Chip


RJD2 (check out his earlier stuff)

Tapes 'n Tapes

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Ghostface Killah


Nthing the band that I take my mefi name after... It's been 4 years since I've been in love with this band and I finally saw them perform a few weeks ago.... Fucking incredible.
posted by Menomena at 6:58 AM on April 11, 2007

Nina Simone, anything (or a compilation) from the Colpix or Phillips years. Avoid anything after that.
posted by Martin E. at 7:26 AM on April 11, 2007

Check out Scott Parsons!
posted by cp7 at 7:52 AM on April 11, 2007

Heartbreaking, unique and soulful:

Antony and the Johnsons

I love the song "Hope There's Someone", and the while he's often compared to Klaus Nomi for the singing style, there's something deeper and more haunting in these songs.

Also, HEM. I was shocked to find that they are a Brooklyn band. Their songs are old-fashioned, sweet, and sentimental.
posted by kimdog at 7:56 AM on April 11, 2007

Response by poster: Yowza... thanks everyone. This gives me plenty to sift through and digest. I almost don't know where to begin, but I'm really curious about a number of the better-described suggestions. Off to iTunes and to preview tracks!
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:24 AM on April 11, 2007

Primal Scream, the Orb, Orbital, Propellerheads, Martinibomb, DDT, Massive Attack, BLACK GRAPE!
posted by goml at 9:08 AM on April 11, 2007

Best answer: You've got some great old folk and country in that list — have you tried John Prine? He manages a birlliant combination of goofy and flat-out sincere in his lyrics, and his songwriting seems to pull together the best elements of country over the past 50 years. I'll second the suggestion of Erin McKeown for similar reasons, especially her first album Distillation, and she'll tickle your banjo-and-toy-piano fetish too.

Rickie Lee Jones, of all people, might be worth looking into: her first few albums for clever bubblegum jazz-pop, but her most recent few for poetry and sonic experimentation — electronics and drones on Ghostyhead, low-fi like early Beck on Sermon on Exposition Boulevard. In between there were a few forgettable synth-pop albums that aren't worth your time, but these days she seems to get more interesting with each new release.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:19 AM on April 11, 2007

Thanks to the fact that I have several hundred pictures of fairies to colour in, I spent the day listening to all the Divine Comedy's albums in order, and I came back here to heartily recommend them, even Regeneration.

I still keep hearing new jokes in The Book Lovers.
posted by Grangousier at 11:08 AM on April 11, 2007

The Whitest Boy Alive - so good it might make you cry. BUt not like Emo Pete Wentz with mascara cry.
posted by heartquake at 11:16 AM on April 11, 2007

Back again with a few more Aussie bands you might like to look into:

For gypsy / klezmer style music, or generally genre-bending music heavy with accordions, woodwind & violins, try the following:

* Waiting for Guinness - a bit of Celtabilly thrown in
* Monsieur Camembert - multiple award-winning
* Mikelangelo & the Black Sea Gentlemen - a kinda cabaret version of Nick Cave

Prop are also nice - gentle post-rock with glockenspiels

TISM (This is Serious, Mum) are maybe a bit like TMBG, in that jokey indie sense. You might know the song I'm on the Drug that Killed River Phoenix...?

Not Australian, but I think I forgot to mention them before: His Name is Alive would fit your requirements perfectly.

And also seconding, thirding or fourthing The Divine Comedy.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:05 PM on April 11, 2007

Ooooh, seconding menomena on Voxtrot -- a friend in Texas recently introduced me to their stuff. Check Ramesh's blog for a lovely demo version of "Sway". (What can I say, I'm a sucker for Yeats references.)
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 7:45 PM on April 11, 2007

This is a long thread, but Neko Case doesn't appear in it, and that is a wrong I can make right.

Neko Case.
posted by cgc373 at 9:26 AM on April 12, 2007

And, slightly off-topic but Yeats supervenes: Smilla, have you heard "Troy" by Sinéad O'Connor?
posted by cgc373 at 9:35 AM on April 12, 2007

I made a comment in another thread that might be helpful. I want to also say that SVC Records is a great download label out of the UK and I've loved everything Simon has put out (a sort of self-link, just so you know). Also, feedle has re-released his album with added tracks.
posted by sleepy pete at 5:40 PM on April 12, 2007

Response by poster: After listening to samples of just about everything you guys suggested, I went ahead and marked some best answers -- though really, there are a LOT of great suggestions here, and several things I'm already quite familiar with.

The suggestions that resonated with me the most on first, brief listen: Cat Empire, Tarkio, Polysics, Os Mutantes, Meat Purveyors, Can, Busdriver, Kevin Blechdom, Ken Nordine, The Feelies, Akron/Family, Karen Dalton, The Blow, Handsomeboy Technique, Halby, Popshoppers, Cardiacs, Lovely Feathers, John Prine, Psapp, and R.L. Burnside.

A few dozen more, actually, but those were the names I starred in my notebook.
posted by Robot Johnny at 7:44 PM on April 12, 2007

cgc373: not in many years, and that was before the birth of my Yeats obsession. I've always liked O'Connor's voice, so thank you kindly for the reminder to revisit her debut!
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 8:33 PM on April 12, 2007

I can't recommend Jason Falkner highly enough. I love every single song on Author Unknown -- and that's a rare thing for me. (Also: Wikipedia and MySpace)
posted by ebee at 9:20 PM on April 12, 2007

Ah, this has been such a great & valuable thread. I'm sure Robot Johnny & I won't be the only ones following up on recommendations here for a long time to come. Thanks, all!

* cues The Cat Empire *
(by the way, these guys are so so so so awesome live & they are almost always on tour - you can sign up for emailed updates on their website - recommended becoz they sell out very fast)

How to explain?
Something makes me howl
and shiver to the core
ah outside if it was raining
then inside there'd be a storm
we've got a pair of hands for climbing
and a pair of knees to spring
and a pair of balls for strength
and a pair of lungs to sing
and these simple chords
that say:
music is the language of us all

posted by UbuRoivas at 9:25 PM on April 12, 2007

I think what you may need is the Music Genome Project.
posted by Industrial PhD at 8:29 PM on April 13, 2007

Introducing folks like yourself to Herman Düne is one of my duties as a music lover. They're actually a band, not one guy. I'd start with Not on Top or Giant, their most recent album.

Here's their MySpace page. David, the front-man, does a fair amount of solo work; here's his MySpace page.
posted by viewofdelft at 9:26 PM on May 15, 2007

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