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What’s Buzz 2008

February 29, 2008

The months of January and February are almost universally agreed upon as the worst part of the year. The weather is unbearable, there are no sweet holidays, it’s an overall blergh period. Fortunately, indie rock knows no calendar, and we’ve been given quite a bit to talk about already here in 2008. There have been a few very buzzy bands to surface in these two months, and this is an attempt at navigating through them. The following bands will be given a buzzworthy rating, on a 0-100% scale. The more worthy the band of their buzz (buzzworthy) the closer they are to a 100% rating.

VAMPIRE WEEKEND

Vampire Weekend was already the source of considerable buzz stemming from their 2007 self-titled EP. Their sound is very quirky and melodic, and they apparently take influence from both popular African music and Western Classical. Are they worth the buzz? Considering that this is the most enormously buzzy bands in some time, it would be hard to give them a 100% buzzworthy rating, especially given that they sound at times more obnoxious than anything. However, they do deliver something worth a listen. 2008’s self-titled LP is full of fresh fun and surprising arrangements. Highlight tracks include “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” “M79,” Walcott,” and “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance.”

Buzzworthy rating of 70%

TIMES NEW VIKING

If you like Guided By Voices-as the blogger does-you’re in luck. Times New Viking’s ’08 release Rip it Off is the closest thing to a straight Bee Thousand homage that there is. For those in unfamiliar territory, that means that the album is rich with fantastically written and endlessly sweet and catchy rock songs ala early Beatles, buried behind a wall of lo-fi tape-hiss and rarely any longer than two minutes. TNV’s lo-fi-ness is initially unbearable, the fuzz often times impenetrable. But after a few spins the songs will become blissfully familiar. Rip it Off is an absolute gem, and in this man’s opinion the best release of the young 2008. Even if it is just a GBV homage, it is a damn good one and a happy ode to seminal indie rock.

Buzzworthy Rating: 85%

***Times New Viking will be playing at The Picador on Sunday March 9th as an early part of the Mission Creek Midwest Festival. Be there!***

BEACH HOUSE

Beach House was destined to enter once again the indie rock spotlight with their new release, Devotion. Their 2006 self-titled LP was a critical darling and a wonderful album. Devotion offers generally much more of the same: slow, dreamy, sweeping-keyboard layered love ballads. The album is quite heavenly, recommended especially for gentle moods (not for late night interstate driving).

Buzzworthy Rating of 75%

BLACK MOUNTAIN

Black Mountain is best described as a an indie stoner metal band. Evoking Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Dio, and all those other Dungeons and Dragons friendly bands thrashing and rocking in the 1970’s. What separates Black Mountain from a band like Wolfmother, you ask? Well, they have this chick wailing wordless vocals sometimes (think a less soulful and more creepy “Great Gig in the Sky”), which is very effective, especially on the lead track and single “Stormy High.” And, their sound is distinctly more “indie,” than that of most metal bands, meaning it has personality. 2008 release “In The Future” is certainly listen-worthy, but like many of the genre the album is ultimately somewhat monotone and sometimes too wankery.

Buzzworthy Rating: 70% (taking into consideration the less than startling level of BM’s buzz)

BON IVER

Released originally and independently in 2007, the debut LP-For Emma, Forever Ago-of this considerably talented folk singer-songwriter has been given a proper release through Jagjaguwar in early 2008. Bon Iver (real name Justin Vernon) has an incredibly chilling voice and sounds like a more ghostly and reserved Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Musically, FEFA offers folk instrumentation so appropriate that it’s harder to imagine Iver’s voice sounding any better over anything else. Check this one out ASAP.

Buzzworthy Rating: 90%

(JohnWilmes)

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