2013 wasn’t just the year that ‘Wrecking Ball’ happened. Lee Pennington chases down all the best indie songs you might have missed.
Most French bands these days sing in English, thinking that way they will reach a larger audience, or if they are in a rock and roll band, thinking rock and roll can only really be performed in English. Consequently, a native English speaker hanging out in the company of any new French band will field a lot of questions from the band about whether or not their lyrics make sense, or sound cool. That is why French band La Femme’s debut album Psycho Tropical Berlin (in which the words, despite a few lines, are in French) released in April of 2013 is a breath of fresh air: a breath of fresh air they know firsthand makes sense and also sounds cool, disproving the misconception that the modern French can’t get down in any genre outside of electronic music. On Psycho Tropical Berlin you’ll hear a handful of recognisable influences, but the way they are thrown together is wholly original.
South Carolina’s Mat Cothran (Coma Cinema) makes amazing songs that take a feeling/line/riff and just subtly pound it into you, in the best way possible. It also doesn’t hurt that he has the coolest voice I’ve ever heard. Mat travelled to Los Angeles to record 2013’s Posthumous Release with the band TV Girl, subsequently releasing some of his best recorded material yet, such as the song ‘Satan Made a Mansion’, where Mat has somehow made lines like “fuck me in the graveyard” sound catchy. The amount of great music that Mat is continually putting out with Coma Cinema and his other project, Elvis Depressedly, is insane. Check out 2013’s Holo Pleasures by Elvis Depressedly as well.
‘Platoon’ is the single off of West London band Jungle’s debut double-A Side Platoon/Drops. Simply put, it’s sexy, and it makes you want to dance. To top it off, the music video has become pretty popular on Youtube, due to the shakings of a six-year-old break-dancer. Jungle puts across a press-shy vibe, creating a certain air of mystery around themselves. They released an EP this fall featuring two additional songs and are working on a full-lengther that I’m sure will be huge.
The Belle Game is a “dark-pop” band from Vancouver and Montreal, working within a sound similar to that of other Canadian indie groups such as Broken Social Scene. Their debut album Ritual Tradition Habit released this year features ‘River’- a song that feels completely alive and raw, in which you can palpably feel the creative energy of singer Andrea Lo and the rest of the band.
Roses is a band from Providence, Rhode Island that consists of songwriter Andrew Tobiassen (former member of Deer Tick), Matt DeCosta, and Nick Dawson. They released their first EP this year, full of minimal rock and roll songs about a young guy dealing with love, infatuation, or whatever it’s called in New York City. What I love about this EP is the excellent and unique song construction, such as on ‘KISS KISS KISS’, where two completely different rhythms are combined, one building up until it switches into the other.
I probably played Sonny & The Sunsets’ song ‘Dark Corners’ off of their 2013 album Antenna to the Afterworld more than any other song this year. While compiling this playlist I discovered that this album was inspired by songwriter Sonny Smith’s experiences dealing with friends who had passed (though the album has a positive/forward-looking feel to it). When I was in similar circumstances this year, I listened only to this album, though at the time I didn’t realise that the songs were born from a relatable place. It was just the vibe that sounded best to me at the time. ‘Dark Corners’ is the type of song that makes you feel resilient, like you can wade through the bullshit of the world with a cool head because you’ve got some piece of renegade knowledge in your pocket that daily existence tried but failed to obscure with its barrage of irrelevant obligations and distractions. The feel isn’t showy, just energising in its acceptance of the road and all the stuff you have to do to get where you’re going. Throughout the song Sonny repeats the line: “I can’t wait to find- my little place, in your weird world”.
Austin singer-songwriter Jesse Woods can write a good line, and he has one of those voices that can’t be mistaken for anybody else’s. The first time I heard Jesse Woods I was driving solo from Florida to Los Angeles, when I broke down in the middle-of-nowhere in Texas, where I was stuck for days. While I was there someone sent me some of Jesse’s songs. The mechanics working on my ride had hijacked my guitar- and Jesse had a song about a broken cowboy stealing his music-maker. It was fitting. And comforting. This year’s Get Your Burdens Lifted has an upgraded production style, but instead of drowning the essence of these beautiful folk songs, it just makes them better.
Words / Lee Pennington