Music has always been a refuge for me. Going back to my youth when “Don’t Cry” by Guns and Roses was my go to song whenever I was having relationship problems. Even though I didn’t exactly take Axl’s advice, I tended to spew tears like a water faucet, that song helped me acknowledge and process my feelings and eventually move forward, a little stronger, a little more resolute. Music is therapy, similar to a good book. It’s a medium that lends itself to escapism.
As the years have peeled away, I still find myself looking to music as a vehicle to steer me away from bad memories and the ashes of past failings. As I’ve gotten older and presumably more handsome, I no longer look to the bands of my youth to satiate me. While bands such as Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Guns and Roses, Elton John, John Lennon and others were pivotal and influential during my life, you can only hear “Yellow Brick Road” so many times, eventually its impact is lessened by way of redundancy. I’m always in search of similar music but with a different voice, something more unique and fresh.
My quest for some new music from a different vantage point, has led me to bands that are more obscure than bands of my younger days. With the advent of the Internet and all its tentacles; YouTube, Pandora, Spotify and many others, access to less popular bands has gotten much easier. Through this vast portal of music sites, I truly found my musical muse; Indie rock with dark undertones.
Independent/Alternative bands aren’t as handcuffed as more mainstream artists are. The more popular bands are heavily produced and in order to be “radio friendly” their songs tend to suffer from a lack of soul and originality. Similar to a blockbuster movie, they come across as very formulaic. When you’re trying to sell millions of albums, it’s certainly understandable to cater to the wanting of a mass audience. I can’t fault record labels for trying to make a boatload of money, it’s the American way, but that doesn’t mean I have to listen to the saccharine noise these popular groups shove through my headphones.
Without being shackled by the invisible chains of a major record labels vision, the small Indie bands thrive. What I notice most about these bands is that they tend to experiment more with sounds and lyrics. At times, I can’t identify the sound from a song, I’m thinking “is that strange pounding someone hitting a frying pan with a rock”? Im not sure but I dig it. As it pertains to lyrics, I feel that Indie bands can take a few more chances. Throwing an F-bomb or digging a little deeper with their words or not using a silly chorus are hallmarks of alternative music. Plus they veer into the strange at times, which is rarely a bad thing.
The intent of my post is to spotlight 4 of these obscure bands (some more than others) and share them with you. If you take a listen, you might dislike some or all of these artists or you might discover a gem. Maybe you’ll find a song that becomes a refuge, as “Don’t Cry” was for me many moons ago.
Two Gallants. I love the name of the band and the title of this song alone lures me in. From the opening line of “darling I can’t wait for you to leave this town” this song is a lyrical juggernaut that incinerates the woman who caused his anguish and anger. As he spits out the words “I don’t want to see you fall, I want to see you fail, part of me cringes and part of me nods in the affirmative.
TV On The Radio. I originally heard about this band from my man-crush blogger Keith Law. They are a tad more known due to their song “DLZ” which appeared on an episode of the crazily popular television show “Breaking Bad” as my son pointed out to me. This song has always been difficult to decipher. I assume he’s talking about addiction with the line “got a curse I cannot lift” or “baby doll I recognize, you’re a hideous thing inside.” At first, I thought it was about sex addiction or a woman but the more I listen, I believe “the wolf inside” is a metaphor for drug addiction and the difficulty he has with keeping it at bay.
Ghostbird. First and foremost, this is the rare song that could stand on its own without lyrics. The combination of the melancholic twang of an acoustic guitar with the haunting melodic purr of the violin form a duo that captures that feeling of pathos that great music tends to do. I’m not very familiar with the violin so when I first heard this song I thought of the movie “Shawshank Redemption.” The scene when Andy plays puts an operatic record on the speakers so all the broken men can hear something unfamiliar but powerful. All the prisoners stood there, lost in music they didn’t understand, knowing that what was emitting from those speakers had to be listened to, it spoke to them. That’s what the violin did for me, it might have been a foreign sound to me but it spoke to me, just as that opera spoke to those convicts.
Alas, don’t ignore the lyrics of this song. My interpretation of this song is basically that he’s an insecure and indecisive man who seems to put the object of his desire on a pedestal. His lack of confidence blinds him to what is right in front of him. “So I stayed behind her, long enough to watch her leave” Its ambiguity is a bit of a tease and with music being very subjective, my insight into this song could very well be flawed.
The Compulsive Gamblers. The opening with that weeping guitar was an invitation. Grab a lantern and come inside it told me. Well, I love dark things so I had to enter. A wise choice. This is a no-frills and rather simple song. They way the words tumble of his mouth, tinged with regret and loss, really appeals to me. It’s as though he can’t muster the energy to sing, he just talks to the microphone and to her, purging his thoughts. Its more personal and intimate when a song is spoken, it adds a layer of earnestness to the message he’s trying to convey. The lyric “because there are some men out there who will tell you some beautiful lies” adds another dimension to the song. While he realizes she no longer wants him, he offers some advice (warning) about how treacherous men can be. I found myself wondering if he was referring to himself.
This is the kind of song that you want to tell an ex LISTEN TO THIS, IT’S ABOUT YOU. Or you can mention it in a blog and maybe she’ll take notice.