Review: Genre Hopping: Arty indie-pop
Chris Parkin guides us through the latest vinyl offerings from an emerging crop of indie bands who blend DIY experimentalism with all manner of genres to create off-kilter pop…
Over the past few years, partisans of the indie-pop and rock worlds have retreated back beneath the parapet, returning to their own comfortable niche of underachievement. But with Goat Girl, Girl Ray, The Magic Gang and others causing a fuss lately, there appears once again to be youthful interest in bands marrying artful DIY aesthetics with catchy but slightly awkward pop songwriting.
The most exciting recent release from this nook is Virginia Wing’s Ecstatic Arrow. The Manchester duo’s third album is an inventive kaleidoscope of propulsive dreampop that’s both warmly empathetic and world-weary at the same time. Weaving in exotic ‘fourth world’ sounds, parping synths and saxophone, and postpunk vibrancy, as well as Alice Merida Richards’ lyrical fuck-yous to mansplainers and anyone else out there harshing her vibe, Ecstatic Arrow makes most music in 2018 sound humdrum in comparison.
On a similar tip, but not out until September, is Teleman’s latest full-length, Family Of Aliens. The band forged from the ashes of the much-underrated Pete And The Pirates are another indie-pop outfit whose interest in the teutonic rhythms of krautrock provides a groovesome foundation for their angular, heartfelt artpop anthems. This is album number four, and should see them winning new fans.
Music writers first coined the term ‘indie soul’ in the wake of Dirty Projectors’ 2009 album Bitte Orca, which refracted slinky contemporary R&B through the lens of tropical indie. But with guitarist and vocalist Amber Coffman no longer in the band – controversially, it would seem – David Longstreth’s art-pop project has returned to its old blend of taut, cloudbusting highlife and knotty vocal harmonies on new (ninth) album, Lamp Lit Prose. Longstreth might add a little discoball electronica this time around, but this is the agreeably familiar sound of a band which, alongside Vampire Weekend, helped reintroduce African pop into the indie realm back in the 2000s.
The first album from Madrid’s lo-fi indie-poppers and Thee Headcoatees devotees Hinds, 2016’s Leave Me Alone, was a world removed from Dirty Projectors’ experimental fare. A charmingly shambolic but ultimately lightweight affair, it left anyone who was curious about the hype surrounding the four-piece flummoxed. But thanks in part to some guidance from Strokes producer Gordon Raphael, the young group’s follow-up, I Don’t Run, is a moreish treasure brimming with scrappy, gabba-hey garage-pop that teeters on the brink but delivers smiles for miles.
Existing on a much bleaker indie-rock plane than any of the above is Belfast band Girls Names, whose latest album Stains On Silence is a regal, noise-strafed heartbreak album indebted to the stalking bass, taut guitars and cavernous drums of post punk. Released by Tough Love, the label responsible for albums by Priests and Ulrika Spacek over the past year or so, Stains On Silence is a maelstrom of doom and gloom with fleeting, pretty moments of hope. An album that pitches up somewhere between Girls Names’ murk and Virginia Wing’s vivid art-pop is Addendum, the latest strange (and occasionally frightening) album from goth-pop eccentric John Maus.