Indie’s October Revolution

It was a relatively quiet and uneventful summer for new music. September showed signs of improvement. Then Oc­tober arrived, the floodgates opened and lovers of indie music were suddenly inundated with far too many anticipated al­bums to absorb all at once. The month isn’t over yet, but the offerings so far have not failed to impress.

Probably the most significant new album so far this month was Feist’s Metals, released October 4. Feist broke through in the indie community in 2004 with the superb Let it Die, and the ever-catchy “1234” helped catapult her to more wide­spread fame when it was featured on an iPod commercial, making The Reminder her most successful album. Metals picks up where The Reminder left off, despite hopes that she would abandon the vocal effects she introduced on her last album, which render her voice unnecessarily tinny. Despite this, her songwriting is unquestionably as good as it’s been since Let It Die. There aren’t any dance-worthy songs à la “1234,” but Feist has recaptured some of her past intimacy, such that some of the songs feel more like a conversation with the listener. That said, the album has its share of raucous moments, like the football-huddle yell of “A Commotion” and the impassioned conclusion of “Undiscovered First.” Feist rebounded from an uneven, if commercially successful, album with one that is able to fuse some of the best aspects of The Reminder and Let It Die into something that should please new and old fans alike.

October 4 also saw new music from MuteMath, a band seemingly able to redefine itself with each successive album without compromising its core identity. After a debut that was the sonic equivalent of a solar flare – at once powerful, disruptive and beautiful – with the focus squarely on Paul Meany’s weightless vocals, the band transitioned to a more radio-friendly sophomore album, Armistice. The first track on the new Odd Soul noisily announces yet another sonic expedi­tion, this time into a drum-fueled and guitar-heavy variant of Zeppelin-esque classic rock. Even on its more relaxed songs, Odd Soul‘s defining characteristic is its interesting rhythms. The guitar riffs on the album are some of the best from any band this year, as well. Don’t be misled by the major label: these guys are solid musicians, and Odd Soul is a statement that they can put their talents up against anybody.

Not to be overlooked, LIGHTS’s October 4 album Si­beria has dance club appeal, but shouldn’t alienate fans of indie-electronica. With vocals that sound like Metric’s Emily Haines borrowed a few of Adam Young’s (Owl City) vocal chords (while not inheriting Young’s inability to write decent electronic music), LIGHTS is able to equally pull off energetic dance-pop (“Toes”) as well as more plaintive and personal tracks (“Heavy Rope”).

October 11 brought two contrasting releases in Mayer Hawthorne’s R&B/soul-tinged How Do You Do and Deas Vail’s self-titled third album. Deas Vail, an alternative band in the vein of Cartel or Anberlin, had a tough act to follow with two accessible yet musically intelligent albums to their credit. The album is still solid, but its weakness lies in its lack of one or two standout tracks like those that helped define their two previous ones. Mayer Hawthorne, on the other hand, has im­proved upon 2009’s A Strange Arrangement by making a stron­ger overall album rather than relying on a few dominating tracks to pull the others up. A brass section frequently remi­niscent of classic Chicago and vocals which occasionally evoke Earth, Wind and Fire help power songs at times carefree, at times funky and at times sexy.

Other highlights this month include new releases by the ageless Björk and by the ever-gritty Deer Tick. Classically trained indie singer Shara Worden will likely continue to bend genres on her new My Brightest Diamond release, out this week along with new music from M83 and James Blake’s new EP. And, love ’em or hate ’em, you probably won’t be able to avoid Coldplay’s upcoming October 24 release Mylo Xyloto, apparently a concept album with a dystopian theme.

Regardless of where on the spectrum of indie music you may fall, there’s probably something out there to get excited about this month. Rarely does such a proliferation of signifi­cant new music occur at once, so pace yourself and it may help get you through the dead months of November and Decem­ber. Feist may have said it best in “Anti-Pioneer”: “When the month changes numbers/It’s time to go.”

Contact Mike Knerr at

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