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The Indie scene these days gives the listener a change of pace from the mainstream stuff that dominates the radios and video programming (which believe it or not does still exist). Where mainstream is generally more calculated and less concerned with innovation or even inspiration, Indie music has the freedom of not fitting into any particular mold and can experiment with both sound and content. The problem sometimes though is if you listen to too much Indie they get the tendency to sound the same. I’d probably blame it on the fact these new groups are around the same age and have a lot of the same influences, sometimes the tone and even content of their music is very similar. Case in point, the three Indie groups I’m about to review. All three are actually really good and show promise, and their albums are also fairly outstanding but it’s not difficult to mistake one for the other if you haven’t listened to each album extensively to point out the subtle differences.

Surfer Blood stands out from the pack with their debut “Astro Coast“, the group offers up a very strong collection of songs and are able to keep the tone the same throughout while being versatile. Tracks like “Swim” and “Take it Easy” are catchy and radio-friendly, but other songs on the album like “Harmonix” and “Anchorage” manage to be very edgy and dark while still maintaining the summer feel of the whole album. They are at once credible Rockers and also commercial enough to cross-over to the mainstream. And the vocals seem to be perfect track by track, the lead singer of the 5 piece band knows how to shift his voice and give the appropriate attitude and emotion for each song. Though at times the group comes off as maybe a harder edged Vampire Weekend, or a less fun Weezer, overall the group does let their individual talents speak for themselves. Surfer Blood is definitely a group to look out for in the coming years, and this album is definitely one of the better pieces of Music released this year.

Beach House‘s third studio album “Teen Dream” is a little all over the place but still a calming and interesting listen. They seem to take basic arrangements and tweek them a bit, like the single “Norway” which has an eery backing track with odd tuning and distorted sounds, the production on tracks like this, “Walk in the Park” and “Take Care” elevates what might be too melancholy songs to the next level. When the group isn’t being atmospheric with their sound, they tend to get a little too peppy with tracks like “Used to Be” and “Better Times” which are alright songs but don’t mesh well with their overall sound. However the remaining tracks like “Lover of Mine” and “10 Mile Stereo” are great. They give an 80’s pop feel, but stripped and than mixed with elements to make the sound a little bigger and more organic. In the end it’s a satisfying album, though because everything feels really “dream-like” it can be easy to forget.

Which leaves us with The Morning Benders, a local group (Berkeley, My Birth Town) whose group name feels all too fitting on their sophomore effort “Big Echo“, a moody, very dark, very emotional album. On this album it feels like a group of guys waking up regretful and hungover from some good times the night before. And their morose lyrics and vocal delivery, matched with the bands very unique arrangements make for some excellent music. Tracks like the superb “Hand Me Downs” as well as “Sleeping In”, “Mason Jar” and “Wet Cement” are especially effective because you can’t help but feel something with the intense yet dour instrumentation. They have some upbeat commercial tracks that are not the best (“Cold War” “All Day Day Light”), but the group is at their best on the slower more introspective songs. The only downside with this group, for me, are the vocals which are a little too thin at times for such serious material. Often the vocals interrupt the flow of such full material, but it is something that can be overlooked. Great Band though, the players are genius in the risks they take with their arrangements and the way they make everything work on the emotional level.

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