Owlboy Is A Masterful Tale of Transcending Disability [Kill Screen] “It is striking, to say the least, that a game which has the levity and freewheeling inventiveness of a Studio Ghibli film introduces its hero with a sequence of cold abuse. But this is the unlikely balance that Owlboy [YouTube] achieves. From its unforgettable opening sequence to its equally devastating conclusion, the game never lets us forget that its hero is an unusually vulnerable one. He can’t even defend himself when the local owl bullies—cheekily named Fib and Bonacci—tease him. Nor does Otus gain fabulous new powers as the story goes on to deal with all the strife; the most he can do is stun foes with a stylish twirl of his cloak and escape.” [more inside]
Since it first started getting major buzz and attention around the start of the decade, Bandcamp has become the go-to place for anyone and everyone (that is to say, artists without agents and established labels) to release their albums. Musicians point to an artist-friendly approach to business and design, allowing for direct relationships with listeners and minimal interference. And there's been a treasure trove of undersung gems ever since. But the sheer breadth and volume could be hard to navigate, to say the least, leaving many to just wander around the "aisles" aimlessly (some would argue this is a good thing). This year Bandcamp launched Bandcamp Daily (previously) as an attempt to provide some curation around this vast catalog of releases, with a crack staff of knowledgeable, respected music critics. Now they've put out their Best Albums of 2016, and it's a stunner. [more inside]
Late Night Work Club presents STRANGERS. The Late Night Work Club is a loose, rotating collective of indie animators. Previously.
The death of the Buzzfeed crossword puzzle after less than a year leads FiveThirtyEight Senior Writer Oliver Roeder to survey the state of indie crosswords ("The Times is a Budweiser lager; the indies are small-batch saisons and IPAs."). [more inside]
All Tomorrow's Parties, the independent festival organisation, is shutting down with immediate effect. [more inside]
In 2015, Ian Parton released his fourth album of hook-filled, hyper-melodic, genre-defying revivalist upbeat pop under the band name The Go! Team. It was called The Scene Between and it featured a whole host of excellent yet low-profile female vocalists who collaborated with Parton over the net. You could probably listen to the album over your favourite streaming service, but cool music videos were released for basically all the songs – let's check them, and their guest vocalists, out! [more inside]
Skating Polly have released a video for Pretective Boy, from their upcoming album The Big Fit. It's quite lovely. [more inside]
A mixtape featuring 20 young independent bands from China, curated by Wooozy, one of the country's leading indie music blogs. "From sunny Guangzhou and cyberpunk Chongqing to the frigid northeast grasslands beyond Beijing. From shoegaze to riot-weird." It can also be downloaded in full here.
An algorithmic education, despite all the promises made by ed-tech entrepreneurs for “revolution” and “disruption,” is likely to re-inscribe the power relations that are already in place in school and in society. Whether it's annotating the scholarly web, creating connected copies through wikity or domain of one's own, alternatives to algorithmic education are offered by the indie edtech movement.
Chrindie '95: A collection of essays about a seminal year in Christian indie rock. [via mefi projects].
1995 was also an incredibly important year for the scene we've come to call “Chrindie,” for Christian indie rock. Much has been written about the weird world of contemporary Christian music, but whatever you think it is , you’d be surprised by how many genuinely great Chrindie records were released twenty years ago. During the course of the year, we’ve been writing about brilliant, beautiful, challenging, difficult, weird albums that went mostly unnoticed by mainstream radio and the music press and MTV, in part because they were released on tiny labels with no budgets and marketed primarily to evangelical teenagers in the suburbs.[more inside]
Carey Lander, keyboardist for Scottish indie band Camera Obscura, has passed. Carey died of Sarcoma, and she asked everyone to give for those who would come after. She was 33.
Bury St Edmunds is a small, polite market town in rural eastern England. Better known for its ruined abbey, beer, sugar beet, and being the sort of place Margaret Thatcher ought to keep a tea shop, in 2002 local resident John Peel declared its music scene "the new Seattle". Yeah. How did THAT turn out?
It started with the Humble Indie Bundle. (Previously, and multiple times.) But there's now plenty of other places to get indie games bundled cheaply: IndieGala, Bundle Stars, Groupees, and, because you can't get cheaper than free, Freebie Bundle and Free Bundle. There's also Indie Game Stand, Buy-Some-Indie-Games, Fire Flower Games, Shiny Loot and GreenManGaming's Indie section.
1989 as covered by Ryan Adams (except "Clean", for some reason). Blank Space is my favorite. It's available on iTunes (including "Clean"). You can read an interview with him or read about the backstory in USA Today.
In the summer of 2000 Heather Lynn and Kirsten Nordine started playing synthpop together in Grayslake, IL as The Capricorns. Only one song exists online from their first cassette, The Capricorns Are Gonna Get You. In 2001 Paroxysm Records released In the Zone, which gave birth to mixdisc classic The New Sound (live version). In 2003 there followed Go the Distance! Their last album, Pure Magical Love came in 2006. Lynn made a further single and album under the moniker Pure Magical Love, which evolved into a Chicago-based performance troupe. In 2013 Lynn staged her first rock opera, Templehead (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). A second rock opera, Genesis and Nemesis, is coming later this year. Morgan Claire Sirene wrote an appreciation of Lynn for Slutist, and she was interviewed about her life and career by Zachary Hutchinson. Nordine is a sometime member of Prince Rupert's Drops and releases music as Jantar.
Deerhunter - Snakeskin [YouTube] Atlanta art-rock band Deerhunter announced its seventh LP, Fading Frontier, Sunday, and premiered the abstract video for its lead single, "Snakeskin." Fading Frontier comes out Oct. 16 on 4AD. via: NPR Music
Irish indie rock: kinda like Scottish indie rock, but way less beards. Have you thought about Irish indie rock since the glory days of Ash, Mundy and My Bloody Valentine? There's more than U2 and Hozier happening in the Emerald Isle. [more inside]
Dim the lights. Light candles. A romantic evening awaits. An evening of speed dating.
Wilco have released a new album called "Star Wars", featuring 11 new original songs, free for a limited time on their website.
Starting in the late 70s and throughout the 80s, Australian Rock strode the earth like a tiny, screaming colossus. Whether Hard Rock (drummer convicted of death threats), Pop Rock (lead singer dead from autoerotic aspyxiation), Pub Rock (lead singer's kids no longer forced to play), or what we'd now call Indie (they broke up, get over it) the 80s was the high water mark in Aus/NZ music history.Then the nineties and naughties ushered in an ero of reality-TV driven drivel... [more inside]
Fred Perry Subculture Films - A series of short films documenting the evolution of street style, music and counter culture over the last 60 years. [more inside]
There was a thought that there weren’t enough bands with guitars that were exciting in the same way as the bands we cared about so we had the thought let’s try and do it better ourselves ... What I wanted that was something post-punk or whatever you want to call it but with songs. There was a while there where I wasn’t hearing any songs.Formed in 2013, North London band Desperate Journalist take their name from an obscure 1979 beef between The Cure and the NME's Paul Morley. Together, they make jangly, intense indie pop, redolent of faded seaside resorts, cramped book-filled bedsits, and English winter chill. Their debut album, Desperate Journalist [Spotify], appeared earlier this year. [Youtube.] [more inside]
Giant 800-track alt/indie-focused 90's playlist in chronological order "This is a behemoth of a playlist I put together, focusing primarily (but not exclusively) on the alt/indie/college side of the 90's experience. It's 800+ tracks, about 55 hours, and features plenty of songs that tend to get overlooked in the "remember these 90's hits?" pieces that pop up from time to time. Not definitive by any means, and extremely subjective, but it's a decent chunk of curated history in one convenient place. Also it's a fully chronological playlist, on a week-by-week level. So a track released on May 7, 1994 will come before a track released on May 14, 1994. Time and research went into this. Think of it as the Boyhood of 90's playlists!" (From Mefi's own naju, via MetaFilter Projects.)
This weekend, the seminal Beijing band Chui Wan will launch their (self-titled) second album after an extensive U.S tour. Their new single, The Sound of Wilderness, debuted on NPR last week - quite possibly a milestone for the Chinese indie scene. The album's highlights include the seven-minute closer "Beijing is Sinking", a swirling, chaotic song about staying afloat in a torrent of change. An apt metaphor, perhaps, for all the musicians in Beijing's fiercely iconoclastic indie underground. Initial reviews for the album are buoyant. It's seen as a coming-of-age moment for the band, for its influential record label Maybe Mars, and perhaps even for the small, vibrant Beijing indie community. So let's turn back the clock to the early 2000s, to post-SARS Beijing, and see how we got here. [more inside]
Renowned independent game designer (and landscaper-turned-amateur-lawyer) Jason Rohrer launches his twelfth game, an occult themed online strategy game played for real money, Cordial Minuet. (CM previously, Jason previously, Jason's games previously) [more inside]
A professional photographer for more than 20 years, and published in Q, Melody Maker and Rolling Stone, Pat Pope has worked with many of the biggest names in pop and rock music, including Oasis, David Bowie and Radiohead. One act with whom he has worked several times are 90s indie titans Garbage. Indeed, they admire Pope’s work so much that recently, as they put together a forthcoming self-published book, their management asked his permission to use one of his pictures of them. So far, so good... Pat Pope’s row with Garbage.
Sufjan Stevens's new album Carrie and Lowell can be streamed in its entirety at NPR and The Guardian. Four (very) early reviews. Previously
Pearl and The Beard are awesome Blending folk, gospel, pop, and Americana, eclectic Brooklyn-based trio Pearl & the Beard formed in the late 2000s around multi-instrumentalists Jeremy Styles, Jocelyn Mackenzie, and Emily Hope Price. Employing an arsenal that includes glockenspiel, guitar, cello, accordion, melodica, and pitch-perfect three-part harmonies, the band's skillful and soulful brand of acoustic art pop has drawn comparisons to artists like Andrew Bird, Beirut, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, and the Low Anthem.
Jim O’Rourke Live in Tokyo in June of 2014 [Part 1] [Part 2] Jim O’Rourke Plays “Women of the World” (Live on Christmas Day, 2013). Jim O’Rourke at Work on the Grizzly Man Soundtrack; Special Appearance by Werner Herzog. [more inside]
Sufjan Stevens has released a new track, "No Shade In The Shadow of the Cross", from his forthcoming album Carrie & Lowell. The album is named for Stephens's mother and stepfather, and the musician recently spoke with Ryan Dombal at Pitchfork about his past and the album's origins.
An Oral History of Shoegaze In this oral history, Wondering Sound speaks with the bands and other figures on the margins of “the scene that celebrates itself” to discover from whence this distinctive sound sprung, and why it has stood the test of time.
- L.A. Weekly: I Went to UCLA, But My Real Film School Was Vidiots
- Laist: Filmmakers And Fans Mourn The Loss Of Los Angeles' Greatest Video Store
- Academy Originals: Rewind: The Story of Vidiots
Vidiots video store set to close in April after 30 years
- Vidiots Foundation
Pixel Dungeon is a coffee break roguelike, one which distinguishes itself with pixel-art graphics and distilled roguelike gameplay. [more inside]
The Monkey Fortunetell (first known as the Monkeybalah as having its roots in Monkeyccultism) is an ancient divination casting game (most common to Tansylvania), used from the mid-15th century in various parts of the Carpathian region. From the late 18th century until the present it remained largely unheard of until now. [more inside]
무키무키만만수 (Mukimukimanmansu) is a South Korean indie band that's gone mildly viral thanks to a thirty second clip from a television performance of their song Andromeda. The acoustic guitar and janggu drum duo released their first album 2012 in the eponymous year, and they played other songs off that album on television, which have been gathered into a handy playlist by YouTube user HachikoTanuki. Here are a few other videos: Studio versions of 내가 고백을 하면 깜짝 놀랄거야, 2008년 석관동, 너의 선물; television performances of 방화범 (with guests) and 투쟁과 다이어트; music video maker Vio Kim has recorded them many times, including up close at a concert last year (1, 2, 3, 4, 5); here they are performing with a jazz band earlier this year. And finally, here are demos they made in 2011.
Locomalito describes himself as "a free developer of NEW TRADITIONAL VIDEO GAMES", and his games- all freely downloadable- bear that out. "I grew up with arcade gaming values", he says, and he wears his influences on his sleeve while creating his own style. From the horror platforming of Maldita Castilla to the autoscrolling shmup Hydorah, Locomalito's games have that old school feel- beautiful pixel art, music by frequent collaborators Gryzor87 or RushJet1, and a difficulty which is challenging, yet fair. Each game also has downloadable posters, trading cards, box art, and more to complete that old-school feel. [more inside]
In the imagination of a young Parisian named Pablo Padovani there’s a land called Moo. It’s a fantastical place that celebrates nature, the elements, romanticism and sweets [NSFW]. “I think you may like it if you like childhood, sex, dreams and surrealism,” Padovani [says]. “It’s a pornographic episode of Teletubbies mixed with Lord of the Rings.[...]The disc (Le Monde Möö by MOODOÏD) is a walk in the world Möö. This is a soft world made of cream hills and Turkish delight mountains. There are also Camembert mattresses and waterfalls of wine. This is a great, epic adventure."
Struggling UK indie developer PuppyGames' uncomfortable truths about selling indie games: Steam and bundles have destroyed the market for games, individual customers are now worthless, but everyone has to keep on smiling. Oh, and the demo is dead: 1, 2.
Look: it’s not that I’m a dick when it comes to this stuff. It’s that I like to think that I have standards based on exposure to the interdependent duo of lit and life. But if I decide not to wuss out and instead uphold my particular notion of standards, I’m a dick, and being a dick could lead to dickish reviews of my own stuff from Shane Jones, his friends, and friends of the publisher. George Saunders told us all to “err in the direction of kindness.” But is this essay/review I’m writing unkind? Is it selfish? Is it generous? Is a kindness policy maybe too simple?Lee Klein worries about small-press book reviewing in an ambivalent, lukewarm take on Shane Jones's new novel Crystal Eaters (excerpt) that others have, all the same, called cowardly and dickish.
Terry Cavanagh's indie hit VVVVVV was an instant success, melding a Commodore 64 look and feel to a difficult but forgiving platformer whose only controls are move left, move right, and reverse gravity. The second edition of the game expanded from Windows and OSX to Linux, and added a level editor which could be used to make and export custom maps. Today, Cavanagh has announced VVVVVV: Make and Play Edition, which contains only the level editor and the ability to play custom levels, and which can now be downloaded for free for Windows, OSX, and Linux.
90's Southern Gothic rockers The Rock*a*Teens have reunited and are going on tour. Their unique mixture of dark, swampy rock influences have been praised by Dan Bejar as "the most underrated American rock ’n roll band of the ’90s," and Will Sheff of Okkervil River as, "masterpieces buried in muck." The band features Chris Lopez, who you may know from aughties band Tenement Halls, and Kelly Hogan, who's worked with Neko Case. Playlist after the jump. [more inside]
Jared Rosen offers a postmortem of GAME_JAM, a failed reality show about game development produced by Maker Studios and sponsored by Pepsi. Contestants Adriel Wallick, Robin Arnott, and Zoe Quinn also offer their perspectives.