Saturday, May 24, 2008

The good, the bad, the independent

The music world is like the Wild West nowadays. The old rules about making it in the business -- write singles, get the big label's attention, sign and sell lots of albums -- is out the window. The new model is still taking shape, and the only thing we know for sure is it's wide open.

The upside is that a lot of terrific artists who might have labored in obscurity making af few bucks a night playing bars are now laboring in semi-obscurity making a few more bucks a night by selling downloads and merch online in between playing bars.

The downside is, the market is flooded. Here at the Vault, we get a ton of independent discs in the mail every week, and while we love to discover new artists and feature independent music whenever we can, honestly, about 75% of what comes in is seriously flawed in one way or another. It's an act that doesn't have a voice or style of its own or anything original to say or an exciting or engaging way of saying it, or even a reasonably professional recording. It's self-indulgent, it's amateurish, and sometimes it's just plain bad.

That said, my last three published reviews have all been of terrific, lovingly crafted work by artists who are either self-releasing or on a small indie label. So please, ignore the glut of marginal material and enjoy these three indie gems:
  • Fractures by Last Charge Of The Light Horse. Like a ten-years-after sequel to Springsteen's Tunnel Of Love; a superbly crafted song cycle about troubled relationships and the daily search for hope and redemption.

  • Time Travel Made Easy by Spiraling. Fountains Of Wayne meet H.G. Wells in this brilliantly executed concept album full of clever riffs, retro synths and singalong choruses.

  • Today by Mike Zito. Simply the best electric blues album I've heard in a long time, full of Stevie Ray Vaughan grit mixed with John Mayer melodicism and John Hiatt self-awareness.


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