Monday, February 27, 2023

“Spectator” by JFDR – A Song Feature


     The tastes of most music lovers change over time. They are typically not major shifts, and are often temporary. As examples, this blog has gone through a time of increased appreciation for music from Icelandic artists and, on a separate occasion, an elevated awareness of the beauty of the harp. Today’s post is a return to both.
     JFDR is a project of Jófríður Ákadóttir, who is based in Reykjavík, Iceland. In her song “Spectator,” the harp plays a significant role. Naomi Greene is the harpist. Interestingly, the piano is from Ásthildur Ákadóttir, the twin sister of Jófríður.
     “Spectator” will be on the album, “Museum,” which is scheduled for release on April 28, 2023. The Bandcamp site for the upcoming album explains:
  “’Museum’ was made in an intense and nurturing period she found at the other side of an existential crisis about her own work in the aftermath of the release of her previous album, the acclaimed ‘New Dreams.’ However, she began to emerge from her creative stasis in late 2021, inspired by the discovery of ideas lost to time and demos of songs never finished while purging her computer of old files.”
     The credits for “Spectator” identify:
Vocals and Organ: Jófríður Ákadóttir
Guitar: Ásgeir Kjartansson
Harp: Naomi Greene
Violin and viola: Viktor Orri Árnason
Piano: Ásthildur Ákadóttir
Piano Programming: Thomas Davíð Stankiewicz
Bass: Shahzad Ismaily
Drums: Albert Finnbogason
Percussion: Francesco Fabris
     “Spectator” by JFDR
Lyrics of “Spectator” by JFDR
Heart, diamond shaped
Pulled out at all its edges
I can‘t tell if I‘m in over my head
Words, in a spider web
And you ask me to fix it
I am in over my head
I am the spectator
I am the middle man
Thinking for everyone
Watching you both take out your fear on me
How can I help you if it‘s best for me
To stay away?
I am caught in between
Feeling the feelings
Of everyone except my own
I can‘t take it
I can‘t be in between
How can I help you if I always get it wrong?
I am caught in between
I am caught in between
I am the spectator
I’m just the middle man
Thinking for everyone
Watching you both take out your fear on me
How can I help you if it‘s best for me
To stay away?
I am caught in between
Feeling the feelings
Of everyone except my own
I can‘t take it
I can‘t be in between
How can I help you if I always get it wrong?

Friday, February 24, 2023

“Blinds” by Robin Kester – A Song Feature


     Robin Kester is masterful at seamlessly moving her songs from a first portion driven by her vocal skills to a second portion showcasing the instrumental power of the band. Sure, some of her songs follow the conventional A-B-A pattern of vocals, stretched instrumental bridge, and vocals. But our favorites from Kester tend to lead with the vocals and then power it home with instrumentation. That describes “Infinity Song,” which was posted a few weeks ago. “Blinds” also snugly fits that description.
     The voice of Robin Kester is understated while the rhythm is commanding for slightly more than the first two minutes of “Blinds.” Toward the end of the two minutes, the backing vocals take an appealing echo approach of the lead vocals but end in the troubling statement “I don’t know if I am alive.”
      The lyrics are completed by the 2:10 mark of “Blinds,” but Kester adds background vocalization as the song moves the spotlight to the instruments. Interesting, a saxophone and a bugle are featured. The guitar doesn’t wrestle control until the final 40 seconds. The members of the band are Robin Kester (vocals, guitar, synth), Sam van Hoogstraten (guitar), Stef Koenis (keyboards), Thijs Visscher (bass guitar, synth), and Joep van Osch (drums). But Kester’s Facebook page gives further credit to Timo Jilesen (saxophone), Susanne Linssen (violin), and Jelte Heringa (bugle).
     Kester who is from Rotterdam, Netherlands, explains that “Blinds” was written during a time of feeling depressed. “I only felt like sleeping during the day to make the time pass quicker. But at the same time, I was fed up with feeling like that. I wanted to feel like I was taking part in life again instead of sleeping it away or looking at it from afar as some kind of bystander.” The song is on the debut album “Honeycomb Shades,” which was the working title of “Blinds.” The 11-song album is available via many platforms, including Bandcamp CLICK HERE.

     “Blinds” by Robin Kester

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

“Wish I Could Forget” by Day/Four – A Song Feature

     Day/Four begins their song with a sense of urgency, as though a clock is counting its way to an explosion. A kickdrum and a guitar hook soon join, with the drum adding to the tension, while the guitar provides a calmer contrast with its more musically appealing and note-sustaining approach.
     Lyrically, the countdown to an explosion is fitting. “Wish I Could Forget” is a song about the thoughts of enduring a failed relationship. There was hope that the relationship could be revived, but now even the hope seems to have perished:
It's been months since you walked away
With all my dreams in your hands
You said maybe we'd find a way
Back into each other’s plans
But I won't wait another day
No, I won't wait another day
     The vocals during that verse are particularly anguished. The sound of strings (synth-generated?) is powerful as it amplifies the pain. Still, our favorite aspect of the vocals occurs in the final portion of “Wish I Could Forget,” when lyrical layering is used twice (the first occurs at 3:11). The lyrics are included at the bottom of this post, and the two vocal overlaps are shown by italics.
     Day/Four is a Nu-Metal/Rap-Metal band based in San Francisco. The core members are Mason Taylor (vocals) and Andres Rivas (instruments). They are scheduled to release an album, “Recycled Heart,” on March 17, 2023. “Wish I Could Forget” is a single from that album.
     “Wish I Could Forget” by Day/Four

Lyrics of “Wish I Could Forget” by Day/Four
We were walking side by side
Underneath the cherry trees
You took me by the hand
And said you'd never, ever, ever, ever leave
I really thought we'd never fall apart
But I guess you were in my blind spot
You promised that you’d never break my heart
Well, I guess that you forgot
Now I wish I could forget you
But you're always in my head
I wish that I could stop remembering the things you said
I spent so many nights trying to drink your voice away
But I can't drown the feeling that I couldn't make you stay
We were walking hand in hand
Underneath the falling leaves
Ooo, you took me by surprise
Yeah, I could barely, barely, barely, barely breathe
I really thought we'd never fall apart
But I guess you were in my blind spot
You promised that you’d never break my heart
Well, I guess that you forgot
Now I wish I could forget you
But you're always in my head
I wish that I could stop remembering the things you said
I spent so many nights trying to drink your voice away
But I can't drown the feeling that I couldn't make you stay
It's been months since you walked away
With all my dreams in your hands
You said maybe we'd find a way
Back into each other’s plans
But I won't wait another day
No, I won't wait another day
Now I wish I could forget you
But you're always in my head
I wish that I could stop remembering the things you said
I spent so many nights trying to drink your voice away
But I can't drown the feeling that I couldn't make you stay
Said I wish I could forget you
[I wish I could forget you]
But you're always in my head
I wish that I could stop remembering the things you said
I spent so many nights trying to drink your voice away
[Spent so many nights]
But I can't drown the feeling that I couldn't make you stay

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

“Are You Equally Weird???” by Nona Problemo – A Song Feature


     Putting a definition to almost any genre sits somewhere between difficult and near impossible. Glen McDonald defused some of the controversy by taking the extremely time-consuming approach of creating an interactive genre map, which even includes sample songs for most genres. His map is available at
     The term “New Wave” is particularly subject to debate, since it was originally more of an invasion than a genre. If other genres are umbrellas, New Wave is more of a circus tent. In discussions about whether a newly released song is New Wave, it is more productive to merely identify the characteristics of the song that are consistent with New Wave sensibilities.
     Applying that logic to “Are You Equally Weird​?​?​?,” the song from Nona Problemo possesses characteristics aligned with 1980s New Wave. The song features the synth, a staple of New Wave. And it can fairly be described as quirky. Often, New Wave songs include fast tempo guitars and a stop-start sequence – which fit the Nona Problemo single.
     The band members of Nona Problemo are Jenske Verhamme (bass), Nona Huysegems (guitar), Sigi Willems (vocals, synth), and Tijs Fastré (percussion). They are from Leuven, Belgium. Their explanation of their single is quirkier than the song:
  “In their third single ‘Are You Equally Weird???,’ Nona Problemo reaches out to their non-human allies in their shared struggle against climate change. In order to get to know our mysterious friends, the animals and plants, a bit better, the band believes we should all become some kind of DIY-scientists. Instead of using technology and the screens that surrounds us to stay immersed in an endless stream of antropocentric, mind-controlling entertainment, let's start fabricating equipment and art which allows us to communicate with the non-human world, to inquire about their needs and desires. This 'science for the 99%' might help us to discover that, indeed, we, the inhabitants of Planet Earth, are all 'equally weird' after all...
     “Are You Equally Weird​?​?​?” by Nona Problemo
Lyrics of “Are You Equally Weird​?​?​?” by Nona Problemo
Can you call me I'm not fine?
I'm drowning in the city signs
So I look up into the sky
To see the sun and the moon collide
Would you change your state of mind?
The outsider scientist life
We should do more useless stuff
'Cause what's the use of usefulness
Whomever talks to ladybirds
Is considered a lunatic
But it is fun to think about
No control of our own minds
Just take it slow
Open up to multiple worlds
Just listen to
Miraculous plants, they reason and dance
Just look around
To see your friends, not shadows of friends
Just don't be afraid
Of all those things between your toes
Despite my confusing words
You decided to stay a while
I know we've only just met
But can you help me find my cats?
Between the ruins lost in time
Colourful mushrooms all around
They say they're deadly poisonous
They say they make you fall in love
Investigation never ends
But even in your dreams we die
It is when the flood arrives
No more escape to our screens
Are you equally weird???
Like really equally weird???
Like really really equally weird???
Are you equally weird???

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Songs Featuring High Energy and Female Vocals

      This post identifies three recommendations on songs that are enjoyably energetic and that were generated by female artists. They cover three continents, Australia, Europe, and North America.

     Betty Taylor is actually a duo. They are Australians Sophie Patrick and Kayla Smart (aka Dorah Jacson). During performances, they are joined by Claire Chittick on bass and Katie Ishaque on drums. The debut single is “Stallin.’”

     “Stallin’" by Betty Taylor

     Faye Fantarrow hails from Sunderland, UK. She signed with Eurythmics' Dave Stewart's Bay Street Records in 2021. Fantarrow’s debut comes after the heartbreaking revelation she has been diagnosed with an extremely rare and potentially fatal Glioma brain tumor. This after she twice battled and beat Leukemia twice since she was first diagnosed at 8 years old. She said:
  “Life very rarely goes to plan but the plan was always to write, sing and perform and I’ve been lucky to be able to do that. AWOL is the title track from my forthcoming EP which I am so proud of and the fantastic opportunity I was given to work and record with Dave Stewart will be forever special to me ."
     “AWOL” by Faye Fantarrow

     Miya Folick was born in Santa Ana, California and is now based in Los Angeles. Last year, she released the EP “2007,” which was the year she graduated from high school. But here she comes with “Get Out of My House.”

     “Get Out of My House” by Miya Folick


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Tackles “Indie Rock”


     Artificial Intelligence is currently under the microscope. It has performed well in taking college exams, portions of medical exams, and sections of attorney bar exams. So, we tested the open source AI capability ChatGPT in writing blog posts for a music site.
     Not surprisingly, ChatGPT did not do well with emerging bands and recently released songs. There isn’t enough on-line content for AI to extract knowledge. But ChatGPT was interesting and informative when asked to showcase its skills in generating content about subject matter that has had a longer shelf life.
     Below are ChatGPT responses to the following four inputs:
1. In an essay, explain the Indie Rock genre
      a. The response was well written.
2.  What advantages does Indie music have over mainstream music?
     a. This response was interesting, but lacked insight.
3.  Identify the 25 most influential indie bands
     a.  ChatGPT started the way we all do – by noting that the ranking is very subjective.
4.  Write a blog post about Indie Obsessive
     a. We are flattered, but we would be more so if the article did not include errors. For example, Indie Obsessive does not interview bands.

Our first input instruction: In an essay, explain the Indie Rock genre
     Indie Rock is a genre of alternative Rock that originated in the 1980s and has since evolved into a diverse and influential musical style. The term “Indie Rock” is a contraction of “Independent Rock” and refers to Rock Music that is produced and distributed independently of major record labels.

     Indie Rock has its roots in the Punk and Post-Punk scenes of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Early Indie Rock bands, such as The Smiths and The Jesus and Mary Chain, were characterized by their DIY ethos and rejection of the commercialization and mainstream popularity of mainstream Rock music.

     One of the defining characteristics of Indie Rock is its focus on artistic independence and experimentation. Indie Rock musicians often reject the conventions and formulas of commercial music and instead prioritize creative expression and experimentation. This has led to a wide range of musical styles within the genre, from lo-fi and folk-influenced singer-songwriters to abrasive Noise Rock and avant-garde experiments.

     Another defining characteristic of Indie Rock is its close relationship with underground and alternative subcultures. Indie Rock has been associated with various subcultural movements, such as College Rock, alternative dance, and the so-called “Indie Nation” of the 1990s. This close relationship between music and subculture has helped to create a sense of community and identity among Indie Rock fans, who often view themselves as part of a larger cultural movement.

     Despite its independence from major record labels, Indie Rock has had a significant impact on the wider world of popular music. Indie Rock musicians have influenced mainstream popular music and brought new sounds, styles, and ideas to the forefront of the music industry. The genre has also inspired numerous subgenres and influenced countless musicians, from alternative and underground scenes to mainstream and Pop culture.

     In conclusion, Indie Rock is a genre of alternative rock that values artistic independence and experimentation. Its DIY ethos and close relationship with underground subcultures have helped to create a sense of community and identity among its fans, and its influence on popular music has been significant. From its roots in the Punk and Post-Punk scenes of the 1980s to its diverse and evolving present-day incarnation, Indie Rock continues to challenge conventional wisdom and inspire new sounds and styles.

Our second input instruction: What advantages does Indie music have over mainstream music?
Indie music has several advantages over mainstream music, including:
  1. Creative freedom: Indie artists have more control over their artistic vision and can produce music that is unique and less commercially driven.
  2. Authenticity: Indie music often has a raw, authentic quality that appeals to listeners who are looking for a genuine musical experience.
  3. Niche appeal: Indie music often caters to niche audiences, which can result in a more dedicated and passionate fan base.
  4. Diversity: Indie music scenes often foster a diverse range of genres and styles, allowing for a greater variety of musical expression.
  5. Innovation: Indie artists are often at the forefront of new and innovative musical trends, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in music.

     Note from Indie Obsessive: To illustrate the justification of the ChatGPT responses, here is the song “South of Center” by Haunted Weirdo, which is a band based in Maine. The members are Tom Patrick (vocals, guitar), Shaun Bolduc (upright bass) and D.j. Moore (drums). The trumpet was contributed by Kwabena Owusu. The song is from the band’s album “Soul Tremors,” which is available via Bandcamp - CLICK HERE.
     “South of Center” by Haunted Weirdo

Our third input instruction: Identify the 25 most influential indie bands
It is difficult to narrow down the 25 most influential indie bands of all time as the definition of "indie" and what constitutes an influential band is subjective. However, here is a list of 25 bands that have had a significant impact on the indie music scene and have been widely recognized as influential:
  1. The Smiths
  2. Radiohead
  3. Arcade Fire
  4. The Strokes
  5. The White Stripes
  6. The National
  7. Fleet Foxes
  8. Vampire Weekend
  9. Arctic Monkeys
  10. Tame Impala
  11. Pavement
  12. The Shins
  13. Modest Mouse
  14. Neutral Milk Hotel
  15. Interpol
  16. The Killers
  17. Franz Ferdinand
  18. The Libertines
  19. Belle & Sebastian
  20. The Kooks
  21. The Fray
  22. The Black Keys
  23. The xx
  24. Foals
  25. LCD Soundsystem
Our final input instruction: Write a blog post about Indie Obsessive
     Indie Obsessive is a popular music blog that covers the independent music scene, with a focus on new and emerging artists. The blog was created with the goal of providing exposure to talented and unique artists who may not receive the recognition they deserve from traditional media outlets.
    Indie Obsessive offers a wide range of content, including album reviews, artist interviews, concert reviews, and more. The blog’s writers are passionate about independent music and bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to their writing.

     One of the unique features of Indie Obsessive is its commitment to promoting lesser-known artists. The blog frequently features emerging artists who are just starting to make a name for themselves, providing them with a platform to reach a wider audience. This focus on new and upcoming talent has made Indie Obsessive a valuable resource for music fans looking for fresh and exciting sounds.

     In addition to its focus on independent music, Indie Obsessive also covers a wide range of genres, from rock and pop to hip-hop and electronic. This broad coverage makes it an ideal resource for music fans with diverse tastes.

     Overall, Indie Obsessive is an excellent resource for music fans who are passionate about independent music and want to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the scene. Whether you’re looking for new music to discover or are simply a fan of independent artists, Indie Obsessive is a must-visit destination.

Monday, February 6, 2023

“Ulalume” and "Tiny Flashes" by Instant Empire – Song Features


     Instant Empire is best characterized by its intelligent lyrics and instrumental virtuosity, although the vocals and other contributions to their work should not be overlooked. The band recently released its second single from the upcoming album “Standing Eight Count,” which is scheduled for release on March 31, 2023. The first single was “Ulalume,” a song with artistic piano and lyrics about a woman whose nickname arrived because of her early obsession with Edgar Allan Poe. The second is “Tiny Flashes,” which includes powerfully layered guitars just beyond the two-minute mark and lyrics about the thought processing of a person suspended being life and death.   
     Instant Empire is based in Denver, Colorado, and formed of Scotty Saunders (vocals, lyrics), Sean Connaughty (guitar, keys), Lou Kucera (guitar), Aaron Stone (bass), and Matt Grizzell (drums). “Standing Eight Count” will be the band’s fourth LP. Over the past few years Instant Empire has been hit with a seemingly endless number of personal issues: the death of parents and friends, health issues, long days and nights in and out of hospitals, lost jobs, lost paths, and an incalculable sense of isolation. In talking about “Standing Eight Count,” Saunders said:
  “It felt like the canvas we were working on had been broadened. An undercurrent of deep personal struggle permeates these songs. Broken and battered characters, on the ropes, but still standing, still fighting the good fight ... this theme is woven in and out of the 11 songs that make up the album.”
     “Ulalume” begins with a piano-driven solo. During the body of the song, the piano continues to be the primary instrument in establishing the intended mood, particularly within the almost minute-long instrumental bridge that starts at 4:28. But the guitar and drums play important roles. Lyrically, “Ulalume” ends with a slightly modified portion of the Edgar Allan Poe poem from which the song borrows its name. The band explains:
  The song is a character-driven epic that revolves around a woman introduced early on as June... but to friends and family, she's better known as Ulalume, a reference to her childhood obsession with Edgar Allan Poe and a nickname that has stuck with her throughout the first 40-odd years of her life. By the time we meet her, she’s freewheeling through a particularly difficult phase in her life. That might sound like a bummer, but tapping into her dad’s old mantra grounds her. It gives her strength. A ray of hope. The song feels damn near buoyant for a fleeting but rapturous moment.”
     “Ulalume” by Instant Empire

Lyrics of “Ulalume” by by Instant Empire
At an early age I went through a Poe phase
Friends & family still call me Ulalume, but you can call me June
These days I'm a bit of a nervous wreck
I got a tongue for biting & hands for writing some bad, bad checks
​Pop some pills; chase the sun; run, run, run
Until the whole web has been spun, spun, spun
Steady weaved my way through an endless run of days
Spent most of my childhood chasing the best ways to receive praise
​I could use a place to crash, but I'd settle for some cash
Burned so many bridges I erased the past
​Spent a decade or two floating through Albuquerque, Sacramento, Lake Havasu
Men coming & going, gravitating & flowing
Like cattle to the Karasu
Still baby-faced but these grays betray a somber senescence
Aging isn't the waiving of a white flag, it's an acquiescence
My late Pa, rest his soul,
Where he lies I'll never know
He had a simple mantra
An American take on that 'ol Buddhist tantra:
“Here for a good time, not a long time
The sun is yours. The moon is mine”
[Repeated 3x]
“Here for a good time, not a long time
The sun is yours, but the moon is mine”
[Repeated 2x]
Hear the angels sing…
*The skies they were ashen and sober
The leaves they were crisped and seared
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year*
*Adapted from the poem, Ulalume, by Edgar Allan Poe

     The minute that begins at the 2:05 mark of “Tiny Flashes” stands out, even when compared to the other appealing slices of the song. The power of the vocals is magnified via layering and the guitars are explosive. The band provided some interesting insights:
  “Musically, this song really underwent a metamorphosis. It started out as a really sparse piano based tune when Sean first started writing the music. As we started building out the song, and particularly once Matt came up with the drum parts, it started to sound really muscular. The last element added to this song was Lou’s guitar work, and the bridge solo he lays down here really gave this song so much attitude and vibe. We had no idea this song was going to sound like this when we began. ‘Tiny Flashes’ serves as a really powerful moment in the larger context of the album, and the music ultimately provided the perfect foundation of urgency for the lyrics.”
     As previously noted, the lyrics of “Tiny Flashes” are about the immediate afterlife. The first verse reflects the thinking in some Buddhist traditions that the liminal state between one incarnation and the next can last as many as 49 days (Yes, we had to do some homework). Scotty Saunders’ explanation of the song brings the meaning behind the lyrics into the light:
  “My father died a few months before we started writing songs for this album. Around the one-year anniversary of his death, Sean sent me a demo for what would become ‘Tiny Flashes.’ At the time, I’d been reading a fair amount about the idea of liminality, specifically the Buddhist beliefs in transference from life-to-heaven. As you'd expect, my dad was on my mind a lot at this time ... and I ended up writing this song from my dad’s perspective during the time he was in transition from life to the afterlife. What would it feel like stuck in transition, holding on to the past? This was my attempt to interpret what that might feel like … I imagined you’d almost feel weightless and not rooted to anything.”
  “The song plays around a bit on being suspended between life and death, and in the second verse gets really granular as I imagined what it might feel like for my dad to be suspended with only his thoughts and his memories just cycling on an infinite repeat. I tried to just list out memories he might have and might be cycling through. You have to let go to move on … but I imagined the process of actually letting go here would be awful. Almost unachievable. I imagine there would be more questions than answers as a soul passes through a liminal state --- so that came out in the lyrics.”
     “Tiny Flashes” by Instant Empire

Lyrics of “Tiny Flashes” by Instant Empire
How’d I end up in this liminal state?
It’s a heavy, a hollow, weightless place
49 days and then what?
49 days and then what?
If Hesperus is Phosphorus
What does that mean for the rest of us?
Whoa, I’m sick of channel-surfing through these memories
I need to let it be
The sun’s either rising or falling
Morning into evening, always repeating
It’s all just a matter of timing
Living is dying. Son don’t you know?
Am I standing at the threshold but can’t let go?
See the past in tiny flashes:
- The cedar elms at dawn
- Her still-in-bed sleepy yawn
- A child in my arms
Venus, can you ground me?
I feel untethered
Weightless as weather, like January snow
I’m having trouble letting go
The sun’s either rising or falling
Morning into evening, always repeating
It’s all just a matter of timing
Living is dying. Son don’t you know?
I’m holding on, on, on, on

Friday, February 3, 2023

“Plastic Eyes” by The Tambourine Girls - A Song Feature


     “Plastic Eyes” begins with a strong bass line and jangly guitar, coincidentally similar to The Byrds version of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” It’s coincidental because “Plastic Eyes” is a song from The Tambourine Girls. But that is where the similarities stop.
     The song from The Tambourine Girls is vocally strong. The combination of male lead and female backing vocals is engaging.  The backing voices belong to Chloe Dadd and Antonia Gauci, who are not members of the band. The Tambourine Girls was formed of Carlos Adura (drums), Pat Harris (bass), Simon Relf (guitar, vocals), and Nick Weaver (guitar). Sadly, Weaver recently passed after battling cancer. Thus, the band is now a trio based in Sydney, Australia.
     “Plastic Eyes” is appealing from start to finish, but the musical magic begins with the bridge at 2:47. A crystalline guitar “solo” sits atop a lively rhythm during the instrumental bridge. At its completion, the female vocalists enter an echo chamber that is best appreciated when using headphones. A line is started in one stereo channel and then repeated in the second channel before the first finishes.
     “Plastic Eyes” by The Tambourine Girls