Reil, Wales may be best known as the best place in the UK to tuck into a codswallop pie. But its other main export, the nearly indescribable, inscrutable OctoFanggz, add a jarring swath of Technicolor to the otherwise stodgy village.
Led by the charismatic, one-armed Gethin Bedwyr, the band combine swirling psychedelia with a somewhat severe German burlesque, sung entirely in Portuguese. The fact that this 7-piece pulls it off seamlessly is only half of the miracle; they often set up in the middle of a venue, bring their own crowd, and place them on the side of the stage opposite the paying audience—and play facing their own people.
A recent sold-out show in Williamsburg proved that OctoFanggz are onto something, as the crowd surged to the front of the stage. The sight of hipsters awkwardly craning their necks, trying to glimpse anything close to a side view of a band member, was a sight to behold. ”
Vocês são todos idiotas. Eu deveria ter mantido meu trabalho de suporte técnico,” sang-spoke Bewyr, his head apparently nodding with self-approval at the line. OctoFanggz' debut, I Shrug, pulled a strong 6.8 from Pitchfork, and their eagerly anticipated followup I Ate the Blues is due out in November.
Gary won't give you his last name. Nor will he indicate whether or not Gary refers to his actual name or to the Indiana city. His MySpace page is utterly devoid of information, save a blurry photo of a fire extinguisher. Is he new era's Jandek? We may never know.
Another Gary hallmark is the length of his insanely poppy, keyboard-driven songs—or rather, the lack of it. A typical Gary record (there are six full-lengths and eight EPs) contains around 60 songs and clocks in under 30 minutes. Discerning one record from another is difficult, because all of Gary's releases are entitled Gary. And the artwork is uniformly consistent: a white background emblazoned with the word “Gary” in black Helvetica. And his songs are simply numbered sequentially rather than titled.
By far his greatest achievement so far, 2016's Gary touched on the underground cultural zeitgeist with its college radio hit “37.” As synths and drum machines drive the song, what sounds like a female voice with a heavy Japanese accent sings, “Me, me, me, me, me/ I am me, I don't like you so much, I like me much more/ Me” with gusto.
Gary doesn't tour. Instead, he sends out a boombox that's placed on a stool with a microphone in front of it. If you don't think such a thing would attract an audience, a packed house at NYC's Knitting Factory begs to differ.
3. Andrea Carlson
Unfairly lumped in with the likes of Cat Power, Florence and the Machine, and other artists who are female, Scottsdale, Arizona's Andrea Carlson never plays the “f-word” card to bolster her recordings or live shows. Sometimes, you'll even catch her wearing a low-key t-shirt/skinny jeans getup, which must be a real finger in the eye to Sarah McLachlan fans everywhere who expect summer dresses as de rigueur daily wear.
Nope, not here.
This Lady Na Na of the indie set may sound like a dead ringer for Haley Bonar in the vocal department, but it's her songwriting chops that really steal the show. Her assured debut, I Don't Own a Cat, shines with impeccable arrangements and accomplished acoustic instrumentation. As soon as the first line of the first cut, “I'm not Haley Bonar,” comes tumbling out of the speaker, you're instantly hooked. And the whole album is uniformly great, from the defiant “Don't Look at My Hands” to the blissed-out “These Are Really Good Drugs, Man.”
Judging by the near-riot at one of her packed sets in Carrboro, North Carolina, Carlson won't be a best-kept secret for long.
4. Wings Hauser
While the other artists on this list are personal faves as well as up-and-comers, Kitchener, Ontario-based Wings Hauser are a bit of a outlier. I'm frankly mystified by the success and accolades they've achieved in their brief two years of existence. But hey, the kids love 'em.
The band's “hook” is that their lyrics either reference or quote the film Beastmaster 2 exclusively. And sure, couple that with a faux-nu metal style and full-on Conan the Barbarian stage get-ups and you're rocking the kind of next-level irony the artesanal pickle store/toast restaurant crowd can sink its teeth into. Hell, the band is named after the actor who plays the baddie in the film. But color me grumpy when I balk at songs like “Dar vs. Arklon” and “Animals to the Rescue,” which simply come off as schtick.
Rumor has it that Marc Singer will make an appearance on Wings Hauser's sophomore effort, tentatively titled The Portal of Time Awaits.
Diversity is, sadly, not one of the words that comes to mind when you think “indie rock.” Happily, though, Washington, DC combo Lo-Tide are breaking through—and possibly poised to blast into the mainstream.
Three brothers (Paul, Carl, and Lee Thompson) and a friend from childhood (Mike Jones) hail from the Washington Highlands neighborhood, notorious for poverty and violence. But by channeling their energies into an art form, these youngsters have risen above their humble origins and are now touring all over America and Europe. Lo-Tide have embraced instrumental Surf music—itself underrepresented in indie circles—and put it through the lens of lo-fi recording techniques.
Like stalwarts Guided By Voices, however, the recorded product and the live show couldn't differ more from one another. Lo-Tide's third long player, Driftwood Hiss, lives up to its janky title, with charmingly tinny mixes and tape noise competing with reverb tails.
Conversely, their vibrant gigs transform the room into a time machine that takes the crowd straight back to the early '60s. It's all lush ‘verb, tremolo, and twang, inducing the feeling you'd get driving dangerously fast in a classic T-bird laden with chrome and unburdened by seatbelts. Dressed in snappy suits and donning festive luchadore masks (a nod to early mentors Los Straitjackets), Lo-Tide hit all the instrumental Surf marks—and the crowds love it.
These guys definitely refute indie rock's pasty, monochromatic reputation, and we're all the better for it.