Between Rock and an Indie Place: “The Times I’m Not There” by NE-HI and Jamila Woods

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I am super excited to be talking about the awesome collaboration song from NE-HI and Jamila Woods called “The Times I’m Not There,” which came out last year and I cannot get enough of. NE-HI is an indie rock band from Chicago that definitely deserves a spot up there next to Whitney and Twin Peaks as a band that’s on the move toward making it big. On the other hand, a Chicago native, Jamila Woods, is an activist, poet, and R&B singer-songwriter. I would never have expected the two of them to make music together, but “The Times I’m Not There” is honestly a fantastic song.

It’s not really something that I’m used to hearing, since I can’t name that many songs that are truly collaborations between two separate musicians as opposed to one artist who is featuring the other. Although, the more I listen to the song, the more I it feels Jamila should be the permanent lead singer of the band. The five of them together have excellent chemistry judging by this song. However, I am thanking the indie rock gods for allowing NE-HI to connect with her and make this amazing song together.

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Between Rock and an Indie Place: “Talk a Lot” by SALES

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SALES jumped into my indie rock playlist in 2016 with the release of their self-titled debut LP. They’re the kind of band that I could listen to while casually doing homework, because the beats and vocals are just soft enough to be chill but also still upbeat enough to be considered rock music. SALES is the epitome of coffee-table-wine-on-a-Wednesday-night type of music.

According to their bio on Spotify, SALES is described as “[creating] low-key but engaging music that marries lo-fi sensibility to a spare but evocative melodic approach.” The dynamic duo consists of Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih, who (anecdote) first met when they took the same Latin class in high school. Who ever said Latin is a dead language? By listening to their music, I get the feeling that the two of them are very much on the same page; perhaps, they have an inseparable musical bond.

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Basement Dwelling: “Snares Like A Haircut” by No Age

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10 years ago, a multi-colored, noisy yet pop-inclined punk record and band made a significant splash in the underground music scene. I’m talking about Nouns, by the L.A.-based duo No Age. This wasn’t my first exposure to the band — that came in the form of the almost equally brilliant follow-up: 2010’s Everything In Between, which is a much more polished, fleshed-out take on the band’s sound.

After falling in love with In Between, I undertook the journey every music nerd gets to embark on once they discover a new band they enjoy — I checked out their old shit. Upon coming across a copy of the aforementioned 2008 debut release at a local book/record store that I now work for — your probable response to this sentence: “Of course this dude works for a book/record store” *rolls eyes* — and it became “one of those albums” to me. What do I mean by that? Well, not only is it a record which I feel a certain attachment and undying love for the songs on it, but it helped steep and cement my interest and need to explore more and more avenues of indie and underground music leading to why I’m here, doing what I do today.

Now here we are, 10 years and three records later, and No Age are back at it with a new release entitled Snares Like A Haircut. The hype was real for this one, my friends. Does it disappoint?

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Between Rock and an Indie Place: “Intrepid” by Pinegrove

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I have been wanting to review some of Pinegrove’s music for a while, but they haven’t released anything that I could really get into since their astonishing 2016 debut album, Cardinal. Luckily, this grunge/Americana/indie-rock band from Montclair, NJ, have released a terrific single entitled “Intrepid,” late last year in November.

I think this song is a perfect snippet of who Pinegrove are as a band. They possess the almost magical talent of slowly building listeners up with a mellow, synchronous rhythm only to provide us with the ever-so-satisfying, climactic, head-bang-worthy drop. That, combined with the clever word-play in the lyrics and the lead singer’s hypnotic voice, creates an overall very satisfying listening experience.

As far as the lyrics for “Intrepid” go, I think that Evan Stephens Hall (vocals, guitar) has a special gift for putting beautiful words to beautiful music. I think his lyrics have a marvelous simplicity while also being undeniably relatable:

Don’t let it get to you, you said.
Well, I did.
Take a rectangle, untangle your head.
Intrepid.”

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Between Rock and an Indie Place: “Control (Secretly Sorry)” by JR JR

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Random fact: This is the only band that I know of who has undergone a major name change successfully. The band JR JR — formerly known as “Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.” — released their single, “Control (Secretly Sorry),” earlier this year in October. They’ve just come off their nationwide fall tour, and the indie-pop band now gets to celebrate the widespread success of the song.

As the title insinuates, the song demands attention and takes control of the listeners immediately with loud, fast, and upbeat electronic music. Everything about this song is directly in-your-face. They do not hold back on the ‘kitchen sink’ use of what I’m assuming was every instrument they had available to them.

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Between Rock and an Indie Place: “Blue Skies” by L. Martin

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A few entries ago, I reviewed the single “She’s Gonna Leave You” from beloved Chicago indie-rock band, The Walters. In that same review, I mentioned their announcement from earlier this year that the band will be taking a hiatus so the members can work on solo albums instead. Well, it’s happening. This past month, The Walters’ former front man, Luke Martin Olson, released his very first solo single, “Blue Skies,” under the name L. Martin.

Being a fan of The Walters since their formation in 2014, I honestly couldn’t have been more upset when I heard the news of their split. However, Olson has given fans something to be very excited about in this new single. It’s hard not to compare the single to his band’s previous work, and I think that “Blue Skies” stands up there with some of their smoothest songs that manage to make me sink into the floor.

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Between Rock and an Indie Place: “Quiet Ferocity” by The Jungle Giants

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I’m writing this entry in the dead of November, and the bitter cold is really starting to set in. I find myself reminiscing over an album that came out last summer from hands down one of my all-time favorite indie rock bands. Quiet Ferocity by The Jungle Giants is 41 minutes straight of upbeat techno music that will make me want to get up and dance on even the dreariest of autumn days. I have much love and respect for this four-piece band from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

They proclaim in their Spotify bio that Quiet Ferocity “combines the signature melodic arrangements of their first album with the percussion-laden production of their second and catapults them into a sonic stratosphere that is entirely their own sound.” After spending a solid amount of time over the past week with this album, I honestly couldn’t agree more with this statement. With this latest release, I believe that The Jungle Giants have really hit their stride as a band and have found themselves in their music.

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