Is Indiana Buzzworthy?

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Yesterday was one of those days that just felt great to be a Hoosier. More often than not, when Indiana makes the headlines it's for the wrong reasons: one of our congressmen makes an off-hand response in an interview that sets us back several decades, our governor employs faulty math to serve his political agenda, or our mayor preemptively announces plans for a cricket stadium in a city that's strapped for cash and jobs. Maybe I tend to dwell on the negative and these are the stories that resonate with me. Either way, yesterday was not one of those days. Indiana's artists were the ones creating noise and it's noise worth celebrating.

This week brought the release of five bonafide buzzworthy albums with Hoosier connections, each with physical releases and backed by record labels of varying sizes: Circuit Des Yeux - Overdue, DMA - Pheel Phree, Lily & Madeleine - self-titled, Sleeping Bag & Rozwell Kid - Dreamboats and Son Lux - Lanterns. I'm a recent addition to the We Listen For You staff. I've spent most of the year writing exclusively for the Indiana music archive, Musical Family Tree. While I'm looking forward to getting back to talking about music outside the my home state in this space, the truth is my ears are still stuck on the sounds emerging from my backyard. Fortunately for WLFY's readers, Indiana is exporting some damn fine music these days. For evidence, get the details on this week's top-tier releases below.


Circuit Des Yeux - Overdue
Label: Ba Da Bing Records

At just 23 years old, Hayley Fohr has already built out a sizable back catalog on European imprint De Stijl. Though it seems the personality Fohr has crafted as Circuit Des Yeux has become fully realized on the 10" CDY3 and her latest full-length Overdue. A Lafayette, IN native, Fohr cut her teeth while in college in Bloomington, falling in with the analog heads at Magnetic South. She has since moved to Chicago where she appears to have found an ideal collaborator in CAVE's Cooper Crain. This transition is covered nicely in an interview with Tiny Mix Tapes from early this year. Under Crain's guidance, Circuit Des Yeux has crafted its most focused and mature release to date. Brooding, folk-informed, soulful, psychedelic - this LP hits nearly every one of my sweet spots as a listener. It feels at home in the fall, a blustery and beautiful accompaniment to those first blasts of chilled autumn air. Imagine if Angel Olsen ingested some hallucinogens and added a string section, and you will begin to get a sense of Circuit Des Yeux's sound. On "Hegira" swaths of distorted guitar and flourishes of synthesizer underpin an otherwise straightforward acoustic track. I was surprised last week when Pitchfork included Overdue as a stream on Pitchfork Advance, a prominent feature for a still largely unknown musician on a small, independent label. It restored my hope that megablogs still occasionally make editorial decisions based solely on the merit of the music.

DMA - Pheel Phree
Label: Joyful Noise Recordings

I wrote a full review of David "Moose" Adamson's debut LP, Pheel Phree for MFT. Adamson first made a splash with a handful of releases as the front man of Jookabox between 2007 and 2011. That material coupled with his recent output as DMA, TuffBlades and beatsmith for Indianapolis hip hop artist Oreo Jones has amounted to some of my favorite Indiana music of the last decade. Pheel Phree feels like the synthesis of his work with Jookabox and his more recent solo output. The music is driven by grimey, blown-out subwoofers and combinations of live drums and drum machines on the low end with a symphony of live and sampled vocal loops as the melody. Watch DMA's new dirt bike video for "The Boardwalk" for a succinct sampling of his hypnotic beats and abstract vocal stylings.

Lily & Madeleine - s/t
Label: Asthmatic Kitty Records
Thus far, I've been reluctant to write on the unstoppable media frenzy that has surrounded the sibling folk duo Lily & Madeleine. The pair has been featured on NPR's All Songs Considered, CBS This Morning and The New York Times among others. Make no mistake, these girls are talented. They also benefit from having the right team in their corner in veteran producer Paul Mahern and bandmate Kenny Childers. Childers has spent the better part of the last two decades crafting under-appreciated rock gems with regularity in bands like Gentleman Caller and The Mysteries of Life. Yet his guidance is apparent without overtaking the personalities of the voices on display here. Ryan Lott, who worked with Lily & Madeleine on his track "Lost It to Trying" as Son Lux, recently offered up a noteworthy observation about the sisters. He talked about the similarity of siblings' voices working together in a way that is typically only possible in the studio with multi-track recording of a single musician. I think there's something to be said for that argument. Is the same magic at play here what made The Jacksons, The Carter Family and so many other siblings such compatible bandmates? Regardless of the reason for the magnetism, Lily & Madeleine appear to have "it" in spades. It's impossible to predict where two teenagers might take this initial flirtation with success, but I'm thankful any time an Indiana musician makes a commercial breakthrough. Just don't tell me they're the only talented band in town, which seems to be the consensus opinion of less-informed Hoosier residents a few years my senior.

Sleeping Bag & Rozwell Kid - Dreamboats
Label: Jurassic Pop Records

Given the band's sonic reputation as the poster-child for slackerism, Sleeping Bag has remained remarkably prolific since its debut LP dropped in August of 2011. The group is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Dave Segedy. Live, Segedy's tall, lanky frame sprawls across the drums while capably handling lead vocal duties. The sedated vocal delivery and straightforward garage rock arrangements draw immediate and frequent comparisons to Weezer that aren't without merit. Sleeping Bag's catalog offers a broad emotional arc for those tuned into the songs' subtle upticks and downturns. Dreamboats doesn't stray far from Segedy's comfort zone of existential crises, impending doom and general malaise. Yesterday, I caught a solo set from Segedy at LUNA Music that found him singing sans microphone with only a bass ran through a starter guitar amp as accompaniment. The stripped-down set included demo versions of new material that will comprise a forthcoming Sleeping Bag LP for which the band recently wrapped up the recording process. 2013 has seen a significant amount of collaborative output from Sleeping Bag. Prior to their work with Rozwell Kid, the group released a split 7" with fellow Bloomington musician Mike Adams. The forthcoming LP will be the band's third in as many years.

Son Lux - Lanterns
Label: Joyful Noise Recordings

Ryan Lott is a graduate of Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Lanterns is his third release as Son Lux. On Lanterns, Lott makes no attempt to differentiate between genres or musical influences, blending unusual instrumental pairings in a heady mix of forward-thinking pop. This decision will alienate those looking to fit the album into a specific box. However, this sort of creative output is likely to prove the new norm. We're starting to have our first generation of musicians that have spent their entire lives with the vast landscape of popular and obscure music at their fingertips. At 34, Lott may not fit this description but he proves keenly aware of its implications. How this new generation grapples with these competing creative forces is fascinating if not coherent. Listen to the standout single "Easy" below. 


These five releases represent three that have already achieved a share of national attention (Son Lux, Lily & Madeleine, Circuit des Yeux) and two that I believe worthy of a larger audience (DMA & Sleeping Bag). They also showcase the diversity of sounds pouring out of Indiana right now. All of this comes on the back of a full year of terrific local releases. Some personal favorites include Via Vegrandis' self-titled EP, Caleb McCoach's Songs From an Empty Shore, Oreo Jones' Highway Hypnosis and a heap of psychedelic punk out of Indy's Fountain Square and Bloomington. What's so encouraging is that these releases aren't an anomaly. I hear bands on a weekly basis every bit as powerful and avant-garde as recent CMJ heartthrobs Perfect Pussy. The new development is that listeners beyond our borders are beginning to take notice. In recent years, Indiana has established itself as home to some phenomenal labels with The Secretly Group paving the way for a score of up-and-comers. However, the recognition for our musicians has been harder to come by. Whether the rest of the country tunes in or not, it's a satisfying time to be an Indiana music fan. In the words of DMA and Oreo Jones, we're "Runnin'."

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for mentioning L&M Rob! I'm not sure I can say they've had any "commercial breakthrough" yet - that remains to be seen. But it's been terrific how Indianapolis and Bloomington have really showed up to the game on this to support the girls. That includes your support here!

    And they're among some great company here!

    Thanks Rob!