I’ve noticed that both my colleague Aaron Byrd and I have been keeping things nice and eclectic around these parts lately. Therefore, I feel pretty good about narrowing focus a bit this week for a solid indie rock showcase. It’s not just any indie rock showcase either. Each of the artists spotlighted here are considered royalty among certain circles (even though they may not exactly be household names). One is making a triumphant return. One is offering up their bittersweet swan song. One has been back at it for awhile now, and simply continues to rule.
Pedro the Lion – “Yellow Bike”
It does feel a little odd to speak to the return of Pedro the Lion as David Bazan has always been its only consistent member (essentially all of the words and music are his). Bazan dropped the moniker in 2005 in favor of recording under his own name, and has been pretty consistent with his recorded and live music output ever since. The primary thing that distinguished the two was that Pedro the Lion would consist of a full band live, and David Bazan would typically play completely solo. Still, for those of us that fell in love as earnest 19 year olds, there are very few words more thrilling than “new music from Pedro the Lion.” If you feel the same, this new single will not disappoint. If you’re new to the party, same. It’s a perfect blend of intricate storytelling and just the right amount of bombast, of which Bazan is a master. Plus, lines like “my kingdom for someone to ride with…” are always so very welcome in my life.
The Glands – “Feelies”
The story of the Glands at first glance seems like a somewhat common one. The founder/primary member – regarded by many as a genius – that never got his due. One lauded record, and a follow up that is regarded as a masterpiece. Years of frustrating fans and critics alike by letting perfectionism and procrastination get in the way of releasing anything else (cough, The Wrens, cough). But the Glands story is punctuated by an extra layer of tragedy as said genius founder Ross Shapiro passed away in 2016. From his death bed, he gave the okay for his friends to assemble a third and final album from his many mostly unfinished recordings. The results are uniformly delightful. Though there is a ramshackle quality remaining throughout much of this, the impeccable level of craft that Shapiro brought to every song is undeniable. I’m sharing “Feelies” because I have to imagine on some level it’s referencing yet another great post-punk/indie rock band that have not yet achieved the exact level of fanfare that they rightfully deserve.
The Moles – “Moon in the Daytime”
Australian indie-psych troubadour Richard Davies has had a long, storied career spanning from the late 80s up until right now, and hopefully beyond. As the driving force behind the Moles (are you sensing a theme here yet?) he was part of the “kiwi-pop” scene of the 80s alongside The Clean, Tall Dwarfs, and Flying Nun records in general. He teamed up with songwriter Eric Matthews as Cardinal to record a self-titled record which remains one of the most perfect of the 90s in any genre. Since then, he’s had a few other projects here and there including a lovely Cardinal follow up in 2012. It’s been great to have him back with his original name and concept though. He returned in 2016, assembling a new band with help from friends from Sugar and Sebadoh to release the first new Moles album since 1994’s Instinct. Now he’s continuing the trend with another set of satisfying tunes on the new record Code Word. “Moon in the Daytime” is a glorious rocker.
Pedro the Lion carousel photo: Ryan Russell, Richard Davies header photo: Richard Lynn