The Pitchfork review of their second album, Hope and Adams, described the group as having a “60-watt soft glow”, and compares them to “the Flaming Lips, Pavement, Wilco, and the American Analog Set“, and while I don’t think they neatly fit any comparison, I haven’t found or come up with a better description. While each of their albums has its own mood and tone, the group carry themselves with Scott Levesque’s pleasant voice, suited to melancholy but also capable of rockin’ a little, and adaptable but solid instrumentation touching on all kids of indie rock.
RIYL: American Analog Set, The Wrens, Sebadoh, Wilco, the Flaming Lips, Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon
I’m sure you’ve heard “Chasing Cars”, and you may know some of their other songs, like “Run” (particularly if you’re British), but there’s more to these guys than trying to be Coldplay. Their early albums mix elements of Sebadoh with all sorts of other alt-rock—“Absolute Gravity” uses record scratches to interesting effect; “Starfighter Pilot” features heavy synth; “Batten Down the Hatch” draws on their then-labelmates Belle & Sebastian; “Ask Me How I Am” uses stereo channels and layered backing vocals in ways I’ve rarely found elsehwere. Their more pop-oriented records have some great moments too, particularly Eyes Open, but the first two albums could win over some listeners who might brush them off based on the radio hits.
RIYL: Sebadoh, the Breeders, early My Bloody Valentine, early Coldplay, Belle and Sebastian
You know Mark Duplass? He had a band on Polyvinyl before his acting career took off, and they were actually pretty good. The best analog I’ve come up with is early Elvis Costello meets Rufus Wainright, but it’s far less jarring than that sounds. If you like out-of-left-field indie pop-rock, they’re worth a listen.
RIYL: Elvis Costello, Mates of State
They recorded a whole album that they didn’t release, Nobody Sings Anymore, because the whole band except for Andy Hull had left and Andy felt that it didn’t reflect what they had become. Which is weird, because it’s honestly not that different from I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child—just imagine that album but a bit less dour and with more traditional instrumentation. “Golden Ticket” was actually rerecorded for the album—listening to both versions gives you an idea of the differences. Or listen to the EP they released before the full-length, I Brainstorm, You Brainstorm, But Brilliance Needs a Good Editor. Three of the songs on it are rerecorded from Nobody Sings Anymore (“The Procession”, “I’d Rather Have”, and “Slow to Learn”), one was rerecorded for LAVLAC (“Alice and Interiors”), and one is unique to it (“Play it Again, Sam…”). There’s also a much less well-known release from before NSA, an EP called 5 Stories. It features early versions of some songs that would be on NSA, as well as a few unique ones.
It may be worth noting that, while these early works are quite good, it sometimes feels like Andy was really trying to grapple with specific topics, particularly suicide. 5 Stories alone features two songs on the subject, “Girl With Broken Wings” and “Marked Unknown”, the latter of which is alarmingly catchy given its lyrics. “Girl With Broken Wings“ got rerecorded for NSA, and IBYBBBNAGE ends with “Play it Again, Sam! You Have No Feathers”, which borrows a lot of lyrical concepts from “Girl With Broken Wings” but makes them slightly less explicit. I often skip these songs when listening to the three releases, because the topic is one I struggle with, particularly given how evocative Andy Hull’s lyrics are. So be warned about those! I do absolutely recommend checking these releases out though—I Brainstorm, You Brainstorm should be on your preferred streaming service or music store, but the other two you may need to, uh, dig for a bit.
RIYL: Manchester Orchestra (duh), Death Cab for Cutie, Bright Eyes, general emo-adjascent indie
Cancelled after only 10 episodes, I think this show had a lot more potential than CN let it prove. It’s understandable that it’d be overshadowed, given that it came out around the same time as Adventure Time and Regular Show, but the fact that Uncle Grandpa aired for far longer is disrespectful. I don’t think they’d revive it and give it a second change, especially given their current strategy of appealing to younger audiences (Robotomy could have easily been an Adult Swim show, and was from the same creators as Superjail!), but if I had to pick one, this’d probably be it.