Improvements in home-recording technology and a renewed mainstream interest in edgy music make it hard for musicians to hew to a true independent aesthetic. When a drop of cheaply applied polish makes the difference between a Pitchfork review and an Entertainment Weekly review, it's tough for musicians to make a case for low fidelity, unless the style and subject matter demand some scruff.
Daniel Smith's myriad recording projectsDanielson Famile, Br. Danielson, and the likequalify for the fray. Smith's roots are in the Christian-rock scene, and his music has the quality of street-corner prophecy, all vivid and manic. On Br. Danielson's Brother Is To Son, Smith employs what sounds like a barrage of acoustic guitars over percussive piano and brush drums, letting the warring rhythms stand in for the struggle in his soul. Epic songs like the careening "Cookin' Mid-County" are balanced by concise screeds like "Physician Heal Yourself" and "Things Against Stuff," wherein Smith and his rock disciples speak plainly about trying to be transformed by the renewal of the mind instead of pushed into conformity with this world. The group's preaching drifts into cacophony at times, but the handcrafted feel and casual melodicism mostly make Brother Is To Son sound crumpled, heartfelt, and true.
The veteran Chicago indie-rock band The Race is raw in a different way. Working with glitch-tronica stalwart Charles Cooper of Telefon Tel Aviv, The Race aims for the rotting-technology atmosphere favored by bands like Grandaddy and Radiohead. On If You Can, singer Craig Klein drags his voice about a half-step behind the beat, reflecting on an industrialized world where the gears are no longer in sync. While the rest of the group emits warm pulses of plucked guitars, Klein and drummer Kevin Duneman pull away from each other on syrupy tracks like "Safe And Sound" and "Can Get Home," where the disjointed pace becomes lulling and oddly pretty. The Race's songs tend to be sort of indistincta common trait in futurist modern rock, where anonymity is practically a themebut the band keeps most of the tracks under three minutes, merely sketching an elusive vision of romantic decay. Visions like that are the lifeblood of indie-rock, the genre where profoundly personal obsessions can connect with a select group of searchers.