Judged by the Content of Their Playlists?

An old roommate of mine just visited for the weekend, and for the larger part of the two days we were together our conversations centered solely around music. It’s not that we were lacking for other topics; we would discuss our lives, our friends and the magical transformation that Ithaca undergoes in the sun, but every time we would circle back to bands and LPs. Music, it seems, is one of the foundations of our friendship.

Crime Scenes and a Touch of Sunshine

There’s a lot of talk at the end of the year about Oscar-baiting. Epic films with dark themes and scenery-chewing performances abound; it’s a time for “serious” films about fresh concepts like the mentally challenged and the Holocaust, or the odd deifying biopic about a drug-addled, recently deceased musical icon.
Well, now there’s Sundance-baiting. The “quirky” films featuring no-name actors aside Hollywood giants moonlighting in miscast sagas about oddball misfit characters engaging in topsy-turvy meditations on life, relationships and art. Shit happens, indie songwriters jangle in the background, and everything ends on a quizzically upbeat, if not offbeat note. A great example? Little Miss Sunshine.

Deerhunter: Microcastle

Atlanta based quintuplet Deerhunter release their third album, Microcastle, into an already overflowing indie / ambient rock scene. Announcing their third album so quickly after their second seemed courageous, but the results are less than thrilling.
The swirling guitar, bass-heavy rhythm and minimalist drumming of the single “Never Stops” characterize the new indie-pop sound the band is going for on their newest release. The record has a respectable 12 songs, but maintains the same slow, stunted pace throughout and never really picks up. Vocalist Bradford Cox, while personally expressive, merely finds a phrase he likes and sticks with it to the bitter end. “Cavalry Scars,” “Agoraphobia,” title track “Microcastle” and most of the album are lyrically uninspired.

The Virgins: Self-Titled

While The Virgins self-titled debut LP (released over the summer) offers a few fairly danceable and catchy tracks that provided the entire soundtrack for that one Gossip Girl episode, in substance the album as a whole mirrors our favorite Monday night guilty pleasure — it’s fun on the outside, but when you get down to the meat and bones of it, there isn’t a lot there.

Dear and The Headlights: Drunk Like Bible Times

Dear and the Headlights (who doesn’t like a good pun?) delivers their sophomore album Drunk Like Bible Times to the world of indie rock. Blending a variety of genres — rock, folk, some jazz, even a little classical guitar — Dear and the Headlights separate themselves from the rest of the indie rock groups — only not really.
The album starts off with “I’m Not Crying. You’re Not Crying, Are You?” Showing the band’s versatility, the song opens with a folksy guitar line and equally folksy lyrics, but quickly descends into Killers-esque rock. The single “Talk About” highlights the theme of the whole album: a harsh heaviness masked by catchy rhythms. Lyrically poetic and satirical, the song lulls you into its own cynicism.

The Subways: All or Nothing

Three years after the British punk rock band The Subways delivered their debut album, Young for Eternity, the trio returns with their sophomore album, All or Nothing. Less than 40 minutes in length and with songs averaging three minutes, it is short, sweet and largely nondescript. While songs like their single “Shake! Shake!” or the title track are catchy enough for the melodies to stick in your head, the lyrics are largely shallow and fail to express real emotion. One energetic, guitar-driven song blends seamlessly into the next, a flow that is slowed only by the sweet “Move to Newlyn” and the ballad “Strawberry Blonde.” All or Nothing actually falls somewhere in between: it’s good enough to play in the background, but doesn’t hold your attention for long.

Test Spin: The Kooks

The Kooks lead singer, Luke Pritchard, might have slipped into a bit of a depression over a girl, but resisting the uppers was a great decision. This broken heart has written an album full of depressing lyrics that, somehow, doesn’t dishearten the listener.