Bands to Check Out. Part II

[This quarterly post series: B.t.C.O. Parts 1-4 were originally received as an email from my friend Scott during our Peace Corps services in Macedonia in the early 2000s. He gave me permission to publish them here about a half a decade later. Hope you enjoy this historical reading/listening experience! The release of these posts is aligned with the quarters of the Iliff School of Theology’s 2018-2019 school year. Read/Listen to Part 1 Here]
Email time stamp: Aug 7, 2014, 8:05 AMOK, so I’m finally delivering on a promise of other bands I think you should know about if didn’t already. Again, maybe you won’t like all of these bands (maybe you’ll hate a few of them), but hopefully, you get turned on to a few of them. And I’m sure you’ve heard of a few of these bands. Maybe it will be that additional perspective telling you to check them out and give them another try. Or not.
Alabama Shakes: Soulful southern rock  (from Northern Alabama, unsurprisingly!) with a great female lead singer. They have only one album, Boys & Girls, which came out in 2012. It got a lot of critical praise and rightfully so. They have a unique, quality, and honest sound in today’s electronic-centered music industry. “Hold On” and “Hang Loose” are two standout tracks. [Editor’s note: They’ve released album(s) since the time this email was originally written.]

… And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead: People also know them as simply Trail of Dead. Two guys are the focal of the group. Hard alt rock/post punk from early 2000s. I have their third (and most successful) album Source Tags and Codes from 2003 and I love it. Epic album. It’s a slow beginning but stay with it. Just a real unique sound of noise matched with a cool voice singing interesting lyrics. I also have a short follow up EP (The Secret of Elena’s Tomb) that is not too bad, but not nearly as strong as Source Tages and Codes. They kind of fell off though because I think they tinkered their sound and the band lineup. Anyway, I think they put on a heck of a show.

Built to Spill: Boise, Idaho indie rock three (sometimes four)-piece outfit from the mid 90s that still putting out decent music. Chill and slow at times, but also hard driven guitar rock with a unique lead vocals. I have two albums that I enjoy: Perfect From Now On (1997) and You in Reverse (2006). Hard to describe their sound. Lots of different emotions and topics in the songs. Sort of a stripped down Modest Mouse.

Band of Horses: A Seattle indie rock band with a chill, relaxed, but cool, not overly poppy sound that had some breakthrough success. I think they sound a lot like Built to Spill. I have this album, Cease to Begin from 2007. Nothing crazy, just cool indie rock without gimmicks.

The Decemberists: Indie folk band from Portland. I’ve seen them twice. The lead singer Colin Melloy is cool, genuine guy from western Montana and graduated from The University of Montana. He had a cool indie band in Missoula called Tarkio, which I think is also pretty solid. The Decemberists have had some pretty decent success, but have never really had a break through hit. Their sound is big and they use a  variety of instruments, and their songs are usually filled with literature or historical references. Not a dumb band. The name is a play on a Russian uprising from 1825 and a Tolstoy novel. Anyway, their albums sometimes have themes or concepts and the pacing can vary a lot compared to each other. 16 Military Wives is from an album called “Picaresque”, which according to Wikipedia is taken from a form of satirical prose originating in Spain, depicting realistically and often humorously the adventures of a low-born, roguish hero living by his or her wits in a corrupt society. See what I mean by not a dumb band. Another example of their work is ‘Castaways and Cutouts.’ ‘The Hazards of Love’ is another album I like, but is different themed album with female vocals and a heavier sound.

Death Cab for Cutie: Indie rock from Bellingham, Washington fronted brilliant song writer Ben Gibbard. They’ve put out a fair number of albums and have a lot of indie cred with fans and critics. Some of my favorite albums are Transatlanticism and Plans. I have two more in my itunes. I like their sound.

Drive-By Truckers: Southern rock or guitar heavy alt country from Alabama or Athens Georgia. I’ve never seen these guys, but I’ve heard good things about their shows, and would like to see them some day. They’ve been around since the late 90s, but I never heard about them until the mid-2000s. I’ve only listened to 2004’s The Dirty South. Great stories in their songs. Puttin’ People On The Moon is a great angry political song from The Dirty South. This band is probably a lot bigger than I realize.

Part III coming soon to inbox near you. 🙂



“Edited” by Emily

P.S. I could write for days on why I’ve chosen to publish private emails between two RPCVs/teachers/best friends. I could write about the Peace Corps Third Goal and how nice it can feel to share experiences that have changed our lives. People ask what I did there, the answers are mundane–listened to music, mostly, and wrote a lot of letters, comics, doodles, poems, short stories. From my time in MK, I realized that one of my favorite experiences throughout my life is listening to music with people. Whether it’s at a live concert, laying around listening to an album from start to finish, or listening to the radio in a car– sharing music is a cool time.

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