About sometime in the middle of 2006, indie rock became a dirty word. Whether caused by a surge in popularity of bands like The Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, thus prompting hipsters to hate it by default, or internet mp3 blog overload, the indie icons of America, particularly Sufjan, became targets of ridicule as much as targets of fanboy affection. I’ll admit that the absence of a gatekeeper in a DIY music critic world made it all that much more difficult to trudge through the muck, but as much as I can admire a great Swedish dance act or a Japanese metal band, I can also find plenty to love in an indie rock band. I just have one requirement, and that goes for any genre: they have to be really good.
New York by way of Asheville, NC band Arizona are really, really good. Earlier this year, I discovered their 2006 debut Welcome Back Dear Children, and promptly fell in love with its organically grandiose sound. While keeping their melodies simple, Arizona attempted varied ambitious methods of taking those melodies to a much more impressive conclusion. Though they play what one could simply call “indie rock,” it’s an awfully impressive sort, one that merely expands slightly on their new seven track EP, Fameseeker and the Mono.
There’s a gentleness about leadoff track “Thimble” as acoustic guitars gorgeously chime underneath a refrain of “cry into my thimble.” Yet its percussive tension builds, its riffs begin to escalate into classic rock glory, and it’s more than a humble pop track; it’s rock `n’ roll. “Midday Midnight” begins with a mellotron intro, yet abruptly cuts to a peppy series of folky fingerpicks, though the two combine as the song progresses into a pretty, roots ballad. “Bird on the Floor” is the album’s most delicate moment, a sparkling lullaby that can’t help but flourish into a bigger and brighter psych-pop song with soaring harmonies and wonderful use of horns.
It’s not so much that Arizona does anything drastically different from a typical indie rock band. It’s just that when Arizona does it, it sounds so much better than most artists of their ilk could possibly accomplish. There’s probably a more articulate term than “indie rock” to describe their music, but whatever you call it, it’s something to be celebrated and revered.
Wilco – More Like The Moon EP
Sparklehorse – Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.