Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and products are independently selected. Postmedia may earn an affiliate commission from purchases made through links on this page.
There are indie releases of the sort that came to prominence in the ’90s alt-rock scene, and there are indie releases that are truly independent efforts from artists largely doing everything on their own-some.
The key thing that they have in common, when they are what they claim to be, is records that didn’t get any big cash kick from a major that owns the imprint but doesn’t put their name on it.
Nothing wrong with that, mind you.
It’s just one more layer of difficulty for truly independent acts to try to be heard at a time when it is as hard as it’s ever been to make full albums because everyone wants to hear a track or two on their streaming service playlist instead.
Again, nothing wrong with that — save the horrible financial remuneration even mega-successful musicians make after multi-millions of plays.
What needs to happen every once in a while is a shout-out to your friendly neighbourhood player making music because they love to and gaining a fan base from connecting with listeners in a myriad of ways, including media reviews.
Here then, are five local indie records recently released that are well worth your attention.
Pink Tiger | You’ve Changed Records
Genre: Jangle-punk (it’s what their Wikipedia entry says)
Key track: Pink Boys
This Vancouver quartet sounds laid back enough to have recorded its latest on a Gulf Island beach. Lyrics on the title track even delve into stepping into tide pools and laying back on the moss. But the lilting, whispery vocals and deliciously quiet title track is only one of 22 on this home-recorded dual-personality release. Tracks 1 through 11 are gentle, pensive acoustic material with a heavy folk feel.
Tracks 12 through 22 plug in for thrashing head-nodding such as the driving Spilling Yr Guts and or chiming Pink Boys. The press on the record mentions the New Zealand scene of the ’80s and it’s a very fair call. Super enjoyable pop with honest execution.
Shifting Sands | donmacdonaldmusic.com
Genre: Acoustic jazz fusion
Key track: Dali’s Hourglass
Nelson-based violinist/composer MacDonald has his feet in both the fusion world of such artists as Jean Luc-Ponty as well as the newgrass territory of luminaries like David Grisman. His nine-track record will certainly appeal to fans of these artists.
Backed by a standout crew including, among others, three time National Jazz Award pianist of the year Dave Restivo and Juno-winning guitarist Mike Rud, the music is deep in the groove. His past work includes scoring films and you can hear this cinematic scope in tracks such as the showcase Dreams of Ozymandias or the near-rock styled Atacama.
This really sounds like an artist to see live at a jazz festival.
Celestial Desire | keanuienco.com
Genre: Instrumental rock
Key track: Wovoka’s Dance
Nanaimo axeman Ienco plays like he has been shredding the six strings all his life. Given he was gifted a guitar at age eight, he pretty much has.
A jazz grad from Vancouver Island University, his electric work is far more in line with everyone from Steve Morse to Steve Vai. His clear love for a soaring solo that isn’t purely informed by note-cramming makes his new recording something listeners from a wide-range of preferences can enjoy. Citing Brian May and Pat Metheny as influences, his writing is not without pretty clear Zappa-isms (Indigo) and even Opeth-ish progressive metal moments (Wovoka’s Dance).
The artist claims to draw upon his Native American heritage in his work, and the goal of the album is “to take the listener on an emotional journey exploring themes of desire, regret and acceptance.”
Voice Leading | Mint Records
Genre: experimental pop
Key Track: To the Wind At Morn
The fourth full-length from Larissa Loyva’s Kellarissa project — the name is Finnish for “in the basement” — finds the musician digging deep.
There are some very trippy synth-heavy explorations of the place where pop, choral vocals and art song merge on Voice. The music lives up to the title too, as near-operatic builds such as Desire Path or the Abba-in-an-acid-chamber title track showcase. At moments, the music also veers into dark goth nightclub corners — Sphinx, Tempting Fate — in the best possible way.
The whole project is so utterly appealing that you may want to don some dark garb and incantate along.
Hounds And Echo In Conjunction | Waxing Crescent
Key track: Cut Him Out Like Little Stars
Among the many artists who took COVID time to be incredibly busy was Vancouver’s Kuma, who put out a number of electronic albums that bear little or no resemblance to each other. This 12-track set is billed as “the soundtrack to an ambient movie that never existed.”
It features moody, urban soundscape style meditations that most certainly do suit meditative movie making. Listeners will find that songs such as Spooky Action At A Distance or the awesomely-named Death Frisbee play out in the background to frame whatever you are doing in a filmic fashion. Taken as a whole, it’s perfect background-to-foreground soundscaping.
Enjoy with the equally contemplative techno-tinged Sapporo Dubs for a full night’s worth of hypnotic and trance-inducing bubbling beats and incidental noises that are incredibly soothing.