About Sanjoy Narayan
Take a singer of Puerto Rican descent who was born and raised in the Bronx; who hung out in her early teens in New York’s gritty Lower East Side; and then, just a day after she turned 17, ran away to New Orleans to make that city her new home. With such a backstory, you wouldn’t expect Alynda Lee Segarra to make the music she does – Americana, country and folk –but that’s what she does. Her band, Hurray for the Riff Raff, was new to me when I heard them recently, but they’ve got a discography that comprises six full-lengths, including the latest, Small Town Heroes, a collection of a dozen upbeat, downbeat and genre-straddling tracks. [Read more]
When I first heard a song off the debut album from the British band, Eagulls, I wasn’t aware of the way they spelt their name. The song, Possessed, was on a podcast and I heard the announcer say their name and not mention the spelling. For me, because of the way Eagulls is pronounced, it conjures up the name of another band and reminds me of a song about a certain hotel and then swiftly provokes a sharp attack of nausea. So I was keen after listening to Possessed (more about that song later) to quickly check out what this new band was about. I was very relieved to see the way they spell their name. Eagulls are a quintet from Leeds. And they are what you’d call punk revivalists. Their sound couldn’t be more different than the cloying soft rock of that other band I mentioned.
I’ve not been able to find out why San Franciscan folk rocker Mark Kozelek calls his band Sun Kil Moon except that the name is probably taken from that of a South Korean bantamweight boxer called Moon Sung-Kil and that Kozelek is deeply inspired by the sport of boxing. There’s a bit of Delhi-related but, otherwise unrelated trivia, too, which I found: Moon Sung-Kil won the gold in his class at the 1982 Asiad, which, as we all know, was held in Delhi! Sun Kil Moon’s new album, Benji, is punchy but not anywhere close to the kind of connotation that word could have in boxing. But the eleven songs on it have no-holds-barred lyrics and a sound that is haunting and spare.
We were sitting at Delhi’s perfect little French restaurant called Le Bistro du Parc and contemplating whether to order the Steak Tartare in a city that is otherwise in a strictly stringy buffalo territory (we did order it and it was great; and it was not buffalo, by the way!) when I thought I heard Bon Iver on the speakers. You know Bon Iver, the band name that is actually the alter ego of the indie singer songwriter Justin Vernon, who made waves a few years ago with his first full-length album For Emma, Forever Ago, an album of songs that he wrote when he chose to confine himself in a snowbound wooden cabin somewhere in Wisconsin. That album was a deeply emotional breakup album and it received both huge critical acclaim as well as popularity, paving the way for Vernon to get a Grammy for Best New Artist a few years ago.
I think the 1980s’ band named Smog, probably better known by its frontman, Bill Callahan, may be one of the utterly under-rated and unacknowledged bands in the indie music genre. Better appreciated by critics than by fans, Smog could well be one of the earliest practitioners of the genre that is commonly known as lo-fi or low-fidelity. It is today a classification that comprises hundreds of bands and also one that has some bands that I like very much – Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Neutral Milk Hotel, Guided By Voices, Blur, and so many more. Lo-fi is used to describe a genre but its roots go back to recordings that had a less refined lower quality of sound, marked by a fuzz and hiss and unsharpness, which has its own sort of charm. [Read more]