As major labels and their artists continue to struggle and fold, indie labels and their Chuck Taylor-wearing artists have flourished this year, prompting many to call 2007 the “year of the indie artist.”
Likewise, as downloading has stepped out of the shadows to become the upfront popular mode for music buyers, shaggy dudes and gals with emo glasses have stepped up, choosing to purchase hard copies of albums in spite of the convenience of online shopping. Call it modern retro. Call it audiophile stubbornness. Call it what it is: a geek’s call-to-arms. One thing’s for sure, two albums that loads of folks — “emo,” bearded and otherwise — have purchased this year come from the psychedelic post-prog of The Besnard Lakes and the dusty pocket-pop of Peter Bjorn and John. Lucky for Indianapolis-area residents, both are scheduled to play the Vogue on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
Similar to the recent Arcade Fire/LCD Soundsystem tour, The Besnard Lakes and PBJ are teaming for a tour that presents two headline-worthy bands that both just happen to be wrapping up star-making years. While little needs to be said about PBJ’s breakout hit, “Young Folks,” novellas could be written about the brilliance of the other nine songs on their latest album, Writer’s Block. PBJ’s third album is full of pleasantly bombastic arrangements that translate well in a pop context, but the real key here is the players behind said album’s off-kilter wall of sound.
Singer/guitarist Peter Morén and singer/bassist Björn Yttling began playing together in high school, though they weren’t quite able to find their signature sound until they added singer/drummer John Eriksson to the lineup. All three write; all three sing; and all three shine. The sorcery of the band lies not just in the sound of their prevalent musical camaraderie, but also in their unique translation of Brit-pop, which is at once unique and familiar.
On the other side of the bill is Montreal’s The Besnard Lakes, whose likeness to PBJ lies in their shared fondness of daring to build on the ever-extended pop genre. After branding themselves as sonic explorers with their self-released 2003 debut, Volume 1, The Besnards earned a top spot on the indie radar, eventually signing with Indiana’s own Jagjaguwar imprint for the release of their sophomore album, The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse. Centered around the husband-and-wife team of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, Dark Horse sparkles through saturated layers of sound and soaring vocals, somehow bringing to mind two of rock’s all-time classics: The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Eight lengthy songs deep, Dark Horse — like PBJ’s Writer’s Block — translates well live, somehow sounding even more epic than it does on record.