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Music

The Broken West: I Cant Go On, Ill Go On

The artists formerly known as the Brokedown release a debut album which draws heavily on Brian Wilson-era psych pop with hints of '90s alt-rock.


The Broken West

I Can't Go On, I'll Go On

Label: Merge
US Release Date: 2007-01-23
UK Release Date: Available as import
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When a tiny legal issue got in the way of the Brokedown's debut album release, they opted to change their moniker to The Broken West, which is appropriate not only because they hail from the western part of the United States, but also because their music tends to embody some of the characteristics we associate with that part of the country. The Broken West display an alt-country sound that has been all but discarded by many independent artists. Their lyrics allude to the isolation and longing of the deserts and valleys while their mellow, alt-pop approach reminds us of decades past.

I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On is an indie rock album that draws more on Brian Wilson-era psych-pop than your contemporary twee aesthetic. The effort is full of modest, pop-rock arrangements with a mild tendency toward country. With a bevy of indelible hooks and ubiquitous vocal harmonies, the album conjures up some inveterate alt-rock acts like Teenage Fanclub and Big Star. Their sound is traditional compared to the complexities and pretensions of other indie rock bands. No annoying syth here, just some humble organs and staccato piano, all of which accompany the catchy compositions of Ross Flournoy and Dan Iead.

The album peaks with the organ fueled romp "Down in the Valley", which you might recognize from their 2005 EP The Dutchman's Gold. The song references boozing and watching the sunrise in the Rio Grande -- pure depictions of the unfettered expanse of the western territory. The delectable sing-a-long atmosphere is one that maybe only the Hold Steady could pull off, but the Broken West make a valiant effort as the group harmonizes, "No one feels the darkness down in the valley tonight." The power pop approach continues with "So It Goes", a song that is oddly reminiscent of '90s act Teenage Fanclub. The sound is so familiar that it serves as a painful reminder of how long ago the mid-'90s were. It leaves you asking yourself, "Am I really that old?".

The album opener "On the Bubble" features a tambourine and handclap-infused rhythm section that puts the "pop" in the band's power-pop sound. The band mellows out a bit with "Shiftee", an acoustic lament from singer Ross Flournoy. "It's all over now, since our eyes met," he emphatically croons to the gentle strum of his guitar. The song stretches on to include some lead guitar action and some soothing "Ah"s thrown in for good measure. The love songs, "Abigail" and "Baby on My Arm" are just as delightful as their obvious titles suggest; the latter with its seemingly endless chorus of "I want my baby on my arm".

While so many indie bands are spending time trying to be cute or ripping off the Arcade Fire, it's good to see someone revert to writing some good old power-pop tunes. The Broken West has thrown away the pretension to instead rely on solid songwriting and traditional methods instead. Even if you tend to avoid the genre of power-pop like some sort of rare disease, I Can't Go On... provides an undeniably honest display of some quality rock tunes.

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Music

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Photo courtesy of Matador Records

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With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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