Various Artists: Holiday Matinee Volume II

Various Artists
Holiday Matinee Volume II
Better Looking

In the liner notes of Holiday Matinee Volume II producer David J. Brown wrote about the founding of his record label, Better Looking Records. “A year and a half ago I decided to start up Holiday Matinee,” he said, “without having a clue on how to run a business, or how the publicity industry operates. All I had was the desire and motivation to see that other people had the opportunity to share in the amazing musicianship of the bands and artists that Holiday Matinee represented.”

Less than a year ago Brown had no idea who the band Wheat was, and today he’s produced an album with a song by Wheat on it. Brown epitomizes the D.I.Y. ethic started by punks in the late 1970s that has flourished in the indie rock scene since its founding.

Many of the bands on Holiday Matinee Volume II are babies in the music world as well. The album features Wheat, No Knife, The Album Leaf, Cursive, The Busy Signals, Tiara, The Mercury Program, Bright Eyes, AM/Fm, Tristeza, Sunday’s Best, The Good Life, The Faint, and Vue. Many of these bands didn’t form until 1997 or after. Vue began as the Audience in 1997 and Tristeza also formed that year. The Mercury Program, Sunday’s Best, and Wheat weren’t around until 1999.

And, for such newbies to the business, Holiday Matinee Volume II is impressive. This album is essential for anyone who loves indie music but doesn’t have a college radio station near by. Even if there is one nearby, this collection gives anyone who’s just starting to get into the indie scene a well-rounded introduction to some of the most talented indie bands around at the moment.

In indie music, it’s easy to make music that fits the cliché of what an indie band should sound like — lo-fi, whining little boy singers, a mix between muffled and raging power chords, music with seemingly no coherence, quirky keyboard sounds, and random noise from objects not originally intended for musical instruments. While there’s some of that in this album, the bands featured generally steer away from the cliches or uses the cliches effectively. This collection combines the genres of electronica, new wave, punk, glam rock, rockabilly, and more.

While some songs on the album were previously released, new songs appear from Cursive, The Mercury Program, Bright Eyes, Tristeza, and Sunday’s Best. Some especially notable songs come from Wheat, The Busy Signals, Tiara, Bright Eyes, and The Faint.

Wheat, hailing from Taughton, Massachusetts, recently released the album Hope and Adams that is playing on college radio stations throughout the US. Their song “Flat Black” is a quirky ballad featuring dissonant keyboards and a catchy melody. The pulsing percussion keeps the momentum of the song going.

The Busy Signals create a new wave electronic sound with their song “Hyperrealitycheck.” An off-key music box sounding synthesizer keeps the groove going along with a heavy bass beat. The lyrics criticize those that don’t seem to care about what’s going on in the world. “Everyone’s walking around asleep with their eyes open,” they chant along with, “It’s so easy to be a robot just doing what your batteries tell you.”

Tiara mixes 1990s indie sounds with a sweet 1950s rock element with their song “The Latest Sun.” This song is one of the more catchy pop songs on the album.

Bright Eyes, in their song “The Calendar Hung Itself,” create a sound reminiscent of the Violent Femmes. The energy in this song is intense. Vocalist Conor Oberst is the highlight of this song as he pours his heart out as only the best indie rockers can do. Bravo to the whole band for creating such a tightly-knit song.

The Faint’s “The Passives (remix)” is memorable for being the strongest electronic song on the album. The vocals sound robotic. This song could be described as industrial sounding screechy techno.

There’s not a bad song on this album. And we should all thank Brown and all the bands featured on the album for adhering to D.I.Y. ethics. If there were more motivated people like them in the world, just think of what a better world this would be. So, next time you wish you could be in a band, start a record label or zine—don’t just think about it—do it!