5
Sep 20

#10: A secret code carved

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Inevitably when you’re sorting out 64 tracks marked as indie, you’re going to find some which don’t really fit anywhere else. That’s this bracket, a buffet of leftovers with maybe an arthouse and experimental thread running through the core of it. But not entirely – there’s also tracks here which are more indiepop than anything in the indiepop bracket (Saloon’s pretty “Free Fall”) and more proto-landfill than anything in the radio-friendly one (I won’t name names).

Given the variety of approaches it’s hardly surprising this is the bracket where I have the widest reactions – I find the appeal of a band like Cake, who sound like a very poor man’s Devo, absolutely baffling but love the fragmented yelpings of Life Without Buildings. But there will be listeners who feel quite the opposite – and maybe plenty of them, given how massively “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” outstreams the rest of the bracket.

This grouping is a strange mix of fringe characters and veterans. Electro-sleazeball Chilly Gonzales, unlucky acoustic outfit I Am Kloot, and indietronica critical faves The Microphones find a home here. But so does Carter USM’s Jim Bob (as Jim’s Super Stereoworld), Rufus Wainwright, and a Garbage who sound way livelier than I remember them being by this point. You can imagine almost all of it repelling or seducing, which will make for some fascinating minor groups.

It’s hard to draw any conclusions about trends, or the year, from this motley. Two acts stand above the rest, though, in fame and reputation. Bjork and Mercury Rev both have two songs here – Bjork’s from her “domestic” Vespertine LP, Mercury Rev’s from their post-breakthrough All Is Dream. Bjork has a strong track record in the polls though I wonder if the Vespertine material is too hushed to get her usual momentum going. Mercury Rev are new with this tournament – by this point in their career, though, they’re well into their burnout Disney music phase, and it’ll be intriguing to see how well their sound is received now.

POTENTIAL WINNER: It’s hard to know whether any of this stuff can reach the final groups, and a lot will depend on how fondly Cake are remembered – something I can make no judgement on! I feel Mercury Rev’s “The Dark Is Rising” has a shot at doing well – it’s grand and sad and has one of the bracket’s prettiest tunes.

BEST TRACK: In the right mood, Life Without Buildings were electric, every line reading suggesting some new hook or idea. In the wrong mood, they’re like the poetry slam from hell. So far when listening to “PS Exclusive” I’ve been in the right mood every time.

DARK HORSE: Rufus Wainwright is one of a few acts here I don’t really ‘get’, but he has a fanbase, he’s in a relatively soft bracket, and with “One Man Guy” he’s singing a song by his Dad, which seems to rein in the more ornate parts of his approach. Could do well.

DISCOVERY: Garbage were such a quintessential 90s band some part of me imagined they’d turned into white mice and pumpkins when the clock struck 12 on Millennium Eve. Not so, of course – “Androgyny” was a hit even if I’d never heard it, and it’s comfortably the best pop experience in these groups.

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