Gorillaz in the midst

By MATT ASHARE  |  May 17, 2006

Getting back to indie rock, it’s found a new place as a much more commercially viable subculture than ever before, thanks in large part to those essential mixes The OC keeps churning out. Indie used to mean “challenging” or “lo-fi” or “doesn’t sell a lot of records.” That’s not true anymore. Indie rock has become a haven for singer-songwriters, wearing hearts on sleeves, searching souls for deeper truths in concert with enablers who may just provide modest guitar/bass/drum accompaniment, or create a full-on orchestral backdrop. The Arcade Fire fit that mold well enough, even if an air of cryptic secrecy still surrounds much of what gets called “indie.” But being a small label doesn’t mean you can’t move units or play big rooms anymore. So, what’s the real difference between a Belle & Sebastian and a Fiona Apple?

Not much beyond the mythical intrigue that comes with being a major-label artist. Apple played that for all it was worth with Extraordinary Machine (Epic), an album that needed to be extraordinary to save her career. And Apple made sure of that by spreading confusing rumors about her label’s intentions until fans petitioned Epic to release it, custom-wrapped in more controversy than our hip-hop hero of the year, Kanye West, generated with his remarks about Bush’s racism. Now he’s got our singer-songwriter of the year, Neil Young, on his side with a Bush-bashing album titled Living with War (Reprise). Hopefully, by this time next year, there will be a lot more of that to go around our poll.

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