Startin’ ‘em young – indie classical style

On my last visit to my brother’s home, my 3-year old niece told me about her new favorite music star – Dr. Stringz.

She and her folks then showed me the good doctor in question: Andrew Bird, making a guest appearance in 2007 on Jack’s Big Music Show.

Bird’s kept the segment’s musical number in his repertoire, and often plays it when he gives concerts. It’s a toe-tapper that appeals to “children of all ages.”

Ra Ra Riot: The Orchard (Review)

Ra Ra Riot
The Orchard

Syracuse, NY’s Ra Ra Riot is a chamber pop band in the most organic sense of the word. In addition to the usual rock instrumentation – guitar, bass, drums, & keyboards – they also include a violinist and cellist in their complement. While their debut The Rhumb Line demonstrated that RRR’s brand of chamber pop was able to summon both the delicacy of indie classical with the heft that rock requires, their latest recording, The Orchard, further synthesizes these various elements into a potent musical concoction.

Recorded near a peach orchard in Upstate New York (hence the album title), this recording documents a band just hitting its stride, in effusive polyglot fashion. Ra Ra Riot marries both lilting pastoral pop, as on the lovely “Keep it Quiet,” with supple rhythms. Indeed, the syncopated beats and pan-ethnic grooves that populate their leadoff single “Boy” would likely make Vampire Weekend jealous!

The title tune’s efficacious amalgam of minor-key string ostinati, soaring vocals, and a loping pop groove makes for a convenient snapshot of Ra Ra Riot’s music circa 2010: catchy, clever, multihued, and memorable.

Help Revere Storm the Charts!


Revere (photo by

Revere is a London-based octet that’s a prime example of the ‘indie classical’ sound circa 2010. They incorporate classical instrumentation – violin, cello, keys, trumpet and glockenspiel into the traditional “big guitars” of indie pop. Their debut album is released in Spring 2010, but they’re wasting no time in promoting the lead off single, “We Won’t be Here Tomorrow.” The track has reached round two of the Storm the Charts competition. Check out a stream of the single below and, if you find it as enjoyable as we do, head over to the Storm the Charts poll to help Revere get to the top.

We Won’t Be Here TomorrowbyRevere

Revere is:
Stephen Ellis – Vocals, Guitars
Jonathan Fletcher – Guitars
Andrew Hawke – Bass, Vocals
Marc Rollins – Drums, Percussion
Ellie Wilson – Violin
Nathaniel Mumford – Trumpet, Glockenspiel
Kathleen Mckie – Cello
Nicholas Hirst – Keys, Vocals

Clogs "On the Edge" (MP3)

I’m really enjoying the new Clogs LP Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton. Its their first release that focuses on songwriting rather than instrumental compositions.

Clogs has been at the forefront of the Indie Classical crossover movement, bringing together pop sensibilities in sophisticated concert music arrangements. This time out, Padma Newsome’s voice and songs are featured, resulting in a frequent and fetching pastoral folk ambience.

A teaser track from the LP, “On the Edge,” is below. I’ll be interviewing the band for the site later this month.

Clogs: On the Edge

SXSW attendees – any Indie Classical sightings?

For those of us who didn’t make the pilgrimage to SXSW last week, it’s always nice to live vicariously. I saw various tweets about cellos and violins at the festival, and am curious if any readers who attended saw evidence of Indie Classical music at the various showcases. Feel free to share you stories in the comments section below.

Owen Pallett's Heartland: Score, CD review, video, touring


Making the classical aspects of the burgeoning indie classical movement abundantly clear, crossover albums are now crossover marketing musical scores. Via his website, composer Owen Pallett has released a limited edition score for the music on Heartland, his latest Domino recording.

Owen Palletts Heartland

Owen Pallett's Heartland

Joined by the Czech Symphony Orchestra and a host of guests (including composer Nico Muhly) Pallette has crafted his most consistently engaging music to date. In some critical circles, indie classical has, rightly or wrongly, been under the microscope for making pop into a ‘longhair’ genre, robbing it of its immediacy in favor of overt sophistication. I’d submit that this vantage point doesn’t give enough credit to indie audiences, who seem to be just fine grappling with orchestral arrangements by Pallett and electronic experiments by Animal Collective alike.

What’s more, recordings like Heartland amply demonstrate that one can, if they’re talented, craft sophisticated music that has just as many catchy hooks as a three-chord, three-minute anthemic single. A case in point is the loop-laden and jaunty “Lewis Takes off his Shirt;” the music, and the video below, suggest that pop can indeed combine sophistication with immediacy, and that its orchestral incarnation can be downright cheeky!


For those of your with a case of ‘artifact avarice,’ the full orchestra score for Heartland is $46 and has been printed in a limited run of 300. In addition to the music it also provides lyrics and a chart of diagrams of patches for the ARP 2600.

Owen Palett’s touring a bunch in support of Heartland. Here are some dates:

04-08 Toronto, Ontario – Queen Elizabeth Theatre
04-10 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
04-11 Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theater
04-12 Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall
04-13 Columbus, OH – Wexner Center
04-14 Pittsburgh, PA – Andy Warhol Museum
04-15 Washington DC – Black Cat
04-18 Indio, CA – Coachella Festival
04-20 Boston, MA – Institute of Contemporary Art
04-22 New York, NY – Webster Hall
04-24 Baltimore, MD – Metro Gallery
04-25 Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church
04-27 Atlanta, GA – The Earl
04-29 Dallas, TX – Granada Theater
04-30 Austin, TX – The Mohawk
05-05 San Francisco, CA – The Independent
05-08 Seattle, WA – The Crocodile
05-09 Vancouver, British Columbia – The Vogue Theatre
05-10 Victoria, British Columbia – Alix Goolden Hall
05-11 Portland, OR – Aladdin Theater
05-13 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
05-14 Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge