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August 25, 2004

Milla Jovovich is My President.

Though I haven't reviewed it yet (that's next week), the Wicker Park soundtrack is just all kinds of hilarious. The film itself should be a hoot - besides the usual place-setting exteriors (Look! It's Josh Hartnett standing in front of an elevated train! He must be in Chicago...), the movie went the Adventures in Babysitting route and shot largely in Montreal. But just as its titular setting signals the squeegie appropriation of whatever hep caché the neighborhood might've had, Wicker Park's soundtrack is a great example of the Indie Branding Initiative.

The IBI made its initial forays in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when VW's licensing of tracks by Orbital and Nick Drake caused minor flurries of upwardly mobile professionals wandering fearfully into indie record stores. That was back when the appearance of a supposed indie band in an ad was like watching Mary Kate Olsen eat a porterhouse steak - it just didn't make sense. But in recent years that stigma has rightfully been revealed as record store clerk/college music DJ bias - i.e., fucking bogus - and ad licensing and iTunes placing have emerged as effective revenue streams for independent musicians. In other words, these outlets offer groups the holy grail of autonomy and economic viability.

Just as Seth Cohen is the archetype of indie for the mainstream, so have the bands he would like become the frontrunners in the Indie Branding Initiative. Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, The Shins - these artists share a certain laconic detachment that makes them different from, say, Switchfoot, and a melodic sense that's challenging, but also palatable for the masses. They've embraced the mainstream, some more than others, but all with the sense that, through measured licensing and strong word of mouth, they can retain their indie sensibilities while using the same thing as a cash money bargaining chip. The recent major label bow of Rilo Kiley is a great example of this. Pretty, idiosyncratic, occasionally experimental, and overall very inviting - Many believe More Adventurous is the musical equivalent of sex with Jenny Lewis. And you can't keep that in an indie store crate.

Rilo Kiley doesn't appear on the Wicker Park soundtrack. But many of the bands mentioned above do, as well as a few others that are just off the radar (Müm), but offer an equally arch/accessible brand of music - a real and valid alternative to whatever ten groups the major labels are pushing. Whether or not the movie's a hit - Garden State's gonna be better, and it has the fucking Shins, too - the movie should only increase the Indie Branding Initiative's profile with people waiting by their mailboxes for the new J.Crew catalog to arrive.

G. Love doesn't know anything about branding initiatives - you can look at the last seven years of his career as proof. But he's finally released a record that matches his early work in both sound and vision, which means that Hustle delivers both songs and party attitude. Conversely, Chicago's Joan of Arc never cared a lick about selling records or selling out or any of that jazz. Appropriately, their new Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain is an intellectual trip through beauty and squelch. "[They do] seem to think the sky has already fallen, and its shrapnel is making our relationships bleed with absurdity". Meanwhile, Jason Mraz continues his cockeyed cap takeover of the post-Matthewsian estrogen market. "Who needs bubblegum lips when you have the Matrix in your corner?" These fuckers want very badly to take up a piece of Creed's broken mantle, the preferably the part not already held high by these other idiots, who can actually say they were responsible for Creed. Just wait til Stapp's solo album, slated for sometime near Christmas. Then we'll see who's allowed to name their kid Jagger.

Have you heard of Butch Walker? After snarking through the '90s with the Marvelous Three, he's returned with a singer/songwriter-type album that almost validates what Pete Yorn is doing. But only almost, because Letters is better. "From its handwritten liners to the obvious care with which its tracks were assembled in the studio, [the album] feels like a direct communication from Butch's big Rundgren and Cheap Trick-lovin' brain".

And then there's She Loves You. As I said before, this new covers record from Greg Dulli and the Twilight Singers has been making my universe purr and shudder since the promo landed on my desk about a month ago. But now that it's out, you need to hook it up. "Yow, it's getting hot in here. There was never any doubt, but [this album] proves it anyway - Greg Dulli is our collective id".

Besides, you'll never catch Dulli in a movie like Hollywood Homicide, which I think was a remake of the clumsy 1989 Anthony Edwards vehicle Downtown.

JTL

Posted by Johnny Loftus at August 25, 2004 11:10 AM