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Summer Soundtrack

Stephanie DePrez | Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This summer was an epic one for the average indie rocker.  Besides the monolith releases by Death Cab for Cutie and Coldplay, new artists bounded onto the scene with full force, including new chic rocker Katy Perry and uber-indie duo She and Him. Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette made a respectable comeback, and The Duke Spirit revived the spirit of Stevie Nicks.

“Narrow Stairs” didn’t fail to impress, as Death Cab fulfilled all expectations and even managed to follow the same general layout of their last album, 2005’s “Plans.” The radio mainstay “I Will Possess Your Heart” is the clear centerpiece of the album, coming in at track two but setting the tone for the rest of the songs. The benefit of buying the album is the fact that listeners get all eight glorious minutes of “Possess,” not just the three-minute radio version, which allows the song to build its “creeper aura” even more.

The lyrics of the album come straight from Death Cab’s own heart, and songs like “Long Division,” “Your New Twin Sized Bed” and “Grapevine Fire” are all very effective.

Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” took the British musicians in a new direction, but didn’t seem to leave any fans in the dust. The album is a bit of a trip, with songs blending into other songs and others ending nowhere near where they started. “Viva La Vida,” with its revolutionary aesthetic embodied in the hijacked cover art, is clearly a collection, with the first and last track acting as bookends. Radio singles “Violet Hill” and “Viva La Vida” are quite good, alone or within the context of the album. Overall, Coldplay manages to stay atop their game, avoiding repetition or the near-inevitable sell out at this point in their career.

Alanis Morissette rocked it out again with “Flavors of Entanglement.” She airs all her dirty laundry with the same lyrical vivacity of “Jagged Little Pill,” but still manages to sound more mature and grounded in her sound, which gets the expected over-production pick-up of someone who topped charts in the 90’s. She’s no longer just interested in the men who spurn her but the ignorant world as a whole, as explained in songs like “Citizens of the Planet.”  Alanis does manage to bring it down a bit for a few songs that end up feeling jarringly touching, like “Not As We” and “Torch.”

New kids on the scene included anti-pop princess Katy Perry, who you all know kissed a girl, and liked it. Love it or hate it, this song is definition summer of ’08.  Her album “One of The Boys” is about more than just kissing girls, though, as the song “Waking Up in Vegas” manages to have all the sing-along chorus potential of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.”

Other introductions of note included She and Him, a duo including Zooey Deschanel, an actress best known as the girl from “Elf” and the older sister from “Almost Famous.” Their Starbucks-ready CD included the song “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” and is a clean throwback to sixties dream pop with a bit of a “Juno” kick. London rockers The Duke Spirit channels the likes of Fleetwood Mac with their song “The Step and The Walk,” but stayed true to their London roots with a punk-wave tribute in “Send a Little Love Token.”

This summer was a perfectly balanced hodgepodge of new releases, catering to the musical tastes of any indie with an iPod. Love it or hate it, there was a slew of songs that will have direct association with whatever it was you were doing for the last three months.

Contact Stephanie DePrez at [email protected]