24 November 2019 (released)
03 March 2020
Before bands like The Killers and Arcade Fire co-opted the banner of “indie music” to include flashy disco and broad orchestration, the genre had an endearing fumbling, loose feel to it. The guitars were maybe a little out of tune as they eked out haphazard melodies that didn't quite gel into the scales as they were commonly known. Kind of like a musical toy with dying batteries. The drums were squat and blunt, lacking the firework crack and endless reverb tail of big studio productions. Then there were the vocals, it was an entirely different approach to weaving a tune and telling stories. Perhaps spurred on by Bob Dylan's untethered sense of melodics, these bohemian troubadours managed to turn their humble scattered style into an iconic expression. Although any of them would shirk the very idea of a formula, this became the template for indie music as is swelled from its meagre beginnings through its peak in the '90s, before the resurgence post-2000 when the term indie became a catch-all for the new wave birthed as a reaction to what was dominating the rock scene at the end of the millennium.
Boise, Idaho bard, Storie Grubb is that quirky, rough-edged, yet catchy artist that you hear when you walk in to that independent record store in Anytown, U.S.A.. His latest record The Void Struggle comes on the heels of an impressive 12 releases in 12 months for 2019. The album revels in that classic indie spirit with a twinge of spaghetti western twang and a bit of a lift to that upbeat indie that thrived in the 2000s.
'Shine' sets things in motion with a happy outre-pop ditty with those precocious sing-songy vocals. 'Harness the Moon' takes on that boisterous stomp tempo with a whirring sci-fi synth and Grubb taking on a bit of a Kurt Vile on a couple espressos vibe. 'Hold Me Down' and later album track 'Winter Garden' play up that western twang along with a hoe-down shuffle. The former gets some help from some killer minor backup vocals acting as ghostly night riders. These moody mystical motifs are Grubb at his most effective.
The Void Struggle brings us back to that time when indie truly was indie. The songs are tight and full of hooky moments but not tainted with a pretentious showiness. They are authentic, sincere and brave in their refusal to be cookie-cuttered. Somewhere nestled between the Violent Femmes and The Sadies.