It's 1978. You’re walking down Sixth Street looking for a house show, hoping to hear something different from the same old pop music on the radio. All of a sudden, you hear something spellbinding coming from down the street. As you walk toward the house, you feel like you are witnessing something bigger than the usual cover band.
That is how I assume hearing something like MX-80 would be to the average student at Indiana University, both in the ‘70s and today. Local bands here have always turned out music that ranges from revolutionary to relaxing. As the captain of this musical ship, I will be uncovering some of my favorite hidden gems from past seasons of Bloomington music, exposing my true biases within the scene.
The “So What” EP by The Drop, released 2008
I immediately thought that this EP would be an emo record. The giant anthropomorphic bomb on the record cover supported my assumption. However, this EP is unlike anything I could have expected. With a lead singer that sounds similar to Hozier and a funky backing band that creates an Alabama Shakes-esque sound, it couldn’t be more characteristic to Bloomington.
The project opens with “So What,” a lilting grungy funky song that could have inspired the likes of Six Foot Blonde. The big band feel and incomprehensible singing transports me back to a dingy, smoky basement packed with people swaying to the music. My personal favorite track has to be “Under the Stairs.” It has a much more bluesy sound and even more inaudible singing. It is perfect for its era.
“Big Hits/Hard Attack” by MX-80, released 1978
I don’t know what I expected with this album. Whatever I wanted, it’s entirely different. This band showcases what confusingly beautiful music can be made when you have the free reign to mess up in college. If you don’t like experimental rock music or meandering punk songs, this album is not for you.
“Train to Loveland, You Turn Me On, SCP, Till Death Do Us Part,” the opening song for the album, clocks in at just under seven minutes and 30 seconds. It contains multiple drum kits, a horn section, a synth and a singer similar to Fred Schneider of the B-52's.
Strangely enough, my picks come in later in the album with “Kid Stuff” and “Civilized/Demeyes.” Those two songs, much like the later tracks on the album, sound much more like early punk rock and heavy metal. Who knew some of my favorite metal songs started at my college?
“Temporary Room” by Stagnant Pools, released 2012
This indie rock band is comprised of two brothers, Bryan and Douglass Enas. In all honesty, I have been listening to this album nonstop since I heard it. Their music is like if the Strokes, LCD Soundsystem and Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead had a baby, and that baby created a band.
“Frozen” is by far my favorite song on the record. Every song has a very 2010s vocal distortion slapped on top, but this song lightens it up so the words are just understandable. I also quite like “Consistency.” I completely relate to the opening lyrics that state, “This is the last place I want to be.” This is the perfect album for being a wallflower but in a much cooler, more underground way.
“German Water” by Ativin, released 1999
“German Water” is the perfect score for a rainy day study session. Ativin is reminiscent of American Football, whose first album was released in the same year. While there are no lyrics, the guitar is hypnotic enough to make you believe that there should be words.
My personal favorite songs are “Fortune Telling Fish” and “Church of Astronauts.” Both songs are spooky and haunting, perfect for this pre-fall weather. Thankfully, this band is still making music, with their most recent record “Austere,” which came out this summer.