Music Reviews

Voxtrot Voxtrot

(Beggars Group / Playlouder) Buy it from Insound Rating - 4/10

You're an avid music collector. You can rattle off your top ten albums from every decade since the 1960's. You scour Pitchfork and Metacritic daily for promising new releases. In fact, you've become quite an authority. But it's beginning to wear thin, and you need something more. You need fame, and you need it fast. You need YOUR OWN BAND. With a little time and effort, and this step-by-step guide, you'll soon be selling out Bonnaroo.

1. Be from Austin.

Portland just won't cut it anymore. Head south.

2. Assemble your band.

You will need four or five people, representing vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and at least one of the following: violin, piano/keyboards, any sort of wind instrument. Make sure that your band members are thin, predominantly (if not all) male, and sport asymmetrical haircuts. The singer's voice should be pleasant, with a touch of nervous vibrato, but nothing showy. Listeners can be overwhelmed by things like "vocal range."

3. Identify your influences.

These must be widely known, but still "hip" among the indie crowd. You must include The Strokes, The Arcade Fire and The Smiths, but feel free to throw in as many as five others, as long as they are not too experimental. Your goal is to achieve as much popularity as possible with as many people as possible, while staying just beneath the mainstream radar.

4. Write some songs.

You don't need very many at first (see step 5), but they must be carefully conceived. In order to be a successful indiepop songwriter, you will need to incorporate ALL of the stylistic elements of ALL of your influences (identified in step 3) into as few songs as possible. Familiarity is key to the listener, who can be scared off by too much originality, but too few styles will have your critics crying "knockoff." Learn the balance and use it to your advantage.

Remember, more is better. Any song will benefit from added orchestration, backing vocals and/or reverb. As far as lyrics go, stick to your gut. You can't go wrong with feelings. Everybody has feelings. Don't be afraid to get maudlin.

5. Do not release a full-length album until you are already famous.

This seems so obvious that it's a wonder more bands don't do it. How can you expect to sell a record if nobody has any idea who you are? Exactly. Make as many EPs as you like. Sell them at your shows. Stream them on the internet. Make your fans quiver in anticipation. Then, and only then, can you begin working on your first LP. The album should be well balanced, just like your songs. Include a few slow numbers involving hand holding and eye gazing, but keep the majority poppy, upbeat and emotionally powerful.

6. Sit Back and Relax.

You've worked hard. Book a few festivals. Give a few interviews. Read the glowing reviews of your new album. Pat yourself on the back - you deserve it!