February 3, 2010

Balls to Rock: A Discerning Ratio

Even independent music goes through states of stylized homogeneity. When Animal Collective got red hot last year, we were flooded with bands every other week worshipping at their experimental altar. The same can be said for sub-genres like freak-folk, chill-wave, and the noisy Jesus & Mary Chain gang. In other words, when everyone is trying to be different and that "difference" is being celebrated, a repetition of style is inevitable. Sometimes "different" means music that is eccentric, weird or groundbreaking and that, of course, should be celebrated; but when "different" or "indie" connotes overly quirky and clever skinny-jean donning bands of the moment, it can become difficult to wade through that abyss of tight denim.

That's when I resort to "balls to rock," a ratio that sifts out the overly stylized and cliched from the blood, sweat and tears. "Balls" is colloquial for bravado or courage and could easily be replaced with terms like "soulful," "bad-ass," or "inspired"—in music, it's that intangible something that hits you in the gut. On a scale, Wavves or the Jo Bros might register a 1:37; Vampire Weekend a respectable 6:13; White Denim, always full of life and energy, a 5:7; a perfect 1:1 for the damaged goods Bon Iver delivered in For Emma, Forever Ago; and lastly, the ratio would spill over with the likes of Janis Joplin and Prince, whose gigantic huevos' size were and are simply impossible to determine.

Here are five groups that bring it balls and ovaries first every song:

The Ettes - "Crown of Age" (from Look At Life Again)
White Denim - "Regina Holding Hands" (from Fits)
Beach House - "Silver Soul" (From Teen Dream)
The Drive By Truckers - "Steve McQueen" (from Alabama Ass Whuppin)
Black Joe Lewis & The Honerybears - "I'm Broke" (Live at WOXY Lounge)
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  1. Black Joe Lewis: perfect 1:1

  2. Agreed. Would love to catch him live. Heard he puts on a great show.