The Guardian Indie

Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice
  1. Glanusk Estate, Brecon Beacons
    An eclectic bill of everything from psych rock to alt-folk proved again why Green Man is one of the UK’s most beloved festivals

    There is much that could be said to capture the endlessly nourishing spirit of Green Man. Be it the way the clouds spill spectacularly on to the gorgeous verdant peak that gives the festival’s main Mountain stage its name, as if the horizon is leaning down lazily on to the landscape. Or the eclectic bill, which spans rock, folk, indie, electronic dance and psychedelia, plus comedy, spoken word and visual art. Or the fact that you’d struggle to keep your own back garden as tidy as their Brecon Beacons site, even without 20,000 people trailing through it.

    But perhaps nothing captures Green Man’s spirit more this year than the booking of Big Jeff. The obsessively gig-going gentle giant of the Bristol music scene is invited to DJ between bands in the Far Out tent on Friday in warm recognition of his faithful attendance over the years. Where he would normally be doing it down the front, instead he thrashes his thatch of blonde curls on the stage wearing an artist’s pass.

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  2. The American musician combines vintage vocals with field recordings and home-grown beats to compelling effect

    Temporal contradiction defines Odetta Hartman’s sound. Raised in New York’s East Village by liberal parents who exposed her to experimental theatre, modern dance, punk and hip-hop, she would then spend her holidays in West Virginia, where her mother grew up. “That was my Appalachian infusion,” she told Q magazine. “There’s a lot of dark history down there: duels, being down coal mines, so that runs in my blood.”

    Her second album, Old Rockhounds Never Die, released earlier this month, compellingly fuses these disparate influences. She plays all the instruments herself, but her banjo is placed centre stage, to particularly fine effect on murder ballad Misery (complete with gunshots) and Sweet Teeth. The vintage feel is helped by her eerily timeless voice – reminiscent at times of fellow traveller Josephine Foster’s – which sounds as if it belongs on an Alan Lomax field recording. But these sounds of the early 20th century are twinned with very 21st-century beats, courtesy of producer Jack Inslee, although there’s more to them than meets the ear.

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  3. (Atlantic)

    It’s almost exactly 20 years since Death Cab for Cutie released their first album, Something About Airplanes, on the tiny Barsuk label. The intervening years saw them sign to a major label, get nominated for Grammys and become poster boys for canvas-haversack-toting mopey emo kids everywhere. But nine albums in, and Ben Gibbard and co are no longer kids themselves, and their nostalgia has a decidedly autumnal feel.

    Gibbard can recall being 22 and “Trying so hard to play it cool” (60 & Punk), and reflects that “Sometimes I’m overcome by every choice I couldn’t outrun” (Summer Years). The dilemmas that are faced are adult ones: “I don’t need you to be honest / Or to be faithful to the end / I just need you to be always a friend,” Gibbard sings on When We Drive.

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  4. The festival defined noughties pop-punk and united America’s outcasts – but as it shuts for ever, we ask: did it fail to champion diversity?

    The sun is blazing mercilessly in Columbia, Maryland, on a Sunday in July. It is not yet noon, and the nasal singer of a jet-black metalcore band is crying out: “Will you miss me when I’m gooone?” Already this weekend, I have seen hair-dye jobs in impossibly electric hues of bubblegum pink and highlighter-pen lime. I have seen ripped fishnets and Tim Burton mini-backpacks and earlobes stretched as big as the rims of drinking glasses. I have perused the wares of outfitters called Mall Goth Trash and Sad Boys Club. I can confirm that the campaigns to “Stay Positive and Hail Satan” and ensure that “Ska’s Not Dead!” have endured in some corners of America.

    I am on my third consecutive day inside the misfit carnival that is Vans Warped tour, which, after 24 years, finished its final run as a national touring festival last week. While American festivals such as Lollapalooza have long retired their caravans and turned into annual fixed-site weekenders, Warped persevered as a roving punk-themed circus. The brand will probably continue with abbreviated tours, says Kevin Lyman, its founder. An exhibition about Warped’s history will open next year at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. But it is the end of an era for the generation who invented “mall punk”.

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  5. (Ignition Records)

    Although the Coral started in Hoylake on the Wirral Peninsula in the 1990s and were Mercury-nominated in 2002, they were so young that, even after two decades, the core members are still only in their 30s. Along the way, they’ve lost two guitarists (the mercurial Bill Ryder-Jones, not once but twice) and a mentor (Deltasonic’s late Alan Wills), gained a Zuton in Paul Molloy, and dabbled in every genre from weird Wirral folk to cosmic funk and songs about maggots.

    It’s been a strange trip, and following 2016’s robustly psychedelic Distance Inbetween, their ninth album brings yet another handbrake turn. Apparently inspired by the playlist at Wirral fair (from Del Shannon to Phil Spector’s 1970s albums with Dion and the Ramones), this time it’s partially back to the 1960s balladry of 2005 smash In the Morning and 2007’s exquisite Jacqueline. Opener Eyes Like Pearls almost plays Coral bingo in the way it ticks all their vintage boxes, with watery references, a melancholy yearning for youthful innocence and a sublime, lilting chorus (“Eyes like pearls in the warming seas / as deep as the ocean, as wide as the valley / all my troubles seem so far away from me”).

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