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What do you think of when you hear the word "indie"? Really its proper meaning ceased to be relevant twenty years ago. Maybe most people under the age of thirty, that aren't huge music fans, will be able to describe its sound but with varying answers. That will be because indie has been many things over time. The word, simply short for "independent", is now more an ethical stance than anything else. In the '80s it may have conjured up visions of bands recordings music in a DIY manner without the use of a proper studio, of labels having their headquarters in someone's bedroom because that's all they could afford, of handmade 7" sleeves being made by dedicated staff. By the '90s? Blur and Supergrass were in the top ten, a success for indie music, right? Blur were signed to Food and Supergrass to Parlophone; both part of the EMI group. They were major label bands. Yet Steps, they were on Pete Waterman's label, and independent label. Steps were an indie band. Everything was confused.
The sound changed from punk and post-punk to jangly guitar-pop to fuzz and noise-rock to shoegaze and baggy to grunge and so on. Even as a sound indie was difficult to define. Nowadays what its musical notion is is open to debate. Perhaps one of the best bands to define the many facets of indie sound is The Mantles (they're even on an indie label) and their new album 'Long Enough To Leave'. The songs aren't as shambolic as some of those early bands, but this set of three-minute guitar-pop songs has many characteristics that would describe what the genre entailed. Those songs; they're not overlong, they don't focus on musicianship, they focus on sounding great. The influences can be checked off: there's a '60s jangle to the guitar, a twist of sunkissed psych-pop, a purity that you don't get from overproduction. They're a bit C86, a bit college-rock, a bit dreampop a bit punky even, and would best be described as indiepop.
The US quartet began life in 2007 making a sound that was closer to garage-rock before infusing their songs with the pretty melodies we find on the new record. There is the occasional hint of their past on tracks like 'Hello', 'Bad Design' and 'Don't Cross Town'. Yet for the most part this is pure, delightful, sunny guitar-pop and it sounds great; the new style fits them perfectly and picking highlights is almost futile as each track is on a par with the rest. You can't fault them on the consistency front, this is all gold. Maybe 'Reason's Run', 'More That I Pay' and 'Marbled Birds' are closest to "classic" indie (whatever that may mean to you!) and they even throw in an wonderful closing track that sounds like your traditional album closer in 'Shadow Of Your Step'. The word may be as near as obsolete, but if we're to call The Mantles an indie band then we have to call 'Long Enough To Leave' one of the indie albums of the year.
Download 'Hello' for free by heading here
The Mantles' website
Buy the album
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