Having FUN with the Jukebox – Anthemic Indie

8 Mar

That's one FUN Jukebox

Whenever I think of a jukebox I think of “Happy Days.” This may be because I often watched re-runs of the show on late-night Nickelodeon when I was a kid. Now, though, I think of Jukebox the Ghost, a Washington D.C. spawned Indie pop band whose music partly sparks today’s post.

Yesterday, I profiled Giles, Giles and Fripp, and used their uniqueness to coin a genre of music (that really just combined a few genres together). I was inspired to do the same today. Jukebox the Ghost is just one example of a type of pop music that has become user-friendly in the music world. And I love it. Why? It requires actual talent. When someone says they are into Indie music they pretty much cast out a gargantuan net in a small pond. The genre “Indie” encompasses so many musical fish that two bands at the opposite end of the Indie spectrum may sound nothing alike. So, like all genres, we sub-categorize. Indie pop is still rather broad. Today we will discuss Theatrical Indie pop.

Theatrical Indie pop is the result of talented musicians creating highly infectious music that, while simple, is actually quite difficult to pull off. The music kind of feels like it can fit on a Broadway stage. The part about the talented musicians cannot be discounted. So you want to create Theatrical Indie pop music? You need an excellent singer with a high register, a skilled drummer, and a rhythm-sensitive guitarist. When all elements are fused together you get magic like this:

Jukebox the Ghost is Ben Thornewill (vocals & piano), Tommy Siegel (vocals & guitar) and Jesse Kristin (drums). They have become well known mainly because of their jocular rhythms, effervescent beats and personalities, and unadulterated musical happiness. It doesn’t hurt that since 2006 they have toured extensively. The band has released two albums since 2008 and expect another one in June. They work hard. They have also been noticed by acts like Ben Folds and Barenaked Ladies – they opened for both – and currently they are opening for Jack’s Mannequin on their Winter Tour.

Jukebox the Ghost

“Hold it In” is off of the band’s first album. Simply, the song moves. The drums are friendly and the quirky keyboard is also amiable. The guitar rhythm follows wonderfully. Thornewill’s voice is perfect for this music. It is powerful and fits his elegant piano well. The chorus is where we see the “anthem” come out. Thornewill’s voice becomes almost schizophrenic (funny if you know their last album!) and it is paired with rhythmic clapping and single-word harmonies. The song continues similarly with even a neat guitar solo and it ends with a combination of all elements (and Thornewill’s effortless falsetto).

You may have noticed my capitalization of the letters in FUN. That is the name of the band I am featuring next. How convenient! Fun is a similar story. The New York based trio was formed by vocalist Nate Ruess, formerly of the Format. Ruess, like Thornewill, has a powerful, anthemic-like voice which features tremendous range and a true likeability. After The Format broke up, Ruess roused Andrew Dost (who plays everything and is in Anathallo) and guitarist Jack Antonoff (of Steel Train). They came together and thus far have also released two albums (the latest released just recently). The song that everyone knows is this:

This is the clearest example of Theatrical Indie pop. The song begins with Ruess singing over a basic keyboard riff that is contrasted with a loud drum march. And “by the time the bar closes and you feel like falling down, I’ll carry you home” BOOM! The song explodes (like the video) in this vocal anthem. You just feel like singing out the words immediately. There is some electronic stimulation, but this is mainly sparked by the band. The listener is hit with a guitar teetering on heavy. This combines with constant keys mixed with Ruess’ voice that can bring down walls. There is a reason why Glee covered this song. There is actually this Glee-like harmony that backs Janelle Monáe’s vocal solo and the pre-last chorus explosion. In a way it feels like you just sat through a Broadway show. And that’s the wonder of the genre, indeed.

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2 Responses to “Having FUN with the Jukebox – Anthemic Indie”

  1. John Phillips March 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Jukebox is pretty good, the other, not so much.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Jukebox The Ghost New Single “Somebody” « The Music Court - April 19, 2012

    […] I’ve written about Jukebox before in a post featuring what I coined at the time “Anthemic Indie” and I do think they still fit in that category if only because their music is so easily singable and it is hard to resist singing out the tunes with them. You can check out that post here. […]

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