Jazzing Up the Indie, Smoothing Out the Rock

Posted in Indie, Jazz, Rock by jurbanik on July 14, 2010

It has come to my attention that some people may find 1400+ word posts a little hard to get through. I’d be very glad to receive some feedback on that point in the comments, but for the time being I’ll assume that there is some legitimacy to the claim. As a result, this post is going to be my attempt at a speed post: I’ll brief the general idea and each artist, but leave it up to you to listen to the individual songs, and try to be a little more succinct with my writing.

That said, jazz and indie are two genres that are not commonly fused. Sure, lots of indie/ alt rock artists have jazz influences, but few artists have continued in the legacy of 70s Jazz Fusion like Return to Forever of King Crimson, fusing jazz rhythms and improvisation with rock instrumentation (and vocals). However, a few artists have begun to fill this niche in the last decade, replacing the progressive rock roots with indie qualities, and altering the formula for how much of each influence to take in to create some very unique sounds.


Karate is one of those bands you’ll either love or hate at first… but even if you hate them, if you listen more, they’ll probably grow on you. Karate has a reputation for being one of the most calculated musicians on the indie scene: while self taught, Geoff Farina and other band members were compulsive in their control of song arrangements. The band loves jazzy improvisation, but when recording, requires perfection. The laid back instrumentals are complemented by Farina’s lo-fi voice, which in itself takes a little getting used to. Sadly, after 695 live shows, Karate disbanded because of Farina’s hearing problems. While listening, check out the jazzy guitar riffs, subtle cymbal-driven drumming, and especially the beautiful, almost ethereal solos.

pines// pockets

The Halo of the Strange // Unsolved

A Great Big Pile of Leaves

A Great Big Pile of Leaves is a relatively new band – their first EP was released in 2007. The band’s music features some progressive rock elements, but is certainly more aptly defined by their jazzy guitars. They may not have the freeform style or tendency to improvise typical of jazz musicians, but the influence of jazz on their music is very obvious. Personally, I think they’ve got struck just the right balance of different influences, and crafted their own unique style. If I did have to compare them to other bands, Minus the Bear and Look Mexico come to mind, but such a comparison barely eludes to what AGBPOL sounds like. I would strongly recommend checking out “Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex?” Right now, it is one of my favorite albums of 2010 – the songs sound a little too similar if listened to individually, but as a whole, the album is very cohesive and powerful.

Conscious and the Fiery Works // The Fiery Works

Bicycles in Sleep Cycles // Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex

The Reign of Kindo

These guys are releasing an album August 3rd. I’m already pretty sure it is going to be my album of the year, and I’ve only heard one song: Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind. They really are that good. Formed from the remnants of This Day and Age and now signed to CANdYRAT (I told you I’d come back to this label), TROK has branched out in a very different direction from their TDAA roots. Vocals are contributed by three of the five band members (four after this album sadly), and the instrumentals are absolutely unbelievable. The complexity of each instrument’s part is impressive on its own, but the way they fit together so naturally is absolutely mind-blowing. Honestly, if you can’t at least appreciate the musical and compositional talent these guys have, there is something wrong with your ears.

Hard to Believe// The Reign of Kindo EP

Hold Out// Rhythm Chord & Melody

The Bad Plus

By far the jazziest and most eccentric of artists in this group, The Bad Plus leans more on the side of freeform jazz than indie rock: in fact, I only go so far as to include them here because of the album ‘For All I Care,’ where the otherwise instrumental group collaborates with female vocalist Wendy Lewis, and exclusively is composed of cover songs. Included in these covers are covers of Nirvana, Wilco, Pink Floyd, and the Flaming Lips. Keep in mind that The Bad Plus uses these songs as more of a jumping off point than something to actually cover – the connections with the original songs sometimes only seem to be in the vocals (and at times the drums).

Radio Cure // For All I Care

Feeling Yourself Disintegrate// For All I Care


6 Responses

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  1. dalmiro said, on August 10, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Nice article. I downloading all those bands but Bad Plus (i already knew them), il be back at you with some feedback about them.


    • jurbanik said, on August 11, 2010 at 4:48 am


      Thanks for the comment, I’m eager to hear your feedback. It is always good to hear someone appreciates my posts enough to take the time to check the artists out more seriously.


  2. […] This is What Happens: An Album Review Posted in Indie, Jazz, Record Review, Uncategorized by jurbanik on August 14, 2010 Those of you who have been following malleus&incus know by now that I’ve been planning on reviewing The Reign of Kindo’s new album, This is What Happens, for quite a while now. I hinted in my chiptune post that the review was coming soon, and much earlier on mentioned that I was anticipating the album to be one of my favorites of the year (in my post on indie jazz). […]

  3. dennis said, on October 24, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    wow, this is exactly the kinda stuff i’ve been looking for. the guitar playing on karate’s album ‘unsolved’ is outstanding.. got any other suggestions of alt-rock type bands that incorporate elements of jazz and/or ambient/psychedelic?

  4. Indie Jazz? - Music Banter said, on November 8, 2010 at 12:14 am

    […] […]

  5. F-P Leffler said, on February 10, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Thank you very much for the post! I found your link on the page of Karate, which was the only band on here i knew. After listening to the songs, I must say I liked em all and I actually just purchased “Rhythm chord & Melody” by TROK.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

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