Variations on a (rock and roll) theme

Hungry for something new to jam out to as you breeze through campus? Look no further. Both The Coast’s and The Interiors’ new albums are winners in their respective genres of alt-rock and indie.

The Interiors’ self-titled album really exemplifies what being an indie band is all about. Full of a mix of inventive instrumentals and pulsating backbeats, some songs have a melodic choppiness fit for head-banging while others feel so jazzy that laid-back finger-snapping might be in order. This is the sort of band that’s good to listen to for hanging out. The music isn’t so relaxing that it’s enervating, but it’s toned down enough that it won’t make listeners always feel compelled to jump out of their seats and mosh relentlessly. The drum beats can get a little intense in some songs, to the point where the listener might forget that there’s actually a guitar in the band, but that doesn’t happen all too often. The Interiors’ songs weave together snarky, sardonic vocals with a bare-bones melody, rebelling against the establishment, the established classes, and the established way of making music.

The lyrics have a distinctly dark theme to them, mostly revolving around death and the ephemeral quality of life, as the band reflects on their mortality and (subtly) on political and social issues. Still, though, their songs have meaning to them, a meaning that’s not always obvious at first play-through. Sometimes it’s oxymoronic, as evidenced by the mellow music but macabre lyrics of their track “You Should Have Known,” where the singer tells the story of someone digging a hole, cheerfully working on it until they die and are buried in it. Others, like “All the Cities,” lament lost love, the passage of time, and how frail and fledgling mankind’s achievements seem in the face of all the uncertainties in the world.

As a Chicago band with roots in the South, they come off as jaded but whimsical, personable but edgy. That’s not to say that they won’t do something shocking with their work; rather, they’ll be shocking in a friendly, almost disconcerting manner. The Interiors are indie at a high caliber: not too strange-sounding that they alienate their listeners, but different enough to intrigue them with the twists the band puts on their music and the turns of phrase they use. If indie rock is appealing, then they’re something to check out.

The Coast, on the other hand, is a peppy, alternative rock band from Canada. Peals of electric guitar intermingle with keyboard and tambourine, forming a delectable, danceable sound. Their album, dubbed Expatriate, is especially good to listen to on a long road trip; it has that feel of traveling from place to place, never really belonging to any of them, and always moving on. Like an outsider looking in before departing for a new destination, their music is full of longing and wistfulness, but, in true alt-rock style, is doggedly set on doing its own thing.

Melodic and effusive, the music and vocals blend seamlessly together, playing off each other. Structured but uninhibited by its structure, The Coast knows how to manipulate sound to suit its purposes. Pondering, wandering songs like “No Secret Why” have long, languid chords layered throughout them, flavored by fast drum solos. Intermissions and pauses between verses are some of the small things that The Coast handles very well. Their song “Nueva York” incorporates staccato drum and keyboard to mimic how the city tends to sweep people away in its hustle and bustle, while its occasional, stark piano intermissions bring out the feeling of being alone in a crowded place. It’s impressive to see how versatile this band can be and how many emotions they can work into their music.

Lyrically, Expatriate succeeds as well. As the album was written while The Coast was on the road from gig to gig, the lyrics lend a sense of placelessness and wonderment to the songs, questioning where they’re headed in life and musing on the strange things that they come across in their travels. “Floodlights” starts out as a commentary on social mores and how people trick and get to know each other, it ends in the singer questioning himself, wondering whether or not jumping through hoops for the sake of popularity is a waste of time. “Ceremony Guns,” too, begins with the singer wondering about rebellion and the fall of empires, and compares them to stages in his own life. Expatriate’s lyrics are enticing in that they’re enigmatic, and that they make the listener think in order to glean meaning from them.

Overall, Expatriate brings together the fullness of sound that mainstream rock bands have with the renegade style and creative lyrics inherent in alternative rock. The Coast has a quirky style all its own, with its restrained use of electric guitars and reliance more on synthesizers and keyboard, but makes its songs mesh nicely together, and is definitely worth a listen, if not many.