Judy Berman

Concerning the Spiritual in Indie Rock

ponytailI often forget that The Believer publishes some original content online, mostly because pieces don’t appear there very often, or on any particular schedule (at least, not one that’s apparent to me). But today is a glad day, for I have been to Believermag.com and I have found there Judy Berman’s online exclusive “Concerning the Spiritual in Indie Rock.” It’s a great, smart article, and does double duty as the blueprint for a pretty kickass playlist. Berman starts with Kandinsky’s essay “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” (published in 1911, which was the year after, according to Virginia Woolf, “human character changed”) and then takes a hard jump forward to Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1998 album,  In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Onward then to Arcade Fire, Gowns, Dan Deacon, the new Animal Collective single “My Girls,” the idea of worship and praise as unfixed experiences, and the idea of drone music as a successor/re-incarnation of certain kinds of meditation. But my favorite part of the piece is about the band Ponytail (pictured above), because I saw these guys open for Mission of Burma right before I went out of the country in July, and let me tell you, everything Berman says about them is right-on.

The title of Ponytail’s most recent album, Ice Cream Spiritual (2008), perfectly captures the band’s sugar-high, wonder-stricken noise-punk. Singer Molly Siegel’s high-pitched shrieks and her bandmates’ wild, experimental take on the classic guitar-bass-drum combination recall nothing more than childhood playtime. For Siegel, childhood and spirituality are about both exploding boundaries between ourselves and the universe and the “ecstasy in losing yourself” that creates.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Believer online exclusives, which includes Stephen Elliott interviewing Matt Bai, two music pieces by Matt Derby, and Chloe Veltman’s classic “The Passion of the Morrissey.”

PS- I’ll be in Tokyo till Tuesday so I won’t be around. Don’t have too much fun without me.

Web Hype / 6 Comments
August 6th, 2009 / 10:50 am