All Hail the Indie Epic

Epic. It’s a word that has been used, misused, and beaten to a verbal pulp within the last few years. We have lost the ability to describe something thrilling or massive, so therefore, it’s gotta be epic, bro. To use epic as noun makes complete sense…if you are referring to the narrative poem Beowolf or the film Ben-Hur. But the adjective form of the word has taken on a life of its own within the vernacular of the current teenager to young adult. By definition, epic as a descriptive word is something “grand in scale or character.” And so, here we are.

The songs below are not just a catalog of long anecdotes, even though each track is close to, or exceeds the seven-minute mark. These, I believe, distinguish themselves from other lengthy works because they embody the qualities of something that is literally epic, whether it’s through climactic sonics or lyrics. It would be easy to say that any marathon-like song is such, but that wouldn’t give justice to these seven songs that perhaps align with the actual meaning.

Sigur Ros—“Saeglopur”


Jonsi Birgisson and the rest of Sigur Ros are not proponents of creating songs less than five minutes long—they just don’t do it. However, what they do, aside from elongating virtually every song, is make each the most compelling, out-of-body experience for the listener. On Tuesday, Jim noted Sigur Ros in his post, and how their song “Staralfur” is used in the film The Life Aquatic. Coincidentally, “Saeglopur” means “lost at sea” in English.

Dawes—“Peace in the Valley”


What makes this song so moving is its juxtaposition with the rest of Los Angeles band’s first release, North Hills. It’s the final track from an album colored with beautiful harmonies and delicate arrangements. Yet, “Peace in the Valley” ignores that combination. Its connotation is angry, and has a pounding finish, including striking guitar work by frontman Taylor Goldsmith. An exhibition that is hushed throughout, until this song.

LCD Soundsystem—“All My Friends”


It’s not the first time this song has made it on a list, and let’s be real, it probably won’t be the last. James Murphy and former company, LCD Soundsystem, composed a seven-minute song with a foundation of one single piano note. In a gradual incorporation of percussion and a choppy guitar riff, “All My Friends” begins calmly and concludes with a victorious uproar. And maybe that’s the brilliance of it—the enormous sound of triumph from a song that is simply about growing old.

Explosions in the Sky—“Your Hand in Mine”


Made famous by the 2004 film Friday Night Lights, “Your Hand in Mine” is nothing short of stirring. What makes instrumentalist bands like Explosions in the Sky distinctive is the artistic ability given to the listener to create images or scenes evoked solely from the sound, without out any lyrical suggestion. And perhaps this song draws out that element best.

Death Cab for Cutie—“Transatlanticism”


Ben Gibbard and Death Cab for Cutie constructed this song with the precise formula for a larger-than-life context. A tranquil introduction, metaphorical descriptions, a booming climax, and an echoed “come on” refrain are the components that make “Transatlanticsm” an enchanting narrative.

M83—“The Highest Journey”


When you name your act after a galaxy called “Messier 83” it serves you right to create a ten-minute, vocal-less piece titled “The Highest Journey,” and make it sound exactly what you would think lifting off, flying through space, and never coming back would sound like.

Iron & Wine—“The Trapeze Swinger”


Songwriters like Sam Beam do not come along often. Seemingly every one of his stories is a gift of interpretation for the audience to unwrap line by line, and as is such in “The Trapeze Swinger.” There isn’t much that can properly preface this 65-line, nine and half minute portrait of nostalgia, other than it being one of the most beautiful songs ever written.


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Categories: Music

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3 Comments on “All Hail the Indie Epic”

  1. 10.20.11 at 8:46 PM #

    I’ll just leave this here

  2. Liz Connolly
    10.21.11 at 8:39 AM #

    This is now the soundtrack to my morning.


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