Independent musicians get an unfair rap of being wimpy and milquetoast, and having the emotional strength of me whenever I watch videos of soldiers being reunited with their dogs. But don't believe the hype: even the most cheery, melancholy, or dance-y tones can belie a pitbull's ferocity. So we compiled a brief list of some tracks that are actually more steelier than they sound. They're all true testaments to our belief that behind every appearance of a waifish English Lit masters student could lie the heart of biker with a shotgun and a drug route.
Vampire Weekend - “Giving Up The Gun”
How is this tough?: Yeah, they might look like those assholes at university that wear thong sandals to class in winter and take over the quad with hacky-sack tournaments every summer. But this song sounds like the interior monologue of your weary war veteran grandfather as you complain about your spanish homework and he resents your fresh, functioning kidneys.
Radiohead - “House of Cards”
How is this tough?: Thom Yorke's in your bedroom having extramarital affairs with your significant other, while you sit outside and cheerfully sip hot chocolate and enjoy his tastefully orchestral rock music. The toughest cuckolding possible.
Fiona Apple - “Periphery”
How is this tough?: Remember when she insulted the mainstream music industry to their faces? Now the independents are facing her wrath! Fiona Apple doesn't owe you anything just because you were blasting “Criminal” when everyone else was listening to Baha Men or whatever the fuck. She'll punch your worthless dick off then won't even bother to write a song about it.
Feist – “A Commotion”
How is this tough?: For the few who can say they've actually lived through the life-destroying shitstorm that Feist is describing, even fewer can say that they've actually emerged stronger for it. But look at Feist - she just won the Polaris Prize, for chrissakes. Plus, fucking Mastodon covered the track, which is as good as a prison tattoo on your neck.
Elliot Smith - “Son Of Sam”
How is this tough?: Number one, it takes its title from a serial killer. Number two, the lyrics read like something written by a murderer. Might make you think twice about asking the guy at the party playing a guitar to stop playing Bob Marley over and goddamn over.
Fleet Foxes - “Icicles Tusk”
How is this tough?: Because there are few things tougher than writing a song about regretful cowboy murder.
Sufjan Stevens - “Pittsfield”
How is this tough?: Fighting your dad and winning is the toughest thing any person can do. Plus, Sufjan will always be badass no matter how many wind chimes he puts in his songs, because he abandoned his ambitious one-album-for-every-US-state project in the coolest way possible: pretending it never happened.