TO ALL OF OUR LOYALISH FOLLOWERS
It’s finals week.
It has been finals week.
We will probably have posted again by this Wednesday.
It’s finals week.
It has been finals week.
We will probably have posted again by this Wednesday.
In the past two months I think I may have read five different articles announcing the death of the indie music movement. The general consensus of these articles is that “indie” no longer signifies a type of music made by an independent label, but rather a type of low fi sound associated with certain bands. Apparently the indie sound has finally reached the tastebuds of a mass market and bands touting an indie sound are doing surpassingly well on the charts. While not necessarily dominating the charts like some critics are screaming, the number one downloaded song on iTunes, We Are Young, sounds like a soundtrack for thrift store shopping.
So why the fuck isn’t Starfucker popular? They’ve got everything it takes: A low fi sound, catchy hooks, synths galore! They sound like MGMT at they’re most marketable! The Urban Outfitters crowd should be eating this shit out of a trough!
I guess they are pretty popular. Since my brother and I were the only people in our high school who heard of them, we claimed ownership over their glittering dance jams. However, once I got to college my love of Starfucker was about as common place as having ten fingers. I think they will eventually break from the exclusive popularity of savvy college liberal arts kids and command that larger audience. Eventually one of their songs will be featured on a phone commercial or movie trailer and then I can hear too much of it.
Funki Porcini - “Last Night Over Norway”
In my opinion, one of the best songs ever written. An ambient work by a guy who prefers to combine jazz and vocalized drones, when I first heard this song it was unlike anything I had ever heard before.
The song appears to float on through a night sky (over Norway), as little spikes of drone puncture the haze. Throughout the background, a tinkling piano riff injects a youthful optimism and curiosity into what could have otherwise been an agoraphobic track. The aching drone continues, until finally the synths resolve themselves into a more intelligible arrangement.
When I first heard this song, I was stuck in a kind of embarrassingly impressive rut. This song almost convinced me that it was possible to get to sleep immediately after getting out of school, and that’s what I tried to do. Thankfully, for 1:40 intervals, I was transported to somewhere special, a quiet, safe, happy place.
The very mention of the name “Sleigh Bells” in room 303 is something of a joke ever since I came back from a party where I drunkenly and enthusiastically told Colin, “I danced to Sleigh Bells.” Colin, never missing a chance to harass his roommate, started to use Sleigh Bells as one of his many seemingly nonsensical insults. Here is an example of how Colin will use it:
Colin: Where are you going?
Me: To a party.
Colin: Are you going to listen to SLEIGH BELLS!? (Colin laughs manically)
The song I danced to that legendary night was called Infinity Guitars from the album Treats released in 2010. Infinity Guitars exemplifies what I think the duo does best, which is taking something that sounds like an angry school yard chant and transforming it into an amazing noise pop anthem. With its combination of drum machine claps and booms, Krauss’ childlike shouts, and Miller’s bombastic guitar, it sounds like the most hard-core round of double-dutch ever. The best part of the song is the way it uses Sleigh Bell’s noise gimmick to full effect with a verse repeated twice before the guitar tires of being patient and playing second to the drum machine, letting out a desperate wail before exploding into an amazing climax of noise.
There’s something about Sleigh Bell’s worship of noise and punk clichés that seem to exemplify US culture, if just superficially. Not only do the lyrics ooze American iconography (Cowboys Indians/ Red souls red friends) but even Miller and Krauss appear in concert wearing letter jackets and light wash denim and other things that the cool kids wear while they smoke by the train tracks. It makes me with that the band would write a noise pop musical about high school for the Disney channel.
Here is Colin’s twitter from the night of Sleigh Bells:
Dananananaykroyd - “Pink Sabbath”
In my opinion, Dananananaykroyd are the most likeable metal band of all time. Their obsession with melody shows their adherence to Awesome Pals aesthetics, and the intensity of their live shows is pure punk and metal. You can hear the infectious melodies in this song with a listen, and if you peruse the internet you’ll learn a thing or two about this bands spirits. For example, one of their two lead singers, (they have two drummers too) jumped off stage during a concert, essentially destroying one of his arms. He would finish the show months and months later after his rehabilitation was completed.
But about this song. It begins with an homage to both metal, and the indie punk/pop of the times: the group chant. “Yeah, great skies of green / yeah, great fields of blue / yeah, vast swathes of pink.” Then the descending, prechorus hook is introduced, and it’s great. The music is frantic, aggressive, and absurd. The band’s official music video shows a live-action anime superhero routine, which somehow is totally emblematic of Dananananaykroyd. They are ironic, campy, and supremely fun.
Wild Nothing - “Our Composition Book”
Jack Tatum seems to eat, sleep, and breathe dream pop. This track overflows with the sort of themes that could form a dream pop tropes website. Everything from the Johnny Marr guitar intro, which gradually works into the picture, sharing someone else’s bed, and finally onto the title. Implying an almost literary devotion, “Our Composition Book” hearkens back to a youthful perception of romance, of men in sweaters being seduced by chipper young damsels, who then proceed to have a parentally-approved sleepover, which implies a certain amount of premarital cuddling.
This vision is Wild Nothing, pure and simple. Expanding on this idea is a rather bouncy iteration of jangle pop, where that simple (almost playable) riff outlines the progression that occurs throughout the song. Everything from bells to synths hits the note, and Tatum’s voice perfectly matches the sound. Tumblr fave BasedNigel calls it “Gay as fuck but also totally amazing.” I personally love this album, and think that the subject matter is beyond integral to the sound of this creation.
Lil B - “I’m God”
We in room 303 are more than a little bit divided on Lil B. I think B is extremely advanced, creative, and that his scattershot writing enables him to accept change far more readily than other rappers, which is why Lil B is able to drive views on his youtube channel, in addition to giving Clams Casino his start.
Cameron tends to believe that Lil B needs more of a filter in order to be relevant, though admittedly this argument was cut short when Casey Lifesux Sullivan (who knows far more on the subject than either of us) waded into the fray.
When I first saw the name of this track, I assumed that it was another Based Freestyle, announcing how many bitches Lil B has: “Hos on my dick cuz I look like god” but the second you hear the vocals reverberating in the background, you know that it’s going to be something different.
The mythology of “I’m God” is that Lil B brought a picture of a castle floating through the sky and showed it to Clams Casino and asked for a beat that brought that to mind. The result is nothing short of masterful, but make no mistake, this track is much less special without Lil B. His dramatic, self-aggrandizing lyrics are lofty enough to almost work with the beat, the airy, heavenly sound meshing well with lyrics that operate on a similar level. We hear more and more tropes of the BasedGod character, tiny pants, the loyalty of his crew, etc.
What really makes this track is the crescendo, which, as discussed in my essay about Lil B and the depressed teenage male, establishes how Lil B continues to be relevant for suburban, white teenagers. Anyone stressed out, exhausted, or even bored, can find something motivational about straightening up, and listening to the great line, delivered with sublime swagger: “Is this what you really want / you got me in the flesh now / no, I’m not stressed out / I’m God / I’m the best out.”
Free Energy - “Bang Pop”
Popular culture became obsessed with Arena Rock at some point. Fuck knows why, but I don’t think anyone will really dispute this.
Enter the lo-fi punk phenomenon of the Northeast, and to a lesser extent, California. While California was angsty, smokey, and aquatic, northeaster lo-fi punk was generally exhilarating. As the punks learned how to play their guitars, they were generally able to create something more coherent, and more ambitious.
Enter Free Energy, Philadelphia’s brothers in Rock. Their music throws pretense out the window, and never more is this evident than in “Bang Pop.” The whole song is an interpolation of “Wild Thing” (just check the song’s last.fm page), filled with neoclassical (Patrick Stickles’ perfect turn of phrase), and totally dude vocal arrangements.
The music video, which isn’t on youtube for reasons that will be explained in due time, is incredible. It draws on every high school moive cliche, including but not limited too, defying the teacher by dancing, making the stuck-up jock cool, skateboarding, smoking weed in the bathroom, hot lesbian action in the locker rooms, and a lesbian gym teacher.
The song, oddly enough, is not about any of those things. Patrick Stickles argues that it’s about having sex with an alien, which on some level makes sense. It’s not like I can find anything else of note in the lyrics. But that’s not important, in fact, its lyrical vagueness is one of the songs greatest strengths. There’s nothing serious or heavy enough to make this not a dude anthem. If you want to go out with your buddies, drink way too much beer (if you’re in college, drinking a 2 liter of coke is totally acceptable if you’re in high school), and eat a fuck ton of pizza, this song is your jam. Everyone will be nodding and clapping in rhythm within seconds.
My Mixtape-Based defense of indie pop for Cameron.
I’m Not Twee, Fuck You: An Indie Pop Collection
1. Cophy Haho: “You Are My Coal Mine” – A spiky fight pop band from Scotland with one of my favorite love songs of all time. This song has never been released in the United States, so I actually emailed the band to get an mp3 of this. Hip/Twee awesomeness.
2. Plumtree: “Scott Pilgrim” – This punk/riot grrrl/twee/grunge band actually provided the name for the graphic novels with this song. This song was playing, incidentally, when I called into Miranda’s radio show for the first time right after we started texting. I won a contest by guessing correctly that her friend Shelbi didn’t have a gag reflex, and won “a blowie.” Read into this what you will.
3. Ra Ra Riot: “Each Year” – This song exemplifies the learned, cosmopolitan image that New England indie pop was desperate to portray (Vampire Weekend, et al) in the late 2000’s possibly in response to national ridicule of sloppy, juno-esque indie pop. That said, this song is soft, and almost cuddly in its pacing. Also references literature a lot.
4. Los Campesinos!: “Clunk-Rewind-Clunk-Play-Clunk” – A delightful iteration of the twee aesthetic, with adorable boy-girl harmonies and desperate devotion to mixtapes, and to cassettes. Over much too soon, much like the debut EP that it featured on.
5. Wild Nothing: “Summer Holiday” – Part of the heralded 2009-2011 wave of hazy and dreamy indie pop, which distinguishes itself by its unique, navel-gazing aesthetic. There’s a lot of stuff in here about cuddling, and some unearthly vocals. I loved this song in the summer of 2010.
6. Jeffery Lewis: “Waiting For A Change” – Kimya Dawson’s formidably nerdy sidekick plays a guitar, which according to last.fm “has to (is required to be) out of tune. This track shambles on with its willfully twee melancholy, and drops little folk buzzwords all over the place. I listened to this song a lot after my first not-really-breakup as I looked at shoes and played football manager.
7. Dum Dum Girls: “Jail La La” – One of my favorite songs from the end of junior year, after I saw them live with fellow Californians-with-Girls-in-their-name band Girls. They were dressed like Gothic Temptress versions of the Ramones, and played very catchy pop songs with silly song titles. Both self-aware and at times adorable, they could reasonably be described as “spunky.”
8. Chain and the Gang: “Bill For the Use of a Body” – Is it cloying? Yes. Is it nauseating? Yes. Is it good? Maybe. K records (ancestral home of many twee bands) veterans Chain and the Gang somehow incorporated an aggressively cabaret outlook onto the breakup song trope, creating a song that I don’t understand to this day.
9. Tennis: “Take Me Somewhere” – While Rock is naturally wary of husband-and-wife duos, indie pop is much more accepting of them. So after a couple sailed around the world (or sailed around something large), and recorded the album Cape Dory, named after their ship, people were generally OK with it. It’s adorable, fun, twee, and nautical, which of course reflects the Eastern Seaboard preoccupation with boats but not the ocean, as well as the West Coast obsession with the ocean but not boats.
10. Seapony: “Blue Star” – These guys are a bit of an enigma. They have all of the Wes Coast aquatic tropes, except with the East Coast tweegaze sound pioneered so importantly by our beloved Pains. Also the guitar riff on this is wonderful, and they have a history of prettily washed out tumblresque album covers.
11. Slow Club: “It Doesn’t Have to be Beautiful” – OMS we’re getting into the meat of this mixtape. Charles Watson (I think) and Rebecca Taylor are from Sheffield, and they’re part of an incredible little twee/folk/pop group that have an incredible knack for the hook, something so long absent from folk. The lyrics are roiling and silly, but the instrumentation and the vocals are lovely. I love dancing to this song, and Miranda and I want both of the band members’ hairstyles. The only happy song I liked last Spring, because I first heard it when I visited Miranda at K.
12. Let’s Wrestle: “I Won’t Lie to You” – An aggressively twee band name doesn’t lie, this is pure lo-fi pop at its best. A shambling call to arms which I listened to junior year in an attempt to not be depressed, it didn’t work, but that doesn’t at all reflect on a song that is both adorable and a rollicking good time. Also the first line is so so so so so so twee.
13. Au Revoir Simone: “Shadows” – Some rules about indie pop: boys with synths are not twee, girls with synths are, because girl bands that have synths generally (generally) take their band names from the Peewee Herman movie, or include a tap dancer for percussion (Tilly and the Wall). Also girls like librarians and cats and being sad and sweaters and stuff, and these things are central to the twee lifestyle.
14. Los Campesinos!: “Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks” – One of their first songs ever, taken from their super-early MySpace demo (I own it), which they have been finishing shows with since 2007 (watched them online), and at times includes a silly dance that most people don’t know (I know it). It’s adorable, perfect, and incredibly well produced. This is one of my favorite songs ever, and the prechorus before the crescendo should tell you why.
15. The Answering Machine: “The Information” – A very well titled piece by the best dressed band in Manchester. It’s a sad acoustic number about a breakup (no really), which sort of peters on until a mournful little synth arrangement draws it to the close. And in case that one gets you down, here is the twee magnum opus:
16. Tullycraft: “Twee” – This song is the most important twee song ever written. Some people might contest that that is C is the Heavenly Option by Heavenly ft. Calvin Johnon (not Harris), but that song wasn’t actually about being twee. This song discusses mixtapes, college radio stations, other twee bands, more about mixtapes, and then about being jealous of other people in other twee bands. It corners the twee aesthetic, and then drives it home with the jangle pop guitars that I love so much. This was my sisters ringtone for a while.
17. Dananananaykroyd: Pink Sabbath” – Yes, they are a metal band from Scotland with two drummers. Yes, they title their songs and albums with two generally unconnected words, many of which are formulated to look like exclamations. But they shamble, and are remarkably committed to a silly, self-aware song built around a driving melody. These are all fundamentally twee ideas. And it’s a great song.
18. Bunnygrunt:“We Belong” – Like many early twee songs, this song deals largely with being twee. It discusses belonging to a strange group of friends, and rejecting the desire to have something more. That’s about it. The melody and the percussion are twee to a tee.
19. Black Kids: “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” – No one else remembers when Black Kids took the world by storm. Unfortunately, their MySpace Fandom did not translate well to the real world, because, being from the East, they weren’t supposed to be cloying, instead they were supposed to exclusively discuss their Topsiders and parties wherein people drank red wine. Instead, they were a multiracial little group that had a lead singer who wrote songs from the point of view of a lesbian. So they got crushed. I think everyone who’s heard this song was taken by the synths, or is lying that they weren’t.
20. Johnny Foreigner: “The End and Everything After” – In England, Indie pop was less instrumental and more guitar driven (LC! Are the aberration, but that’s because they tended to listen to more American bands and got liberal arts degrees, like the instrumental American indie pop bands). This song drives towards its conclusion with relentless abandon, featuring incredible guitar and drum work, as well as trademark English group vocals.
21. Johnny Foreigner: “Yes! You Talk too Fast” – This song similarly floods any room with energy, as it proceeds at an unrelenting pace, blowing aside both pretense and any concern for coherence. I paired this song with the previous track because they show that twee doesn’t have to be bloodless and slow.
22. Allo, Darlin’: “Let’s Go Swimming” – This song is weird in that it focuses on environment and landscape, which is the indie rock prerogative that does not belong to twee. That said, they’re from Australia, so it’s probably OK. Beyond that, some unique instrumentation, and an incredibly cutesy female vocalist set this song apart from most other bands. Pitchfork worthy twee.
23. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: “Higher Than The Stars” – A very sad synth arrangement kicks off this effort from Brooklyn’s tweegaze pioneers. Somehow, no one else since Black Tambourine (eons ago) had thought to combine twee lyrics and vocals with shoe gaze guitars and drums. This created a band seemingly everyone loves for their own reasons. I chose this song because the song immortalizes twee pop/dream pop/shoegaze aesthetics with both its sound and its artwork, which features an androgynous person sitting on a bed. I listen to this song in that pose, and I highly recommend you doing the same. Probs gonna write about this for the blog.
twice a quarter we take a picture, generally from a vintage movie, and I crudely add contemporary hip-hop tropes via paint.