Page 3 of 5
Jeff: Especially in Brooklyn, one sort of music that seems amazingly evergreen is indie-pop, in the classic 80s sense: spritely, sensitive, fuzzed-out guitar music played by young people who occasionally rock out, but not, like, as a rule.�
Mike: Yeah, with the Beach Fossils and Real Estates of the world continuing to do a fairly loyal version of that thing, it's easy to to sort of let the term "indie-pop" carry on as it always has, as a narrow, niche sound that appeals to nerds in sweaters.
Jeff: It's a frustratingly narrow definition though, for a term that meant to describe so much of current state of underground music, which continues to be less and less dominated by dudes with guitars, and more and more dominated by kids toying with electronic textures. It's time we opened that term up to swallow a universe of kids who are continually omnivorous in dusting off lost cultural blips for reexamination. On the higher end of the scale isn't that really a better definition for consistently solid craftsmen like Hot Chip or James Murphy, and even straight up would-be chart pop artists like Robyn? And what is Ariel Pink's "Round and Round" if not a personal, low-scale take on capital-P pop? Is "indie-pop" in this expansive sense really the dominant mode for independant music right now?
Mike: For me, it's a question of what the one or two defining characteristics of something called indie-pop are or should be. The more I think about it, the more your assertions make sense, and I think we may have different reasons why: Indie-pop, as far as I'm concerned, has always been music that, at its best, has the hooks necessary to find big, mainstream success, but that then goes and, out of principal or taste or necessity or just straight-up not knowing any better, sort of sabotages itself in some way—whether it's by willfully obscuring those hooks with reverb or fuzz or general low-quality recording, which would theoretically account for people like Beach Fossils and Ariel Pink, or it's by arting 'em up with electronics and whatnot, like Hot Chip and LCD. This is maybe a reductive way to look at things, I realize.
Jeff: But I guess what I'm really getting at is that the strains I appreciate the most are those who are either confident enough to commit to crisp clarity, or if they are going for a lower fidelity, at least have something specific to achieve with it. Ariel had my favorite record this year, and I think it's because although on the surface the music is interesting because it's giving a weird, idiosyncratic sheen to styles of pop music that aren't easy to think of as high-art. But beyond that he gets to a place where you its approximating the subjective experience of listening to the glossy, studio perfect pop of his childhood through the imperfect delivery systems, and crappy mall speaker of the day. I mean, that's interesting in a way that Dum Dum Girls or Best Coast doing 60s ballads with slightly more fuzz just isn't. Pop to me means at least an attempt to connect, not obscure facile songs with harsher tones which is a bit f a distancing mechanism. Which is why I'm getting awfully tired of indie pop in the classic sense, but don't have a better term to describe the stuff that felt really vital to me this year.