The year’s slowly starting to wind down with only a few more notable releases on the horizon. October’s second half was fairly dry, with not too much to talk about.
The hipster crowd has long prided themselves on digging deeper than the mainstream crowds, drawing attention to unrecognized acts with perceived cachet. As the music industry changed, that crowd’s power over what was “cool” and “niche” faded, with their outlets becoming another arm of the industry at large. A lot of what’s spotlighted by indie platforms is basically fodder for the lower half of festival posters, up-and-comers that ape what’s popular and will likely be openers for the big guns for eternity.
There’s no longer actual cool-hunters. People are all too happy to have Spotify recommend artists to them, and Spotify draws from that same pool. This means that right now, at this moment, there are strange new acts and movements happening that aren’t getting covered. Acts like Black Moth Super Rainbow, who with their psychedelic electronica and toxic vapour vocals are too weird even for the weirdest hipsters (although they typically do stick to standard song structure). They’re a strange collective for the most cynical of listeners, thought of as inaccessible to large swaths of the population. Which is why it’s incredibly strange that lead “singer” TOBACCO has decided to do a fairly straightforward cover of Eric Carmen‘s 80s cheesefest “Hungry Eyes”….and it works.
What doesn’t work is the new How to Dress Well album. In fact, just throw the whole thing in the trash. It’s the most self-indulgent, unfocused, unlistenable concept album of the year. Look at this ridiculous tracklist:
These songs are exactly as convoluted as their titles.
I’m going to kick myself for this one day, but Hoobastank‘s cover of Tears for Fears‘ “Head Over Heels” is…above average. The spacey lead guitar and sleek industrial rhythm complement each other very well, and the escalating instrumentation towards the end sounds like the audio equivalent of the buildings stacking up on top of each other in Inception.
Young the Giant are so thirsty for those grocery store soundtrack dollars. After their initial Gatorade commercial of a single “My Body” hit airwaves they turned right around and released “Cough Syrup”, one of the worst, most cloying soft-rock songs to be played on modern rock radio. They’ve been doling out similar tunes since then, and new song “Simplify” is yet another lite offering. So why even mention it? Because it’s strangely not even half-bad, recalling the innocence of late-90s/early 2000s acts like Dishwalla or Tal Bachman. This would totally be the soundtrack to a WB drama series starring Jennifer Love Hewitt in the lead role.
At this point I can’t tell who’s disappointed me more: White Lies or Editors. Both are Joy Division acolytes who gained popularity in the mid-2000s and both have had steep, steep declines in quality over the past decade. They’ve descended into a generic sort of mediocrity, averaging about one tolerable song per album for the past three albums. Editors’ 2018 record Violence was more of the same, and White Lies’ calamitous seven minute first single “Time to Give” portends a collection of boring wannabe multi-suite odysseys.
Buzz band Antarctigo Vespucci have a really cool name, but no sound to back it up. They’re essentially a lo-fi version of The Elwins, who themselves are……..
OK, normally I’d say something mean about The Elwins, but any band who does something Very Online like this has my respect:
Let’s just say Antarctigo Vespucci is fourth generation jangle rock and leave it at that for now.
Listening back to new wave hits from the 80s, one has to wonder what they’d sound like done by the same artists, but with modern production. Some bands have done re-imaginings, but few, of any, have played the same song exactly how they originally had. A lot of the hollow drums and tinny vocals of retro synth pop would greatly benefit from some new mixes. I bring this up after seeing Simple Minds live recently and checking out the new album they were promoting. The production on it is great, and all the members are still in top shape…but the songwriting is not as strong as it used to be. A fresh take on “Don’t You Forget About Me” or “Someone Somewhere” would be incredible. Fellow dramatic new wavers Echo & the Bunnymen did something close to this with their new effort, but the arrangements aren’t the originals.
Dreary electronic bores Bob Moses have been heavily pushed by their label these past few years, but have yet to write a hook. Every one of their songs sounds like the tired musings of a commercial alternative act five albums into their career, not a super-hyped rookie band.