[Hype Hype Hooray] A Snap Judgment of Modern Music

Hype Hype Hooray is a biweekly “critique” of the music scene and the blogosphere that feeds it, told through the lens of Jamie Hale, a journalist who likes music about as much as he likes scotch and a firm leather chair. Please enjoy with a grain of salt.

Previously, on Hype Hype Hooray: “I have been penning this column as some sort of knowledge on the present music scene, but for the last year … I haven’t been following anything at all … I had lost everything … I wandered the streets of music like a bum.”

No, it wasn’t all just a dream. Last week I admitted to the treacherous act of ignoring the entire music scene for a solid year. (Look away from me! Look away from my shameful deeds!)

As much as it pains me to suddenly be what can best be described as a “hack,” I’ve come to terms with my reality. Now the question on my lips is: What is the current music scene like anyway?

To answer that question, allow me to welcome you to: A Snap Judgment of Modern Music. (Some of you might be comparing this to Laura Jane’s wonderful post, “The Ten Most Beloved Songs I Hate,” but the similarity is coincidental, I promise.)

The rules here are simple. I will listen to five songs on Pitchfork I’ve never heard before, then make snap judgments about them. It’s pretty self-explanatory, I guess. Ready? Let’s go.

1. Animal Collective: “Today’s Supernatural”
Oh jesus. What the hell is happening in this song? Animal Collective’s last record, the famous Merriweather Post Pavilion, is pretty hard to follow up, but they’re going all in with their new attempt Centipede Hz. Instead of trying to evolve from their apex, it sounds like they’ve decided to break down in a whole new direction. It’s a heavy trip, to be sure, but I’m excited to see where it leads. (On a side note, what the hell is Centipede Hz?)

I give it four out of five uninformed thumbs up.

2. The xx: “Chained”
I hate to listen to another song by a band I know and love, but I have to hear the new the xx, there’s no getting around that. On “Chained,” we get the same brand of spacey, introverted jam that the group is known for. I love it. Simple, elegant and mature.

I give it five out of five uninformed thumbs up.

3. Rangda: “Majnun”
I’ve had enough of the top shelf, so let’s dive into the belly of the beast. I know nothing about this group but I like what I hear. Rangda is the laid-back indian-inspired jam band of my dreams. It looks like “Manjun” breaks down a little too much for my taste in the middle, in what seems like big a waste of opportunity. Very interesting stuff, to say the least.

I give it three out of five uninformed thumbs up.

4. Groundislava: “Suicide Mission” (ft. Baths)
This is the stuff I was afraid of – the litter of overly-chill synth jams that were violently birthed from the shared-womb of Washed Out and Toro Y Moi. I recognize some good talent in Groundislava (love the name), but mostly I find that I just don’t care. They could end up as another overinflated Pitchfork Darling (a la Volcano Fire), but for me they don’t make it far. It’s 2012 and I want real music, not smooth club mixes of Super Mario 64 level themes.

I give it two out of five uninformed thumbs up.

5. Heems: “Killing Time”
I have to go out on a potentially good note with a solo track from the “brown John Belushi,” himself, Heems, of Das Racist. This sample came straight out of the production laboratory, and I love it for that. As you might expect, he’s lost a little of his humor in favor of a more serious, respectable approach, but he balances the two worlds about as well as anybody (except, swoon, the incomparable Donald Glover). I’m a fan.

I give it four out of five uninformed thumbs up.

It looks like I might have made a big mistake here, folks. Today I averaged 3.6 uninformed thumbs up, which flies right in the face of my pessimistic outlook. Have I been missing a year’s worth of great music, or do I just have impeccable timing?

Regardless it looks like the indie music scene is moving in an interesting direction. The imminent intertwining of genres seems to be having some kind of impact, and it looks like that “indie” designation is beginning to splinter. Look for the official indie breakup, coming soon.

Also keep an eye out for a slight skew in all music toward a more international style. With instantaneous global transmission of new music comes the inevitable incoming message. And when record labels start aggressively marketing in places like India and China and England and France, they will naturally start skewing pop music ever so slightly to an international crowd.

Indie, as a fellow member in the global music scene, will do the same.

Well that’s what I think, anyway, after listening to exactly five new indie songs and observing the scene through a brick wall for the last year. But sit back and relax, because I’ll be slowly removing more of those bricks, and taking a gander at the possibly-monstrous indie scene that has evolved in my year-long absence.

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