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.
The header reads “R.I.P. Indie Music, Our Broken Indie Machine;” a hyperbolic epitaph that fits snugly into 2012, the year of the trendy apocalypse. The author inscribing the headstone is none other than the contrarian king of hyperbole (and king of indie snobbery) himself, Carles.
The screaming headline he wrote on his blog, Hipster Runoff, should be a surprise to no one – this is the place where indie music is chopped into bite-size witticisms, pockmarked with appropriately-adolescent abbreviations like “u” instead of “you,” and “2” instead of “to,” “too,” or “two.” It’s new-age Yellow Journalism that could make even Matt Drudge blush.
It’s all very annoying.
However, what should come as a surprise to the casual reader of Carles’ somehow influential music blog is that this epitaph for indie isn’t as radically and irresponsibly premature as you might think! For more, let’s go to Carles. Carles?
“R u s000 b00red with indie?
Does it feel like u just check the same indie sites/twitterfeeds/facebooks over and over again, finding nothing and more nothing?
When u click on something, do u feel more ‘link baited’ than ‘interested’?
Have u lost ur connection with artists that you once felt passionate about?
Is the thrill of finding new bands ‘gone’?”
Between my screams of agony over this horrible waste of the English language, I found myself nodding along. I am so bored with indie! The thrill of finding new bands is gone! (This is a topic upon which I briefly touched a couple months ago, as well as earlier in the year.) After a VERY solid decade of indie music, I’ve found myself underwhelmed and downright disappointed by the offerings of this new era.
Sure, there have been some great albums by some great musicians this year (Grizzly Bear, The xx, Tame Impala, what have you) and sure, there have been a few interesting artists on the rise (Frank Ocean, METZ, others probably, whatever), but nothing has really grabbed me by the ear lapels like it used to.
Apparently, and I hate to say this, Carles and I agree on the topic. Carles?
“I am bored with indie. Maybe every1 kinda feels this way, or I’m just losing interest in ‘indie & alt culture’, particularly the Genre Formerly Known As Indie Music … Maybe I’m just growing up, or just trying to escape the overwhelming feeling that the people who still ‘100% buy the buzz’ are laggard ass posers, stagnant cool dads and post-tweens who have some sort of Tavi-Gevinson malfunctioning/contrived nostalgia for the years 2k2-2k8.”
Despite his crazed ramblings, he makes a valid point. Feeling disenfranchised with modern music means one of two things: Modern music really is getting worse, or you’re just getting older.
As Stan Marsh learned so cruelly on his tenth birthday, new things suddenly turn shitty after a while. New music catches on in young circles of college hipsters, but to you it just sounds like shit. Everybody who’s anybody is crushing on the latest musician, but all you see is a pile of shit. You want so badly to love the new music like you once did – to rush out and buy the factory-fresh vinyl, to put the tracks on repeat until your ears bleed out with joy – but instead you frustratedly turn to your old standards, the records from the “good ol’ days” that defined your more youthful and carefree years.
It’s not a bad thing – it’s natural. Like the big band fans just didn’t get rock ‘n’ roll, like the hippie generation just didn’t get metal, and like the grunge rockers just didn’t get the emotion-ridden indie songs, we too just won’t get the next wave of music.
In the past this transition was jarring. Your local record store only had so many albums of music from a given period and the radio had even fewer options. When a new music scene came along, it rose up suddenly and painfully, like that first awkward zit – the beginning of the end of carefree adolescence.
Today that transition is smoothed out by the endless options we have for music. The line between one scene and another begins to blur when you can find just about anybody doing just about anything somewhere in the infinite corners of the internet. So, that said, how can you really define the death of a period of music? (Quick side note: Some might argue that “indie” is definitely not a genre, or that it definitely is a genre, but to avoid all that I’m calling it a “period” of music.) For his expert opinion, let’s ask Carles, the self-proclaimed hangman himself.
“If content farms have ruined the purity of internet content with listicles, contrived SEO-inspired Bleacher Report-wave think pieces, and other lame ass content that is still lucrative and successful, then it is clear that content farms have ruined artists. It diminishes the fan connection to an artist, and artists are also given a false sense of ‘accomplishment’ for being the 99th post out of 100 on RollingStone.com. No1 cares about ur band bro. U just look and sound the way ‘new music’ is supposed to sound.”
This rant might make Carles sound more like an octogenarian at a pride parade than a wise hipster sage, but I have to begrudgingly agree. It seems that record labels, tired of force-feeding Americans dreary modern rock and uninspired pop, have jumped aboard the indie parade, watering down what could otherwise be a rich and lively music scene. The musicians who aren’t bankrolled by big labels either seem to be chomping at the bit for those paychecks (and how can you really blame them for that) or seem generally uninspired, maybe as a result of the grey slushy scene around them.
Combine an oversaturated music scene, profit-driven record labels and view-count-driven bloggers, and you end up with what can only be described as a clusterfuck. This is no place for healthy music development – it can only lead to an overpopulated graveyard, tombs spilling over with indie bands who wandered aimlessly through a desert of inboxes until their legs finally gave out.
If I thought for one second I had some kind of answer to all of this, I wouldn’t be wasting my breath complaining. (It should be noted that Carles included some sort of solution in his piece, but it came out as an incoherent ranting of a delusional cynic.) For now, there’s no need to freak out and proclaim the “death of indie.” Instead, let’s just acknowledge that the indie scene has a few issues that could be sorted out, and hope they sort out soon.
I’m not ready for indie to die. I really would like to believe that with a little elbow grease and a new approach, this thing could last a few more years. Is that so much to ask?