Entries tagged with: indie rock
by Andrew Sacher
"Pop punk" was once widely considered a dirty term in most indie rock circles, but over the past few years it's been sneaking into indie rock vernacular. We use it here on BV a lot. Pitchfork has used it when talking about anyone from Cloud Nothings to Upset to Joyce Manor. Stereogum has used it for The Sidekicks, Chumped, and Cayetana. NPR for Wavves, Title Fight and Waxahatchee. The list goes on.
It's easy to see what made "pop punk" such a turnoff as it became progressively more mainstream in the '90s and early '00s. "Punk" is a genre with a code of ethics that punk fans feel should be kept sacred, and "pop" is basically the antithesis of those ethics. So "pop punk" is theoretically the worst thing that could ever happen to punk. Indie rock fans adhere to similar ethics, so when "What's My Age Again?" hit TRL, it's no surprise that Sebadoh fans weren't gluing their eyes to their TVs.
But for a younger generation, some combination of Green Day, The Offspring, Rancid, blink-182 and New Found Glory (or all of the above) was a foundational listening experience, and an entry point into alternative music. Those bands may have made punk more mainstream, but they were also gateways to older and more universally canonized artists. blink-182 directly led to Descendents, Dinosaur Jr and Drive Like Jehu; Green Day to Husker Du; Rancid to Roger Miret and Sham 69; New Found Glory to Lifetime and Gorilla Biscuits; and so on. The people who grew up on those bands are becoming today's indie rock musicians, fans, and critics, so it makes sense that the sounds of pop punk are making their way into indie rock. Not to mention Best Coast, who started as a lo-fi band on Mexican Summer, went on to cover blink-182, collaborate with New Found Glory, and tour with Green Day.
photo: Best Coast opening for Green Day in 2013 (more by Dana Distortion)
Right now, the amount of bands blurring the lines between indie rock and pop punk is pretty astounding. We saw pop punk's influence sneak into indie rock on a handful of our favorite records of last year, and this year we have great records from Colleen Green, Bully, Superheaven, Turnover, All Dogs, Radioactivity, Royal Headache, Titus Andronicus, Worriers, Hop Along and Adventures that all fit the description.
Even with this huge influx of indie rock bands taking influence from pop punk, it's not hard to see why there's still resistance against the "pop punk" tag. The kind of over-produced pop punk that critics cringed at in the early 2000s is still very popular. All Time Low's new album debuted at #2 on Billboard this year and there's nothing "punk" about this. 5 Seconds of Summer may be the biggest band in the world right now that anyone is calling "pop punk," but they also share management with One Direction, have toured with them, and are closer in sound to 1D than to any band who ever signed a contract with Fat Wreck Chords. If 5SOS can be called pop punk, or apparently anyone who plays Warped Tour -- like Front Porch Step, who in addition to his questionable actions, makes cringe-worthy music that has nothing to do with pop punk -- it's understandable why some people want to avoid the term.
There's also a group of bands who frequently play Warped Tour and not only warrant being called pop punk, but pride themselves on it: bands like Man Overboard, The Story So Far, Four Year Strong, Neck Deep and State Champs. Their approach is basically to take the moment pop punk took over the world and recreate it. (The Drive-Thru Records catalog is a big influence here.) They're not shy about their style -- Man Overboard make shirts that say "Defend Pop Punk" and Neck Deep make ones that say "Generic Pop Punk." They don't seem to be after hugely mainstream success and tend to build their fanbases like punk bands do, but to our ears they're usually unoriginal at best and still kinda cheesy at worst.
If you have any place in your heart for early 2000s-era mainstream pop punk though (and if you've read this far, you probably do), there's one band I think is doing a hell of a lot of justice to it: The Wonder Years. Unlike the bands bringing pop punk's influence into indie rock, The Wonder Years are making the kind of pop punk that is in fact pop music, but they also happen to make really fucking good pop music. It's becoming more prevalent for critics and "serious music fans" to discuss great pop music, and this is a good thing because great music can truly come from anywhere. The recent Beyonce and Justin Timberlake albums were steps forward for music in general, whether or not you normally listen to the radio. A lot of fans and critics noted that, but for whatever reason there's still a stigma when it comes to pop punk. You're more likely to see certain critics champion Fifth Harmony, a new teen-pop group formed by Simon Cowell on The X Factor, than even mention the latest Bad Religion or Rancid albums. It's a stigma that hopefully disappears, because The Wonder Years don't deserve to be ignored by any serious music fan.
photo: The Wonder Years at House of Vans in 2011 (more by Andrew St. Clair)
The Wonder Years started out as more of a generic pop punk band, and while in hindsight I respect the people who knew they were great from day one (or at least since their 2010 breakthrough The Upsides), they didn't really catch my ear until 2011's Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing. And it didn't really click until 2013's The Greatest Generation, which might be the greatest true-blue radio-ready pop punk record since Enema of the State. It probably owes more to New Found Glory and The Starting Line than it does to blink-182, but even if those bands have proved to be more influential, they never had this level of songwriting or maturity. Even on New Found Glory's "mature" album, they couldn't escape writing songs about girls who "smell like angels ought to smell." The Greatest Generation grapples with hitting your mid-to-late '20s, seeing your friends and cousins getting married and transitioning into adulthood, and thinking "did I fuck up?" When they do sound like they're singing about high school crushes ("I hadn't felt a heartbreak until now") you quickly realize they're singing about the death of a friend.
It's close to an absolute perfection of its form, and it's hard to say just yet if they've topped it, though they've undoubtedly made another artistic leap on the new No Closer to Heaven. It's the band's most overwhelmingly emotional album yet, and the most musically diverse too. In 45 minutes it touches on double-time pop punk, slower atmospheric songs, heavy rock riffs, and an acoustic song to close things out. It's the kind of record that might piss off some old fans and cause them to say The Wonder Years "aren't pop punk anymore," but it might win over a bunch of new fans in the process. It's pop punk's Sunbather. The thing is though, unlike say Title Fight's trek into atmospheric rock, this is a pop punk album. It pushes the boundaries of the genre about as far as they can go without losing the type of thrill you specifically get from this style of music. Really it shouldn't piss off old fans because it manages to retain the sound they've always had while clearly pushing it forward.
It makes me think a lot of Brand New's The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. It doesn't sound like Devil and God, but that was the moment Brand New made a devastating, cathartic album that defied its genre without abandoning it, and that's what TWY do here. They're also similar to Brand New in that each record is a shift from the last, and that people (rightfully) worship these guys. To compare it to an album it does sound like, it's actually a little like The Hotelier's last one, and that may be the most acclaimed album the entire emo revival has given us. But it feels a little unfair to compare those two, because The Hotelier are a young (yet fully-formed) band and No Closer to Heaven is clearly the work of seasoned songwriters.
The Wonder Years are more dynamically diverse here than ever. They know just when to switch from a chorus turned up to 11 to a bridge of clean guitar arpeggios and back again. They know which lyric needs a three-part harmony, which needs frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell to sing gently and which needs him at the top of his lungs. At least half the songs completely avoid the standard verse-chorus-verse. Recurring lyrics and themes throughout an album aren't new ground for The Wonder Years, but No Closer to Heaven might be the closest they've come to a true concept album. Death, if it wasn't obvious, is that concept here. The lyric we hear over and over is "We're no saviors if we can't save our brothers," and that's only one of the instantly-quotable lines packed into this thing. There's a harsh reality to Soupy's lyrics this time around, and when he brings his voice to a shout it feels more like a reflex than an artistic decision.
Like the last record, his melodies are familiar without being predictable. Thanks in part to the fact that almost every member can sing, they've mastered the kind of multi-part harmonies and overlapping vocals that most of their peers aren't even attempting. (My only complaint about the new album is the guest vocals from the singer of letlive. who come too close to a maligned genre I won't defend, nu-metal.) The production is once again shining with gloss, but nothing sounds artificial -- unlike many of their peers, the band and longtime producer Steve Evetts (who has helmed other pop punk classics like Jersey's Best Dancers and Through Being Cool) have long discussed avoiding auto-tune and sample replacing. The interplay between the band's three guitarists also make this far more detailed than punk's "learn three power chords, form a band" mentality. But The Wonder Years do stay true to the latter half of the phrase "pop punk," and if you've seen them live you know this. They typically fill big rooms these days, but they still play like they came out swinging from a South Philly basement. They might not win over a snobby punk purist, but for the genre-hopping listener who finds emotional depth and musical ambition in both the new Drake and the new Sufjan Stevens, you may find it in the new Wonder Years too.
photo: You Blew It! at Riis Park Beach Bazaar - August, 2015 (more by Mimi Hong)
No Closer to Heaven is out today via Hopeless (order yours) and you can stream the whole thing via Rdio, below.
They'll be on tour this year with another unique pop punk band, Motion City Soundtrack, emo revival darlings You Blew It!, and State Champs. That tour hits NYC for two Webster Hall shows in October, but first TWY play an acoustic in-store at Rough Trade on Wednesday (9/9).
Financial details were not disclosed. Asked to clarify the deal, Windish tells Billboard, "It's a partnership." As a proven success in artist development with a robust roster of acts active at festivals and hard ticket shows, Windish Agency has long been believed to be ripe for acquisition, but, "it really has nothing to do about money with me," Windish says. "I don't have big plans to go on vacation or something. It's more about who do I want to pair up with that can help my clients and the people that work at my company get to places they've never been before and they want to be."PREVIOUSLY: Paradigm bought Windish Agency
A force in the electronic and indie rock spaces, the Windish Agency was founded by Tom Windish, 42, in 2004, and boasts a roster of about 750 acts booked by about 30 agents, all of whom are expected to continue with Paradigm.
Two huge companies that book many of our favorite bands may now be one bigger company. If you don't book shows, you may barely known these companies exist, but most touring bands who play festivals and popular venues have an agent booking their shows for them, and many of those agents work at Paradigm and Windish (others work at WME, CAA, Agency Group, Billions, Ground Control, High Road Touring, etc). Hit Daily Double first posted this rumor on 7/13:
In addition to an eclectic, 800-strong roster that includes superstar Lorde, Modern Rockers Alt-J, hip-hop player Killer Mike, multimedia rocker Andrew W.K., and a selection of buzzing/critically acclaimed acts such as Gallant, Wolf Alice, First Aid Kit, AlunaGeorge, BØRNS, CHVRCHES and In the Valley Below, the acquisition of the award-winning Windish would extend the reach of Sam Gores' Paradigm in the EDM world. Windish's EDM/DJ clients, overseen by Steve Goodgold, include Diplo, Aphex Twin, Jamie xx, Cut Chemist, A-Trak, Peanut Butter Wolf, Duke Dumont, Hot Chip, Cut Copy, J Rocc, Dimitri From Paris and dozens more.Stay tuned...
Paradigm purchased EDM-focused AM Only, featuring Skrillex, David Guetta, Tiësto and other huge names, in 2012.
hipster Vanilla Ice fan thinkin about Instagramin it
Phish @ Bonnaroo 2009 (Graeme Flegenheimer)
"We discussed playing a 45-minute version of 'China Cat Sunflower,' [at Bonnaroo 2008]" said MGMT guitarist James Richardson with a straight face shortly before his set, sporting a well-worn tie-dyed Grateful Dead T-shirt. "I think pretty much everybody in MGMT secretly loves jambands--well, not so secretly. We always have."That is just an excerpt of an article that appeared in a recent issue of Relix, and which is re-published in part on JamBands.com. No mention in the article on whether any members of Guided By Voices, Sonic Youth, Neutral Milk Hotel, Slint, Pavement, Pixies, Belle & Sebastian, Sleater-Kinney, Superchunk, Yo La Tengo, R.E.M., The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr, or Husker Du, ever followed around the Grateful Dead. You need to get, or subscribe to, the the recently-saved Relix to read the whole thing.
A few yards away his bandmates are catching up with Vampire Weekend drummer Chris Tomson, who despite his band receiving an impressive 8.8 ranking by seemingly devout hippie-hater website Pitchfork, is proudly decked out in a T-shirt that meshes the Phish and the Philadelphia Phillies' logos. "When it was announced and the band's names were listed, I remember thinking that everyone was going to playing there," he reminisces about his experience at the first, more jamband-oriented Bonnaroo in 2002....
...Indeed, though both the blogosphere and the mainstream media are quick to make it seem like hipsters and hippies are as different as hair gel and hemp, in reality some of the day's most popular "indie bands" have at least one direct tie to the jamband world--not they're openly citing String Cheese Incident as they're favorite band on Facebook. Yeasayer's Ira Wolf Tuton played in Disco Biscuits' associates The Ally, Band of Horses' Bill Reynolds was a member of jam-friendly roots rockers Donna the Buffalo, Brazilian Girls' Jesse Murphy had another life in John Scofield's Uber-Jam, Leslie Feist sang on The New Deal's Gone Gone Gone, New Deal's Dan Kurtz doubles in the electo-pop band Dragonette, all three members of the Lake Trout spinoff Big in Japan serve as the backing band for UNKLE and even the members of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Interpol have name-checked Phish...." [Jambands.com]
Bonnaroo 2009 headliner Bruce Springsteen joined Bonnaroo 2009 headliner Phish on stage at Bonnaroo 2009 last weekend. Video of that below...
by Bill Pearis
editor's note: Metal, comedy and 'dance' all have their own semi-regular BV feature writers. Those topics are getting a level of focus that I wished I could give to "indie rock" (that somewhat meaningless term, but it helps sometimes to categorize). That's why I contacted Bill...
Bill says: BV approached me about writing an indie rock column because I "repeatedly go to see The Young Knives and are excited about Versus reuniting." Which is to say I like unpopular bands and am, like, James Murphy old. This will likely take on more shape as the weeks go on, but for now here's a bunch of notable shows happening over the next five days.
editor's note part two: Bill forgot to mention the part where I said he is just as excited about the old (knowledgeable) as he is about the new (not jaded). OK, here we go....
Amazing Baby (tour dates at the end)
Firstly are the two Swervedriver reunion shows - tonight at Bowery Ballroom and tomorrow at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The '90s shoegaze scene has had a bit of a resurgence, with a slew of new bands inspired by its hazy, voluminous sound, including Dirty on Purpose (who open for them tonight), Deerhunter, Silversun Pickups, and every other band from Sweden. Obviously the big story this year are the upcoming My Bloody Valentine shows, but Swervedriver's shows are no less relevant or justified.
They may never have released anything as universally-praised and influential as Loveless, or as catchy as Ride's Going Blank Again, but Swervedriver rocked the hardest of any of the shoegaze bands and probably had the most consistent body of work. Unfortunately, of their four great albums, only 1995's Ejector Seat Reservation remains in print - though the good, if expensive, import Juggernaut Rides is a good introduction to the band. I've also got a few mp3's over at Sound Bites if you're interested, and Swervedriver's site has live MP3s for every song from every album, free to download.
Swervedriver were never the type to jump around the stage or make rock star poses (the shoegaze scene, after all, got its name because the bands tended to pay more attention to their many effects pedals than to "putting on a show") and frontman Adam Franklin isn't much for stage banter, but they were always a seriously good live band and reports from earlier dates on this tour (The Finest Kiss has a nice writeup and photos from the Seattle stop) show this, thankfully, hasn't changed.
Tickets for tonights' Bowery show are still available (June 11, 2008).
Local support for both nights are well chosen. Dirty on Purpose are obviously big fans - their newish EP for RCRD LBL is really good. Longwave open at Music Hall of Williamsburg. After getting the heave-ho from RCA, the band are currently working on a new album, and a few of the tracks are up on their MySpace and sound promising. Opening both shows are Glasgow's Terra Diablo who are actually managed by Swervedriver drummer, Jez.
The other big event this week is the NYC Popfest, now in its second year. The four-day event, at a handful of clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn, is a must for lovers of chickfactor magazine, Sarah records, twee, jangle, and the generally lighter side of indie. (Also known as indiepop.) They've brought in bands from all over, including Massachusetts (Pants Yell!, Hands and Knees), the UK (The Hermit Crabs, The Foxgloves), two from Sweden (Love is All, Oh! Custer), plenty from here in NYC (Pains of Being Pure of Heart, My Teenage Stride, Ladybug Transistor, The Besties) and elsewhere.
The lineup also includes three legends of the indiepop scene. Glasgow's The Orchids (pictured), whose single "I've Got a Habit" was the second-ever release on the legendary Sarah records; Australia's The Cannanes (aka "the world's most 'indie' band) who've been making music since 1984; and Seattle's Tullycraft who were part of the US scene in the '90s.
The two bands I'm most excited to see are Scotland's The Hermit Crabs, who bear more than a passing resemblance to fellow Glaswegians Camera Obscura; and Finland's Cats on Fire whose album, The Province Complains, is one of the better indiepop albums of the last couple years. Plus, they're from Finland - a country that doesn't send a lot of bands our way.
Of course, the hot ticket for Popfest is Love is All's appearance Thursday night at Cake Shop. I'm not sure why the organizers put the weekend's biggest draw in a place the size of a closet, but I'm sure for those 20 people in the first three rows will really enjoy it. For everyone else, you'll be able to say "they sounded great!" The show is sold out... if you've got tickets get there early and enjoy the other bands (including fellow Swedes Oh! Custer and NYC's The Secret History).
Why do we (Entertainment Weekly) love indie rock? Because it shuns everything that is prefab, safe, typical. It's about freedom, expression, passion -- no rules, man! But in order to narrow down hundreds of hours of incredible musical output from the last two and a half decades, we had to apply some...well, rules:....Continued below...
Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance
In his grumpy but informative memoir, Wareham, the lead guitarist and vocalist for seminal independent rock bands Galaxie 500 and Luna, recounts the highs and lows of his life as a musician. While Wareham's narrative voice is not particularly warm, he is refreshingly frank (though quite defensive) about the personal conflicts that broke up Galaxie 500, as well as about his later, somewhat more conventional rock and roll antics, which included drug use and infidelity. For most readers, the heart of the book will come in the first hundred odd pages, which focus on the financially difficult but artistically fruitful run of Galaxie 500, featuring Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, in the late 1980s and early '90s. The stories of nights spent on the floors of college radio station managers and recording classic albums in three days are the stuff of do-it-yourself legend, and at its best, the book serves as a clear narrative of the travails of independent musicians in the days before mp3s and Pitchfork Media (which gets a snarky shout-out). Wareham gets a lot of mileage out of frustration with booking agents, band mates and radio stations, and over the course of the book, one gets a prevailing sense of how truly difficult it can be for some great musicians to break through the mass media wall. [Publisher's Weekly - Amazon.com]Dean Warehem makes a free promotional book tour stop at Union Hall in Brooklyn tonight (March 18). All dates and stuff below....
It's Mudhoney time in NYC - the first of three shows kicks off tonight (Nov 30) at Maxwell's in Hoboken, and though Mudhoney didn't appear on the show (Meat Pupppets do), I thought this would be a good place to give away one of those new Nirvana Unplugged DVDs. Details on how to win, a video featuring Kurt Cobain playing with Mudhoney, and Blender's list of the "100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever", below.....