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As we all know, “indie” originally meant “independent of a label,” but no contemporary artist described as indie is ever unsigned and the term itself has come to define a certain sound, look, and feel and we will not quibble about what the genre “should” mean. Indie is what is in this article’s picture.

There’s a lot to indie, so I can’t really talk about all of it at once, but I’ll focus on the good news: there isn’t really anything wrong with the genre. On the scale of tones, it is on the happier side, but it doesn’t really piss me off the instant I hear a song the way that electropop or indie-pop still does. I’ve recognized that there are bands like Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, and Local Natives who are all quite good. They don’t get stuck where a lot of other indie bands falter: trying to sound old, trying to sound british, or trying to sound folk-y. Needless to say, when I am hunting down some indie bands to listen to on people’s last.fm profiles, I rarely get as many of the former as I do of the latter bands.

I most often hear indie music in TV shows and movies, at this point. It is actually quite well-utilized in that respect. I might not enjoy indie bands on their own, but they can really come together for a nice soundtrack. Some examples I can think of off the top of my head are Scott Pilgrim vs the World, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and that episode of House where he jumps off a building.

While I will definitely end up writing more posts about specific issues with indie, I just have one thing to say now: I think that indie artists often come across as insincere because of their bouncy tone. People constantly tell me about an indie/folk song that made them emotional, and when I listen to it, I don’t follow at all. It’s clearly based on the lyrics, but how can you expect me to understand your depressing lyrics if your song has maracas and banjos in it? Again, it’s just one of those things I’ve noticed Arcade Fire is pretty good at and everyone else is pretty bad at.

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12 thoughts on “I don’t always listen to indie, but when I do…

  1. Hmmm. I agree with your last point. There’s a song called Somebody That I Used To Know by an artist called Gotye. To be honest the lyrics are quite well written. However his stupid choice of instruments and deliberate lo-fi under produced feel pisses me off the minute I hear it. I find it interesting that you find nothing wrong with the genre. To me that is exactly what is wrong with the genre! Indie doesn’t take risks. It sits in the barrel of tried and proven 60’s and 70’s folk-pop and it doesn’t move any further from there. Also, and this is mainly a gripe with indie rock, I feel that it loses the power of rock music and replaces it with the flowery fragileness of spaced out hippies. If we compare it to past trends in rock music, indie seems to fall short. When I listened to punk I felt rebellious. When I listened to metal I felt angry. When I listened to grunge I felt indifferent. When I listened to emo I felt sad. When I listen to indie I feel nothing. Absolutely nothing. I just picture some guy with a banjo sitting in a field of flowers every single time.

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  2. Now I really enjoy alternative rock and was a massive pumpkins and Oasis fan back in the day. But I just feel that Indie fails to meet the edginess that alternative had when it first broke into the mainstream. To me indie is all the alternative that stayed alternative after alternative was no longer alternative. But I honestly believe it should have stayed that way because its not great music. Ok music maybe. But not great music. Honestly what indie band can claim any impact as great as Nirvana or Oasis had on the music world at the time. I believe indie is responsible for the slow death of rock and the gradual increase in complexity, creativity and risk taking that we are now seeing in electronic music. Indie is elevator music. White wash. Boring. Uninspiring. Wimpy. Forgettable. That’s why it works in movies because it makes great background music that’s not to epic so as to distract you from the film. So sure, Indie might be OK music that you could possibly play when your grandparents visit but I’m not gonna pay money just to listen to OK music. I wanna hear music that breaks the rules and boundaries and isn’t afraid to piss off a few people in the process. I wanna hear music that is polarising. I wanna hear something revolutionary. Indie doesn’t make me want to change the world. It makes me want to sit at home and stare at an empty space.

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  3. I guess I did neglect to mention that I find a lot of indie boring. I was thinking it without actually writing it down. That’s why the only time I’m actually listening to indie is when it shows up in a TV show. :DI think indie can be “pleasant,” but it certainly fails to be emotional a lot of time. I agree that there aren’t really any “great” indie bands the way that we have great rock bands. I don’t agree that they are the remnants of alternative, though. Maybe Radiohead is, but I view the indie bands that I addressed in this blog as a 00’s genre that throws back to 60’s and 70’s folk.Mentioned in passing were the poppier artists in indie, and electro-pop “indie” groups, because they aren’t as boring (but are also more annoying). Ultimately, I do enjoy music with more dynamics to it, and I generally can’t listen to more than one indie album at a time, if even a whole album.

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  4. I not going to be so bold so as to say that I hate all indie music or that all indie musicians are boring and sound the same. Indeed there are still many indie bands that DO take risks and they are the ones that I seem to enjoy. I think Radiohead is a prime example of a band that is not afraid to take risks whilst still maintaining indie credibility, a trait which helped them to not suffer the same fate of so many other one hit wonder bands. I owe a lot of that to Thom Yorke’s eccentricity.

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  5. But what I will say is this. Indie, like pop has become somewhat of a blanket term to describe a specific approach towards music or mindset rather then a specific genre. Both indie and pop tend to suffer from the same pitfalls as well. Whilst pop music tends to be filled with artists “trying to be popular”, indie tends to contain a landfill of artists “trying to be different”. Its this “trying” aspect that grates on me. Both are trying to take the safe, easy approach of tried and tested methodologies without taking any risks. Nirvana were not “trying” to be popular when they brought grunge into the mainstream anymore than Radiohead were aware they would gain so much indie cred by sticking to their guns.

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  6. What I see in indie today is a different story. Whilst so many bands are accused of “selling out” to mainstream attention, I accuse many indie bands of “buying in” to the indie scene. You need to remember that money is not the only selfish interest one can cultivate when producing music. I accuse “Buy Ins” of compromising their own musical integrity in order to chase credibility and a sense of identity. Indeed this is what the indie scene offers them. All they have to do is deliberately produce the opposite to how a mainstream producer would produce and BAM! instant indie credibility! They now have the right to sneer at other peoples tastes in music and join the ranks of musical elitists. Conformity to Non-conformity is still conformity and that is what a lot of these buzz bands don’t seem to realize. At the end of day it doesn’t matter what type of music comes out at the end of the production process, only a producers passion for music can guarantee them recognition, credibility and respect in the long run. Whether you sell out to mainstream success or buy into indie credibility, you are still bad music in my books.

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  7. I also hate the “idea” of being an indie band, as you described “buying in”. There are a lot that do a good job, and a lot that do an embarrassing job, but it’s the bad ones who get most of the attention, unfortunately.

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  8. Not gonna beat around the bush. That is a great song. You’ve actually got me into Arcade Fire so well done. Some of their songs are better then others but overall their music just tends to work. When I listen to My Body is a Cage, I feel something. Its powerful, emotive and yet tender and fragile at the same time. It has a good choice of instrumentation – church organs are always a winner. His voice seems to suit the music and I dont find it annoying like I do other indie bands. The lyrics are powerful. It has good use of instrumentation. Its just awesome. Havent felt this good since I listened to Wolfmother’s Minds Eye or Muse’s Sing for Absolution.So I am faced with the difficult question.. why do I like The Arcade Fire but not the hundreds of other indie bands? I suppose at the end of the day Arcade Fire remind me of all the best parts of the 60’s and the 70’s classic rock without sounding like any particular one. I can hear traces of Floyd, Zeppelin, Dylan and Springsteen (some of my favourites!) yet they don’t sound like any particular one of them. I’m even tempted to not call them indie. I feel the term such baroque-rock probably suits them better or folk-rock-revival.

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  9. Either way you’ve made me realise that not all bands under the umbrella of indie are bad and that decent songs can still be reflected in the genre.Read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indie_landfill so I guess this is to true indie what brostep is to true dubstep.this song probably epitomizes everything I dont like about ‘indie’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqYgNiZdfh4And heres an example of how that song should have beenhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRhUIJextp8I just think low-fidelity can work in some instances, especially when trying to conjure up some kind of nostalgia. But when its not done right it just comes across as boring and lifeless.

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  10. Well, when we’ve got a genre with so many bands, it’s easy for there to be some good ones you haven’t checked out. Arcade Fire is definitely still indie, though.I haven’t even listened to that many of their songs, and I don’t doubt that they’ve got some typical lo-fi stuff in there. “Landfill indie” seems to be applied only to the mainstream indie bands, but I’m not going to let the less well-known ones fly under the radar of insults. “True indie” is not awesome to the core, it just has several outstanding bands.My favorite part about Architecture in Helsinki is that they are not from Helsinki.

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