Wednesday, July 12, 2006

East Indie Trade Co.

Thank You.

Okay, given that it's very easy to go against the grain with criticism, especially if a(n) album/movie/book is praised to death and one expects perfection, but hears/sees/reads something far from perfection. (I do offer a bit of an apology to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.) And I sort of don't want to be that guy who says indie stuff is pretentious... but, well yeah I do. Because it is. A lot of the time. And people know it. "Independent" music now just means "unusual" -- so the label itself is (or implies) pretension to begin with; indie pop, rock, folk, hip-hop isn't just stuff resigned to independent labels (I'm not going to go into faux-indie stuff now [your Fall Out Boys, uhh, etc.]) anymore, which, yeah, it doesn't really matter. But this trend isn't reserved for the major players -- dozens of promos I get are "indie" and "pretentious" to the extreme and it's sickening. I don't really care. Whatever.

Just give me The Hold Steady. Are they pretentious? Well, they did diss pretty terribly on the dance-punk bands of NY... that's okay, guys.

(Well, it's not even late, but I can't think straight because I'm tired. And fishy. Just understand that Illinois is, well, ... "precious" at times.)


  1. Except the terms "indie pop" and "indie rock" denote certain sounds too. If I say "indie rock," you already have a reference point beyond just "rock," even if the band isn't truly from a independent label. Maybe the term is pretentious, but the bands didn't come up with it. It just sort of evolved and then became a catch phrase. What term would you prefer to classify bands with? I guess we could go into "post-punk" or "jangle pop," etc... but it gets so convoluted.

    As for the Sufjan Stevens hatin'; I don't know. I can't really talk since I don't own any albums. But I like what I've heard. The author assumes that Stevens "needed a hook like the states project to make himself stand out from the pack," but the interviews with Stevens that I've read simply suggest that he really, really loves history, and that's what drives the project.

    The Lord God Bird is enjoyable.

    Also, he's friends with Danielson, who is friends with Deerhoof! C'mon, man!

    Also, I think spoken-word rock narratives about a Catholic school girl's drug odysseys could qualify as pretentious.

  2. 1) Danielson's music = pretentious.

    2) The Hold Steady do not come off as holier than thou.

    Dude, just look at the names of the songs on Illinois.

    EX: "THE BLACK HAWK WAR, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience but You're Going to Have to Leave Now, or, "I have fought the Big Knives and will continue to fight them until they are off our lands!"

    And that's all for a 2-minute track of SATB-like vocal chords accompanied by woodwind ornaments.

    Compare that to, say, The Hold Steady's "Banging Camp," which is about the equal pull of the street life and the Christian life (well, that's pretty much the whole album).

    Anyway, Sufjan (just look at that name, man -- pretentious city) isn't all disappointing. It's just not the greatest thing around. Andrew Bird beats him on nearly every front -- especially the one concerning that "p" word (although he's not completely free of that either).

    Okay, so both THS and Sufjan are a little over the top.

    As for labels, I'll stick with Rock/Other/Other, thank you very much.

  3. And Be Your Own Pet suck.

  4. Plus, it's in the execution of all things (Rilo Kiley). I don't agree with the author that simply having the concept of writing an album about every U.S. state is schoolboyish or pretentious. Although it may be gimmicky, it depends on how it's done (of course).

    Someone could have said to me "We want to make this album about this fictional band... called The Lonely Hearts Club Band."

    Or, "We want to make this game about Italian, let's say plumbers, who go down giant pipes and eat mushrooms to get bigger."



  7. The ridiculously long song titles are meant to be humorous, I think.

    1) Danielson's music = pretentious.

    Now THOSE are fighting words! Sufjan... like I said, I don't listen that much, so I can't really comment. However, Danielson is friggin' tight. I guess you got Ships and didn’t like it?

    The dictionary definition claims that pretentious means claiming self-importance that is unmerited. I certainly don’t think that Danielson does that. And as for holier-than-thou… again, I just don’t see it in Danielson’s music, unless you are bothered by the fact that they got their start on a Christian record label or something.

    What makes Danielson holier-than-thou? Or was that comment aimed solely at Stevens?

    I guess overall, I just don't like the term "pretentious" because I don't have any idea where the standard comes from. What qualifies something as pretentious? Is Xiu Xiu pretentious because they use harpsichords and gongs and scream about child abuse? Why should they have to use guitar and drum set and sing about love? In the future, when ALL bands have harpsichords and gongs, will Xiu Xiu still be pretentious or will they just be cliché? Then, bands using guitars and drum sets will be pretentious.

    How does one measure a band’s self-importance?

    I guess I’m just a hippy, but I don’t like placing limits on people’s self-expression. In my mind, it’s perfectly fine to dislike a person’s mode of self-expression because of aesthetic reasons (for example, I think most modern pop-punk is wretched… or you might dislike Ships because of Smith’s often screechy falsetto), but I don’t agree with dismissing a person’s music based on an invisible pretentiousness scale. Unless you conduct extensive interviews and determine that the band is indeed actually full of themselves, that is. In fact, isn’t it pretentious to accuse someone of being pretentious? You are assuming self-importance if you think that you can determine who is important and who isn’t.

    (Also, I wasn’t trying to hate on the Hold Steady or anything, just messing around. Nor do I actually think they are pretentious. I’ve only heard a few songs, but I like what I’ve heard. As for the dance-punk trash talking… that’s funny because they are on French Kiss Records, started by Les Savy Fav band members. Les Savy Fav isn’t dance-punk really, but they’re related kind of, sort of).

  8. You guys crack me up.

    Sufjan Stevens never grabbed me. I think his stuff sounds like cheesy 70's pop music. I wouldn't go so far as to call him pretentious; I think he's doing what a lot of bands do: using the tools of the trade to craft an image/style, rather than creating a style and then using the tools to communicate it. Long song titles don't make a difference. It's either good or bad (and yes, these descriptors go beyond personal preference, as any art history major can tell you).

    Genres are a necessary evil. Pioneers are almost never genre-specific, because usually what they are doing has yet to be classified. But the whole idea of "classifying" music is detrimental - unfortunately, we are unable to simply identify music by name; we must also communicate connotations and prejudices via those names.

    Stevens never taps into the musical history of a state -- never touching Chicago blues or jazz, or Michigan soul or rock. He simply uses the concept of songs about a state as a vehicle to deliver his baroque folk-pop.

    I think this is a false argument. Who cares? I'd rather he didn't try to ape other musical styles. Musical eclecticism is dead; so many groups are so bad at it. It's time for everyone to consolidate and stick to what they're good at (that means you, the Strokes). That's why I like the Hold Steady. It's just rock and roll. At the Drive-In: rock and roll. Panic! at the Disco: rock and roll (with cool long song titles and interesting arrangements).

    Be Your Own Pet: sucks. I can't believe they're the darlings of Nashville's "indie" scene. Just because they aren't even 18 yet and they drop f-bombs over fuzzy punk riffs ... sheesh.

    I don't know who this Danielson guy is, but his website is atrocious.

    Daniel made a list of all the artists who have worked with him over the years. To that list, he added other folks whom he had made plans to work with at some point. His plan was to bring everyone together, to add to his new album.

    No judgment here, but that sounds like the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I suppose it's the idea of removing autonomy from the creation of the music, which is an interesting concept, but not for me.

    Pretension is almost immediately discernable. Oasis = pretentious, and if you didn't know that, well...

    I don't feel like thinking anymore, so I'll stop now.

  9. Anonymous6:12 AM

    Can't we all just get along and holds hands and sing Blur's "Coffee and TV" in unison? CAUSE IT ROCKS, YO.


  10. Anonymous6:57 PM

    I thought of something amusing today.

    What if a band didn't refer to themselves as an "indie rock band" or "indie pop band," yet rather an "indie noise band." I think that is hilarious because it implies the existence of mainstream noise bands or something of that nature.