Music News Recap: “It’s Just A Fond Farewell To A Friend…”

What’s been going on in the world of music lately? Read on to get the scoop on your favorite artists, and start some discussion about current music-related events!

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oasis

Oasis, the band with more breakups than a grocery store tabloid, has called it quits.  Want to place bets on how long it’ll take before they’re back together again?

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Local Bands: You Can DIY

cassette tapes

As the age of major music labels comes to a close, more and more musicians are finding themselves in that highly-desired position of being in control of their artistic future.  Being able to steer your career exactly where you want it is a great thing, but not everyone is born knowing how to drive.  To help navigate those tricky roads, we’ve collected some helpful resources and inspiring DIY ideas to expose your music to the largest possible audience.

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Media Roundup: Music Doing a World of Good

What’s been going on in the world of music lately? Read on to get the scoop on your favorite artists, and start some discussion about current music-related events!

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Artists such as Massive Attack, Doves, Elbow, and Dizzee Rascal have come together in a human rights campaign opposing the use of music as an instrument of torture.

Dizzee Rascal

Dizzee Rascal

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Media Roundup: Tips and Tricks for the Musically-Minded

What’s been going on in the world of music lately? Read on to get the scoop on your favorite artists, and start some discussion about current music-related events!

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How cool is this?!  Sen. Russ Feingold is looking for YOUR musical recommendations!  Submit your ideas for songs to be included in his “Fein” Tunes playlist here.

Sen. Russ Feingold wants your cool tunes

Sen. Russ Feingold wants your cool tunes

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Editorial: Too Indie For Our Own Good?

turntable

Indie music has had quite the evolution from its humble beginnings to its current condition.  Once simply a name given to DIY small labels and underground bands operating outside the much maligned confines of major corporations’ machines, now “indie” is commonly used to express collective associations with fashion, political beliefs, and even personality traits. Stemming from their love of music, indie fans have essentially created their own niche in pop culture, but what sort of impact has doing so made on modern music scenes?

“Music scene is crazy/bands start up each and every day/I saw another one just the other day/A special new band…”

-Pavement, “Cut Your Hair”

There’s no doubt that the internet has played a massive role in forming indie culture, ensuring that all things associated with it reach the largest possible audience.  Music fans commonly check in with music blogs as their meter for what’s cool and what’s not.  And who can blame them?  With the massive amount of bands already established and the seemingly endless string of new bands being formed at all times, there needs to be an effective way to sift through it all.  Frequenting music websites and locating blogs featuring the tunes and musicians who move you can be an invaluable resource in terms of staying up to date, expanding your mp3 collection, and discovering new artists–that is, when used in moderation.

Taking our musical cues from outside sources in excess has a downside.  Too often, having these sites instantly available at our fingertips fosters a culture of slothfulness and minimizes the significance of our own musical experiences.  How so?  Let’s consider Pitchfork.  Any indie kid worth his/her salt has visited the site at least once.  Full of in-depth album reviews and artist interviews, Pitchfork provides a one-stop-shop for absorbing a slew of engaging perspectives on music.

Pitchfork

The site, though, is starting to become THE authority on what’s hot and what’s not.  A good review on the site can do wonders for an up-and-coming band, while a poor one can mean the end of the road.  “If your band isn’t popular on Pitchfork, it might as well not exist,” is quickly becoming the implied sentiment in the critical community.

While it’s true that sites like Pitchfork who utilize a clearly knowledgeable staff of writers can provide some degree of guidance to music fans, they have become something of a hipster cool kids club that encourages listeners to mold their own judgments around the site’s predetermined ones.  Readers are presented with what they “should” like rather than an unbiased evaluation of the art itself.  Didn’t really care for Fleet Foxes self-titled album?  By the time you’re done reading Pitchfork’s review, you’ll be trying to convince yourself otherwise.  I mean, it got a 9.0 rating for Christ’s sake! It MUST be good. Don’t really “get” Radiohead?  Might as well kiss your credibility card goodbye.

The idea that disagreement equates to poor taste devalues individual opinion, morphing us into a society of sheep–even more so than we already are.  The music scene will be a much healthier place once we realize that part of the joy in fandom is choice.  Being able to articulate why a band or artist is uniquely special to you is a joy that many indie kids are missing out on.

Q uncut NME Rolling Stone Spin Blender

It’s worth noting too that the indie-friendly online music community is also having an impact on its print publication counterparts.  It’s no secret that American music mags leave something to be desired (especially compared to the in-touch approach taken by well-respected UK ‘zines like Q, Uncut, and NME). Rolling Stone just isn’t what it used to be, to say the least, and rags lilke Spin and Blender never used to be much of anything to begin with.

If American music magazines want to stay successful they need to begin devoting more effort to creating exclusive content such as compelling intelligent artist interviews and commentary with personality as the online community has done, rather than projecting themselves as a shallow, celebrity-crazed, sex-heavy time killer.  American print media just isn’t going to be able to compete with the immediacy and significance of web-based music news outlets unless their focus changes dramatically.

“Seen your video/That phony rock ‘n’ roll/We don’t want to know/Seen your video/Your phony rock ‘n’ roll…”

-The Replacements, “Seen Your Video”

As I mentioned above, it used to be that indie music was considered such because it was, well, produced independently of major labels.  While that still holds true for a great deal of bands out there, the term “indie” is also now being applied a little too liberally.  Now, it seems as though bands are achieving indie status through their clothes more so than their music.  It used to be that you could approximate what a band sounded like by how they dressed.  But with the increasing popularity of formerly indie-exclusive fashions like skinny jeans and vintage dresses, anyone within driving distance to Urban Outfitters can project themselves as a cookie-cutter product of a scene that they don’t have any legitimate affiliation with.

Jonas Brothers

Take major label darlings like The Jonas Brothers for just one example of fashion’s growing conflict with music.  They are, essentially, a pop wolf in indie sheep’s clothing.  Skinny jeans?  Check.  Trendy graphic t-shirts?  Check.  Hair styled to messed-up perfection?  Check.  They’ve got it all except the sound to match.  It’s the real-life verison of that scene in High Fidelity where John Cusack’s character admits, “I felt like all those people who suddenly shaved their heads and said they’d always been punks. They just went and suddenly get a razor from http://factschronicle.com/best-electric-razors-of-2017-revamping-your-outlook-by-shaving-1377.html, and went ahead with the shaving, for me it felt like a fraud.”

As was the case with punk rock, the popularization of genre staples like leather jackets, studs, and hair dye, has cheapened the music itself.  If you can be “punk” by simply throwing on some Converse sneakers, what does it even matter that bands like The Damned, The Buzzcocks or The Heartbreakers even existed?  The messages and sentiment of the art (rebellion, individuality, irony, and–ahem–DIY) become lost to swarms of twelve year old mallrats with guyliner and anarchy symbols stamped on their Ts.

When you can pledge allegiance to a certain code of art without having the perspective or intention to back it up, the art itself becomes the joke.  Anyone who genuinely cares about the music that they listen to should take the consequences of these trends seriously.   In the current indie scene, as in the punk world, the music becomes secondary when, as Joe Strummer tongue-in-cheekily painted across his chest, “passion is a fashion.”

Joe Strummer

“We hate it when our friends become successful/And if they’re northern, that makes it even worse/And if we can destroy them/You bet your life we will destroy them/If we can hurt them/Well, we may as well…” –Morrissey, “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful”

Is it wrong to expect current indie bands to operate in the same manner as their predecessors?  After all, it’s hardly the same ballgame.  With the emergence  of quick methods of mass communication in the music world such as individual blogging and Myspace.com, bands are gaining fans at an unprecedented rate, leading to fewer and fewer true underground groups in existence.  It used to be that the greater difference in the talent to popularity ratio equated to legendary indie status.  Now, it’s hard to tell which groups even qualify.

Take Oasis for example.  The self-proclaimed “best band in the world” has certainly been one of the most financially lucrative.  The controversial and beloved Mancunian group has played to crowds of millions, topped the charts on numerous occasions, been awarded some of the highest honors in the music community, and its members have achieved A-list celebrity status.  So, can they still be labeled “indie” the same way that groups like Voxtrot or The Brian Jonestown Massacre are?  Well, why not?  Though they’ve had their share of major label involvement, Oasis got their start on Alan McGee’s Creation Records, one of the most famous and influential UK indie labels, and are now recording on their own label, Big Brother Records.

Big Brother

Somehow, though, their high levels of success and popularity has made their indie roots irrelevant in the eyes of the music community.  In this way, indie music has become self-destructive.  Commercial success is frowned on to the point that many bands find themselves facing an interesting choice at some point in their career:  Reject financial security, or reject credibility.

“I miss the innocence I’ve known/Playing Kiss covers/Beautiful and stoned…” –Wilco, “Heavy Metal Drummer”

As much criticism as I have for some of the components of the current indie music scene, I can’t deny that at heart I’m a fan, as many of the most exciting, intelligent, enjoyable, progressive and important bands of the last few decades have fit into that category.  Though I’m concerned by some of the things happening in pop culture as a result of its success, I’m actually looking forward to what will come next. With thoughtful change, I have faith that indie music can become more than a just cool kids club.  We owe it to ourselves to be conscious of how our culture is manipulating the world around us as well as how we can assure that it changes into something positive.

–Shelley Peckham

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