Sunday, 17 January 2010
Oh, and one more...
Indie hasn't registered for me since 'Room on Fire' walked in and out of my life. Living in the UK for the best part of the 00's, indie was impossible to ignore. Morphing out of some idealised post-Britpop, pre-dubstep mindset, into the standard student union, skinny jeans from Next-wearing, Joy Division-yearning, fake Northern accent-touting blatherfest, it thankfully seemed to die over the last year and a half. The dubstep point is an interesting one. Blackdown noted on his Pitchfork end of year review that:
'In the UK, the wobble sound is now the default dubstep position for many fans, as the scene commands a increasing share of the Friday night/student/super club market. With the fanbase expanded far beyond any one core, complaints about deviations from South London circa 2005 or an overall loss of direction feel increasingly irrelevant. Many new dubstep fans neither know nor care about those issues, and complaining about glories past is futile. So fair play to all the brostep ravers 'aving it.'
What strikes me as interesting is that roll back to about 2005/6, and that whole 'Friday night/student/super club market' was moshing its nuts off to the Kaiser Chiefs. Dubstep, or brostep, or whatever has come to dominate the listening patterns of 20-somethings in the same way that indie did before it. Is there a comparison to be made? Well clearly, dubstep is (in its founding at least) a British phenomenon. More than that though, it has been an exportable phenomenon, just as indie was before it. The Kaiser Chiefs and Pete Doherty were not only (attempting to) soundtrack 00's Britain, but also taking their sound on the road, via music festivals, across Europe and beyond. Fast forward to the present day, and what is a music festival in Poland, Germany, Serbia, wherever, without an appearance from say Kode 9, or Skream? More importantly, where did that leave indie? It reminds me of a point made on the mnml ssgs blog:
'like what jay-z said with indie and hip-hop. he said the indie revival is great because it has overtaken hip-hop in innovation which should "push" hip-hop producers into lifting their game'
To my mind, there were three important indie albums released in 2009: xx, Merriweather Post Pavilion, and Bitte Orca. The importance of each album however, had less to do with the bands looking deep into the heart of indie for answers, but actually looking outside it. The xx channeled South London dubstep flavas into their soundscapes, Merriweather looked to house, and the Dirty Projectors (and also the xx, cf. 'Hot Like Fire') to RnB. This outward-looking tendency is the same one that made Vampire Weeeknd's self-titled debut such a thrill. Afrobeat and indie, wtf?
However, what's most interesting is that whilst the so-called indie musicians were looking elsewhere for inspiration, the elsewhere looked to them. When has an album like xx managed to coalesce a positive critical consensus between indie kids, ravers, and experimentalists? Why were Resident Advisor reviewing Merriweather (and giving it 4.5/5)? Why was Solange Knowles covering 'Stillness is the Move'? This outward looking tendency in indie has breathed new life into a dying genre, but more importantly, indie has managed to breathe new life into other genres that previously couldn't have given less of a shit. 'Contra' has just come out one year after 'Merriweather' first dropped, and we have reached a crucial point. This sonically experimental, genre-defying tendency will soon calcify as scenesters start purchasing Highlife compilations en masse, desperately searching for an obscure peg to hang their derivative coat on. Indie as envelope-pusher will die out, just as the case of 'brostep' has shown. But for the time being, let's hear it for tracks like 'Stillness', the moment when the pupil finally outclassed his master.