Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Fans Also Like #5 Music for the impending/Current Apocolapse

Oh hey! It’s another editorial on how 2020 is terrible. Another piece that details how mumble rap is a reflection of this generation's increasing lethargy. An article warning that we’re now in the ‘post-post ironic’ phase of listening to bad music so 645AR is actually a genius, and the squeaky voice he does is a metaphorical horseman for the sound apocalypse that will slowly render every song in existence part of a four hour ambient youtube mix played off a phone in the background of an OnlyFans video. 

Am I guilty of writing these articles? Absolutely yes, but when it comes to this desperately shit year, I find it hard to search for a pattern or trend in modern music that fully embodies our collective grief. 

The truth is that everyone has their own ‘sad’ music to listen to. A musical bandage for the case by case depression that’s spreading throughout the country like some kind of...virus? 

Looking for solace in the Indie List seemed to exemplify this. There’s been a slow move to an overall classier sound in modern alt, and while it arguably produces better mixed, better written, objectively better sounding music, for me in these stressful times, the one thing I’m not looking for is class. 

There’s only one kind of music that can provide personal solace for me at the moment, and while it certainly won’t be universal, I think it provides a good opportunity to classify a recent and hugely popular trend in Indie Rock that I’ll be calling ‘Cute Rock’. 

Again as I said, the only way I can describe the indie list at the moment is classy. We’re gravitating back towards more Brit Rock, uber slick dream pop, and as always, the remnants of the 1975 impersonators that have seemingly more staying power than the global pandemic (Matty Healy’s influence will haunt me to my fucking grave).       

That isn’t to say that the music isn’t good, the first two genres are pretty great, but the one facet I do miss that was an indie mainstay in recent years, is painfully sincere American post-punk, e.g. Frankie Cosmos, Snail Mail, Adult Mum, Diet Cig, any band with a two word title that you think might be ironic but you’re not sure. 

This is what I’d describe as ‘Cute Rock’, mostly for the either supremely simple or happy sound, contrasted with the usually unpolished delivery of pretty sad lyrics. While I understand that this is practically a staple of 50% of the indie rock songs in existence, the other criteria I’d throw in are a distinct American Garage sound, and a tracklisting with at least the word ‘prom’ showing up once. 

Before anyone starts shouting at their screen about Beabadoobee, I’d say they’re a cut from the same cloth, but Fake it Flowers is so firmly in Liz Phair 90s territory, that I’d argue it’s too far off the mark of what I’m discussing. One exception in the discography that I think does firmly classify as Cute Rock is still my favourite of the bands, ‘I wish I was Steven Malkmus’, as for the list as a whole at the moment, the only other contender for categorisation is ‘Boy Bye’ by Lauran Hibberd. That’s not saying there isn’t great stuff on there (‘Visitor’-Of Monsters and Men, ‘True Romance’-Abbie Ozard), just nothing that scratches my ‘I hate this town and my boyfriend’ itch. 

One track I can always rely on to fit any self reflective purpose, something we have a lot more time for at the moment, is ‘Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving’ by Cayetana. It’s one of those hard driving songs that can be listened to in a good mood or a terrible one, and you can be sure it’ll even you out. 

Moving on to the more general young love/breakup anthems, I’d call on ‘Tonight’ by Dude York and ‘Get Bummed Out’ by Remember Sports. The first is that perfect kind of heavy but not abrasive enough for you to have to turn it down on a quiet bus song, the latter is just literally the perfect prototype of this kind of music, a microcosm for the genre that’s only other contender is ‘April’ by Beach Bunny. 

I also wouldn’t be able to do this list without name checking ‘Our Song’ by Radiator Hospital, which will be a good barometer of if you think this music is worth listening to, or if I’m just a soppy yankophile bitch. 

You might think the second, but personally, for a song with arguably the least intimidating vocals of all time, Our Song hits so hard.      

To get slightly more mellow, ‘Lena’ by Babehoven is probably on track to being my most listened to song of the year. Maya Bon as a vocalist is basically a combination of every female singer on this list but with the X factor of Joni Mitchell being thrown in. I know I said at the top that part of the appeal of Cute Rock is that it’s not exactly the most polished stuff ever, but honestly in terms of vocals alone Babehoven have no business being as technically good as they are. 

On the topic of underrated bands, and practically the reason I wrote this entire article was to talk about Yucky Duster. Tragically breaking up after two EP’s (One is on Spotify, the other sadly not but will link below), the band is effectively the perfect combo of cute indie production, stupidly good musicianship, kind of a doo-wop surf rock sound, and some of the most genuinely insightful and sincere lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. I’d list specific songs here but the truth is they’re all good. There’s this weird timelessness, especially in their second EP ‘Dusters Lament’ that works well as a perfect contrast to the increasingly prescient lyrics.

If you do anything after reading this/if you’ve made it this far already, give a listen to Duster’s Lament:

But also…

All the songs listed above are in order in the official Fans Also Like Playlist:

Why did I write this? We all have different cathartic tunes to get us through difficult times, and to be honest, for me swapping out Joni Mitchell’s Blue to an obviously slightly lame but ultimately fun set of songs was something I wanted to share. 

Whether it’s American poison to your ears, too whiney, too moany, or just too much of the same thing. For me, the sound of optimistic misery, my current constant mood, will always be: 

‘Hey mom, Jimmy said we can get a few beers, go to the prom. But I don’t love him or myself, my insides just feel wrong’ -Unknown youth of America in four piece band

- James Charalambides


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