Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Have You Heard Of This Thing Called "Music?" It Is The Bees Proverbial Knees!

This is it! We are doing it!! This is our collective time to shine!!! We will remember this specific time in history forever!!!! Etc!!!!!

Musically speaking, this year has the makings of being the best of our generation. Our 1994, our 1977, or 1965-1969. I know many people probably thought this moment would never come but it is coming and coming hard.

It can be argued as an age group we came of age during the worst period of music EVER* – the late 90’s/early 00’s (2nd worst is probably the mid/late 80’s, followed by the early 70’s). I could spend pages arguing this sad, sad truth however instead I will just point you Wikipedia ( start at 1995 and go forward ) to come to terms with how tragic this period was**

So how did we get here? And where is the here we are at?

Here is a world of indie-music as a fully realized entity. It went from obscure, to under-the-radar, to relevant, to now a world where it is post-relevant. Yes, post-relevant, I made it up, but I like it. It means that no longer it has to justify why it exists because it is a completely formed, self-sustaining medium. It doest not have to try to water down itself to fit in nor be weird just to prove how different and unique it is.

I am basing this opinion on the following albums***:

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (possibly the “greatest” album of our generation)
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
Dirty Projectors – Bitte Ocra
Various Artists - Dark Was The Night
TV on the Radio – Dear Science, (I am well aware this album came out in 2008, however I am making an exception because of a fact I will argue later).

These albums are all very, very good. The first time I listened to every one of them I had that a-ha moment that I strive for as a music listener. They all have the magical combination of adhering to and defying of expectations. It is more than putting out music of the utmost quality because a lot of them have been doing that for years. It is what the music sounds like and how it is presented that has abruptly slapped us all in the face. All of these albums are every elitist’s favorite word…ASCESIBLE. Its music that everyone can listen to and basically understand where it is coming from. As I like to put it, I would buy all of these albums for my Dad and probably will.

Accessibility implies that this music is more pleasant to listen to. No longer are these bands pushing you away with one hand as they try to pull you in with the other. Still more importantly, accessibility reflects a culmination of these bands ability to present their art. I would say there are songs that I liked by all these bands beforehand (except for Dirty Projectors) however not in the way I do now. These bands found a way to both filter themselves and expand their sound in a way that rings true****.

The Dark was the Night compilation is kind of icing on the proverbial***** cake. Every band on that record stepped it up and produced great songs for a cause. The album needed to be able to reach a wide audience, so the bands had to focus. That touches on the bigger point, its not just about getting the most fans as possible, its about focus. It is about figuring out how to best possibly communicate one’s art in order to reach the most people, which is the assumed goal of art. Music at its core is a heightened form of communication – it is the tying together of the visceral (music sounds) with the rational (words). Currently, it seems like a lot of bands have finally come to realize that.

So how did this happen?

President Barack Obama

At around 11pm central in Chicago on November 4th the eventual President, Barack Obama, gave a speech in front of like a billion people and Oprah. Early into the speech the possible second-coming and/or anti-Christ exclaimed, “It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.” Subsequently, at around midnight eastern standard time, in Brooklyn I cried my face-off. Arguable this was one my top 5 greatest music-related moments of my existence. I can imagine at this exact time, probably also in Brooklyn, many of the band members that created the albums listed above had a similar reaction. I believe the meaning of this moment fundamentally effected the art of these musicians.

More broadly, I believe that from the time Obama had a legit shot at winning (early summerish) you can credit him for this shift in the music being created. It is not that all us liberal Americans (which I am pretty safely assuming these bands’ members can be included as such) were all happy to have a possible like-minded Prez or is it about his optimism or idealism or awesomeness. It is the way he speaks. President Obama was able to speak in away that didn’t dumb it down or go over the head of the masses. He was able to use $5 words***** and still covey a fundamental passion that a lot of people yearned for from their public figures. The result was the flipping of a switch in the heads of many artists.

These bands realized there is a large group of people willing to hear them out if they just put a little effort in to trying to communicate their vision in a more inclusive way. It’s the understanding that having more people like your music does not mean it’s worse. Politically, it’s akin to bare-knuckled populism. I know at least Animal Collective has spoken to this point, in an interview they mentioned that it might be fun to see how “other” audiences responded to their music. At the time they were referring to jam band granola-faces however I think something deeper can be extracted. Animal Collective has been a band for about 10 years and it seems like they to want to challenge themselves to grow, to evolve, to change (!). This amount of unbridled idealism can easily be traced back to our hopelessly so commander in chief.

Like Don Quixote with a Harvard Law degree, President Obama has changed the tone of our generation. Our have-the-cake-and-it-to-ness is no longer just perceived as being the fundamental nature of a youngest sibling generation, and can instead be lumped in with our willingness to dream the impossible dream. Our high-minded music no longer needs to be saved for the self-declared few, it can instead appeal to anyone with ears/hips/brains/feet. And it has been a long time coming, but tonight (or whenever you are reading this), at this defining moment a change has come to America.

* EVER really means in the Rock n’ Roll era. So like 1950 on.

** The fact that Radiohead was able to put out music of actually consequence during this time is singly the greatest achievement ever produced by anyone with a lazy eye.

***There are other similar albums but the ones listed are the most important. Also this is not saying these are the best or my favorite albums because that would mean I am brazenly ignoring some of my favorite albums (i.e. The Antlers, Japandroids, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, St. Vincent…)

****Animal Collective stopped screaming and generally being so creepily weird for the hell of it, yet they kept their defining aesthetic and off-beatness – Grizzly Bear stopped meandering and wrote songs, amazingly tight songs, which perfectly lay out their meanderings – TV on the Radio stopped flooding their music with tons of everythingness and wrote timeless melodies that they coupled with a sound that sounds like culmination of the history of western music to this point – I don’t know what the hell Dirty Projectors did but somehow they made an album of pop music that is as beautiful as it is progressive.

*****Brief aside, proverbial is my favorite word. So now you know and knowing is half the battle.

******Like “proverbial.”

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