While the internet has hurtled us light-speed into the future, its most pervasive effect (as noted by writer Simon Reynolds in his 2011 book Retromania) has been to make the past instantly accessible, reviving cultural artifacts and iconography long ago erased from our collective memory and stripping them of their context. The late-2000s indie-pop permutation known as chillwave was the sound of that process happening in real time. It was a virtual mood board of borrowed nostalgia for a half-remembered ‘80s, with old-school rap beats, electro synth bleeps, plush yacht-rock, Baeleric house, and 4AD dream-pop all blurring together like repurposed images in a rapidly scrolling Tumblr feed, and mutating and fading like the resolution on an overused VHS tape.Of course, like all genre buzzwords, nobody wanted to own it at the time, and both its key progenitors (Ariel Pink, Animal Collective) and early ambassadors (Toro y Moi, Washed Out) have since moved on to pursue more grandiose visions or pop-accessible paths. But like many easy-to-dismiss fads, chillwave’s sound has lingered to become a permanent component in the contemporary indie toolkit. Its DNA is present in the music of modern-day mavericks like Blood Orange and Tame Impala, and it’s had a soluble effect on the sound of latter-day Flaming Lips and Destroyer; even Nick Cave’s 2016 track “Rings of Saturn” bears its unlikely influence. A decade on from its emergence, chillwave very much remains the future sound of our ever-present past.
"Everywhere started out as this simple acoustic love song," the then 18-year-old Michelle Branch modestly told MTV back in 2001, when her debut single was quickly climbing the charts. In fact, "Everywhere" could be heard just about anywhere, as it captured the spirit of both moody post-grunge rock and breezy Y2K pop. At the time, Branchs guitar-fueled confessions were something of a savvy response to the sexed-up pop of Britney and Christina, and while she electrified with some Alanis-like sass, she did so with with a youthful, innocent optimism. Still, "Everywhere" isnt such a simple love song. Branch is not pining or pouting. Her lyrics are bold and vivid and maybe even a little abstract: "Youre everything I know/ That makes me believe/ Im not alone." Is she talking about a boy or something grander? Either way, her delivery is empowering—shes confident while still vulnerable, and she ties both together in an instantly undeniable hook. A new generation of female singer/songwriters was most certainly listening. Here are five ways "Everywhere" made its mark on the music scene.It signaled the true end of 90s angst.Gone was the dark, disillusioned edge of grunge; the cool, canny pop star who could rock hard and still radiate a touch of sunniness had arrived. Soon after the release of "Everywhere," Vanessa Carlton was pounding her piano with the same balance of sass and sincerity in "A Thousand Miles." Sara Bareilles would later do the same with the deceptively defiant "Love Song."It inspired a new form of passionate pop-rock.In 2002, Kelly Clarkson would claim the first American Idol title. Shed soon use her newfound fame to propel cathartic, hard-rocking pop hits like "Since U Been Gone" to iconic status. KT Tunstall also came blazing through, wielding her guitar and commanding just as much respect with her infectious, soulful rock. It helped bring femininity to emo. Branchs influence would even stretch to emo hero Hayley Williams, whod inject the pop-punk scene with some much-needed feistiness and femininity with her band Paramore. It pushed country music in new directions. You can even thank Branch for helping reinvigorate country music in the mid-2000s by not only co-starring in her own country-pop project The Wreckers with friend and singer Jessica Harp, but also inspiring one precocious singer/songwriter by the name of Taylor Swift. "Youre one of the first people who made me want to play guitar," Swift once told Branch.It still can be heard just about … everywhere.Even now, traces of "Everywhere" still echo through pop, rock, and country, especially in the spunky yet candid songwriting of newer artists like Meg Myers and Kacey Musgraves. In a way, this once "simple acoustic love song" continues to make its imprint just about everywhere.
Remind us of why we were supposed to hate electroclash? Because it was cheap and disposable? Because it celebrated amateurism over art? Because it was a crude simulacrum of past musical innovations? Well, they said the same things about punk when it first hit. And, like punk, electroclash is the passing fad that never went away. For a sound that supposedly died out sometime in late 2003 in the clogged-up bathroom at some Vice-sponsored after-hours party in Williamsburg, electroclashs cocktail of primitive synth-pop, ripped-stocking attitude, and sexually charged provocation has become a permanent strain in the DNA of post-millennial indie.In its primordial late-90s state, electroclash represented the playfully scrappy antidote to the increasingly slick and aggressive nature of popular electronica, and a flirtatious, fashion-forward affront to the deliberately drab, self-effacing nature of wool-sweatered indie rock. Following a decade where A&R scouts were desperately seeking the next Seattle in Chapel Hill, Halifax, San Diego, and all points in between, electroclash represented perhaps the first instance of a post-internet, non-localized scene, with adherents springing up everywhere from New York (Fischerspooner) and Toronto (Peaches) to Munich (Chicks on Speed) and Liverpool (Ladytron). And by foregrounding female and queer voices, electroclash initiated a crucial early step in chipping away at the boys clubs that have traditionally dominated both indie rock and electronic music, a process that continues to this day.Like any hyped-up movement, electroclash was rife with flash-in-the-pan phenoms that time and Spotify have forgotten. (Pour out your complimentary energy drink of choice for W.I.T. and Ping Pong Bitches.) But you can also draw a direct line from electroclash to some of the most important artists of the 21st-century. This playlist compiles electroclashs definitive names alongside the established bands that stripped down their sound in response (Elastica, Broadcast), the seasoned DJs who embraced the neon vibe (Felix da Housecat, Ellen Allien), and the game-changing artists (M.I.A., The Knife) who elevated electroclash into a permanent feature of the modern musical lexicon.
Typing the words "mp3 blog" in 2018 feels a lot like typing the words "eight-track tape" or "Betamax" or "Friendster"——a snickering acknowledgement of a phenomenon that was once so ubiquitous, yet now feels so distant that its like it never existed. Oh sure, the basic premise of the mp3 blog——"download this cool new song by a band youve never heard before!"——endures across countless music sites these days, and someoftheOGs have miraculously avoided blogger burnout over the course of 15-odd years and/or fortified into robust, well-staffed sites. But gone are the days when mp3 blogs were touted as music-industry disruptors, armchair A&R reps, and your new favorite radio station all in one. (And so too are the days when Clap Your Hands Say Yeah represented the future of indie rock, after taking the online short cut from DIY obscurity to most talked-about band in America seemingly overnight.)"Blog rock" was essentially the "SoundCloud rap" of the 2000s——a nebulously defined subgenre more indicative of where the artists first gained exposure rather than the sound of the music they played. But for all the upheaval the internet had wrought on the music industry, and all the potential it unleashed for underground music scenes around the world, the bands that came to epitomize blog rock were essentially streamlined versions of the dominant indie groups of the day, be it the polished Arcade Fire histrionics of The Black Kids or the plastic Spoon-isms of Sound Team. A lot of the bands on this playlist couldnt bear the weight of the instant online buzz and didnt last longer than an album or two, becoming punchlines in the process in some cases. But in hindsight, blog rock represented another significant step in the ongoing refinement of indie rock——while there may be traces of Sung Tongs-era Animal Collective in The Dodos DNA, its also not a huge leap from the frenetic busker stomp of "Visitor" to the stadium-folk of Mumford & Sons.Presumably, you havent listened to a lot of these songs since you bricked your 80GB iPod Classic sometime in 2009. Heres your chance to revisit all your mid-2000s picks to right-click, without having to worry about your hard-drive capacity.
Broken Social Scene were on a roll in the early ‘00s. After releasing the great, mostly instrumental Feel Good Lost in 2001, their big breakthrough came the following year with the instant classic You Forgot It In People, which achieved a perfect balance of being simultaneously intimate and monumental. Coming up in the middle of the post-millennial indie-rock revival, BSS held their own among bands like The Strokes, Interpol, and The Walkmen. In 2005, they released their masterful and complex self-titled record, which contained a gigantic list of contributing personnel and boasted a 63-minute runtime. BSS were steadily becoming one of the most powerful supergroups in modern rock. Then, they took a sort-of hiatus, and exploded into a diaspora of side-projects before releasing Forgiveness Rock Record in 2010. So what, exactly, did they do during those five years? Okay, take a deep breath.In 2007, Kevin Drew released his first “solo” album, under the title of Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew: Spirit If..., which was followed by what was essentially a Broken Social Scene tour that included tracks from that album and also from their previous records. The following year saw Brendan Canning’s own project, Broken Social Scene Presents Brendan Canning: Something for All of Us… (which featured guest vocals from Drew). Guitarist Andrew Whiteman’s band Apostle of Hustle released the jangly, shuffling National Anthem of Nowhere, whose title track had been road-tested in BSS shows; guitarist, bassist, and horn player Charles Spearin (also of Do Make Say Think) organized an avant-garde record called The Happiness Project. Feist released her mainstream breakthrough The Reminder (whose “I Feel It All” shares DNA with Drew’s “Safety Bricks”); fellow vocalists Emily Haines and Amy Millan put out their respective solo debuts.These albums represent a whirlwind of musical energy—yet, none of it went towards a proper Broken Social Scene album. What would have happened if the band had put out an album that reflected its members’ work from 2006-2009, instead of waiting until 2010 to team up for Forgiveness Rock Record? We can’t know for sure, but we can get close. This playlist envisions a “lost” BSS record of sorts, a potential album that never existed. So, close your eyes, travel back to the person you were 10 years ago, and pretend you’ve discovered a new Broken Social Scene record. Here we go.
How fitting that James Murphy released his last album in 2010, for LCD Soundsystem lives in a climate-controlled space where college students and post grads, downloading songs onto their new smartphones, got excited about voting for Barack Obama. To say the music is “dated” is redundant—all music sounds like the time in which it was recorded. Also wrong. If anything, the collar-loosening white boy boogie of “Dance Yrself Clean” and “Daft Punk is Playing in My House” predated the ways in which the Silicon Valley ethos of app-ready affluence established itself in the last three to five years: dancing to “I Feel It Coming” after a few pints of the local microbrew. LCD’s 2010 show at the Fillmore presented the act at its best, with Murphy and Nancy Whang trading instruments and losing themselves to the music. He started losing me with the singer-songwriter material that won him praise a decade ago: all that “In My Life” stuff. I included a couple moments anyway because I won’t renounce my past.Visit our affiliate/partner site Humanizing the Vacuum for great lists, commentary, and more.
To be totally honest, I haven’t spent much time listening to Linkin Park lately, and I’m not familiar with their most recent albums. My Linkin Park phase was in high school—Hybrid Theory (2000), Reanimation (2002), Meteora (2003), and Collision Course (2004) came out during that time. At that point in my life, I was mostly a classical, jazz, and rap fan—I wasn’t into heavy rock or metal, so Linkin Park was the most intense thing I listened to in my teenage years. And as I think back on it, it seems bizarre that I liked the band so much, because they really didnt fit with anything else I was listening to. But it makes sense now, because the reach and scope of their music were powerful enough to grip people outside the typical realm of nu metal. There’s something almost transcendental about early Linkin Park. They were too anthemic to be fully nu metal (à la Korn, Limp Bizkit, or P.O.D.), too hip-hop to be rock, and too emo and mainstream to be “cool,” at least as far as what was considered cool among my peers. Theirs was a profoundly relatable music that flipped the script on what it was supposed to be. Their lyrics had a radically human core, one that embraced and tried to work through longing and alienation. These people were dealing with complex emotions like guilt and shame when the Dave Matthews Band—probably the most popular band in my community—was singing about getting high and ejaculating. And the actual music of Linkin Park was very intriguing, boasting intelligent percussion, authoritative washes of reverbed guitar, disciplined use of electronics, and methodical pacing. Listening to Meteora as an adult now, I’m still moved by its quality, its musicianship, and its acuity. Growing up before social media, in a fairly bland, conservative suburban community, I didn’t know a lot about the world of music. I don’t remember too much of what I listened to back then, but I do remember relating to the angst and hopelessness of Meteora in a powerful way. Linkin Park were basically my Smiths, and I’m fine with that. They were the therapeutic outlet that was available to me, and I’m glad they were. It’s sad that Chester Bennington is dead, because his music always pointed, more than anything, toward a desire for deliverance from pain. I don’t know whether he achieved that in the end, but I do know that his music was there for countless lost teenagers like myself.
This post is part of our Psych 101 program, an in-depth, 14-part series that looks at the impact of psychedelia on modern music. Want to sign up to receive the other installments in your inbox? Go here. Already signed up and enjoying it? Help us get the word out by sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or just sending your friends this link. Theyll thank you. We thank you.Los Angeles’ beat scene was always loose by design. Though it had a very specific and physical home—Low End Theory, a club night that still happens every Wednesday at The Airliner in L.A.—the music is more mercurial, with innumerable sub-genres flourishing and swiftly fading. The architects of the scene understood that tying themselves to any one sound meant desertion when the wave inevitably crashed. So, the music was omnivorous, encompassing rap, IDM, psychedelia, turntablism, dance music, trap, jazz, ambient, trip-hop, and spiritual music.The resulting milieu produced a body of work that is nearly unparalleled in hip-hop and modern electronic music, and you can hear the beat scene’s influence in everyone from Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu to Odd Future, Kendrick Lamar,Drake, and Kid Cudi. It transformed L.A. from an electronic-music backwater to a hub of indigenous electronic music culture. And while even casual electronic music fans know its commercial lodestars—Flying Lotus, Thundercat, TOKiMONSTA, Daedelus, et al.—the scene has a deep bench, a psychedelic assortment of mad scientists, Afrofuturists, and avant garde tinkerers that seem like characters ripped out of comic books.The Dowsers has partnered up with The Passion of the Weiss to present an exhaustive look at this scene—complete with an accompanying playlist of definitive tracks. Head here to check out their list of the Top 20 albums, and check out our remix of their list below, which focuses on the 10 artists who defined the movement.
AN ORIGIN STORY, OF SORTSNearly 10 years removed from its release, Flying Lotus’ 2008 album Los Angeles still feels like an anomaly. Most L.A. music evokes sunshine, but FlyLo used techno, bass music, jazz, and hip-hop to sketch a picture of stoned weirdoes marauding through the city’s endless expanse. African percussion collided with IDM sub-frequencies, and Moog licks bounced off record static, conjuring strange, shamanistic imagery. It’s unsurprising that its Afrofuturist grit earned full-throated endorsements from the electronic-music press; the “black Aphex Twin” headlines wrote themselves.And yet despite its electronic bona fides, Los Angeles is hip-hop to the core. Released during a half-decade death spiral of rap’s ’90s generation, and during the South’s ringtone rap phase, Los Angeles didn’t fit. What it did, however, was inspire misfits, both global and local. The irreverent beat science of Odd Future pointed directly to Los Angeles, while Detroit’s Danny Brown calculated what it’d take to rap over music this weird. Soon, an entire scene of blunted beatmakers sprung up both around Low End Theory (Lotus’ performance space of choice) and the internet (where his music was consumed). We’re a decade removed from cloud rap, half a decade from Yeezus, and two years from Future’s DS2, and while we don’t know for sure if Clams Casino, Kanye, or Future heard Los Angeles, the album was the butterfly whose wings indirectly started a rap hurricane where harsh electronic productions became an acceptable canvas over which to brag about sexcapades and Gucci brand footwear.Listen to key tracks from Los Angeles alongside the music that inspired it:
INTO A DARK SILENCENosaj Thing was one of the earliest members of the beat scene, but where his contemporaries tended to produce more fleshed-out sounds, often with a heavy hip-hop influence, Nosaj Thing created a canvas shaded as much by silence as by noise. On his debut album, 2009’s Drift, the beats are dark and exploratory, and, while he couldnt have known it at the time, it has a lot in common with "the drift" of Guillermo del Toros Pacific Rim. In both instances, the drift is a process by which two active participants bond over synchronized brain waves to form a more perfect whole. While del Toro had a specific, mechanical process in mind, Nosaj Thing found a far more organic approach, realizing that (re)creation wasn’t about moving away from the original source as much as it was about moving toward a new one.Listen to key tracks from Drift alongside the music that inspired it:
THE WANDERERGonjasufi has the voice of a man who’s been through the gutter and back. An ancient, rusted-out croon, it’s by turns manic and tender, evoking many days lost in the wilderness, and many more spent re-aligning the chakras. His 2010 release, A Sufi and a Killer, feels like an epic trek, as producers Gaslamp Killer, Mainframe, and Flying Lotus sample a global list of artists to forge soulful, psychedelic beats. The vibe is dirty, and the thunder and rain that comes in at the tail end of “Love of Reign” makes the voyage that much more unnerving. Still, Sufi navigates the landscape with confidence, unleashing a crisp poetry that lays his contradictions bare in an allegorical track about a lion that wishes he were a sheep. When the singer finally finds redemption in “Made”—whose lyrics find a parallel between the coming of spring and the arrival of a paycheck—his voice is feather-light and full of relief.Listen to key tracks from A Sufi and a Killer alongside the music that inspired it:
HEARING IS BELIEVINGTo see The Gaslamp Killer is to believe in The Gaslamp Killer. The Low End Theory co-founder/resident DJ’s wide-ranging sets reside on the brink of chaos, mixing hip-hop, rock, electronic, and all points in between. On stage, he resembles the waving, inflatable man outside of a car dealership, yet the rhythmic flailing isn’t a substitute for pyrotechnics or pre-planned drops. It’s genuine, and he connects without a shred of self-consciousness, guiding audiences with shamanistic conviction.His Brainfeeder debut, 2012’s Breakthrough, captures the intimate, heartfelt lunacy of his live sets. It is the circadian rhythm compressed, shuttling you at breakneck speed from a psychedelic midnight to lucid dawn. “Holy Mt Washington” (with Computer Jay) tempers eviscerating low-end bounce with buoyant, Morricone-inspired whistling. “Peasants, Cripples, & Retards” (with Samiyam) moves from industrial, intergalactic funk to Jamaican dub. The emotive plucking of the yiali tambur by Jogger’s Amir Yaghmai on “Nissim” is backed by Gaslamp’s breakbeat barrage. It remains the standout, a reminder that not every song from the beat scene needed to rattle your body in order to touch your soul.
THE AFROCENTRIC FROM ALPHA CENTAURIRas G is the beat scene’s answer to Sun Ra. His music is an attempt to commune with the constellations, drawing equally from the electronic and analogue. His 2008 album, Brotha From Anotha Planet, is prime headphone listening, a solitary exploration of the soul in twilight hours. Ras G’s willingness to pull back between banging beats, to tie everything together with these oddly comforting intergalactic sound collages, is brilliant. It’s in these moments that we reflect, reminding ourselves of that a celestial experience is visceral as well as cerebral, and attempt to find our place in the universe.
THE FUTURE AT 90 BPMTeebs’ balancing act between subtly and bombast not only served as the M.O. for his 2010 debut, Ardour, but as a mission statement for the beat scene. While early Los Angeles electro used the sparseness of drum machines to rock the party, and DJ Shadow pushed crate digging to its first extremes, Teebs pulls both traditions toward the center, balancing the psychedelic quality of the music with a palpable sonic immediacy. It’s hard to disassociate the somatic contrast between weight and weightlessness from New Yorker Teebs’ adopted sunshine state. Rick Rubin’s beats were born of boomboxes on trains, Detroit techno’s future jazz filled the mechanical void left by shut-down factories, and Ardour was brought to you by dispensary-bought weed cookies and 90 bpm hip-hop records.
AN ALCHEMYShlohmo (a.k.a. Henry Laufer) has a gift for building tension by mining the space between wonder and terror. On 2011’s Bad Vibes, his intricate, skeletal rhythms invite close inspection, and the natural sounds and white noise textures have all the warmth of a down comforter, but the booby-trapped funk of “Just Us”—opening on a thread of light, blurpy synths and then boiling over in a wash of phantom electronics—makes you question just how safe this world really is. Laufer said that he was going through a rough patch when making this album, yet Bad Vibes reflects deeper, more ingrained burdens. Some are consumed by pain, fear, and insecurity, but Shlohmo transformed it into something beautiful.
RAZOR BLADE BEATSIf you stumbled into Low End Theory between 2008 and 2012, you felt Samiyam’s bass hit you so hard that it felt like you had a razor blade in your throat. The Ann Arbor transplant twisted synths into shrapnel, while his drums signaled an imminent sonic destruction. Samiyam’s 2011 release, Sam Baker’s Album, is an instrumental suite that is alternately gorgeous and gargoyle-heavy. Its innately infused with Samiyams grit and filth, and plucks diamonds from dirt, stars in soot, breathing artesian oxygen and then descending into a valley of smog. It reminds you that the beat scene was as far away from Hollywood as it was Hanoi.
JAZZ MUTATIONSThe influence of jazz on the beat scene is more spiritual than aesthetic. Before Kamasi Washington (who came later, and orbited the periphery), the scene produced only one true jazz artist —the young piano prodigy Austin Peralta. Peralta had a reputation as a live performer, and the recordings that have surfaced since his 2012 passing have taken on a near-mythical dimension. They are full of exuberance and wonder, with every chord revealing new avenues of sound. This willingness to push boundaries provides a through-line that connects Peralta to the larger beat scene.But experimentation is hollow without a handle on the fundamentals, and while Peralta’s live sets reached the farthest edges, his most important studio work, Endless Planets, is comparatively conservative. The piano and rhythm section do the bulk of the work, staying comfortably in pocket, with only a sparse smattering of electronics and a few ambient flourishes revealing the album’s progressive modernity. Endless Planets’ relatively reserved approach provides a launching pad for Peralta’s mutations, and established a link between the beat scene and a larger jazz tradition.
8-BIT BOOM RAPThough producer Jonwayne declares that Nintendo DS game Animal Crossing gave him the only semblance of structure in his life—understandable for a guy who used to work at Gamestop—he is first and foremost a hip-hop aficionado. He established his crate-digging bonafides by exalting criminally overlooked Pasadena crew Mad Kap, and he’s a devout follower of the cult of Busta. Still, it’s remarkable how nicely Jonwayne’s two obsessions dovetailed on his 2011 debut, Bowser. The eerie, descending keyboards of “Bowser I (Sigma Head)” evoke a King Koopa rampaging like Ice Cube’s dad in “Down for Whatever,” drunk and threatening to turn the party out, while “Beady Bablo”’s woozy, chiptune interpolation of “Freek-A-Leek” proves that Petey Pablo could have a second career stealing princesses from castles.SaveSaveSaveSave
On August 20, 2002, NYC was a much different place than it was just a year previous. Post-9/11, the air hung heavier, thick with apprehension and paranoia—exactly the type of environment ripe for an album as stunningly devastating as Interpols debut. Looking back 15 years, Turn on the Bright Lights remains the chiming centerpiece of 21st-century post-punk because it so acutely reflects its time and place of origin, while capturing a deep-seated malaise that would extend well past that time and place.Some 20-plus years before that, post-punk rose and fell with a sound that was so sharp and brutally real, there was no chance it could survive long. like PiL would invent it; bands like Joy Division would fully embody it. Their songs—tightly wound and always teetering on the edge of catharsis without ever fully realizing it—articulate that maddening clench in the pit of the stomach that refuses to ever completely let go. Its a similar feeling that Interpol intricately conveys on tracks like "PDA" and perfect album opener "Untitled," with its thick bass and quivering guitar jangle streaked in wavering drones. It doesnt hurt that Paul Banks stoic baritone fluctuates at the same low, dolorous tremble as Ian Curtis did.But where those pioneers stripped punks fiery brutality down to its starkest essence, Interpol also paint it in varying tones of goth and grey, echoing gloomy sonic architects like The Cure, Bauhaus, and Echo & The Bunnymen, whose seductive atmospherics, pounding rhythms, and damaged guitar jangle haunt slow-burning ballads like "NYC" and "Hands Away.”While Interpol may have found influence from dreary 80s England, their debut is purely rooted in early 00s New York. But youll never have needed to experience either time or place to wholly absorb the myriad shades of discontent—the disillusionment, dread, isolation, and alienation—rendered so achingly intoxicating on any one of these songs.
When Black Rebel Motorcycle Club sang, "Whatever Happened to My Rock n Roll" on their 2001 debut, they were gazing upon a contemporary rock landscape overpopulated with backward red baseball caps and greasy grunge-oil salesmen, and lamenting the lack of raw, raucous, life-changing (and corrupting) devils music on the radio. In this case, the complaining actually worked: Within a year, BRMC found themselves standing alongside The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, and many other disgruntled guitar-slingers, perched on the precipice of the last moment in history when the words "rock" and "revolution" could be uttered together with a straight face. And mobilizing right behind them were all the bands on this playlist——groups that may have enjoyed a few spins on Subterranean, earned a glossy magazine spread or two, got name-dropped by Jack White in an interview, or scored a prime opening slot on a Franz Ferdinand tour, but never quite achieved the same notoriety or longevity as the aforementioned acts.The early 2000s were, of course, a transformative moment in the music industry: The advent of mp3s and file-sharing opened up new portals for underground bands to achieve more widespread visibility; at the same time, old-school publications like NME and SPIN still wielded enough king-making power to anoint new rock saviors on a seemingly weekly basis, while labels were scooping up any band with unkempt hair and thrift-store blazers. The result was a cyclonic swirl of hype that sucked in MTV2-ready arena-indie acts (Longwave, Ambulance Ltd.), stylish post-punk revivalists (The Stills, Hot Hot Heat), unruly post-punk revivalists (Ikara Colt, Radio 4), unrulier post-hardcore miscreants (The Icarus Line, The Bronx), post-hardcore 70s-rock fetishists (Danko Jones, Rye Coalition), brainiac Brits (The Futureheads, Clearlake), seasoned garage acts gunning for a long-deserved close-up (Billy Childish with the Buff Medways, Mick Collins with the Dirtbombs), new-school misfits (The Ponys, The Gris Gris, Vietnam), and, thanks to The Hives surprise crossover success, an uncommon amount of Swedes (Sahara Hotnights, Division of Laura Lee, Mando Daio, The Concretes)——not to mention Canadians (The Deadly Snakes, Tangiers, The Marble Index), New Zealanders (The D4, The Datsuns), and Icelandians (Singapore Sling).Though a handful of these acts have managed to duke it out to this day, many didnt survive the 2000s. And a quick glance at this years Coachella line-up shows that the question posed by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the top of this post has, in the long run, only become more existentially pertinent. However, if the early 2000s garage-rock uprising didnt alter the course of popular music in the way its adherents had hoped, its impact can still be felt in less tangible ways. The eras blurring of indie aesthetics and mainstream aspirations has become manifest in everything from satellite-radio formats to boy bands sporting skinny jeans and salon-sculpted messy haircuts to the sheer number of annual alterna-festivals that didnt exist before 2001. Meanwhile, Lizzy Goodmans recent tell-all oral history Meet Me in the Bathroom has effectively mythologized the Strokes heyday for a new generation just as Please Kill Me did with the 70s CBGB scene (with a documentary adaptation to come). And right on cue, several long-dormant early-2000s phenoms——including Franz Ferdinand, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and BRMC——are resurfacing with new albums and/or reunion appearances; you can also expect 2018 releases from Jack White, ex-Walkmen singer Hamilton Leithauser, and Julian Casabalancas garage-prog side band The Voidz.But here, we remember those bygone would-be hype magnets who are less likely to fire up newsfeeds in 2018. Just as Lenny Kayes 1972 compilation Nuggets commemorated the countless short-lived garage bands that formed in the wake of the mid-60s British Invasion, this playlist forsakes the most hyped and heavily rotated bands of the 2000-2005 era to focus on the forgotten phenoms, unsung instigators, and steady-as-she-goes survivors who, in their own little ways, intensified the hysteria of that moment. (It also excludes groups like The Kills, The Black Keys, and Gossip, who, while still relatively under-the-radar at the time, would go on to much greater success. You may also note the absence of The Libertines, who quickly transcended their second-hand Strokes roots to spawn a landfill-indie legacy all their own.)This is a mix for anyone who actually bought a stellastar* single based on the NMEs recommendation, anyone who was momentarily convinced The Mooney Suzuki (pictured at top) were the future of rock n roll, and anyone who thought Elefant would be as big as Elephant. Our Cheap Monday jeans may not fit anymore and our once fulsome shag cuts may have given way to receding hairlines, but lets do a bump for old times sake——this bathrooms got your choice of 50 stalls.
The ’90s have never sounded better than they do right now—especially for modern-day indie rockers. There’s no shortage of bands banging around these days whose sound suggests formative phases spent soaking up vintage ’90s indie rock. Not that the neo-’90s sound is itself a new thing. As soon as the era was far enough away in the rearview mirror to allow for nostalgia to set in (i.e., the second half of the 2000s), there were already some young artists out there onboarding ’90s alt-rock influences. But more recently, there’s been a bumper crop of bands that betray a soft spot for a time when MTV still played music videos and streaming was just something that happened in a restroom. In this context, the literate, lo-fi approach of Pavement has emerged as a particularly strong strand of the ’90s indie tapestry, and it isn’t hard to hear echoes of their sound in the work of more recent arrivals like Kiwi jr. or Teenage Cool Kids. Cherry Glazerr frontwoman Clementine Creevy seems to have a feeling for the kind of big, dirty guitar riffs that made Pacific Northwestern bands the kings of the alt-rock heap once upon a time. The world-weary, wise-guy angularity of Car Seat Headrest can bring to mind the lurching, loose-limbed attack of Railroad Jerk. And laconic, storytelling types like Nap Eyes stand to prove that there’s still a bright future ahead for those who mourn the passing of Silver Jews main man David Berman. But perhaps the best thing about a face-off between the modern indie bands evoking ’90s forebears and the old-school artists themselves is the fact that in this kind of competition, everybody wins.
It may be that 2019 was the best year for ’90s metal since, well, 1999. Bands from the decade of Judgment Night re-emerged with new creative twists and tweaks: Tool stretched out into polyrhythmic madness, Korn bludgeoned with more extreme and raw despair, Slipknot added a new drummer (Max Weinberg’s kid!) who gave them a new groove, and Rammstein wrote an anti-fascism anthem that caused controversy in Germany (and hit No. 1 there too). Elsewhere, icons of the era returned in unique ways: Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor scored a superhero TV series, Primus’ Les Claypool teamed up with Sean Lennon for some quirky psych rock, and Faith No More’s Mike Patton made an avant-decadent LP with ’70s soundtrack king Jean-Claude Vannier. Finally, the soaring voice of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington returned for a moment thanks to Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton, who released a song they recorded together in 2017.
Taking a look at the playlists for my show on Boston’s WZBC might give the more seasoned college-radio listener a bit of déjà vu: They’re filled with bands like Versus, Team Dresch, and Sleater-Kinney, who were at the top of the CMJ charts back in the ’90s. But the records they released in 2019 turned out to be some of the year’s best rock. Versus, whose Ex Nihilo EP and Ex Voto full-length were part of a creative run for leader Richard Baluyut that also included a tour by his pre-Versus outfit Flower and his 2000s band +/-, put out a lot of beautifully thrashy rock; Team Dresch returned with all cylinders blazing and singers Jody Bleyle and Kaia Wilson wailing their hearts out on “Your Hands My Pockets”; and Sleater-Kinney confronted middle age head-on with their examination of finding one’s footing, The Center Won’t Hold.Italian guitar heroes Uzeda—who have been putting out proggy, riff-heavy music for three-plus decades—released their first record in 13 years, the blistering Quocumque jerceris stabit; Imperial Teen, led by Faith No More multi-instrumentalist Roddy Bottum, kept the weird hooks coming with Now We Are Timeless; and high-concept Californians That Dog capped off a year of reissues with Old LP, their first album since 1997. Juliana Hatfield continued the creative tear she’s been on this decade with two albums: Weird, a collection of hooky, twisty songs that tackle alienation with searing wit, and Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police, her tribute record to the dubby New Wave chart heroes (in the spirit of the salute to Olivia Newton-John she released in 2018). And our playlist finishes with Mary Timony, formerly of the gnarled rockers Helium and currently part of the power trio Ex Hex, paying tribute to her former Autoclave bandmate Christina Billotte via an Ex Hex take on “What Kind of Monster Are You?,” one of the signature songs by Billotte’s ’90s triple threat Slant 6.