That New, Mellow Sound

“The latest musical climate — perhaps a sonic reply to the sluggish, humid global warming trend — is rootsy, VU folk-pop à la Beach Boys.”

I wrote that nearly a month ago, after the hype surrounding the new Fleet Foxes and Beach House records. Hoping it was a phase and nothing to get overly excited about, I saved it to my drafts. But after reviewing this week’s Canadian college music chart, I discovered a band from Calgary called Women, and — alas! — the lo-fi, lazy movement continues with surprising strength…you know…because the music is so sluggish…where would they get the energy…oh, forget it.

Now, I understand the appeal: aren’t we tired of the bombastic, excitable baroque-pop that nearly makes us want to dance (but of course we would never really dance because we are too cool for dancing)? Could we perhaps non-dance to something other than that overwrought “meatslicer” beat? Wouldn’t we rather just take a huge break from this complicated “indie” thing? Well, I’d like to. I’ve renounced indie before…but I do not necessarily condone this new business that’s going on. My problem is that I’ve heard it all before. I’ve listened to Pet Sounds and that Velvet Underground box set with the banana on the cover and everything by David Bowie and the Beatles and, well, shouldn’t we be moving forward? I loved Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach, the “Wall of Sound” and the 60’s. But what about onwards and upwards? With our songwriting and our production? References to the past are lovely and intriguing, but a band’s entire thing being a reference to the past? Too quaint. Far too much so.

Well, I guess you could just shove this back into my face and tell me to go listen to Girl Talk and Crystal Castles. But I can’t listen to that stuff because it has its own problems.

I suppose I am continuously trying to cope with our saturated modern musical climate. You know, I was a huge Elvis Costello fan in uni, and as fromaggio as he can be at times (Shipbuilding Good Year For the Roses, anyone?…Wotty, you win.) you’d be hard up to find talent like his anymore. It’s few and far between, being a good songwriter and then presenter of those songs, both live and on record. I noticed that the Elvis Costello wiki classifies him in earnest as both punk rock and new wave. Nowadays if you’d see some new band classified the same way, their music would you’d probably make you want to: 1. vomit, then 2. commit suicide.

Maybe this new, mellow sound can be likened to the popularity of ambient music in the 90’s with musicians like The Orb and Aphex Twin: everybody needed a break from all that serious, alternative stuff. In conclusion, The Besnard Lakes is to Bloc Party as Global Communication was to Nirvana.

7 Replies to “That New, Mellow Sound”

  1. Your erudite commentary is very insightful. I almost feel part of the music scene after reading your words.Wish I knew more about it.
    Your blog is so diversified and interesting. Thanks!

  2. Shipbuilding anyone? You’re going to shit on Shipbuilding? I may have to stop reading this blog. I mean the poetry of the lyrics alone. Shipbuilding in WWII = monuments to death and all of that. And Chet B. on the ‘pet! I’m a little disappointed in you.

    It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
    By the women and children
    Soon we’ll be shipbuilding
    Well I ask you
    BUT I’LL BE BACK BY CHRISTMAS’ [no he won’t!]
    It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
    Somebody said that someone got filled in
    For saying that people get killed in
    The result of this shipbuilding

  3. Dear Wotty,

    Are you serious? Could you please identify in my blog where I say the song is shit, or that the lyrics are crap? I just say it’s cheesy in the context of Costello, the new wave, punk rocker. I had the urge, when I was writing the blog to go into the fact that he was also described in his wiki as “pub rock,” which led into the notion of his amazing ability as a raconteur; preserving a strong British folk heritage. But I resisted the urge to get too Costello-y in my blog. I think Shipbuilding is an amazing song: and it is totally a testament to modern poetry.

    But he DID marry Diana Krall, so…

    …I DEFY you to stop reading this blog…I know you can’t resist…

  4. Hi

    I love reading your blog and agree with your view on Fleet Foxes. Here in the UK the music press are heralding them as the saviors of music. It’s boring, lifeless and some of the lyrics are simply awful!

    I’d also like to say that No Cities Left is an amazing album and the Dears should be as big as Radiohead!

    Marc (Dear Acetate)

  5. wotty would like to think that we all win. and, no, I can’t resist you, and, yes, the diana k business was, how do I say, beyond calamitous. but, still, he is elvis après tout… (and you are yanchak etc. etc., in the midst of life etc. etc.)

  6. Hmmm, I’m also noticing that also ‘genre splicing’ (as I call them) bands are making a big appearance as well. Groups like Vampire Weekend, MGMT,Yeasayer, Dengue Fever and Gogol Bordello (etc etc) are getting heap loads of hype.

    What do you think of those bands?

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