Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pondering 001: 2009 Folk-Country Hipster Vortex

No Song-a-Day today, I have a question to ponder (be forewarned of swears):

What is going on with this Alt-Folk-Country-Bluegrass bleed into what would normally be the MPR/buzzcrowd leading edge of 'rock'? I understand that they don't really have a place in the Top 40 Country suckpit, and I understand that what hipsters like does not necessarily enter the rock canon, but frequently, it does. Why are alt-folk shows selling out rock venues? Bluegrass and alt-country have been existing quite happily on their own for DECADES without getting tangled up with the alt-mainstream. WTF, Hipsters. This shit, no matter how much I like it and otherwise consider it Very Fine Music, is not rock.

I do want to explain that I am annoyed beyond belief at a persistent lack of good terminology to describe the section of popular music that I'm trying to talk about. You might argue that the scoop-edge of hipsterdom doesn't count as 'popular,' since it may swirl around in there for a few months and then disappear. But it gets radio plays. It gets talked about in Rolling Stone. It sells out big venues in major cities. That's not really "under the radar," or a "stealth phenomenon" or whatever other goddamn euphemism music writers use to describe something that's still truly not widely known. I decided (today) to call it the alt-mainstream because there's a pretty good chance it's going to have staying power and ultimately shape the rock canon, regardless of any band or song's particular actual genre.

Ok. So. Exhibits A, B and, most damningly, C.

Exhibit A:Spirits of the Red City. These guys are quasi-itinerant troubadours who ping around between a couple of the major non-Eastern-seaboard music centers. I like them. Why are they on (what I perhaps erroneously think of as) my rock station?

Spirits of the Red City - Bottled Up (2009 I think)

Spirits of the Red City - Fire (2009)

Spirits of the Red City - Constant (2009)

Exhibit B:Mumford and Sons. I, I just, this is solid, amazing folky alt-country. Hurray. Yes it is edgy and a little angry. But hipsters, get your grubby paws off it. Do not make this the new rock standard, ok, because it is not fucking rock.

Mumford and Sons - Little Lion Man (2009) Listen for the under-implemented industrial noises. If that is your idea of throwing me some kind of bone, I am fucking unimpressed. Minute props for swearing.

Mumford and Sons - Roll Away Your Stone (2009)

Exhibit C:Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Home has a talkdown! I love a good talkdown, ok, but that is some motherfucking country bullshit right there. That is Highwaymen shit. WTF?

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Home (2009)

Is this the fucking Decemberists fault? Is this because of The Rake's Song, you guys? Yes, Irish-inspired angry folk-rock is awesome. The Decemberists know how to Junt It Up. That is what you do when you want to do angry folk-rock and get rock station plays. You guys are not getting the junty picture here.

The Decemberists - The Rake's Song (2009)

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