Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Superlative "indie pop"

Today's featured tracks, from Lykke Li and Foster The People keep getting described as "indie pop" or "alternative pop". This seems to be hipster code for "songs with big choruses that it's ok to like without being laughed out of the common room". Previous exponents of the genre include MGMT and Peter, Bjorn and John.

I hate this sort of pseudo-scientific categorisation of music into cool and uncool. It's the sort of approach that explains why rock music has just suffered its worst year on the top 40 since 1960. The Beatles, The Kinks, The Smiths, Oasis, Blur - none of them were afraid of a gallumphing great hook. Even venerable indie band template The Velvet Underground had their sights set on the charts (it's just that their aim was a bit wonky).

Looking cool is no subsitute for a great tune. The Kings Of Leon admitted as much recently, when Caleb said the band had nearly erased Use Somebody after realising the chord progression was the same as Joe Cocker's Up Where We Belong. Eventually, they decided the song was too good to lose and - hey presto! - world domination.

In their defence, the current crop of rock bands are probably a direct reaction to the cheeky chappy indie landfill "scene" of 2005-8. No-one wants to be the next Scouting For Girls (and I don't know many people who'd volunteer to be the first). But with new records on the horizon from Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys, I'm sure rock will sort itself out by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, we have two new singles to discuss, regardless of their classification.

Swedish popstrudel Lykke Li previews her second album, Wounded Rhymes, with the excellent I Follow Rivers. Already available on iTunes in some countries, it ramps up the percussion of the lascivious Get Some, released as a free download last year. It also adds MASSIVE HANDCLAPS. Have I mentioned before that every song in the history of song would benefit from massive handclaps? Even Candle In The Wind.

Lykke Li - I Follow Rivers

Next we have Foster The People, a quartet from LA who impressed us last year with their catchy summer groove Pumped Up Kicks. This new single, Helena Beat, has a similarly carefree chorus, aligned to a sinister lyric about drinking poison. You may be surprised to learn that the vocals are sung by a man. Do they put oestrogen in California's water supply, or what?

Helena Beat // Foster The People

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