In case you hadn't noticed, the '80s are back. They have been for a few years, but it seems like with each passing year we get more and more new bands wearing their influences on their sleeve. That's putting it mildly. The influence is, in fact, so pervasive as to make these bands practically offensive carbon copies of the originals.
The best, like any generation, blend their influences into their sounds to present us with something new that merely reminds us of the old. After all, Led Zeppelin copied blues artists relentlessly, yet no one would question that they took that and did their own thing with it.
This is seemingly a lost art, however, in an atmosphere where many have figured out the exact specs of the instruments used by the original musicians so as to copy their sounds even more efficiently. So consider this your guide to who's acting as a Xerox machine this year.
It's hard to imagine anyone making indie-pop less interesting in the current environment, but how about a fuzzed-out version of A Flock of Seagulls with "washed out" vocals in the background? That's apparently what DIIV is going for. Can someone please inform bands like this how to sing?
I liked the distant, faded vocals as much as the next guy at first, but it's time for someone to actually use their voice again, rather than standing 20 feet from the microphone while their band plays new wave.
For a (somewhat) dissenting opinion, see Tuesday's review of Metric at House of Blues -- ed.
I can't be the only one that thinks "Blondie" as soon as he hears this song and sees the video. Sure, it's updated for our "modern times," but it's the same attitude, the same synths being employed in the background, the same chords (just more distortion), and a sub-Debbie Harry singing and dancing.
The worst part is, I really like this against all better judgment. I see through what they're doing, but at least they're doing it really well.
3. Neon Indian
You know what? To call this one out actually hurts me because I very much enjoy Neon Indian's music. But chillwave as a genre is so blatantly indebted to the '80s as to be ridiculous in the first place. The Denton native, aka Alan Palomo, takes it to a whole new level with his brand of chillwave.
Oftentimes he cuts a lot of the ambient chillness, the only distinguishing factor of his genre, and just goes into pure dance jams. They're infectious, but who can deny how utterly, generically '80s many of them are? If Palomo could sing, he'd officially be living 25 years in the past. He sets himself apart purely through his whispery vocals.
2. How to Dress Well
Frank Ocean doing the '80s R&B thing -- cool. Tom Krell doing the '80s R&B thing - Michael McDonald. I mean, blue eyed soul has existed as a genre since the '60s, but it never seems to get any less annoying or tawdry. He has a reasonable facsimile of Prince's falsetto if Prince had a cold, but there's something blandly fake about it, regardless of his modern production techniques.
The sad thing is here, this is a killer beat. Krell's a great producer, but instead of doing an Anthony Hamilton impression, he should just get Anthony Hamilton to sing over it.
1. Twin Shadow
Twin Shadow apparently likes Depeche Mode and New Order so much that he decided to become them. That would be fine. I mean, don't we all want to grow up to be our heroes? The problem is, this guy doesn't have an ounce of originality in his body but he wants to be one of the most prolific geniuses of our era.
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SHOW ME HOW
He's full of high concepts, like a concept album with an accompanying novel expanding on the story and the obligatory short film videos to go with it all, but all it amounts to is such trumped up pretension as to be nauseating.
I mean, give me a break, if you want to be a revolutionary musical genius ala someone like Prince, shouldn't you at least possess some of the ingenuity and innovation that Prince had? Unfortunately, Mr. George Lewis Jr. is doing an exceptional job at the current time pulling the wool over the eyes of fans too young to remember who he's channeling.