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“Hipster music.”

Date September 24, 2010

This video is slightly unrelated. I just didn’t have a picture to go with this post/wanted to make you all jealous. We were standing right underneath the Commerce Bank sign.

Last weekend, my co-worker/friend Dan and I ventured down to Columbia, Missouri to catch the Flaming Lips. It’s interesting that Dan decided to join me, since he had never actually heard the Flaming Lips, doesn’t go to concerts, and is not really interested in music. I think his main reason for wanting to tag along was to hang out with some people we knew down there. But since we were going to be spending 8+ hours in a car together, I had an idea. I decided that I was going to play Dan a bunch of songs from this year, and have him give me his thoughts on them. I thought it might be interesting to get opinions on some of my favorite stuff of the year from someone who recently un-ironically purchased Will Smith’s Greatest Hits. Once we were finished, I asked him to give me his overall impression of modern music based on what I played him. I wasn’t trying to discern some greater truth using an unbiased party, I just thought it would be fun to get an outsider’s view of something I really love.

A few notes: Dan’s thoughts are in regular type, while my comments are in italics. Dan decided to give things pluses, minuses, or nothing based on whether he really like it, really didn’t like it, or had no strong feelings toward it. You’ll find those next to the track name. Our conversation at the end was way more involved than either us had intended, so what is presented here is an edited down version of it. We also didn’t remember a lot of it, since we didn’t feel like writing it down at the time; we added it later from memory.

Also, Dan is an incredibly intelligent person, but like a lot of intelligent people he’s also an idiot. Some of the dumber comments here are not included so we can laugh at his lack of knowledge, but because I think his lack of common sense is pretty hilarious.

Here we go…

MP3 Chromeo – Night by Night (++)

“This sounds like a late 80s early 90s song.”

“Everything I’m playing is from this year.”

“I like what they do with his voice. The robot thing.”

“It’s called a vocoder.”

“It sounds cool. I really like this.”

MP3 Big Boy – Shutterbugg

“This is more interesting to listen to than most rap. Hey, it’s the vocoder! Did he just do a throw back to Wu-Tang Clan? I like that. The singers blend well with the music, too.”

“Is he better than Will Smith?”


MP3 Sleigh Bells – Crown on the Ground

“Slay, like you kill someone?”

“No, like ‘sleigh bells ring are you listening.'”

“Oh, sleigh! They sound like they would be very loud in concert, probably too loud for me. Her voice is not what I expected; it was soft and pleasant in contrast to the music. Is her voice distorted? It sounds pretty good. What is that? Is she blowing into the microphone? It kind of sounds like a futuristic sci-fi concert.”

MP3 Xiu Xiu – Chocolate Makes You Happy (-)

“This guy sounds like he is weird, like Willy Wonka. He sounds so weird. If you meet him in public you’d be like, ‘Wow, this guy is weird.'”

MP3 Titus Andronicus – A More Perfect Union (-)

“I don’t have much to say. I don’t really like this. I probably won’t listen to them again.”

MP3 Liars – Scissor

Dan didn’t say anything while this was playing. When I looked over at the notebook, all he had written was “hipster music.”

MP3 Arcade Fire – We Used to Wait (+)

“I like that it wasn’t too loud and I could understand what he was saying.”

“So you like this because it isn’t the other stuff we’ve been playing.”

“Pretty much. I love their sound, though.”

MP3 Beach House – Norway (+)

“This sounds like it would be really fun to dance to. Are those back up singers?”

“It’s all her.”

“I love the ‘ha ha ha’ part. The keyboard and the shakers are cool too.”

MP3 Curren$y – King Kong

“He has colorful lyrics. The keyboard sounds fun, too. I like how it’s kind of slow so you can hear what he’s saying.”

“What about him? Is he better than Will Smith?

“I don’t know. Probably not.”

MP3 Gil Scott-Heron – Your Soul and Mine (++)

“The music feels like a background to what he’s singing. I love the hand claps and how he progressively adds new instruments and sounds. I like how it seems like it’s all a story. I really like this. ”

MP3 Cee-Lo Green – Fuck You

“The music sounds exciting. I like his voice and the rhythm of the song. I like how it keeps building during the chorus. This is a really fun song.”

MP3 LCD Soundsystem – Drunk Girls

“They lyrics are funny, but it’s really repetitive. I don’t think I really like this.”

MP3 Broken Social Scene – Chase Scene

“I like the music. Maybe it’s because I’m so tired, but the words just seem like they’re blending in with the music. I wish I could hear what they were singing.”

MP3 Hot Chip – I Feel Better

“I love the strings. I like how it breaks it down into a dance beat. I like the girl’s voice, too.”

“It’s actually a guy.”

“That was a dude?”

MP3 The Tallest Man on Earth – King of Spain

“He has fun lyrics. That is some great guitar playing, too. I like how fast he plays. His voice sounds strained, though.”

MP3 Robyn – Hang With Me (-)

“This seems really simple, like not a lot of effort went into making it. It has a simple beat and chords and all the focus is on her voice. But the lyrics are really simple too. It’s kind of catchy, but it doesn’t seem that well made. OK, I think I’ve heard enough.”

Dan made me turn off the song before it was finished.

“What kind of music do you normally listen to?”

“I mostly listen to classical and jazz, but if I’m not annoyed with people’s voices I listen to 80s and 90s music.”

“Based on what I’ve played, which is a fairly decent cross-section of modern music, what do you think about modern music?”

“Well, it’s very creative. Why isn’t this kind of stuff more popular?”

“A lot of it comes down to money. Most of these bands are on smaller labels that don’t have the resources or money to really promote them like a major label could.”

“So they could be more popular if they had more money?”

“Basically, yeah. Since the labels can’t promote the bands as well as a major could, people without the time or resources to find out about this kind of stuff just never hear it unless someone plays it for them. Although not every band wants to be super popular.”

“Well, I obviously belong to that larger, lazier mass of people. Overall, the music was enjoyable and pleasant to listen to. Though, some of the voices, like the men who sounded like women, were not your standard sex symbol type of voice.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Seems to me, most major pop stars are sex symbols first and artists second.”

“So you equate pop music with sex?

“Isn’t that the point of pop music?”

“I guess I can’t totally disagree with that. What do you think? Has any of this made you care more about music?

“Let me ask you first: Why do you like this stuff?”

“For me, a lot of it comes down to discovery, hearing something I really love that I didn’t know about before. It becomes an addiction. Take Gil Scott-Heron. You loved him, but if we hadn’t done this you probably never would have heard him. That’s kind of what it’s about. Then you move on and try and find something you love just as much as Gil Scott-Heron. You collect the things you love, while always looking out for something new that could be just as good or better.”

“I didn’t search for new and obscure bands before because I always equated the music with people who were rebelling for the sake of rebelling.”

“So you kind of thought they were unpopular because they wanted to be unpopular?

“Not that they wanted to be unpopular but they wanted to be out of the mainstream. When I was growing up I was in a totaly different culture than the group of people around me that liked non-mainstream stuff. They seemed to like non-mainstream stuff solely to like non-mainstream stuff. But what you explained about money and labels makes sense. Its not that they don’t want to be not popular, some of the bands just want to do their own thing. Now I see alot of them have an intense hunger for creativity that is only obscure because of money or major label restrictions on content. Although I could maybe see it becoming an addiction, like you said. An addiction to finding new and creative artists that I will love for their talent and their simple joy of making music for music’s sake, whether it’s mainstream or not.”

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29 Responses to ““Hipster music.””

  1. Thomas Hank$ said:

    what did he think of flying lotus?
    did you even play him panda bear?

  2. Gareth said:

    Your coworker Dan sounds like a douchebag.

  3. Luke said:

    Wow. Really enjoyed this post. I’ve had many similar conversations with some of my friends/co-workers. You’re like a music evangelist, spreading the good news of creative music.

  4. Eddie said:

    That is such a great post.

    I don’t think Dan is a douchebag like Gareth wrote (even though I understand why he would think that), most of my friends would have had worst reactions (by that I mean more idiotic reflexions about the songs) and they’re not douchebags. They’re just satisfied with what is offered to them in terms of music, which is so superficial. They listen to the tip of the iceberg while we (“we” as in “the music lovers who read several blogs and websites to discover new stuff because we need our new music fix every day”) are constantly digging into the immerged part of the iceberg (that metaphor works in french, sorry if it’s gibberish for you guys, lol). It’s not a question of taste or douchebagging (?) but a question of involvement in the whole “discovering new music” thing.

    I may have digressed here, sorry :)

  5. Sam. said:

    Cuss yeah, great post!

    Your ride with Dan (who is not a douche; to my home state) illustrates the kind of relationship my sister and I have when it comes to music. If it’s not handed to her on a platter, it’ll never hit her eustachian tubes. She’s got two daughters now and I pride myself on the great mostly-unknown music my son is being raised on so I’ve really been pushing it lately. She’s getting down with it now though, after absolutely hating everything I ever listened to in the past ten years simply because we were so different and because *I* was listening to it.

    Saturdays morning she’s here with the girls now while I search for new tunes and satisfy the music fix we all seem to share. She’s on board and frankly, she’s a better, more creative and self-aware person for it and that’s no shit.

    Damn, I digress too. Apparently it’s contagious :).

  6. Taylor said:

    What did Dan think about the Flaming Lips show?

  7. chris said:

    fun read – cool contrast. rare to find such a voice in our tiny little blog-world.

  8. tastyswannn said:

    No, no…its true…Dan is a douche

  9. Dan said:

    @Taylor, I enjoyed the concert and there was more I wrote on it. I will say that I would either prefer to listen to flamming lips from farther back or just on CD, the noise level was just too much for me.

  10. Jenny said:

    I love the pace of this conversation, haha, great post! Where did you see the show? The Blue Note? I’ve seen many a great band play there…

  11. Ben said:

    I don’t see how anyone who would consent to spend an 8-hr car ride listening to music he’s never heard of, and then consent to letting his thoughts and opinions (and gaps in knowledge, which we all have) reproduced in public could possibly be considered a douche.

    Thanks – this was a great post.

  12. Dave said:

    Not to be that guy, but Chromeo uses a talkbox in that song, not a vocoder. There’s a difference, and by God, I just can’t let Dan be misinformed.

  13. Matt said:

    Woah, I had no idea this post was going to go over this well. It’s pretty nice to come home from work to these kinds of comments. They’ve been fun to read and I’m glad you all dig it so much. Feel free to keep the digressions coming.

    Dave: I appreciate the correction. Someone needs to be that guy, it might as well be you.

    Also, I agree with Gareth. Dan is a total douche.

  14. Robin said:

    Very cool guy, seems far more interesting that most of the friends I would talk to about this stuff. I think it might be because he listens to Jazz and Classical, creating a far more open mind about this stuff.

  15. Hana said:

    I don’t think Dan is a douche. I just think he’s honest. When I show some of my friends the music I listen to they act like it’s amazing when I know they really dislike it. It’s nice that he agreed to try new experiences. I laugh and agree with his Willy Wonka comment.

  16. Bobet said:

    this is really a good read.

  17. Ryu said:

    Very interesting read

  18. Taylor said:

    I agree! This was very interesting! Thanks for posting.

  19. Mad said:

    Fantastic post! Too often we (read: I) judge people because they don’t listen to “hipster music”. But this doesn’t make these people douches. It just means they have other priorities and tastes. I agree with Matt that it’s interesting to hear the opinion of someone uninvolved with “unpopular” music, someone less concerned with appearing “indie” & as though they know everything there is to know about music. Great read (well edited, too).

  20. Kent said:

    I loved this.

    The way this entire conversation was formulated.
    The music.

    The way that Dan connects pop music with sex is a great point of view that I would not have expected out of this experiment.

    This is a perfect example of we the music discoverers vs.(in a passive way) those not effected by new music.

    Thank You

  21. aaron said:

    “Dan didn’t say anything while this was playing. When I looked over at the notebook, all he had written was “hipster music.””

    Gonna steal and use that.

  22. Will said:

    Great idea/post man. I really enjoyed reading this!

  23. Amber said:

    Great read. Thanks for sharing, man! I get so wrapped up in my indie bubble, it’s interesting to read what people who aren’t into “hipster music” think of it.

  24. Jon Moss said:

    So glad I came across your site. Like Dan, I didn’t know about any of this music. Because of a video project I had to find some hip, indie music for a soundtrack. After listening to all your suggestions above, I’m going to explore the scene further. Big thanks for the post!!!

    btw…here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFGwk-IbCsk

  25. TWard said:

    Loved this post! Happy to have a new blog to add to my weekly music rounds 😀

  26. Mr. Shuffleupagus said:

    Hilarious. Great post.

  27. Adam said:

    You should go on another trip with Dan so he can hook you up with all the flame jazz and classical.

    If you do please report back for us.

  28. Jason said:

    The Pharmalistos

    You’re going to dig this- just sayin.

  29. wall art said:

    Cheers mate, thanks for the writings.