Seth Cohen

Ten years ago today, five words forever changed the nebulous concept known as indie rock: “Welcome to the O.C., bitch.” That dialogue was in the pilot of Fox’s teen soap opera The O.C., but you already knew that. The fact that it’s virtually impossible to imagine a reader of this website who isn’t aware of the show underlines the notion that it played a huge part in the genre’s trajectory this past decade — and in tastemakers’ retreat from it.

Let’s not belabor the whole “What does indie rock even mean?” thing. Yeah, “indie” is short for independent, and somewhere along the line it shifted from a description of a business model to a description of a musical style, at which point it was distended, like “grunge” and “alternative” and “new wave” and “punk” and “metal” and “rock” before it, beyond coherence. The O.C. played a pivotal role in that process. Still, even at this late date, you know indie rock when you hear it, whether in classicist forms like Parquet Courts and Cloud Nothings or modernized festival tentpoles like TV On The Radio and Spoon and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It’s intangible but unmistakable — a designation you’d assign to Liz Phair’s shambolic underground smash Exile In Guyville but never her radio-baiting Liz Phair.

Back in June, I argued that a move like Phair’s much-maligned pop crossover attempt in 2003 never would have provoked so much outrage in 2013. The thesis was basically that “poptimism” — the unapologetic embrace of pop music once deemed distasteful by critical elites — had been internalized to the point that your average straw-hipster is more likely to fawn over Justin Timberlake or Beyonce than the Walkmen or the National, and that becoming a superstar, even “selling out” to become a superstar, is now applauded rather than shunned. It ended like so: “In 2013, poptimism is the air we breathe. Why that happened is a complicated argument for another essay.” If there was ever an occasion for that essay, it’s the tenth anniversary of The O.C., a major player in the gentrification that helped drive away the kind of people who think of themselves as cutting-edge.

In the most basic sense, Josh Schwartz’s instant-hit drama was 90210 for a new generation — much more so than the actual next-gen 90210 that sprung up a few years later. Foundationally, it was your average teen soap, with contrived love triangles, the requisite dovetailed adult storylines and impossibly beautiful twentysomething actors portraying impossibly beautiful high school students. But thanks in large part to music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, the woman who almost singlehandedly made indie rock the soundtrack to Hollywood’s adolescent industrial complex, The O.C. heavily accessorized college radio’s accessible side from the (frankly glorious) Phantom Planet theme music on down. Whereas the Flaming Lips’ famed guest spot on Beverly Hills: 90210 was a one-off oddity, an unexpected burst of weirdness on an otherwise straitlaced show, (ostensibly underground) indie rock was absorbed into The O.C.’s (pointedly mainstream) DNA from the beginning, the television equivalent of wearing band T-shirts for cool points. The series literally packaged and sold the music as a lifestyle product, releasing six volumes’ worth of Music From The O.C. compilations that — with all due respect to Pinback — are basically NOW! That’s What I Call Music with an Urban Outfitters makeover.

The aesthetic was personified by Adam Brody’s solipsistic geek-hunk Seth Cohen, for whom an obsession with Death Cab for Cutie was a defining character trait. As Sharon Steel explained last year, “Seth continuously mentioned how intrinsic Death Cab were to understanding who he was as a human being, a misanthrope, and a lover of unconventionally cool, under-the-radar things.” Never mind that underneath the outsider posturing, he was just an awkward privileged white dude who idolized the hottest girl in school for reasons almost entirely related to conventional standards of beauty, glamor and prestige. Trust me, I know these things from experience. Part of the reason The O.C. was so successful at first was how many people identified with the well-drawn Cohen character, whom series creator Schwartz modeled in his own self-image.

People like me gravitated toward Cohen — and, in turn, The O.C. — because he was filling a void. It’s not like pop culture was bereft of music geeks in the years leading up to The O.C., what with High Fidelity and Gilmore Girls (which gave Brody his big break playing Dave Rygalski, a more self-assured version of Seth Cohen) both emerging in 2000. But the characters in those stories gravitated toward the sounds of a previous generation. They occasionally mentioned contemporary artists like the Beta Band or Belle and Sebastian, but more often the conversation shifted toward decades-old works by the likes of David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, The Bangles, and Jimmy Cliff. John Cusack’s Rob Gordon and Lauren Graham’s Lorelai Gilmore were hip, but they could have been my babysitters or even my parents. Even the music-obsessed youths of Stars Hollow seemed more fascinated by the canon than the here and now. For better and worse, Seth Cohen felt like a peer, a product of my era, one of pop culture’s first avatars of “indie.” He embodied “adorkable” before the word was even a twinkle in a Fox executive’s eye.

That was no accident. Cohen’s name-drops were as target-marketed as his possessive longing for Summer Roberts, both with suburban white boys like me in the crosshairs. Hearing someone speak my language on a hit TV series was a thrill, and seeing some of my favorite bands get such a prominent spotlight was surreal. I didn’t fully grasp it at the time, but this raised all the usual questions about exploitation vs. exposure, cultural tourism and allowing the “wrong” kinds of fans into the club. I was partially blind to these questions because like Cohen, I latched onto this music because I liked how it felt, not because I cared what it meant. To someone who got into indie rock primarily for the DIY ideals, I was probably the “wrong” kind of fan too.

I definitely didn’t object to The O.C.’s conflation of indie rock with a luxurious, upwardly mobile lifestyle, which only intensified in Season 2. Much of the action took place at the fictional Newport Beach venue The Bait Shop, where bands including the Walkmen, Modest Mouse and, yes, Death Cab stopped by to perform multiple songs while the drama of the week unfolded. (Also the Killers, who were being marketed as an indie band back then on the heels of the dance-punk craze. Remember their feud with the Bravery? Alternately, remember the Bravery?) The bands that were cashing in didn’t seem to mind either; Death Cab and Modest Mouse glossed up their sounds significantly and rode the zeitgeist to crossover success. Numerous artists premiered music on the show, including Beck, who debuted five tracks from Guero in a single “Beckisode” (ugh). The series lost cultural clout with a confounding Season 3 and limped to a premature conclusion in a partially redemptive Season 4. No matter; by the time it went off the air in 2007 it had already foreshadowed a whole new genre of entertainment.

In The O.C.’s wake came a wave of gentrified indie cinema: first Garden State (in which Manic Pixie Natalie Portman notoriously touted the life-changing power of the Shins’ “New Slang”), then Juno (in which teen parents Ellen Page and Michael Cera serenaded each other with a Moldy Peaches song), then (500) Days of Summer (in which Zooey Deschanel sheepishly grinned, “You have good taste in music,” to Joseph Gordon-Levitt and, by extension, every Smiths-listening indie doofus in the world). Meanwhile, Schwartz’s next teen soap, Gossip Girl, shifted its focus to an even more absurdly wealthy setting, bringing Patsavas’ indie playlist along for the ride. By the time the decade was over, she also lent her programming prowess to the Twilight franchise, a series with all the self-indulgent brooding of The O.C. but none of the self-deprecating quirk.

At this point, the thought of indie rock soundtracking pablum like Twilight doesn’t seem crazy. It’s just the natural order of things, a typical convergence of big-budget industries in a landscape where brands steal the spotlight from bands and nobody blinks (except maybe at the light show). It was bound to happen the moment Brooklyn’s early-aughts music scene was anointed as the new epicenter of cool and newspapers started publishing trend pieces on “hipster” culture, just like they did with “grunge” a decade prior. (The New York Times, which has made a cottage industry out of hipster reportage, was already chronicling the big-money dilution of Williamsburg nine days before The O.C. premiered: “To some extent, the self-proclaimed hipster capital of New York, if not the world, was a victim of its own P.R. As the neighborhood’s cachet started to rise, so did rents.”)

Following the usual pattern of co-option (perhaps I can interest you in a period piece on the “Summer Of Love” or the “Spirit Of ’77″? Wrong nostalgia cycle?), The O.C. was capitalizing on “indie” as the currency of cool even as it opened the very floodgates that diluted the genre beyond repair or recognition. As more and more listeners funneled into the audience, the music being touted under the indie banner got a lot softer and increasingly more accessible. Indie moved from “House Of Jealous Lovers” to Justin Vernon’s cabin in just half a decade, then was awkwardly stretched to fit bands that don’t pass the know-indie-when-you-hear-it test, from the post-emo pop wailers Fun. to the DMB-reminiscent Lumineers and Mumford & Sons. In 2009, Andrew Bird — exactly the sort of Soft Batch approachable-sophisticate that has come to represent the indie industrial complex — rejected “indie rock” as the province of haircuts and fashion, prompting Idolator’s Maura Johnston to wonder where the term ranked among the world’s most meaningless musical labels. In one of 2012′s best works of cultural criticism, Spin’s Chris Weingarten noted, “’Edge’ once was something you could lose in an LCD Soundsystem song; now Edge is a luxury condo you can buy on the Williamsburg waterfront starting at $1.7 million. No sleep till that!”

So of course the early adopters got the hell out of there, just like O.G. Sub Pop stans did in the ’90s when “alternative” devolved all the way to Tonic and Vertical Horizon. Back in the Clinton era, the underground scattered from the spotlight toward IDM, backpack hip-hop, jazzy post-rock and other brainy niche genres that had little chance of catching on with a wide audience. The ones who still craved the melody and compact songcraft of alt-rock dug deeper into indie rock or went all-in on Britpop. In the aughts, that pattern repeated to a certain extent, with some indie-rock refugees gravitating toward extreme, abrasive music like black metal and Yeezus-style aggro-EDM. But just as many have aligned themselves with pop superstars, the kind of performers once assumed to represent the antithesis of forward-thinking taste.

The exodus toward the Hot 100 could be perceived as a right turn or a reflexive attempt to subvert the well-worn “hipster” stereotype, but it’s more likely intended as a progressive gesture. See, the commodification of indie rock happened to coincide with the rise of poptimism, a rejection of the so-called “rockist” values that dominated the discourse for decades. In 2004, Kelefa Sanneh effectively defined rockism in his widely circulated takedown of it: “A rockist isn’t just someone who loves rock ’n’ roll, who goes on and on about Bruce Springsteen, who champions ragged-voiced singer-songwriters no one has ever heard of. A rockist is someone who reduces rock ’n’ roll to a caricature, then uses that caricature as a weapon. Rockism means idolizing the authentic old legend (or underground hero) while mocking the latest pop star; lionizing punk while barely tolerating disco; loving the live show and hating the music video; extolling the growling performer while hating the lip-syncher.” As Sanneh explained, rockism is impossible to separate from “older, more familiar prejudices — that’s part of why it’s so powerful, and so worth arguing about.”

Sanneh summed up a rising tide that has since all but subsumed music criticism: that there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure, that so much of what has been dismissed as guilty pleasure in the past happens to be genres dominated by women and minorities, that an embrace of such so-called guilty pleasures is an implicit rejection of racism, patriarchy and elitism. That’s a good thing! Such a course-correction was needed, lest critics and tastemakers ignore vast swaths of powerful music. But of course in some circles poptimism has become just as dogmatic as the rockist machine it rages against. As with any corrective against privilege and prejudice, the anti-rockist backlash is difficult to critique without seeming to defend the oppressors, particularly when the argument is coming from a white male whose parents paid his rent in college. (Hi, Mom.) Still, I think Jody Rosen was correct in his 2006 response to Sanneh: “Ideally, poptimism shouldn’t be about critics working through their daddy issues and straining to prove that they’re hipper than Greil Marcus. It should be about openness to all kinds of music — including music that seems to embody rockist ideals.”

Don’t cry for indie rock — judging from the still-booming festival market and all those sold-out amphitheater shows touring through my town, it ain’t exactly hurting at the box office — I just think it’s fascinating that by becoming popular, indie seems to have forfeited the right to be hip. (Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, right?) Thanks in large part to gentrification spurred on by The O.C., indie rock is perceived as comfort food, the music of yuppies, the opposite of vanguard. If you want to pop wheelies on the zeitgeist, you dabble in EDM or R&B or hip-hop or black metal — anything but indie rock, “the bad thing Pavement hath wrought.” Even pop-country upstarts like Eric Church and Kacey Musgraves are catching up to indie rock’s tentpole bands in terms of critical buzz. It’s hard to take Taylor Swift seriously when she cites an “indie record that’s much cooler than mine” because in 2013, Taylor Swift is cooler than most indie bands. Even Phish is getting a second look; can Dave Matthews be far behind?

The most critically revered bands in the indie rock milieu today are the ones who cover Robin Thicke or collaborate with R. Kelly, and those bands are the same ones that already sound least like indie rock’s raw, guitar-centric platonic ideal. Acts that adopt the sounds of ’90s basement shows are celebrated — the likes of Japandroids, Waxahatchee, and Speedy Ortiz but they read as retro. Other, more Americana-infused iterations are frequently dismissed as dad-rock — think Wilco, the National, the Hold Steady. And maybe dad-rock is the right terminology for a genre whose primary fan base includes plenty of first-time parents right now, parents who listen to NPR on the way to Whole Foods. For better or worse, indie rock has settled down into a comfortable life of luxury, nostalgia and privilege. Seth Cohen is all grown up, and he looks a lot like his parents.

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Comments (108)
  1. Wilco is dad rock? Oh man, I’m old.

  2. I’ve always thought of indie rock as a genre with an ever-changing palette of sounds, instrumentation, and styles because, like, “indie music” tends to be the new stuff.

    Bands get popular; it happens. It seems as though you want “indie” to only define the stuff you listened to in your college days. The only newer bands I heard you positively name drop were those that played “classicist forms” (oh yeah, except Taylor Swift…dude).

    Gotta be honest, when you guys mostly cover the newest hip-hop acts, metal, and tabloid-esque news, I get the feeling you’re just not looking hard enough.

  3. I listen to NPR and dad-rock on the way to Whole Foods, but then again, I AM from Connecticut. It’s just what we do.

    Great article, though I would make the argument that I always make when talking about “indie” music – that the term is so vague and far-reaching (a point that the author did make) that it encompasses both the accessible sound that’s become more and more mainstream (The Shins, Arcade Fire, etc.) AND totally weird, obscure and/or underground-ish music that isn’t EDM, hip-hop or black metal (Majikal Clouds, Dirty Beaches, Kurt Vile). In that way, I think the term itself is dead – it encompasses so much that it actually means nothing. What we see now – niche music and pop music alike reaching more and more open-minded listeners – is as much a result of internet culture and the mass availability of various types of music as it is a reaction to the “gentrification” of indie music. That shows like The OC were able to capitalize on this “zeitgeist” is more a reflection of a cultural movement that was already, and inevitably, in progress, and not a harbinger of it.

    My (long) two cents.

    • i definitely agree that, at this point in time, it’s a thoroughly useless term. and at the risk of publicly outing myself as extremely nerdy, your comment actually makes me think about my own itunes library – back when i first made the jump from winamp to itunes, i took on the weeks-long task of relabeling the ID3 tags to all of my songs, so as to achieve a perfectly uniform library (yes, i am that guy), and i had to decide what to do with the “genre” fields. deciding that i didn’t want to go the route of niche genres, i kept it simple and broad: “indie rock,” “hip-hop,” “classic rock,” and so forth.

      i’ve stuck with that format throughout, but now, 9 years down the road, the “indie rock” section encompasses everything from the breeders to fleet foxes, from wilco to bjork, from titus andronicus to sigur ros – you get the picture. put otherwise, it’s become the genre graveyard for anything that has guitars and was made after the grunge era (or before, in select cases). and with a lot of new stuff i add to the library nowadays, i’ll have that moment where i’m not sure if it’s more “indie rock” or “electronic,” and then i decide that i don’t care and just throw it in the indie rock category. i’m looking at you, starfuckers and MGMTs of the world.

  4. I’ve always been a dabbler of sorts as far as listening to a lot of different music and trying to find music I like in all sorts of different places, but I’ve gotten very bored with a lot of current “indie” (though I also haven’t been listening to very much new music at all, mainly just digging into past music that I haven’t heard before). For one thing, it’s funny how all this seems to match up with the constant flood of indie rock reunions of bands that can make money off of their now grown-up fanbase. And a lot of bands that are constantly reviving some past style of music.

  5. Indie Rock Gentrification: it’s like regular gentrification, but whiter.

  6. “because in 2013, Taylor Swift is cooler than most indie bands.”

    I can never accept this.

    I understand that statement was made to make the “indie rock isn’t hip anymore” ideal more jarring, but even in the face of a deteriorating movement, that’s just a hard pill to swallow. Could someone please explain to me why this statement is accepted by indie music critics and fans? I’m not one to dismiss pop music as low or unimportant. Really, it’s probably way more important to music on a whole than that Bandcamp group who only made 500 tapes of their EP. But I’ve tried to find something of merit in Taylor Swift’s music, but I just can’t. And it’s not like when I disagree with my friends about whatever artist Pitchfork is shilling that month, because I understand (most of) the music they cover was created to stimulate thought first and foremost, so you can appreciate the effort even if you don’t like the music. But Swift? She creates hollow slop marketed to 13 year old girls that’s completely devoid of any crossover adult appeal. There’s just nothing there. Nothing. Why is she “cool”?

    • yeah, i’m also at a loss to understand that one. granted, i’ve only heard her radio singles, but it seems to me that it’d be no different than if indie critics decided to unironically embrace britney spears circa 2003.

      • But didn’t they? Wasn’t Toxic fairly loved amongst music critics?

        • ah, you’re right. i was thinking more so along the lines of “oops i did it again” era britney. shoulda given her a quick wikipedia before typing.

        • Yeah but I think that was more of a “blind squirrel” situation.
          I don’t recall any critic saying a positive word about her other than that one track, so I don’t think it was like a “Britney is cool” thing as much as it was a huge pop song with critical acclaim.
          Also if you google “huge pop song with critical acclaim,” the Toxic wiki page is the top result.

    • Yea, I don’t personally know any music aficionados who’ve accepted the “Taylor Swift deserves to be on year’s best lists” narrative being sold by most music critics. I’ve never gotten it either. If anything she seems to be getting a pass because her music isn’t AS bad as some of the other popular music being played ad nauseum, but still, that doesn’t make her music good – it just makes her music not as bad.

    • I think the idea is that it’s cooler to like the “uncool.” The notion that liking the cheesy, vapid presentation of Taylor Swift is regarded as more “hip” than the DIY indie rockers that maybe take themselves a little too seriously.

      But, I see your point and I agree. Whether it’s “cool” to “like” Taylor Swift or not, I sure as hell don’t ENJOY it. And that’s the real key isn’t it? Good tunes, is good tunes.

      • I thought about a sick sense of irony or protest of the too-serious nature of some bands being what is probably fueling most of Taylor Swift’s popularity among indie critics, but I kind of wanted to believe that the supposed tastemakers and career boosters were above moronic shit like that. Especially when you have brand new acts like Savages, who consider their album a motherfucking cultural manifesto, receiving critical acclaim, and Savages is about as serious as you can get.

        • Yeah, you’d like to think certain people are above that, but…that’s not how humans work haha. Trends come and go and inevitably affect what gets made. Even a direct middle finger to current trends is a “response” to trends. The best music ever made is usually in response to something they love or hate, not in apathy of something. Which is why I usually diagree with the stance of “not caring about trends.” Trends affect what is made, period.

          • Speaking of trends, I was listening to Satanic Panic in the Attic earlier this week and just thought to myself how you’d probably lose all of your friends if you talked about liking of Montreal these days. But man I remember loving them so much.

          • I used to love them too. I don’t think you’d lose your friends, but you might gain a few new ones that only want to eat mushrooms and watch Pink Floyd 3D laser shows

      • Nailed it. Liking what’s “uncool” is always cool, and that’s become mainstream pop now that indie is so ubiquitious.

        I liked the article, but after reading analysis like this I always feel a little tired and return to the Duke’s “If it sounds good it is good.”

      • My dad likes Taylor Swift. It all goes back to dads and dad-rock.

  7. It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters.

  8. Early on in our relationship, my girlfriend and I went on a road trip. At some point during the drive, I put on “In Rainbows.”

    ’15 Step’ starts up, and she says, “This is the song from ‘Twilight’!”

    That is all.

    • I am in my early 50′s and continue to explore music from jazz and soul older than me to newer stuff. What I have lost over the years is the need to be first to discover something and the sadness when ‘everybody’ is into something that was obscure when I ‘found’ it. I don’t watch much TV and never saw the O.C.

      But the article certainly speaks to (as a prescient Douglas Coupland called it) our ‘accelerated culture’. The shelf life of coolness is somewhat defined by our digital umbilical cord. 35 years ago I gave a friend who was travelling to England 5 pounds to buy me some records. He returned with singles by Buzzcocks, Souixsie, Magazine, Bauhaus etc. I was the coolest kid on my block for months!

      Nowadays, I have little interest in being ahead of the curve. I cannot (both literally and figuratively) keep up. And I am a card carrying Dad who loves Wilco – whatever it’s called.

  9. “The fact that it’s virtually impossible to imagine a reader of this website who isn’t aware of the show…”. That’s virtual insanity, my friend.

    • I’ve never watched a single episode myself. And yet…I do own a couple of the soundtracks.

      • On the other hand, I have seen every episode of Gossip Girl. Love that shit.

        • I’ve also never even seen a scene of The O.C., but I’m about a season and a half away from finish Gossip Girl.
          As far as hilariously awful tv goes, I love it. Although I do have brothers in high school who swear that the show has ruined a good segment of this generation.

          • I almost gave up on it a couple times in it’s run, especially during the horrible third season. But…eventually I just let infect me.

            I have high school brothers too. They mocked me for watching it. But I’m the big brother, I do whatever the hell I want.

      • It’s funny because at the time I enjoyed the show but thought I was too cool to buy the soundtracks.

        • I never actually “bought” them now that I think about it… I worked at a store and got the promos. First time I heard LCD Soundsystem was on one of those things.

  10. I’m pretty rockist. I like genres aside from those under the rock umbrella, and I guess I do like the occasional pop song, but most contemporary pop music sounds heavily influenced by EDM and I just can’t get into dance music at all. Sorry.

  11. I’ve never seen The O.C. and I can guarantee you it has had literally no impact on my concept of indie rock. “The music of yuppies”…what in the goddamned world? Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I don’t require shit television programs to expand my musical horizons.

    I must have a very outdated definition of what “cool” is because I have absolutely no idea what in the fuck that line about Taylor Swift is supposed to mean. I’m sure you guys think you’re making some kind of astute observation on the climate of pop culture with shit like that, but I can’t possibly take that seriously, and anybody who does has a lot of growing up to do.

    Also, “adorkable” is not a fucking word and I hate every last one of you.

    • I’ll tell you what you CAN take seriously – yourself. And you do it way too much. Calm down.

      Plus, if you read above, you’ll see similar sentiments about Taylor Swift-gate, so don’t think you’re being a revolutionary here.

    • Whether you watched the show or not isn’t the point. The fact is, the show helped make “indie” accessible, and you were more than likely affected by that in some way.

    • Don’t worry man, this article isn’t about you specifically so just continue to revel in your pride of pop culture ignorance.

      The article is explaining how “indie” was injected into the mainstream (or pop if you will) culture as a whole. Since you make a point about how you don’t fuck with that shit, you’re well clear of the umbrella of this article.

  12. What I’ve noticed in the generational shift from “High Fidelity” to something like “500 Days of Summer” is that connoisseurship went from being a really shallow and pitiable signifier of identity to something that was totally legitimate. In High Fidelity, at least part of the point is that great taste in music isn’t a substitute for things like compassion, responsibility, maturity — and anyone who thinks it is, is probably still stuck in that snobbish, high school mentality where it’s deathly important what brand of clothes you wear.

    In all the more recent movies and tv-shows, though, connoisseurship is all of a sudden taken much more seriously — a much more valid indication of a person’s character or identity, without the layer of irony that previously came attached with it. When Summer says she likes the Smiths in the elevator in 500 Days of Summer– we’re not really meant to question how shallow and unwise a basis for an “adult relationship” shared fandom ultimately is; we’re meant to understand that she is SPECIAL. And Oh My God, do you know how rare it is to find a pretty girl who likes the exact same bands you do?

    Anyhow, I blame the shift on Facebook – a medium that has taught us that the ultimate template of identity is basically a list of movies, tv shows, and bands. It doesn’t matter how you feel about them, or WHY you like them; so long as you name check the right things, you’ve either asserted your status as a deep, thoughtful person or an illiterate, cultural boob.

    • I think you missed the point of that movie (which, to be clear, was not one of my favorites). The main guy attributed the “Special” tag to Summer because she shared his tastes – that’s true – but the lesson was that it was a forced tag. His perception of her was shallow and unreasonable precisely BECAUSE he didn’t look any deeper than a shared love of The Smiths. The movie was calling out that attitude as naive and immature.
      I think that right now there’s a cultural backlash to this type of categorizing, because people are realizing that cultural tastes are not always good indicators of compatibility or even general likability.

      • To tell you the truth, I saw it when it first came out, and since forgot much of it. You’re probably right that it’s a poor example of what I’m talking about – but I think the general point is still valid.

        • i think that garden state could be a better example of what you’re talking about – however, i’m also in the same boat on that one as you are with 500 days of summer. but from what i remember, taste in music was emphasized as a point of deep connection between zach braff and natalie portman.

          hilariously enough, though, garden state probably made that shallow fantasy into a reality for a lot of college-aged males back in 2004. in my own experience, i recall a sudden increase in pretty girls who liked the shins.

    • agree, except it should be MySpace not Facebook. haha remember MySpace?! where everyone had Donnie Darko and Fight Club in their favorite movies? Radiohead and Death Cab in their favorite bands? Chuck Klosterman shit in their favorite books? good times?

  13. it’s quite obvious that poptimism is just as much of a daft extreme as rockism. if there is something there of merit and you can explain why it is worth our attention that’s fine but broad embrace of the Hot 100 is a bit wack. I definitely consider all the gosh darn K-pop on this website to be included in that. the videos are dazzling and their achievements in pop presentation are commendable, but please don’t expect me to swallow that this is actually good music that anyone will even remember in two or three years.

  14. The O.C.? Don’t call it that.

  15. Nobody knew death cab before this show. That’s why kids suck these days

    • Actually, as a sophomore I loved the show because I already loved Death Cab and was surprised at how cool Fox was being giving them airtime…I felt like the coolest kid EVER…even though I was clearly falling into their demographic trap.

  16. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • I hate to be THAT guy, but if KOL and Black Keys are the only bands you have faith in, you need to venture out a little more.

    • Man I love the Black Keys and Kings of Leon, but they aren’t really what I would define as “dirty fucking sweaty fucking ROCK N ROLLLLLLLLLL”. To think that there isn’t any good rock these days is just falling into the trap of allowing the culture of the time to dictate what you hear and listen to.
      There are some amazing young rock bands right now, you just have to actually look for them.

  17. I don’t know guys, I think maybe “indie” just means bands that are signed to independent record labels. I love how this author sort of glosses the fact by asserting that we all accepted the transition from “business model” to a descriptor of music. Maybe a majority of us accept this, but I’d place myself solidly in the minority. Once you just accept that “indie” is not a genre, it is simpler to recognize that there is no unifying sound or theme (and there needn’t be). “Indie” as genre label is a completely deficient construct. The “gentrification” of independent music really does owe to MySpace, O.C., and whatever other media we were using to communicate preferences at the same time that “traditional” models for distributing music were disintegrating. I have a problem with the term “gentrification”, though, because there is an implication (and explicit assertion) that the flag bearers of “indie” music have become more reasonable, classier folk:

    {“that so much of what has been dismissed as guilty pleasure in the past happens to be genres dominated by women and minorities, that an embrace of such so-called guilty pleasures is an implicit rejection of racism, patriarchy and elitism. That’s a good thing!”}

    That anyone should be considered elitist (not to mention misogynist and racist) for being discerning where music (or movies, food, drink, etc.) are concerned is childish. I have no idea what “poptimism” or “rockism” mean; I feel like our tendency to label, then sub label labels is an overcompensation. People who invest a tremendous amount of time in exploring any hobby should be allowed to consider themselves experts. I used to be one of those people, but I really don’t have the time anymore.

    More than time, though, there has been an uncomfortable shift toward posturing in place of substance with a lot of new music, as if a haircut or really shitty-looking shirt makes one viable. The trouble is really that the market (or the place where listener and “artist” intersect) has a serious lack of filtration. Whereas the casual consumer of music could, once upon a time, rely on some vetting prior to exposure, we are now bombarded by any number of freakishly atonal bands who are grasping desperately for notoriety. The result from music “critics” has been to embrace semblances of musical normality (radio-friendly drivel). While they still name-drop no talent shit peddlers (Cloud Nothings, Death Grips, and I’ll stop before I offend all the ‘gummers), at the end of the day, a lover of music needs something to grasp onto. As a result, it is now completely normal for alternative music media outlets to embrace the likes of Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and perpetual buffoon, Kanye “Yeezus” West (I would argue that he was one of the first “pop” icons to benefit from this bipolar disease):

    {“In the aughts, that pattern repeated to a certain extent, with some indie-rock refugees gravitating toward extreme, abrasive music like black metal and Yeezus-style aggro-EDM. But just as many have aligned themselves with pop superstars, the kind of performers once assumed to represent the antithesis of forward-thinking taste”}

    As an aside, it is ironic that Kanye fits into both categories mentioned above (pop superstars and Yeezus-style aggro EDM)

    So, yeah, I’ll take dad rock and “retro” sounding “indie” acts if it means that I get to skip out on labeling every tendency that I have in some desperate act of “I’ve-really-got-to-figure-out-how-to-make-something that-I-have-to-say-legitimate-and-noticeable” narcissism.

    And Seth Cohen makes me hate white people. And I’m a white person.

    • Dan Humphrey was way worse breh

    • That fourth paragraph, hurts, man. It does. The notion that “indie” critics latch onto pop music is because the music they launched their careers and livelihoods believing in is just all shit is so delightfully cynical. But I understand that position. The last year I actually wanted to stay on top of music was 2011. I championed about 9 or 10 albums from 2012 and have hardly listened to anything released this year outside of releases from bands and artists I already like. The fact is, a majority of artists receiving buzz lately do seem like they treat becoming a musician like a pissing match, like there’s awards for “Craziest Tunblr”, or “Most Blog-Worthy Stage Freakout” or “Whitest Beef”, “Greatest Misinterpreted Lyric” and those awards are Deconstructing articles and playing the festival curciut. I hardly feel like seeking out new bands anymore. I actually kind of hate that, because it’s something I felt like I lived for.

      • WMP, I guess maybe I wasn’t trying to be quite that cynical. Not everything is shit. I share the sentiment of your last statement, because that act of seeking is something that I value. The bottom line is that I am getting old in music years. I have limited time or patience for critical hyperbole (seriously, go back and see how many albums were deified with AOTY posts last year on Stereogum). Journalism as a whole, even straight journalism of the “news” variety, has suffered from the constant push for novelty. The cycle of “find interesting story, research, source information, revise, check sources, revise, publish” has been completely compromised. I will say that I find the knowledge base from the writers and posters on this site quite deep when compared to many media outlets, but vendors essentially have to shout as loud as they can into the wilderness in order to elicit clicks, views, likes, tweets, or whatever else is driving revenue. I get it, but I think that the lasting effect of this behavior is very extreme leaps followed by drastic over-corrections. I decided a few years ago that I could not trust any reviews of media from any site that I frequent (as far as metadata, Rotten Tomatoes does a serviceable job, though). There are albums that have taken six months to sink in. I’m supposed to just trust the “4.9″ or “9.5″ that got slapped on after someone spent a couple of days with an album? I respect Stereogum for the variety of the AOTW choices, but I rarely find myself going back to them after a few listens (for the most part). There is something lost when one vies to be the most current or interesting instead of the most sincere (speaking here of the artists, not the site).

        K, In regards to the “in opposition to” dichotomy, I’m not sure that quite captures it. That’s sort of like saying that I shouldn’t make any commentary on McDonald’s because my feeling is only an opinion. Further, I shouldn’t distinguish between a person who eats McDonald’s occasionally and one who eats McDonald’s at every meal. Or further distinguish people who eat at restaurants that they know are going to be bad, eat it anyway, pretend it’s good, then recommend it to their friends, all for the sake of the restaurant being philosophically aligned with their values; then go off to McDonald’s and gorge themselves on Big Macs to wash the taste away. I can’t say that I have never changed my opinion of someone based on the music that they listen to. It isn’t the only measure of my personal opinions, but it is a strong indicator of whether or not you can see eye-to-eye with another person. Case-in-point, most people now claim to hate Riley Cooper (why they would have an opinion of him one way or the other is a mystery to me) because he shouted a racial slur and was recorded doing so. If instead, you had just told me that Riley Cooper went to a Kenny Chesney concert (to say nothing of the racial slur), I could have predicted that I probably wouldn’t have too much in common with him.

        So, to use the degrees of hidden complexity paradigm, there are degrees of complexity to judgment that extend beyond a stark separation between” Love it/Hate it because I said so”. A person who has devoted thousands of hours to playing an instrument is a better judge of performance than a person who plays infrequently. Experience lends itself to expertise. The more broad the experience base, the better qualified one is to judge value. Personally, I am a neophyte in terms of musical criticism. However, if I am riding in a car with my niece and all she wants to listen to is NOW That’s What I Call Music, 47; I feel that I have some right to deem her musical tastes shallow. I’m not going to say that to her, and I’ll appease her wishes, but the difference of our viewpoints has nothing to do with her “not being me”. You can’t legitimize every person’s bullshit schema because they have the right to opinion.

        But there is an even more important reason to have the conversation, which is the acultural syndrome in our society that results in WalMart, “polo” shirts, minivans, top 40 radio, and recycled-Hollywood-script-as-summer-blockbuster. You don’t have to be an elitist to a) recognize the black hole of thoughtlessness these things represent; b) comment on it.

    • I’m forever baffled by the notion that music fandom forces you to be IN OPPOSITION TO!!!! something. There’s a lot of music that I don’t listen to, simply because it doesn’t appeal to me, but I don’t then automatically assume that my distaste for it is an indicator of that music being worthless/for morons/made by untalented hacks etc., because I don’t work from the assumption that I’m the arbiter of objective taste.

      If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that everything has hidden levels of complexity. Everything. I’m not saying that you aren’t allowed to have your tastes or predilections, because we all do, but have at least a modicum of perspective that your tastes aren’t born of unbiased, dispassionate analysis. You like the things you like because you are who you are. People who like things different than you do aren’t inherently charlatans or liars or simpletons. They may just not be you.

  18. As a hardcore Phish phan, I’ve found the current trend of articles defending and giving them a “second look” unnecessary at best, and downright patronizing at worst. Any band in their 30th year still consistently selling out shows and playing what is arguably the best music of their career does not need a piece in the Huffington Post championing their “unique approach” like they’re some hot new upstarts out of Vermont. As un-accessible as it may be for people not accustomed to improvisational based rock and roll, their body of work speaks for itself and has done so for some time.

    • I second that, DMB too. Also, Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers aren’t in the same vein. They might have a similar fanbase, but the music?…that’s a stretch. No horns, no jazz, no extended jams.

      With current trends in popular music I can sleep soundly knowing I will never hear “Bathtub Gin” or “#41″ in a commercial. Indie stuff is mass marketing’s new favorite soundtrack.

      Really enjoyed the article though, good to have a long, hard look in the mirror.

  19. Sometimes I feel like I dont even know what kind of music I enjoy the most anymore.

    • That thought occurred to me recently too. Hip hop (and more recently R &B) have slowly been taking over rock (indie, hardcore, folk, whatever) as the dominant genres on my ipod.

  20. I thought this article tackled the (admittedly broad) subject at hand in a rather intelligent fashion without being too self-serious, and was one of the best pieces I’ve seen on Stereogum. Keep it up!

  21. As far as the indignant commenters go… I didn’t think this article was an attack on your tastes or anyone elses! It DID attempt to explain how a certain variety of mellow indie rock went from being part of some kind of counterculture to being sold as a vaguely-left-of-center, upper middle class status symbol – like Whole Foods, or Toyota Priuses, or Urban Outfitters, or BA’s in Literary And Cultural Studies, or renting $3000/mo apartments to lay claim to “authenticity.” I know people who truly love those bands get annoyed at those stereotypes, but this was a shift that really did happen, and it’s worth thinking about.

  22. I don’t think people ever stop to really think about how young the canon of Western “pop music” really is. We’re talking about 50/60 years worth of music here, and during a timespan that’s seen radical technological changes that forever altered the way music is made, the way it sounds, the way it’s sold, the way it’s distributed etc. Articles like this always work from the assumption that there was an immovable, sharply defined foundation of “authentic” or “hip” music deeply lodged into the zeitgeist, and any changes to that perception were inevitably the result of drastic, tectonic shifts in the crust of pop culture.

    Really, I don’t think that rock music is dead by any means, but I do think kids making music today, who grew up in the 80s and 90s, are dramatically less fascinated by Bob Dylan and The Beatles and The Stones than kids who grew up in the 60s and 70s were, which is entirely logical. The “pop music” that those 60s/70s babies made sounded like the radio music they grew up listening to, so it’s only logical that kids who grew up on Michael Jackson and Madonna and Tupac and R Kelly are going to make music that reflects that. What’s weird isn’t that kids who grew up on Janet Jackson love Beyonce, but that a lot of music critics assumed that said kids would just automatically adopt the same aesthetics and notions of “authenticity” as people 20 years their senior.

    I’m of the opinion that baby boomers came very close to ruining music, due to their creating this notion of there being an immortal, sacrosanct canon of pop music royalty that all must pay homage to and that none can ever surpass. The downturn in rock’s popularity amongst the youth-music intelligentsia is simply a reaction to that, a need to cleanse the palette and break away from the suffocating grip of the Rock Gods!!! In 10 or 20 years, once the boomers are dead and kids want nothing more than to eradicate the omnipresent synth pop their parents listen to, they’ll pick guitars back up and start doing weird, fun things with the genre to give it brand new life.

    • I really like what you said here. These days we get fed the illusion that somehow The Stones and Beatles and Dylan were NOT the biggest, most mainstream things in the world akin to MJ, Madonna, etc. What is popular simply shifts and the trends affect what is made as a byproduct.

      Bravo.

    • Hahaha I think that you could make the “baby boomer” point about nearly any American cultural trend. There has never been such a generation of self important and stubborn aging old shits! Their music, their movies, their politics, their counterculture, their career path…most anyone over the age of 55 believes that these things collectively are and **will forever be** the yardstick and exemplar vis a vis culture. Even as these models degrade, break down, or are carbon-copied so many times as to become just plain boring (John Mayer I’m looking at you!), the baby boomers steadfastly go on believing that they nailed it 40 or 50 years ago, and everybody else should just give up and kiss the ring.

      What’s *neat* about the “naught” era is that this is the first time in like thirty or forty years that the art, culture, etc being churned out is no longer a response to the suck-hole that is baby boomer culture. I think about “I want my MTV” and “Gen X” (and then Gen Y), and “Dammit Bobby…the boy ain’t right”…these are all young ppl in the 80′s and 90′s pushing back against baby boomer culture, which reaction is still, in its own way, an homage to baby boomer culture. But in the 00′s…well you’ve only got to see the Cialis commercial w/ the grey hair baby boomer literally and metaphorically “getting his truck stuck in the mud” to know their way of doing things carries no more weight, is superfluous, unimportant, impotent, irrelevant.

      In short, I agree w/ you 100% :D

  23. I liked indie music before I knew what the O.C. was. Not vice versa.

    • You missed the point of this article. In fact, everyone who throws out the elitist “OC never taught ME what was cool!” plug is only serving themselves.

      • I was trying to make a joke – - – back to the drawing board.

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        • Unless you are literally sampling music from bands completely at random, any music “exploration” you do will in some way be affected by forces outside of your control including, yes, popular TV.

          • Good point, but I feel that is far and away a different thing from saying that all of society is drawn to a particular genre of music because of some teen-centric T.V. show. While what you say is true, one can still make a concerted effort to separate themselves from what could be considered product placement. I simply do not buy music because the T.V. told me to. I don’t buy music because someone else told me to. I buy it because I like the way it sounds/makes me feel/etc. Of course, someone, somewhere, is marketing that album or song to me and the audience/consumers at large, but………that’s not why I bought it. That marketing may be the only thing that made it possible for me to even find/explore the music in the first place, but…….that’s not why I choose to listen to it. It either does it for me or doesn’t.

            While it does not make up the majority of music one can listen to, there is the possibility of walking around one’s own town and discovering new music….I live in a college town filled with aspiring musicians, some of which are really good,…….as well as the constant flow of popular indie (and other) bands to our local venues….which has little to nothing to do with the “forces outside of your control”. I mean, it’s possible.

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  25. I dunno about all this socio-political machinations, but that new TV on the Radio sure does sound good.

    BTW, I thought indie rock (college rock) became mainstream with REM’s The One I Love video?
    and Sade is badass.

  26. I don’t know, I tend to think that half of the embrace of poptism is just a knee-jerk reaction to not wanting to be pigeon-holed regarding taste, or marketing. It got pretty toxic back in the 90′s when you were a sell out if you showed up on anything but 120 Minutes, so maybe it’s okay that success isn’t demonized any more. But honestly, why the hell are the “hipsters” listening to this Mumford garbage and it’s ilk? It sounds like Dexy’s Midnight Runners mating with Chumbawumba. Just awful.

  27. Glad this conversation is being had. I think there was an OVER-course correction from rockist values. Time to go back, revisit, and evolve again. Right now, it seems almost impossible to be critical of someone like Justin Timberlake when there is alot to be criticized. The fact that someone (while talented) has got a whole machine behind them) can even infiltrate the “indie” blog world while a struggling but equally talented or more talented creative visionary can’t get their name onto a blog for exposure, all to prove a point that JT is a legit talent. It makes the developing band feel hopeless, like “the corporate conglomerate pop star is now taking up space that I could sure as hell use to get some exposure” all so a point can be proven and rockism can be overcome.

    The big problem hear is that this over-zealous poptism has nearly killed good rock music dead. There’s hardly any rock music any more. Kids won’t even give it a chance. As a result, we are sorely missing the now-scorned gravely-voiced “authentic singer. We NEED these gravely voiced singers now more than ever. Now that poptimism has conquered, I feel a hopeless sense that popular music is forever going to be slick and soulless. We need the creaks, breaks, and gravel that a Tom Waits or Eddie Vedder (yes I know the imitators needed to be evacuated, but his true affectations should still serve as an indrect influence to many) or a great soul singer like JC Brooks or Charles Bradley can bring to the table. Everything is so smooth and slick right now, and what worries me is that no one realizes it’s TOO smooth and slick because we don’t want to dreaded “rockist” to come back.

    Let’s welcome the “rockist” back. He’s had his ass kicked, he’s homeless, without a family, kicked to the curb, rehabbed and reformed but still looking to be welcomed back to the family, he’s learned his lesson, but needs to be given another chance. We need him.

  28. I think there’s some truth in what you wrote, but I also think it extends itself too far and neglects the past way too much to make a point. While Kelefa Sanneh was making a valid point, his argument also neglected the fact that rock, like white culture, eventually incorporated many of the trends it claimed to be in opposition to. So yeah, disco sux was a thing, and The Knack was an immediate response by record labels as a disco-killer, but tentpole acts like David Bowie and the Rolling Stones went through disco phases, and new wave as a form of musical expression was as influenced by disco as it was punk. You listen to some early ’80s acts and it’s not hard to hear Nile Rodgers’ work with Chic in the guitars. This became even more prevalent in the revisionist early ’00s when dance-punk became code for bands influenced by new wave and almost anything ’80s (The Rapture made a habit of talking up the Bee Gees just to make kids uncomfortable). Hell, indie rock became almost exclusively electronic throughout the ’00s, although, it maintained its “rockist” attitude. James Murphy is an immediate reference point with his dedication to the album format, a holdover of the AOR era. And beginning with electroclash, which posited itself as much an heir to punk’s DIY aesthetic as it was to disco, italo, and other forms of dance, indie sort acted this ever-expanding category, gobbling up whatever could be considered cool at the time, which meant everything from the straight-up, unironic folk rock of Fleet Foxes to the bouncey, pogo-worthy synth-pop we’re experiencing today.

    If anything, I’ll repeat an argument I made in the poptimism thread: this is a cycle. During the late ’80s, and eventually the late ’90s, everyone was talking about how that era was the end for rock music; it wasn’t. It was simply a period that took place after a period of hyper-saturation. The mainstream can only tolerate a sound for so long before there’s a backlash. We’re experiencing the indie backlash. Eventually, probably in five or ten years, we’ll start seeing bands ironically use the label to define their sound in the same way a band today will now call itself powerviolence or deathrock or whatever. The point of indie seems to be taking genres of music that were marginalized two decades prior and repurposing them for mass consumption.

  29. I’m sorry but the line about “indie rock soundtracking the Twilight” made me think of a Silver Jews song being played instead of a Paramore one at the end of that movie…………I laughed at the thought for about 5 minutes until I realised that I actually watched Twilight and then began questioning my life.

  30. Ok. I’m 32 and this thread is making me feel so old.

  31. So where does this leave the DIY ideals of “Indie”? Have they simply slipped back to being only the purview of punk?

    And if so, is this why we are seeing the rise in bands like Screaming Females?

    As someone who was raised on punk, and has those ideals seared into my brain, Indie often felt like the logical, more listenable, extension. Is this no longer the case?

    • I think the ideals are still there, particularly in the house show scene that spawned Screaming Females. There’s just kind of a Venn diagram of overlapping worlds, and some bands happen to inhabit both. I’ve actually wanted to write about this a bit, how certain bands navigate with one foot in the underground and one foot in the indie media machine. As a writer who has been approached with a lot of skepticism by the DIY community in my town, I sort of understand their hesitation. It’s tough because I don’t believe there’s such a thing as the “wrong” fans, but a DIY band that hits big has to work to stay connected with their community and maintain their original ethic (which Screaming Females has done well, it seems). At the same time, any network is going to have its flaws, even one ostensibly built on DIY ideals. (It’s especially tricky because who can even define what constitutes DIY ideals?) And bands that are in the machine can use it to accomplish good things — the National, for instance, or Tegan and Sara. And certainly as someone who very much participates in that indie media machine, I think there’s some value in it, especially when trying to bring thoughtful discourse to it. I guess what I’m saying is just because indie rock has become this lifestyle product, that doesn’t mean DIY is dead or that tapping into the media is the kiss of death for your credibility. It’s just not always clear how to maintain those ideals as people outside of DIY circles start taking an interest in your band, especially when there’s a carrot dangling in front of you.

      • Wow, thanks so much for the reply.

        I just want to add that this article put into words a phenomenon that I have seen happening for a long time. I am glad you tackled it.

  32. Let’s just all take a deep, inhaler-sucking, cheap booze-drinking, internet soap box-yelling breath to acknowledge that Chris has referenced The Rapture through all of this. Further proof that “Echoes” is timeless. Thank you, Chris.

  33. ALSO: Don’t think too much. Some of us pretended to like this show to get laid.

  34. Wait, wait, wait, you’re gonna cite Lorelai as Gilmore Girl’s resident music geek? Lane Kim, dude.

  35. the oc changed my life, and I dont think im alone. I became Seth Cohen. 2003/2004 was such a breakthrough year. You had all these new indie bands that were being mentioned on one of the biggest shows on tv. And the audience of course was teen girls. The montage music thing was revolutionary, Alex patsavas deserves as much credit as P4k and Stereogum and whatnot, for exposing the masses to indie music. Indie music became mainstream that year. The OC turned indie into a household word, and it was right around the time Trans and Float On were blowing up

    What Ive never been able to comprehend is how indie hasn’t died off in the 10 years since. We have had few indie rock bands implode or die out because of drug use. Selling out seems not to mean anything. Codes and Keys may not be viewed as revolutionary, but indie hasnt turned on them.

    Theres no precendent for it. What other genre blew up, went mainstream, went commercial, became widely known and commercialized, and still remained a vibrant, important and thriving scene for a full decade AFTER the breakout?

    So many great moments. The Phantom Planet opening, The Bait Shop, Chrismukkah, Imogen Heap, TJ, Johnny’s funeral and For the Widows and Fatherless. Zach and Che. Summer. Coop. The guest house. Seth;s indie starter kit. The Valley.

    What was so great about the show was how music clearly was a central character on the show, and the cool pop culture references. Everything from Yakuza to Blankets.

  36. the indie landscape was vastly different in 2003 than in 2013. In 2003, few people outside Barsuk knew who Death Cab or Modest Mouse were. Iron and Wine was still the guy who put out the lo fi Creek. Bright Eyes had put Lifted. A great album, but its hardly the accessible and more pop sound that is Im Wide Awake. The indie bands had a “you are liking them before they break” feeling. Tribes and genres still existed. There was still a sense of being in on the ground floor of a new genre and movement.

    Nowadays, in 2013, the idea that tribes exist is laughable. As the article points out, everyone, hipsters included, love all types of genres and styles. Indie and Pop are indistinguishable at this point. People seem willing to allow a band to go mainstream. If they dislike the artist, its not based on commercial success or pop sensibilities, its because they dislike the music. Selling out is antiquated. People seem less possessive of these small indie bands who suddenly get recognition on this site or P4k. You can still be cool and hip in 2013 and like both JT and Taylor, and also The National. Boundaries dont exist.

    What The OC did, was made indie a worldwide sensation, when previously it had been a small local thing. And it made superstars out of the bands it shone its light on.

  37. I definitely miss this show, and that time period in indie. It doesnt feel like “these are my special bands that I like and few other people like”. And as I said, being exposed to a new and blossoming musical scene during its ascent is pretty damn cool. I miss the intimacy of the music. It felt like you were in on a secret. And even though millions of people were watching, it felt like the

    Bluest Light as Tre is riding in the greyhound. Chasing Cars as Marissa dies in Ryans arms. Eastern Glow as Marissa calls Ryan and they sit in silence. Luke Ward trying to sing Shakin and Seth telling him “lets leave the singing to the band”.

    What made the OC great was as I said Alex Patsavas. She seemed to get music and images on screen can work together to convey an emotion or idea. The music and scenes were married. And flawlessly.

    • That’s interesting that “The OC” was, for you at least, a moment or era of intimacy, of the bands on the show being “special bands that I like and a few other people like.” I think for a lot of people, perhaps the generation a little older than you, that time (and that show, among other cultural touchstones) was when that intimacy, that sense of an underground culture, was lost.

      As you say, 2003-04 were breakthrough years. All of a sudden you had bands playing on TV that only a year or two earlier, would have been touring the country in a van, sleeping on floors and playing to a handful of people…but what you have to remember is that many of the bands that got big had been around for a while. Modest Mouse had been indie darlings for 10 years or so by then, and Death Cab almost that long–it was hardly a “new and blossoming musical scene” at that point. So for the older fans, it was a bit strange to see “indie” (whatever that means–even in 2003 that word was fraught with a lot of baggage, and many argued that we should just stop using it completely) music presented as such, and to hear those bands and others being name-dropped on a teen soap opera.

  38. Who the f**k is this guy and why does he get paid to speculate about what ‘indie’ is, and where it has gone? Good questions were raised, and barely an attempt to answer. Clearly the writer is a music geek and not a psych/soc major, but those are reference materials that should have been visited. I never watched the OC, but then again, I saw Dinosaur Jr before Lou left, and Sonic Youth etc before most of you (especially the writer) were born. I’m sorry, but I get pissed every time I read these weak attempts at music journalism. Later…

  39. Far be it from me to tell anyone what kind of music they can and can’t listen to, but the indie/hipster infatuation with mainstream pop music has always struck me as simply the latest (and possibly only remaining) means of one-upmanship among the super-hip, now that all the previously obscure music has been dug up, repackaged, and put on the internet where we all can access it, not just the cool people in the big cities.

    Of course, there’s some very good mainstream pop music out there, as there always has been. But most of it is crap, and the current pop appreciation trend seems particularly insincere and indiscriminate, to my ears at least. I guess I blame Pitchfork, who about 10 years ago started paying attention to hip-hop and pop music all of a sudden–oftentimes giving rave reviews to mediocre albums–and not just white guy guitar rock. But it would probably have happened eventually anyway.

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