Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, The Shins, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Pavement, Franz Ferdinand, My Morning Jacket, Interpol, Bright Eyes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs… I could go on and on listing bands once known as “Indie Rock,” one of the largest defining genres of the late-90’s to early-2000’s. As time passes, however, music evolves, and great indie bands began to die out one by one. It wasn’t so much as to say that these once phenomenal bands got worse per se, but that as new styles emerged, a rigid concept such as Indie Rock began to feel stale.
Take the recent releases from Animal Collective, Death Cab for Cutie, and The Shins, for example. Animal Collective’s Painting With sounded like an attempted recreation of Merriweather Post Pavilion, Death Cab for Cutie’s Kintsugi proved just how sad Ben Gibbard’s life has been approaching forty and divorced, and The Shins’ Heartworms demonstrated what would happen if James Mercer took over completely after a five year gap and discovered Of Montreal for the first time.
As Bob Dylan once said, “the times, they are a changin’,” but for this group, we’re still in 2012. Ironically enough, Fleet Foxes’ record actually picks right up where they left off six years ago, as frontman Robin Pecknold confirmed a fan theory that Helpless Blues’ unresolved chord-structure gets completed in the first chord of this year’s record, Crack-Up. And while Crack-Up might sound like they’re following a similar suit, to me it’s more just a changing of the times. It’s not that their newest material couldn’t have been placed in older albums almost seamlessly, but instead that we, the listener, have grown bored with a style that we cherished on repeat over five years ago.
I’m not saying that Fleet Foxes should add some trap-hats and collaborate with A$AP Rocky, as bands like Arcade Fire have been able to keep their style while changing sounds over the years from The Suburbs to Reflektor to their recent single “Everything Now,” but “The State of Indie Rock” is a laughing stock topic in music these days, and rightfully so. Indie Rock was too strict of a template to stay alive past 2012, but it doesn’t mean their artists don’t still have great material. Crack-Up is just as good as Helplessness Blues or their debut self-titled record. Fleet Foxes is a good band with another good album, and I enjoyed listening to it, but it doesn’t have the same effect that it had almost six years ago.
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