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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Feel-bad indie songs for the uninformed

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    I remember the exact moment I became a hipster. It was just as impressing of an event as losing my virginity or that first hazy night in college and its subsequent hangover. Hipster-dom and indie music swept into my life in the most cliché of ways — coffee, cigarettes and clouds were all involved. As it well should, the feel-bad music is what molded me into an unaware music snob at the ripe age of 14.

    My mentor introduced me to the likes of Maritime, The Album Leaf and The Appleseed Cast. Retrospectively, his choices were about as emo-tinged as they come, but they still held the elements of fresh music that I completely lacked at the time. Later on, I’d discover that the ironic jadedness I was brewing inside had manifested in the lyrics to half of Bright Eyes’ songs.

    Conor Oberst can be credited with an element of folk revival, but the anger with which he delivers his tunes had him sitting just outside of the public’s open arms for bands like Modest Mouse in the 2000s.

    Indie pop isn’t just Zooey Deschanel covering The Smiths, nor is it Bon Iver’s philosophy or even the god-awfully overstuffed Arcade Fire. There are roots to indie music that began with a lot more frustration and yearning ­— and these three songs embody that antipathy all too well.

    Death Cab For Cutie – “Tiny Vessels,” from 2003’s Transatlaticism

    Ben Gibbard is a goddamn wizard. Death Cab, from its earliest material, helped to define the feel-bad music that indie embraced with open arms from the early 2000s on. “Tiny Vessels” is a track from DCFC’s 2003 album that has Gibbard crooning in his rawest state, reflecting on his manwhore-dom with such honesty that Casanova himself would have blushed. Couple this emotiveness with Gibbard’s references to Los Angeles’ super-chic Silver Lake neighborhood (ahead of the times there, Ben) and the chiming guitars that layer the entire track, and you’ve got a rainy day melody that should have you rifling through memories of your ex like a meth addict through cold medicine bottles.

    Maritime – “Human Beings,” from 2004’s Glass Floor

    Unrequited love seemed to be a pretty common thread between the melancholy of earlier indie pop, and Milwaukee, WI’s Maritime wasn’t exempt from the theme. “Human Beings,” from the band’s breakout album Glass Floor, is the perfect example of an ironic admonition of fleeting love, highlighted by a brilliant little Icarus reference in the first verse. At the time, Maritime embodied the heavy introspection and jangle-y, angular pop that is nothing if not an evolution of Morrissey’s musical styling. The Smiths might have “Human Beings” concocted themselves, favoring Davey von Bohlen’s bubblegum pop breathiness over Morrissey’s dour tone.

    Bright Eyes ­— “Four Winds,” from 2007’s Cassadega

    Though we’re only five years past the release of Bright Eyes’ lukewarmly received Cassadega, the album’s lead single still evokes the time when the whole world seemed to resent the Bush administration, when Oberst was playing fuck-you anthems to the president and when he found himself denouncing religion with “Four Winds.” Set to a country-tinged instrumental, replete with singing fiddle, Oberst rips through organized religion of all forms, leaving no feather unruffled with the line “The Bible’s blind, the Torah’s deaf, the Qu’ran’s mute/If you burn them all together, you get close to the truth.” Fiery as ever, “Four Winds” ends on the note of Oberst making peace with the religion’s fallacies, a bittersweet end to a supremely bitter song. The tune that’s not for the conservative of heart, but it’s a nice piece of voiced frustration from a man whose lyrical ability makes Bible burning a total sing-a-long moment.

    Follow us on Twitter @wildcatarts and follow K.C. @KristianCLibman.

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