Freak-folk, anti-folk, drone, twee, space rock, dream pop—gone are the days of all-encompassing genre categories like rock, country, jazz, or rap. Classifying music today has become almost like a game… or a very precise science. Sure, part of this micro-categorization is probably a result of DIY things like myspace pages and band blogs that make it much easier for artists to carefully cultivate a very specific image and sound, but there is something more at play here.
For music connoisseurs (or ‘music snobs’), yielding an extensive indie vocabulary and carefully classifying artists seem to have become a source of pride. In some circles, it’s as if classifying a band bolsters indie street cred and even self-worth. Standing outside of the Cake Shop, I once heard someone say, “What?! You don’t know what shoegaze is?!!” (1)
Oddly enough, though I write about music nearly every day, I find that the more I immerse myself in the scene, the harder it becomes to answer the simple question, “So what kind of music do you listen to?” Each time I am faced with that deceptively straightforward question, I find myself going through a number of quick mental exercises. It’s kind of like when someone asks you how you are, and you grapple with saying “Oh, fine” or actually disclosing minute details about your day in twitter-feed-esque full disclosure. Should I give them the short answer: “I tend to stick to indie-rock” or delve into the nitty gritty and hope my response is neither overly pretentious nor dry and uninformed?
Through writing the blurbs about the artists featured on NPR Music series Second Stage, I consider myself to be fairly on top of the musical adjective and genre game—at least when it comes to my personal favorite musical niche, but when I stumbled across the tag “post-indie transcendentalist punk” on the myspace page of the band Hungry, Hungry Ghost, (2) I admit even I was a bit baffled. I mean I got the punk part, and I studied Emerson and Thoreau in college. but post-indie?! Post-rock or post-punk, ok. I’m familiar with these terms, but this new one sent me reeling.
Sensing an interesting and potentially satirical explanation, I contacted Alex Haager of Hungry, Hungry Ghost to ask him about the unfolding of this mysterious new genre, and I was intrigued by his response.
“I coined the genre term ‘post-indie transcendentalist punk’ more or less as a statement about the uselessness of genre-labeling in general. I mean, I’ve deemed myself an ‘indie kid’ since the 7th grade or whatever, but it wasn’t until moving to New York that I saw how out of hand it was getting. H&M and major label buyouts ruined the world for proper indie kids. It was only later on that I realised the whole thing was silly. I am who I should be and that’s all I can be. That’s what post-indie means to me.”
The interesting thing about this post-indie movement, is that it seems to be more about a state of mind that a particular sound. Urban Dictionary, the online, unofficial authority on emerging terms and trends, cites someone who is post-indie as openly admitting to listening to Coldplay even though the band is “too mainstream” for the typical indie kid’s taste (and reputation). In the most basic terms UD defines post indie as “liking bands, regardless of how popular they are.”
Though Haager contends he devised the extended genre, “post-indie transcendentalist punk,” “mostly just for kicks,” his tongue in cheek tag raises some good questions: has the need to classify and tag artists gotten out of hand? Is the mere act of creating a new genre necessary or is it as ridiculous and pretentious as the indie movement mindset it is trying to transcend? Will people start donning the Coldplay or John Mayer t-shirts they once hid in the bottom of the closet for fear of being considered too mainstream? Discuss.
(1) The Cake Shop, of course is known for having their ‘Twee as F*ck’ showcases and dance parties once a month.
(2) Go here to learn more about Haager’s band–Hungry, Hungry Ghost. They happen to be playing a show this Friday (08/21/09) at Spike Hill in Williamsburg, so be sure to hit that up if you can.
Please note: the bulk of this post was lifted from a blog entry I wrote back in April, but I feel as if it is an increasingly relevant question in this – the end of the hipster golden age. (More on the death of the hipster soon.)