Indie Music According to Middle-Aged People

When I was a young, my parents and I had reversed musical interests.
I listened to their record collection, while they bought the latest Top 40 CDs.
At the time my mother was listening to Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” and Right Said Fred’s “I Have No Idea What the Album is Called Nor Do I Care”, I was mesmerized by the 15th anniversary release of Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense” and buying as many over-sized glasses and sequiny jumpers to fulfill my fantasy of being Elton John circa 1972 (this was at a time in my life when my mother once asked me if I was gay while sitting in a parked car in front of a Subway restaurant).
In high school, I would play my Mom’s Zappa records while I laid on the basement floor, imaging her doing the same thing at my age in 1967. Right when I was at the point having a completely fictional LSD trip, she would kill my buzz by shouting, “Wow, I can’t believe I actually listened to that crap.”
I’d make my parents recollect their stories of seeing Hendrix, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, all while bugging me to score them tickets to see John Mayer at whatever closest uber-dome there was (John Mayer + Parents is a whole another blog post in itself).

In my mind new music was nothing but a bunch of young hacks trying to emulate their idols. My parents, having already heard the idols, were now looking for something fresh and new.

It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles in 2004 and discovered the radio station Indie 103.1 that I realized there was decent music created after the year 2000 (music from ’90’s is still a black void for me- this usually causes incredulous looks from men born between the years 1970 and 1983).

I started light: Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Wolf Parade. Then I moved to Austin and got made fun of for liking these bands.
I had to step it up a notch.
Now I’ve learned to make fun of the people who like Bloc Party, Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Wolf Parade (all the while still loving all of them).

Through the years as my parents and I have navigated in circles with our choices in music. Recently, I wanted to see if we managed to reach a meeting point. While on holiday break I went through the list of indie bands popular in 2008 and 2009 to see if they dug the same music that my peers currently dig.

These are my parents thoughts:

Phoenix– Dad gave a 4, Mom gave an 8. Maybe this why they are divorced. Dad thought they were not original, too simple. Mom thought they sounded “not so freakin‘ depressing like everything else you listen to, Lauren.”

Animal Collective– Dad gave an 8, Mom gave it a 4. I honestly can’t remember what my parents said about this band. I think my father liked the Beach Boys element to them. Mom just thought it was confusing.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros– Dad gave it a 4, Mom gave it a 4. Both my parents seem to collectively HATE this band. Which is surprising considering how old school they sound. Dad thought they sounded like the band who performed the “Raw Hide” theme, Mom thought they sounded like Johnny Cash and June Carter. I’m from Upstate NY so no Cash and Carter were ever played in my house growing up. Only disco music and prog rock ten years too late.

Kings of Convenience– Dad gave it an 8. Didn’t play for Mom. I knew my Dad was going to like this. In fact, it was the first band I played him. You get horns and a piano and you give your parents an instant music boner.

Grizzly Bear– Dad gave it a 5, Mom gave it a 4. Guess my parents don’t agree with critics on this one. Well, anyone who bought Right Said Fred’s album obviously doesn’t care what critics think.

Beach House– Dad gave it a 7, Mom gave it an 8. Both parents enjoyed the lazy, hazy atmosphere of both Victoria Legand’s voice and the songs themselves.

The Knife/Fever Ray– Dad gave it a 5, Mom didn’t listen to. I thought this was a shoe-in for Pops. He really loves the band Enigma (and not just “Return to Innocence”…he actually likes whole albums…can you believe that?) “I just can’t get past her voice,” my father said. “She sounds like Abba.” Later, we came across her acceptance speech at that Swedish award show and he then decided that he was in love with her because she reminded him of a “Twilight Zone” episode.

Passion Pit Dad didn’t listen to, Mom gave an 8. Again, this comes into the “Depressing vs. Non-depressing” category. Mom thinks Passion Pit is not depressing therefore they deserve an 8 for no other reason. This is when I realized that my mother was feigning interest in my experiment and just gave out 4’s for depressing and 8’s for non-depressing music.

M83– Dad gave an 8, didn’t play for Mom. This is one that Dad and I both got. When he’d come visit me in LA, we’d turn off all the lights and blare, “Saturday=Youth” while listening to the traffic below my apartment in Koreatown. Chances are Mom would consider this “amazingly depressing” and politely ask me to put Jamiroquai on instead.

Arcade Fire– Neither parent will score this band. They both know I used to really dig this band. Father would pretend to be interested, but finally told me last week that he thinks they suck and he’s been protecting me from his feelings all along. I would put “Funeral” or “Neon Bible” on while visiting Mom for holiday and every time she would say, “This sounds like funeral music. Turn it off.” Then I would comment back with, “That’s funny because this album is called “Funeral”, Mom.” Then she would start ranting about putting her Jason Mraz playlist on Pandora and I would go to my room and slam the door just like I did in high school.

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  • Reply Suburban Sweetheart February 8, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    My mom told me Arcade Fire titled their album "Funeral" for a reason, because it makes her want to die, & my grandma once asked me what language Phoenix was signing in…

  • Reply Hipstercrite February 8, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    @Suburban Sweetheart- Our we sisters?

  • Reply Oats February 8, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    My mom can't even handle Bob Schneider and he's borderline sellout with his last [crappy] album. If it's not on the radio it's not happening with her.

    She thought Viva Voce was too depressing. She thought We Are Scientists were too repetetive. Biology was way too depressing. So then she asks if I listen to anything uplifting and I pull out the Polyphonic Spree and she doesn't like them because they're too happy!

  • Reply Christina In Wonderland February 8, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Glad to see we share some of the same tastes in music. Here I thought I was just weird like that in my obscurity. 🙂

  • Reply Hipstercrite February 8, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    @Oats- I agree with your Mom on Polyphonic Spree. They make me want to drive my car of the road.

    @Christina In Wonderland- Which tastes? The old school stuff or the new school stuff?

  • Reply Kinsey Michaels February 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    One of my friends introduced me to Grizzly Bear and Beach House. I love indie music! I just don't listen to it enough.


  • Reply Hipstercrite February 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    @Kinsey- Both are great bands. Beach House just came out with a new album. I'm partial to Edward Sharpe though. Please check them out!

  • Reply Amber February 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    I don't really listen to the radio or anything so I don't know what the cool kids/cool parents are listening to these days or what's supposed to be good, so I appreciate this post and your parents' opinions.

    I did go to Lollapalooza a while ago and saw Arcade Fire. I don't think I've ever had so much fun at a show. They have so much energy. Incidentally, I graduated from college with Will Butler.

  • Reply Chris February 8, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    My parents like Spoon, but not much else. They absolutely hate Arcade Fire and Animal Collective.

  • Reply Rebecca February 8, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I try to do experiments like this with my mom, but she's a lot like your mom… if it's too slow/depressing/weird she doesn't like it. But boy does she love John Mayer and every contestant that's ever been on American Idol… this being a woman who's first concert was Steppenwolf.

    I've since given up trying to introduce her to music that isn't on the radio.

    Oh, and indie 103.7? They went off the air last year. It was a terrible day for indie music.

  • Reply Hipstercrite February 8, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    @Rebecca- Yep, that sounds exactly like my Mom. Wait, LA's Indie 103.1 went off the air!?

  • Reply Seattle Kim D February 8, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    I love this, your mom's ratings are hilarious "4 for depressing and 8 for not so depressing" – I can relate. If you ever get bored you should stream an indie Seattle station called KEXP, I think you'll like it.

  • Reply Rebecca February 8, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    yep, no more indie 103.1 on the air, though you can still listen online. Right as I'd recommended it to a friend who was new in town, too. Now it's yet another Spanish station… shame.

  • Reply Allie February 9, 2010 at 3:03 am

    We have the same taste in music, therefore i like you a lot… although I still admittedly love arcade fire, clap your hands say yeah, phoenix, etc.
    I agree with what Suburban Sweetheart's mom said, though… Neighborhood #1 makes me want to shoot myself in the face multiple times.

  • Reply Polly Syllabick February 9, 2010 at 5:46 am

    This is so brilliant. Your parents are so with it. And I, apparently, am out of it, because I still don't know half those bands.

    What about Cymbals Eat Guitars?? Where do they fall on this hip list??

  • Reply Benny Paul February 9, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Haha! I definitely had imaginary acid trips while listening to my parents' music… My parents meanwhile were tired of it because it made them think of REAL acid trips.
    Anyway, the scoring was pretty hilarious to read about. Somehow I feel like I can imagine these two folks…
    Interesting to think about how many people must have been into good music in the '60s only because it was popular.

  • Reply KeLLy aNN February 9, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Heeeyyyy! I like Enigma! {smirk}
    No, really I do.
    My Womb fruits are actually hOOked on "I'm too Sexy" by Right Said Fred, I've listened to it at least, um, 20 times in the last 3 days.

    The Yeah Yeah Yeahs I got hooked on two years ago with Gold Lion.

    I guess this band would be in the same genre type as your blogging:
    Black Rebel Motorcycle Club~ MOST especially their song "Fault Line".

    I was born in 1967 which I consider and in~betweener year. I got the best of both worlds, old and new. I'm in Louisiana, so we had country, but damn, I loved Disco. But for Me and My friends, the 90s was where it was at. Soundgarden, Alice n Chains, Pearl Jam, Flaming Lips

    Sirius radio has the awesome channel, 26, where They play alot of these bands. It was where I heard alot of these songs before they became mainstream.

  • Reply Margaret February 9, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    I miss that indie station. I was sad when they got rid of it. Edward Sharpe makes my heart so happy! And Passion Pit is one of those bands I like to play when I need to dance:) Its interesting how parents feel about indie music. My parents don't really consider it music haha

  • Reply Angie February 9, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    They're playing gettin' jiggy with it on the radio and I thought of you and your mom. Is that weird?

  • Reply Hipstercrite February 9, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    @Kim D- I will check it out right now. Thanks!

    @Rebecca- I didn't believe you! Then I looked it up and saw that you were right….but what about Jonesy's Jukebox and David Lynch's weather report?

    @Allie- Haha…but Neighborhood #1 is sooooo good!

    @Polly- Funny that you should mention Cymbals Eat Guitars. I just spoke of them on my SXSW post. They won the "Worst Band Name Ever" award. However, I did really dig their music. Excited to see them when they come to SXSW.

    @Benny-I used to love having imaginary trips to Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower". Haha….

    @Kelly Ann- Though I did make fun of Enigma, they are a high quality band. Just saw that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club will be in Austin for SXSW. I will check them out!

    @Margaret- My parents think I'm going through "a phase" with indie music.

    @Angie- I'm honored!

  • Reply Colleen February 9, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Stream WXPN out of Philadelphia. That station is 100% responsible for my musical enlightenment.

  • Reply Freelance Pallbearer February 10, 2010 at 12:13 am

    I've been making my mother mixes, and shockingly she likes them (the few Grizzly Bear tracks especially). I'm in that strange place where I now know more music from when they were growing up then they do, and so I'll play something like Can, or David Axelrod and they'll say, "That sounds familiar." Of course they say the same thing if I play Nick Cave or Sharon Jones & the Dapp Kings so what can you do.
    You should jump on the 90's bandwagon though, and quick: Nuetral Milk Hotel, Wilco, Elliot Smith, Pavement, Cursive, Pixies, Built To Spill, Beck, Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Gangstarr, Boards of Canada, Portishead, DJ Shadow, **running out of breath**

    A pretty good list is at Pitchfork:

  • Reply Austin Eavesdropper February 10, 2010 at 4:20 am

    Teehee, you used the phrase "whole another" in this blog post. 🙂 (As a Texan, I heard it as "whole 'nother."). Welcome to the South!

    You said many things in this post that cracked me up, but mostly, I want to say that I very much approve all these music selections. Also, I would like to meet Mr. and Ms. Lauren Parents some day.

  • Reply maryrachael February 10, 2010 at 5:50 am

    "Mom thought they sounded 'not so freakin' depressing like everything else you listen to, Lauren.'"…HAHAHA, story of my life.

  • Reply T!nK February 10, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    <3 me some yeah yeah yeahs

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