Greg Gullo | Contributor
All things in life are cyclical, from the tides of the ocean to the flushing and refilling of a toilet bowl. Unfortunately for mainstream music from the early 2000’s until the start of the current decade, that is exactly where most of the chart toppers will be flushed to. There has been a resurgence of excitement surrounding music from the late 80’s and 90’s, likely due to the fact that bands actually wrote music during that period and did not submit to the cookie-cutter culture of the music industry that plagued the Billboard charts from the turn of the millennium up until a few years ago.
A perfect example of fans remembering what music is supposed to sound like is in the way that they went crazy over Wasting Light, the Foo Fighters’ most recent album. Upon receiving one of the band’s four Grammys for Wasting Light, which included Best Rock Album of the Year, Dave Grohl said “rather than going to the best studio in the world down the street in Hollywood and rather than using all of the fanciest computers that money can buy, we made this one in my garage with some microphones and a tape machine. To me this award means a lot because it shows that the human element of music is what’s important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that’s the most important thing for people to do.” Up-and-coming bands seemed to listen. Many bands from the indie scene have infiltrated the mainstream radio waves, and it is now actually fun to listen to the radio again.
Whether it is folk rock or indie dance music, popular bands are much more musically inclined now than they have been in a long time. Mumford & Sons, Foster the People and The Lumineers are just a few examples of bands that only recently became household names, but that will surely be remembered fifty years from now when we are all grown up. Can the same be said about Invisible by Clay Aiken, which finished 2003 in the Billboard’s Top 50? No.
Another exciting part of the indie movement is the revival of record production. Records are being sold all over the place now, from Urban Outfitters to music stores in your local neighborhood. Many college students have either borrowed their dad’s old record player or asked for one of their own for the holidays. There is something about physically holding the music you are about to play that cannot be duplicated by listening to a sterilized mp3 purchased on iTunes. The best part of all is that when we are old, we will still have the beautiful and intricate album art to display; buying songs online will give you nothing more than a temporary fix – one that cannot give you the same kind of enjoyment when your hard drive burns out and your iPhone eventually dies. For those of us who have half of our iTunes library on the go via a smartphone, most vinyl records nowadays are sold with a free mp3 album download, so you get the best of both worlds. Many of today’s top indie artists focus heavily on the quality of the vinyl that their albums are recorded on to give the listener the best possible listening experience. Also, the albums often come with a cool informational insert that does not come with a CD or an mp3 file.
One of the biggest outlets for indie music has been the city bar scene, which often features bands that can be found on Radio 104.5 and Pandora stations, etc. College students are probably the largest captive audience for up-and-coming bands, and when they hear the bands in their favorite bar on a Friday night, they are likely to Soundhound or Shazaam the song and go on to download the band’s album. Just like that, a band that would previously have been known only to their hometown has gained fans in a new part of the country, and as we all know, word of mouth spreads a band’s popularity like wildfire.
Moral of the story, music today is better than music from a few years ago. If you don’t have a record player, get one, and if you don’t listen to Radio 104.5, you’re missing out on many of the best bands coming out with new material today.