Does all indie music sound the same?

Indie-pop creativity is put to the test as questions why so much indie music sounds so similar

Vampire Weekend shotI know that I’m opening a can of worms, and yes, this article is as bourgeois as Morrissey on a good day, but does all indie music sound the same? Sure, I’m as fond of politically-correct white boys with fringes just as much as the next person, and yes, I could even describe to you in painfully accurate detail the nuances of an Everything Everything track in contrast with the dazzling riffs characteristic of Foals. It has, however, come to this writer’s attention that far more people than I would prefer to admit struggle to tell one hipster anthem from another. I’m therefore going to proceed in evaluating my favourite genre of music, which should prove to be quite the cathartic experience.

Indie music that does not sound the same
– The Wombats
If I had a penny for every time I’ve been told that ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ and ‘This Is Not a Party’ sound like they were written five minutes apart, I’d have enough to pay for my weekly grocery shop. Don’t mistake that feeling of joy which is quite impressively evoked by both songs for indolent compositional work.

-Tame Impala
The argument that Tame Impala make similar sounding music is pretty much a lost cause. From the staple guitar sound to synthesizers that mirror a heartbeat, the band prove their diverse experimental ability is overarching as much as it is conceptual.

Heck, does it even matter if most indie bands hit a glass ceiling?

-Bombay Bicycle Club
As the father-figures of indie, discrediting Bombay is more or less blasphemy. The quartet have managed to take a 180 degrees swerve with the release of each of their four records. In turn, they have encompassed acoustic, Alt-J-esque experimentalism, and Bollywood glamour, all with enviable success.

Indie music that does sound the same
With portentous sounds and portentous vocals, there is little doubt that the four-piece are sultry and slick. Lead vocalist Fred Macpherson is also the author of one of my favourite Twitter accounts, and that in itself is worthy of cool points. During a recent live set, however, my friend turned to me to ask how long the current song would be, about one third into the set. Spector were on their fourth track. She had no idea. The band themselves have described how they occupy a middle ground “somewhere between Roxy Music and the Strokes, the Killers and Kanye West, Pulp and Frank Sinatra” which is peachy, but I do think they could do with spicing things up a little and throwing in a theremin every now and then.

-Vampire Weekend
I’m beginning to see a theme emerge of similar-sounding indie bands being fronted by men with exceptional Twitter accounts. ‘When things get gloomy I browse the #ilovemylife hashtag on Instagram 4 inspiration…try it!’ is one among Ezra Koenig’s many nuggets of wisdom, take note. The music is best described as a cocktail of reggae, baroque and synth pop, whilst lyrically the band cover an impressive ground, ranging from Atheism to the left-leaning political sphere. But, after a full play of Contra, it’s difficult not to feel marginally cheated.

To an extent music trends are cyclical, and indie is no exception: from the Britpop era dominated by the likes of Blur and Oasis, the post-punk revival celebrated by The Strokes, the bubble-gum noughties, up until the present day ‘landfill indie’ (think Noah and The Whale). Does it even matter if most indie bands hit a glass ceiling? I’m still going to enjoy the genre, even if some of you do think it does all sounds the same.

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