As a student and fan of popular culture, I’d like to think I maintain a keen sense of “whats goin on.” I keep myself relatively up to date with TV, entertainment, and the like, and as a hobby, I enjoy it very much. But, my true interest is in the underside of the popular culture, the alternative to pop culture, that which for a few decades has been known and lauded as “indie.”
I have dedicated a lot of personal investment and creative thought into “indie” culture, which at its essence is anti-pop culture. I frequent the indie movie theater, see those kinds of bands, and propagate those stereotypes (sound pretentious enough? geez. not meant to be.) Not to mention, I researched the hell out of indie culture for my masters thesis (not particularly impressed with the academic literature on the subject, but that’s a topic for another day). So, and I’m sure you have noticed also, when did indie become the new pop culture? There was, in my mind, a definitive point when what was once indie came all of a sudden into the popular consciousness. For me, it was that shift from Blink 182 to New Found Glory, from Bio-Dome to The Rules of Attraction, from alternative to indie.
I have a feeling this will become a series of posts that I will continue, so I’ll start where I have been noticing it the most lately – Film Soundtracks. Film is complicated since the line between indie and major has been steadily blurring with the precedence of the film festival circuit as a minor league for big production companies. But, you have to admit, there have been a slew of “pop indies” in the last few years, and of course many of these films have been driven by a radical soundtrack to get the kids movin’.
It seems that Wes Anderson’s (Mark Mothersbaugh’s) soundtracks are like the gateway drug. Sure, it has a lot of 60s-70s garage rock and folky tunes, but every now and again there is a Belle and Sebastian gem thrown in, or the famous Eliot Smith/Luke Wilson scene. Diving a bit deeper, and perhaps a little more generally popular culture, both Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Lost In Translation walked that pop/indie line while holding some real star power with Jim Carrey and Bill Murray respectively. Then, there was some strange subcultural breakthrough when Zach Braff took the self-loathing awkwardness of indie and wrote it into Garden State, peppered with songs by Phoenix, The Shins, and Iron and Wine. More recently, and explosively popular, Juno reignited an interest in the lo-fi sound that had previously been reserved for tapes-only labels and K Records’ catalog.
Which brings us to today, and the real impetus behind this thought process for me: the freaking New Moon soundtrack, and indie music’s ultimate pop pinnacle, teenage girls obsessed with vampire romance. The soundtrack is fantastically loaded with indie galore, the high point being “Roselyn,” a duet between St. Vincent and Bon Iver. So what? Does this change the fact the indie bands continue to write better, stronger and more interesting music than their pop counterparts? No. Is this a grand movement wherein indie music just happens to be the trend that studios are picking up on? I don’t know. But, I can say that I am excited about the possibility that the soundtrack could be a new and different way for the album to continue, and for good music to be spread far and wide. I’d like to see if, in the near future, film soundtracks begin to be compilied by clicking and dragging from The Fork Cast, or the Gum Drop.
All in all, it is just an interesting train of thought, tracing the music of the subculture into the pop sphere through the lens of film. But I swear, when Jay Z shows up a a Grizzly Bear show, I’m out. Oh wait… crap…
**Juno Cup from Flickr User SimonDoggett