What kind of music would ?60s musicians have created had they been able to listen to the various permutations of ?60s music that have cropped up in the last 50 years? Put another way, what kind of music would Obama-era musicians create if they could go back in time and get creative all over again?
These three new summer albums, That’s what. These nouveaux bohémiens are clever, musically erudite, idealistic, and incapable of taking themselves seriously. Plus they’ve let go of outmoded rules like the one that says you have to have the same musicians at every performance and recording. It’s even more ?60s-ish than the ?60s.
It’s apt that this music is emerging now. If the next president is an enigmatic, groundbreaking Democrat, we may be welcoming in another pop culture revolution. Who knows? All I can say is that after the last few dry years It’s wonderful to finally find an exciting trend in alternative music.
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
?I feel the power. I’m tough enough to be a flower.?
from ?In the Lion?
In this LA-based alt-folk collective, songs are traded off between a mock-earnest male singer and a bold female vocalist with an enchanting lisp. Sensible ideas in the lyrics are promoted with heel-kicking hijinks, the most serious statements sung with a tongue-in-cheek pomposity. It’s Leonard Cohen, spaghetti Westerns, Motown, gospel choir, Mariachi, protest songs, and Johnny Cash all rolled into one big bouncy psychedelic ball. For me the highlight track is ?Two,? which rivals A Mighty Wind for its uplifting spoof of sunny flower power naiveté.
Laurel Collective, Heartbeat Underground
?Tell me, Mr. Murgatroyd?am I a fucking droid??
On the other side of the drink is this London band that actually calls itself a collective and happens to be very involved with a famous secret festival called In the Forest. Think New Wave film soundtracks, early Pink Floyd, and experiments with acid to increase your creativity. With lots of electronic and rhythmic experimentation, their lyrical philosophy showcases punk’s outsider sensibility. Nonetheless there’s a generous dash of paisley idealism regarding what might be if we could all just be more free.
The Mountain Goats, All Hail West Texas
?Jeff and Cyrus believed in their hearts they were headed for stage lights and Lear jets and fortune and fame sewn in script that made prominent use of a pentagram and stenciled their drumheads and guitars with their names. This is how Cyrus got sent to the school where they told him he’d never be famous.?
from ?The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton?
The Mountain Goats pull no punches when it comes to mocking the pretensions of both themselves and their peers. Here we have that wonderful Richie Havens-style thrashing acoustic guitar and the kind of sweeping spoken triplets we heard in the most energizing ?60s protest songs and spoken word, all sung in the slightly nerdy nasal vocals you might remember from folk songs sung by our camp counsellors around the fire. Incongruous with the music, the lyrics are shoe-gazing meditations on a firecracker relationship that slowly fades out due to the very lack of personal accountability that set the two on the open road adventure in the first place. Songs commemorating this ill-fated love affair use the same folk anthem style that was once used to protest Vietnam and concrete parking lots. Oft-repeated: ?The pirate’s life for me.? Such fun.