Is indie rock starting to have fun?

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Pardon indie rock if it seems a bit pretentious, but you just wouldn’t understand. Even if you pretended to understand and started buying vinyl copies of its albums and getting floor seats to arena shows of its biggest crossover acts, well, it just makes it look like you’re trying to hard. But that’s okay – you’ll just feel dumb the next time you climb into your mom’s SUV and she’s blasting the newest CD of the band you feel cool about listening to.

Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it sums up the sneer that many “outsiders’ that enjoy the music feel. For decades, indie rock has prided itself on being an exclusive club – a group that actually “got” what music was supposed to sound like and reveled in keeping it close to the vest. The recent breakout of arena-filling indie rock like Arcade Fire or any of the major folk-indie acts that have found their way onto pop radio has resulted in another knee jerk reaction away from the bandwagon for some.

But to say that the majority feels this way would be dishonest. In fact, there’s been insurgence of indie acts that are having a good time and invite as many as would listen to come have a good time, too. Last year’s Celebration Rock by the Japandroids was the perfect example of an inviting experience – one that didn’t fit the mold of pop radio, but certainly didn’t possess the exclusive attitude or wet-blanket response to positive involvement.

This year has seen an uprising of even more welcoming, fun and downright inviting bands. Below are just three of the bands that are adding a smile and a dance step to the indie scene. Don’t feel bad about enjoying them.

Haim

The all girl indie pop outfit from Los Angeles released one of the best records of the year in September. With Days Are Gone, Haim has created one of the most promising debut efforts of the past few years and has cemented themselves atop the indie pop landscape. Days Are Gone certainly has its fair share of heavy and painful content, but the band responds to this subject matter with a wink and a smile as their music exudes a hopeful bounce.

Shifting between 80s pop, 90s alt rock and even a dash of R&B, Days Are Gone hints at the band’s many influences and creates its own unique sound. Singles like “Falling” and “The Wire” are sing-a-long worthy, while “If I Could Change Your Mind” is slick and full of groove. If their upcoming Saturday Night Live performance is any indication, Haim will be recruiting even more listeners very soon.

CHVRCHES

Scottish sythpop act CHVRCHES have been bubbling on the brink since they appeared on the scene last year. After a few EP releases, the group dropped The Bones of What You Believe in September and is currently crashing dance parties around the globe. The vocal delivery of Lauren Mayberry is sweet and calm, matching the synth-laced electronic soundscape laid out by the band. But don’t be fooled – Mayberry is no pushover, singing lines like, “I will be a gun and it’s you I’ll come for”.

Like Haim, CHVRCHES has some tough subjects to deal with throughout The Bones of What You Believe, but approaches them with snarky tongue-in-cheek lyrics and some of the catchiest, dance-worthy music you’ll hear this year. It would be easy to label Bones as a guilty pleasure, but that would be to slight the intelligence of what the band is saying and how they’re saying it. If you dig deeper, you’ll find that CHVRCHES is more than a catchy tune, but a welcome and joyful response for the downhearted.

The 1975

You haven’t really danced until you’ve heard the debut self-titled record from Manchester’s The 1975. While the album’s lyrics don’t delve as far into painful past memories as the bands listed above, the band excels in its ability to enjoy the things that are worth enjoying. The indie rock four-piece has a knack for writing killer choruses and moving bodies with their funky guitar work.

The beauty of this album is that it doesn’t feel the least bit exaggerated or hollow. If you’re response to the peppy bounce of The 1975 is to guffaw or roll your eyes, you’re not doing it right. This isn’t the mindless self-indulgent American pop of the last decade. Instead, the band seems very self-aware of what it is and wants to sing and dance for all of the right reasons.  In short, The 1975 is a damn good time that’s offered to anyone that would have it.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog.  You can follow him on Twitter.

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