Trying to get a jump on new years resolutions by getting my life together a few days ahead of time. Cleaning up my workspace, exercising, trying to streamline my creativity, today’s been pretty productive.
“My own identification with my Jewishness had very little to do with religion ever since I was thirteen and went out for a slice of sausage pizza in the middle of a Yom Kippur service and wasn’t struck down by lightning. Still, I knew I would always be seen as Jewish by others, no matter what my beliefs.”—Art Spiegelman, Metamaus
“Our band could be your life
Real names be proof
Me and Mike Watt played for years
Punk rock changed our lives
We learned punk rock in Hollywood
Drove up from Pedro
We were fucking corn dogs
We’d go drink and pogo
This is Bob Dylan to me
My story could be his songs
I’m his soldier child
Our band is scientist rock
But I was E. Bloom and Richard Hell
Joe Strummer, and John Doe
Me and Mike Watt, playing guitar”—
RIP D. Boon.
These lyrics still give me chills. Best song ever? Perhaps.
More than that, it’s almost a direct evolution. Seriously, we can go all the way back to Rights of Spring and Embrace and shit if we want, but that’s a bit before the current generations’ time (the people who were influenced by those bands were probably late 20s, early 30s before we started listening to music). Those bands inspired bands like Texas is the Reason, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker. The kids my age or a bit younger cut their teeth listened to the bands that were inspired by them: Taking Back Sunday, The Get Up Kids, and Thursday. Then, we discovered it was OK to enjoy big pop hooks, bigger feelings, and acoustic guitars with Dashboard, Jimmy Eat World, some of the more namby-pamby of Saves the Day.
That acoustic guitar thing was a big turning point: it simmered in the background for a few years. Some of us threw ourselves into the “post-hardcore” scene, embracing the downtuned guitars, metal riffs, and vocals alternating between screams and whines.
Others (particularly a generation maybe a few years younger than us) embraced the feelings and you got the 4th wave of emo bands like All American Rejects, Fall Out Boy, and Plain White Ts until emo hit the singularity of Never Shout Never.
This acoustic thing, though? THIS WAS A BIG DEAL. All of these bands weren’t just free to, but EXPECTED to have some kind of acoustic, touchy-feely presence. All these “acoustic” or “unplugged” albums/tours/EPs? This wasn’t a thing 10-15 years ago. You played acoustic because you didn’t have a band yet.
And YES, I know that there have been acoustic singer-songwriters since basically the acoustic guitar was invented. The point is, it’s meaning in youth culture has changed.
Anyway, so emo implodes. Or maybe it still exists somewhere that sad, aging scenesters (ahhhh, remember that charming epitaph?) keep it alive by continuing to by Circa Survive records. But the rest of us who saw prided ourselves on our relevance? We were looking for a new iteration of the music we’d grown up with, something inspired but not a total left turn.
Enter indie folk: with a rich backlog of history, artists, and influences to “draw from,” it makes the perfect next step for a post-emo kid with an acoustic guitar. It’s a collection of new aesthetics by which to rephrase familiar ideas: angst, longing, confusion, self-deprication.
I say this looking around at my peers and artists of note and find it interesting. Like with emo, there’s a plethora of artists interpreting and reinterpreting the same types of songs using similar instrumentation (acoustic guitars never go out of vogue, but a banjo or viola might stand in for electric bass and keyboards); the music is melodic, the voices high and nimble (though there seems to be a tolerance, even desirability, of the softer, more worn-in voices). there’s a emphasis on the “truthfulness” of the sentiment, a “sincerity” (the directness of emo seems to have been devalued, replaced with a fetishization of the obtuse and hyper-specific account of detail. No more “You could slit my throat and with my one last dying breath I’d apologize for bleeding on your shirt”). The difference seems to be the references: modern folk feels earthy and obsessed with dusty, naturalistic scenes with vague shout outs to traditional folk songs.
I say this having appreciated both, with no malice towards either. But let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?