What involves thoughts while you consider indie in 2008? The 12 months was, on its floor, a watershed second that sat squarely in the midst of the loosely outlined style’s three-year evolution within the late 2000s — a transitional section by which “indie” as a time period mutated from a definition of private ethos to the genre-as-marketing-point designation it at the moment possesses. 2007 was host to era-defining works from iconoclasts like LCD Soundsystem, M.I.A., and Arcade Fire, together with career-boosting releases from artists like Feist, the National, and Of Montreal that elevated indie’s rising mainstream visibility; 2009 was a full-circle second that shifted consideration away from the downtown Manhattan music scene of the early 2000s and towards Brooklyn’s heat, woolly rising stars, with the by the way scene-defining Dark Was the Night compilation, in addition to information from Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, and Grizzly Bear that cemented the three acts as the key forces they proceed to be to this present day.
Indie in 2008, nevertheless, has been considered via just a few separate lenses; it was a 12 months by which lo-fi rock music emerged as a fleeting concern, with Brooklyn-centric acts like Vin Girls and Crystal Stilts garnering sizable consideration together with “shitgaze” noisemakers Times New Viking and psychedelic hardcore troupe Fucked Up’s breakthrough The Chemistry of Common Life. It additionally represented the final gasp of “bloghouse” — a perpetually nascent and scene-drenched subgenre of digital music spinning off of electroclash’s party-hardy, fake–fin de siécle wake — as stellar releases from Cut Copy, Hercules and Love Affair, and Crystal Castles served as a superb coda to indie’s tangy and narcotic flirtations with dance music all through the 2000s. And 2008 additionally noticed the debut releases from Pacific Northwesterner Robin Pecknold’s Fleet Foxes mission, an explicitly folkie and dense mission that presaged the “actual music” revival of the early 2010s by not less than three years and would go on to grow to be one of the crucial quixotic and engaging acts of the next decade.
These 2008-specific narratives embody of-the-moment developments that had been short-lived or not possessing any type of long-tail affect ten years later. But there have been three particular acts that launched debuts that 12 months, and who got here to outline varied strains of indie to this very day — and, in an embodiment of the ethos-shedding that “indie” as a time period was present process, they did so from the confines of 1 main label. I’m speaking about Brooklyn duo Chairlift’s Does You Inspire You, Northeastern freaks MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular, and Boston synth-pop mission Passion Pit’s Chunk of Change EP. The first noticed launch on Columbia, the second acquired a digital launch in late 2007 earlier than breaking large with a bodily launch in early 2008, and the latter bought a rerelease on the label post-signing, after an preliminary urgent via veritable major-label farm-team outfit Frenchkiss.
Separately, these three releases occupy completely different positions of their creators’ respective profession arcs. Originally conceived as a Valentine’s Day current for a girlfriend, Chunk of Change represented Michael Angelakos’s acute, melodically tart and emo-inflected synth fantasias in chrysalis, with a thicker and extra sturdy replace to return on the next 12 months’s wonderful debut LP Manners; Does You Inspire You’s personal wispy tackle synth-pop got here throughout as trendy and never a lot else, providing little trace of the ambition that major band members Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly would exert all through their 2010s run. And if you happen to’ve been procuring, or attended a social gathering at any level within the final decade, Oracular Spectacular’s bombastic, blockbuster-in-miniature psych-pop is probably going as acquainted to you because the again of your hand — producing three world-beating singles (“Electric Feel,” “Time to Pretend,” and “Kids”) that also really feel rattling close to inescapable at present.
None of those releases stand because the artists’ artistic peaks, however the sounds they put forth have reverberated via overground indie and buzzy major-label pop within the decade since. It’s exhausting to think about the relative success of synth-laden acts like Foster the People and Walk the Moon with out Angelakos’s affect; when indie-adjacent rock vets Portugal. The Man notched a top-five Billboard Hot 100 hit final 12 months with “Feel It Still,” they did so off an elastic and falsetto’d vocal from lead singer John Gourley — the identical vocal timbre that so polarized Angelakos’s critics when Passion Pit began gaining steam. Dig round within the depths of A&R’d various rock and also you’re prone to discover MGMT-aping acts right here and there, and the band’s Oracular Spectacular–period sartorial affect on competition tradition looms even bigger. Despite not mentioning Chairlift themselves, a 2015 BuzzFeed article on the phenomenon of “indie-pop voice” in pop music chronicled a phenomenon that Polachek’s elided vocal mannerisms undoubtedly contributed to.
“MGMT constructed a bridge for lots of teams to cross over,” Columbia chairman Rob Stringer informed me in 2013, and the success that they, Chairlift, and Passion Pit represented additionally marked a brand new signing growth when it got here to main labels and indie-adjacent acts — particularly, Columbia, which spent a lot of the 2010s mining indie and indie-adjacent tradition’s extra accessible artists (together with, extremely, a band referred to as Peach Pit) in hopes of holding their late-2000s sizzling streak alive. Whether or not the designation is earned, Columbia has basically was a hub for indie’s greatest acts looking for larger platforms over the past decade; LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire now name the label house as nicely, and it’s anticipated that Vampire Weekend’s fourth album will see launch on the label too.
The affect that MGMT, Chairlift, and Passion Pit’s first acts had on the next decade of widespread music is as outstanding because it has been undersung — and it’s equally fascinating how far every act has strayed from their preliminary, culturally meteoric successes since. Angelakos has since taken Passion Pit’s sound to adventurous and pared-back locations and self-released an audiovisual Christmas album (and, with out Columbia’s involvement, a fourth Passion Pit document); he’s additionally collaborated with like-minded EDM auteurs and grow to be a passionate advocate for mental-health points throughout the music following the tumultuous interval surrounding 2013’s Gossamer that (full disclosure) I chronicled across the time.
Chairlift launched two superior albums increasing their barely off-kilter pop method — 2012’s basic Something and the stunning 2016 swan music Moth — whereas Polachek went full-on musique concrète together with her Ramona Lisa and CEP initiatives in between notching Beyoncé co-writes; after breaking apart final 12 months, remaining member Patrick Wimberly went on to co-produce MGMT’s newest, this 12 months’s sensible Little Dark Age.
Of the three acts, MGMT have maybe charted the strangest trajectory since their preliminary successes. You may argue that the unusual and regularly imposing music they’ve launched since — particularly, on 2010’s polarizing Congratulations and 2013’s wild-eyed self-titled LP — represents an outright rejection of the sound that put them on the map to start with, accruing Über-cool admirers starting from Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter to Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox whereas confounding the children that also present up for “Kids.”
Perhaps that’s why Little Dark Age — a spiky, apocalypse-obsessed assortment of synth-pop songs that symbolize the band’s most accessible materials since Oracular Spectacular — was such a pleasing shock when it noticed launch earlier this 12 months, synthesizing (no pun meant) the band’s most troublesome impulses in a comparatively pop-friendly guise with out shedding any of MGMT’s willfully bizarre spirit. Despite the incidental callbacks to their extra musically simple early days, although, MGMT — in addition to their Columbia contemporaries — have continued to spiral away from the industry-based motion their auspicious beginnings kicked off. Even in the event that they at the moment don’t sound something just like the music they’ve been not directly liable for, indie because it’s outlined in 2018 wouldn’t sound the identical with out the three of them.