By Izzy Cihak
Defining “Indie Pop,” or any other genre that arose from arbitrary music-lingo-qualifiers, is no easy task and not something I deem myself capable of doing. I’m not sure how much the artists on my list have in common with each other. I doubt they would’ve ever found themselves on the same stage. And I’m sure they’ve never been up for the same award. In some cases, I’m not even sure they would find each other’s sounds palatable.
Looking over my list, it seems as though the biggest commonality between the five artists I have chosen is the ability to glorify the grotesque. They all manage to find (and create) beauty in the most hopeless places. They sugar-coat bitter devastations. They have “turned sickness into popular song.'” Listening to these albums has often made me laugh, often made me cry, and often made me dance (and sometimes all three at once), but it is that ability to evoke each that makes them such brilliant works of art.
So back to the question: “What is Indie Pop?” I really don’t have a clue, but whether these particular songs are satirizing the human experience, turning frowns to smiles, or propelling lethargic bodies to gyrate, they’ve always made my own personal experience quite a bit more tolerable.
5 – The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing (2008)
Recorded in Salford, arguably Indie Pop’s most significant locale, it’s no surprise that this duo would go on to record something impressive enough to put them on a list alongside those lads who made the town famous. Despite the fact that 60% of the album is singles, We Started Nothing is a brilliant anti-pop Pop album, contrasting scathing wit with delightfully phat beats.
4 – Tegan and Sara – If It Was You (2002)
Before their music was laden with synthesizers and anything resembling dance beats, Tegan and Sara were writing beautifully simplistic tales of tragedy that channeled the spirit of punk into an aggressive brand of folk. The perfect album for embracing a rainy day.
3 – The Sounds – Living In America (2002)
The album responsible for the New Wave revival that finally got alt teens dancing. One platinum pin-up dripping in bling, four boys with leather jackets and asymmetrical haircuts, and a bevy of synthesizers managed to produce the sassiest record of the decade and possibly the most badass reason to shake your money maker ever.
2 – Belle & Sebastian – Tigermilk (1996)
Although the phrase had been bandied about by record store geeks and music critics for about a decade, “twee” wasn’t fully manifest until the emergence of Stuart Murdoch and co. Their debut boasts delicately melancholy tales of schoolyard abuse, solitary stars, and the tragedy of heteronormativity. The most brilliant meeting of Socialism and Pop Culture since Godard’s Masculin Feminin and the most clever lyricism since…
1 – The Smiths – The Queen is Dead (1986)
A genius and merry musical romp through the most wretched parts of life. The album that spawned more existentialist bumper-sticker slogans than any other single piece of popular art and the thing to which every resident alien and ambiguous outsider owes their life.