Neutral Milk Hotel combines many different categories of music into one. As discussed earlier in class, indie music groups tend to mix up many different genres to make their unique sound. Neutral Milk Hotel has a folky feel as well as rock-style instrumentals and electric pop sounds interspersed in between. Along with their unusual sound, they present their album as a complete project creating an entire experience that is different for everyone. These aesthetic differences make Neutral Milk Hotel’s album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, stand out as indie.
From an institutional viewpoint, because they chose to isolate themselves from producers that would want them to clean up their sound, the end result was unlike anything anyone had ever heard before. Because it was not as easily accessible as most of the music being produced at that time, it was more personal and offered everyone different experiences. The political lyrics also played an important role in setting their group apart from the rest. And their ability to preserve the sound the way they wanted was an important aspect in their production.
These hallmarks, of what we consider to be indie, are shared all throughout music, television, and movies. Each music group we studied didn’t have a typical sound, they all isolated themselves either by using different ways of recording and producing their music, and everyone had the opportunity to do their own thing. We have found that maintaining autonomy has been a significant part of how indie is classified as indie.
According to Hesmondhalgh the relationship between the institution and the aesthetic in indie is the way that the institution lets the musician do what they want. They let the musician explore more compared to mainstream music. Yet, this usually only happens if the label isn’t under a bigger label company. Since, the bigger company will most likely want to focus on the music that will lead to bigger profit. Causing the musician to change its music sound to something more familiar.
This relationship, between the music and the institution, compared to the relationship that the film industry and production institution have is fairly similar in the sense that they both stay away form what is mainstream. They let the artist explore and usually try to send a message to the audience. Both try to build a reputation causing them to only focus on projects that revolve around their “theme/ type of indie genre”.
Another similarity is the way that in both institutions of music and film, the independent industries get bought out by bigger companies in order to get more money to produce more and have a wider range in reaching out to the public. Although they do get bough out they still try to keep their reputation. Some examples of this are Miramax which was bought by Disney for the film industry and Creation which was bought out by Sony. With being under their wing the indie industries are able to go on beyond borders to promote their creations in other countries.
We tend to categorize indie movies by their aesthetics more than anything. Yet, indie, music, is now, “…generally used to describe a set of sounds and an attitude, rather than an aesthetic and institutional position.”
Music has always been considered a form of art which is a large part of why people appreciate it so much. However music is not only about an artist’s artistic expression anymore but has become a product of businesses. Its not that one side is bad and the other is good, both the record label and the musician help each other in some way, but considering that the musicians goal is art and the others is to make money. With the control that record labels inevitably have over the artists they’ve signed its not that hard to believe some change will happen with the artist and their work.
One example of this label control changing an artists material is the young Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa who through out his career has worked independently and with labels. In 2010 Wiz Khalifa signed with Atlantic Records and began working on his first studio album called Rolling Papers, which was released the next year.This album did well in mainstream music charts but received a number of reviews saying that it had a very pop sound and it was lazy lyrically. Which I would completely agree with, his mix tape before Rolling Papers, titled Kush and Orange Juice, is proclaimed as the best work he has done and makes the transition even more apparent. He even states during a dialog section of his latest mix tape Cabin Fever 2, that he may have done it different, but that he was open to working with new people and labels. Another aesthetic change he has had to make is abbreviating the title of his second album with Atlantic Records to O.N.I.F.C(Only Nigga In First Class) for mainstream release.
The presence of big business is almost always met with apprehension by those who hold the “indie” label so dear. Indieness is seen as something outside the mainstream so to take away the abstraction of the music defeats the purpose to many. Hesmondhalgh points out that there is a perception that major music labels take indie artists and make them more mainstream and there seems to be some credence to that claim.
Take the band Crossfade for example; they have been signed under both a major label and a more minimajor style label. Unlike many, Crossfade moved from the major label to the independent label. Their first two albums were released under Columbia Records, who was a major label eventually bought out by Sony. The first, self-titled album they released with Columbia was quite successful and two of the songs received airtime. At that time they had a somewhat unique sound but there was nothing extremely profound in their music, just a typical rock band. However, Columbia dropped them and they were then signed under the independent label Eleven Seven Label.
With the new label came a more unique sound for Crossfade. In the past their songs had been somewhat heavy sounding but their lyrics didn’t always mimic the sound, but that all changed with the album We All Bleed released through Eleven Seven. This album possessed more edgy lyrics that tended to push the envelope. For example, the most famous song off the album “Dear Cocaine” deals quite bluntly with the difficulties of Cocaine addiction. Also, Crossfade’s style of music moved towards a heavy yet slower paced style that gave it a more indie feel. So in this case the indie label resulted in a more free and indie album than they had previously released.
I think the label under which a band is signed definitely has an effect on the final product. However, the degree to which the label affects the band’s sound seems to be up to the band. There are plenty of examples of bands who have signed with varying labels whose sound remained more or less consistent. One of those bands is Devildriver. They were under a large label early on and slowly moved towards a more metal focused label but their sound has stayed consistent throughout the years. Overall there is a move to push a more mainstream sound under a larger label but it can be dampened by a stubborn, yet successful, band.
Coming from Austin, I have been exposed to many different types of independent texts which peaked my interest in independent media. Austin is a city full of rising independent music artists, filmmakers, and video game designers. It is a wonderful place for independent artists to showcase their work.
One of the things that make Austin unique is South by Southwest, a set of film, interactive, and music festivals and conferences that take place every spring. It started in the late ’80s as a local music festival, and has grown into a premiere launching point for up-and-coming music acts, under-the-radar movies, and promising tech start ups. Because of its reputation, the biggest names in entertainment and tech now flock to Austin each year as well. The film festival, for one, “boasts the most varied and never-ending line-up of the year,” says Movieline, with low-budget documentaries and big studio releases. On the music front, indie bands hoping for the big breaks intermingle with big-name acts.
SXSW has featured some notable films this past year including: V/H/S/2, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Spectacular Now.
Spontinaeity, the new kind of music
When I first heard of Sigur Rós, I thought that maybe they (or he, as I thought they were a singular artist at the time) had some potential, but I wasn’t particularly interested in their music. I actually heard of them from a remix of their song, HoppÍpolla, by Chicane, which he (Chicane) renamed to PoppÍholla. I enjoyed Chicane’s remix more, but that was before I actually heard HoppÍpolla in Icelandic (its native tongue).
This article talks about Sigur Rós in more detail, focusing specifically on their spontaneity when they produce music. Apparently, when the members of Sigur Rós go into the studio to record, they just start playing; they have no game plan of any sort, it’s basically a recorded jam session. This has created a type of music which is odd at first, but if you look deeper into it, it’s actually quite beautiful.
If you look at it from the standpoint that music is something that is orderly and clearly defined, yes this is very odd type of music. While you can have some musical measures that repeat themselves in a periodic way, or have time signatures that follow, there is still much room for moving in an unexpected direction. It jars your mind, and breaks you out of the rhythm, forcing you to pay attention to the music more. I, personally, am guilty of using music as a background white noise while I’m doing any kind of work. With this music, however it is almost impossible to listen to the song and do another task at the same time.
Granted, this article talks more about Sigur Rós’ creative process being spontaneous, but I do think that even if the final product ends up being spontaneous itself, it still has some merit. It’s telling the audience, “Hey! Look at me! I’m here!”, instead of being blatantly ignored.