Beer and Pavement

Creepy Old Guys and Indie Rock Grrrls

Posted in Meta, Pop by SM on December 15, 2021

This is maybe the worst title I’ve ever written for a blog post. Please don’t get the wrong idea about me.

I am a white CIS male. If you couldn’t figure that out based on the content of my writing and interests, then you probably don’t succumb to tired stereotypes. However, I suspect my positionality doesn’t really need to be defined. I sort of feel this practice centers oneself, but I guess that’s what one does when one writes a blog, especially in 2021.

But I digress before I’ve even started.

I like indie rock. I like guitars. I like feedback and Pixies-ish dynamics. I like off-key vocals and even more off-key guitar tunings. FTR, I’m not particular to the gender, sex, race, or other identities of the musicians, but my collection is mostly a mirror image of myself.

Still, there have been a growing number of young women making guitar-based indie rock over the last decade. I don’t know if it’s just my heightened awareness over that time or there’s really a trend, but I have noticed, listened to, seen, and collected more women indie rockers in recent years than at any other time of my fandom.

It could be caused by the rise of feminism over my generation’s lifetime. Spaces are more open to women as rock guitar players. The remnants of Riot Grrrl surely has had a lasting effect. The influence of feminist thought has even changed how I view women and women musicians (although, I was always a fan of Riot Grrrl, The Breeders, Liz Phair, etc.).

It could be that for whatever reason, less of the men I used to look to for musical entertainment aren’t making the music I love as much as the women of the two generations coming after Gen X (or is it three generations?).

If I look at my favorite records of the last three years, it’s littered with new female voices playing guitar-based indie rock. Courtney Barnett, Waxahatchee, Snail Mail, Indigo De Souza, Big Thief, Dehd, Vagabon, Black Belt Eagle Scout, etc. etc. These artists are consistently making some of the most interesting music right now.

I’m not saying men are suddenly making good music. I’ve just noticed young women making most of the music I tend to like. Older men make a ton of indie guitar rock that appeals to me, but there aren’t a lot of younger, male-fronted rock bands that sound like they are on Matador circa 1994 at the moment.

So, that’s all cool. I need to diversify my record collection and play more women around my kids.

My daughter and I have even bonded a bit over it all. Indigo De Souza came along at a time when my oldest was transitioning from Billie Eilish to Nirvana. De Souza fits right in the middle of those two. Even though her latest, Any Shape You Take, includes more pop influences than her debut, I Love My Mom, my kid has tended to prefer her rockier, angstier material. Hopefully, we’ll see her this spring and continue to bond over the up-and-coming singer-songwriter.

Indigo De Souza also represents a direction a lot of these artists I’m obsessing over seem to be taking. Many of them seem to be moving away from the rock music that first attracted me toward something poppier. Thankfully, De Souza just seems to be experimenting here and there with pop songs. In fact, between those pop tracks lie some of her hardest-rocking tracks so far.

Several other musicians have taken this pop route as well. I really liked Jay Som’s debut, but her latest has gone spacier and distanced itself from straightforward guitars. The previously-mentioned Vagabon held a lot of potential for upholding feedback-driven quiet-loud-quiet song structures, only to go a minimalist pseudo-electronica path. Others such as Sasami and Japanese Breakfast turned in 90’s-era indie records only to turn up the experimental, more modern aesthetics.

This isn’t all bad. These young artists should expand and should push boundaries. And frankly, I am a dying segment of their audience – literally and figuratively. So, they don’t owe me anything. I can now decenter my musical needs…

Either way, I’m a mid-40’s, upper-middle class white dude who buys way too many records and probably has too many opinions on it all. I just like my indie rock to sound like Pavement, his like Sebadoh or GBV, challenge me like Bikini Kill, and punch me in the balls like Liz Phair. Is it too much to ask that the women of the Millennial and Gen Z share my appreciation for the era?

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