For the new generation of indie rock acts, country music is king


LOS ANGELES (AP) – Singer-songwriter Mitski “My love is my all mine,” Sounds like a whispered moan.

The song is Gothic lounge music for a listener who only has two minutes to get their heart broken – a silky soft slow melody that includes choir, organ, bass and, most critically, pedal steel guitar. Which is preferred by country and western purists. ,

By no means does that description scream “mainstream hit,” and yet, for 12 weeks, it’s been on the Billboard Hot 100, an unusual metric of success for a completely independent artist. And for 10 weeks, their indie rock-meets-chamber pop-meets-country held the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s TikTok trending chart.

Mitski is not from the American South, although her discography has long reflected the small-town United States and she relocated to Nashville a few years ago to explore the humanity of geography. (“Valentine, Texas” from last year “Laurel Hale” album This is one example, but there are many.)

Of course, she’s not the first indie artist to explore weepy Americana sounds. Many of the leading artists of contemporary indie rock come from the South – like Mitski – or hail from there, like soloists Angel Olsen and Waxahatchee, or groups like Plains, Wednesday and Two-Thirds. grammy-nominated band BoyGenius. Lucinda Williams ‘The “too country for rock ‘n’ roll, too rock ‘n’ roll for country” style has an obvious predecessor; And every few generations, it seems like a great new band pulls from alt-country’s narrative uniqueness.

world interested in country

Interestingly, indie rock’s current embrace of country comes at a time of growing global interest in country music. According to midyear music report According to data and analytics platform Luminate, country music experienced its biggest streaming week ever this year, clocking in at 2.26 billion.

The genre has historically been enjoyed by English-speaking Americans, but their reporting shows growth in non-Anglophonic regions such as the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, and Vietnam.

In March 2023, Spotify launched a new playlist dedicated to the country-influenced phenomenon in indie rock, titled “Indie Twang”. It is curated by Carla Turi, Spotify’s folk and acoustic music editor, who says the playlist was the result of a conversation she had in the summer of 2022, when she noticed “country’s influence in indie rock growing”, as she She says. It’s a legacy that stretches back to the late 2010s when country symbolism began to emerge in places not traditionally considered country: everything from Lil Nas For Mitski’s 2018 album “Be the Cowboy”.

He added, “I also think that, during the lockdowns we experienced in 2020, listeners began to crave more organic-sounding music as a way to connect with others.” All of this led to the indie twang playlist, which was expanded upon by successful indie artists such as Ethel Cain and the Plains.

“I’m looking at this area as a kind of movement rather than a trend,” she adds. “Sound will always have its peaks and valleys. I think overall the fan base is constantly growing. I think this kind of growth of Americana and singer-songwriter music in America has changed listening habits across the country.

an alternative state of mind

In 2023, these indie artists offer an alternative Pop-country acts are taking over the mainstream charts like Morgan Wallen, Luke Combs and Jason Aldean. This movement is led by female artists, and artists who do not immediately fit into traditional genre formats.

They also offer an alternative to the traditional images of indie rock: instead of running away from their geographic identities – such as moving to New York and eliminating “y’all” and “ma’ams” from their speech and music – they embrace them. banjo and Lap steel is abundant, God also sings songs about country roads, trucks, guns, humidity, and crickets.

like a trumpet, Jess Williamson of the Plains More traditional indie rock sees the audience’s connection to country music as a revelation following COVID-19 lockdowns. “We have seen people leaving the city and moving to smaller towns and out of the country. We’ve seen people in cities baking bread, starting herb gardens, wanting something simple, nostalgic, and that feels good,” she said.

“On tour, we covered ‘Goodbye Earl’ by The Chicks, everybody’s singing along, and it’s the least good song—that I can imagine. People are calming down and accepting who we are and what we really like. And for a lot of people, that’s country music.”

She says she had to leave it to return to the South and that she fully appreciates his love of both the South and country music, the way “Texans go over and then immediately get a tattoo of the state of Texas. We are,” she says, laughing.

keeping it close to home

Carly Hartzman, frontperson of the Asheville band Wednesday, never left North Carolina. “I think where we live at the moment is inseparable from our music. Of course, we are influenced by country music, but the way country music sounds and feels is due to the environment in which it is created. A great country song sounds like where it came from,” she says.

Wednesday 2023 full-length “Rat Saw God” made AP Best Albums of the Year List for its alt-country rock sensibility, where drawing the listener into the quieter parts of his Carolinas hometown is as much a part of the sonic structure as a lap steel or a guitar fuzz or a poetic line sung off key.

Hartzman says the complexities of living in the South are “the stereotypes…that are definitely established. The politics, the racism and the inequality,” she says. “I’m strongly against leaving this place because I’m against the people in power. “I disagree with the politics of . . . It’s refreshing because I feel empowered to fight against that (expletive), especially for those who are unable to do so here themselves.”

She says the South is her “favorite place on earth” – beyond its influential music – but the appeal of staying and creating there is also economic, which can have an impact on indie artists associated with country music.

“I think affordability is a big factor now for people trying to make it from their hometown rather than moving to bigger cities,” she says. “Obviously, the Internet makes this possible.”

It also means that for listeners of indie twang playlists, or a big city rock club or a small town honky tonk, new approaches to familiar Southern sounds are more accessible than ever.


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