Arts & CultureMusic

Bromfield: The 10 worst “indie” bands you’ll hear this year



Indie music is where alternative rock was two decades ago – once a vibrant and exciting scene, now an aesthetic that’s been watered-down into a pop-industry product.  A few years ago, corporate “indie” was pretty innocuous – just a mess of beards, banjos and brown-hued album covers. But now the labels are growing power-hungry, everyone’s decided they want to sound like James Blunt, and things are going down the toilet.  Here are a few of the worst “indie” bands on the market right now.

(Note: these are my personal opinions and do not reflect on the entire Emerald)

1. Alt-JWe’ve had a James Blunt-wannabe sing over dubstep before; his name was Alex “Too Close” Clare, and he’s not half as revolutionary as college kids seem to think Alt-J is.  It’s a sad time for music if this can pass for originality, and even sadder if anyone actually thinks they’re doing anything for sexuality in music; Joe Newman sings about sex about as eloquently as Steve Carell’s character in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

2. The LumineersI’d reserve this space for Mumford & Sons if I loathed them as much as what they’ve wrought, i.e. the popularity of this band. If you didn’t know singer Wesley Schultz wears a fedora, you could probably guess by his half-hearted folk approximations, which will sound instantly familiar to anyone who’s watched anyone play guitar at a party to get laid. He’s definitely in my top three people whose acoustic guitar I’d love to smash, John Belushi-style.

3. Passenger. Singer-songwriter Michael David Rosenberg has allegedly been around for a decade, but he’s just getting big now; unfortunately, it shows.  His disgustingly smoky voice is still stuck in an era where “You’re Beautiful” plays on the radio every five minutes, but his music suggests someone whispered “folk is big” in his ear sometime in the last couple years.

4. EchosmithThe ultimate band for the Pandora-listening generation, Echosmith is a “you may also like” for just about every major-league indie band in existence, from the xx to Arcade Fire to Young the Giant. The band members are four siblings, but you’d never guess it–they barely even sound human.  The fact that their father co-wrote most of their songs seems slightly sketchy. Are the Sierotas set to be the indie pop’s Jacksons?  I sure hope not.

5. GrouploveIndie pop’s idea of grouplove is a lot more benign than dance music’s, which mainly involves taking drugs until you love everyone. With indie pop, it’s all about singing along to the “whoa-ohs” with everyone else in the crowd. Shit, that’s almost worse.

Honorable mentions:

Birdy, one-woman indie-folk cover band and future Branson, Missouri attraction.

Of Monsters And Men, an Icelandic band who sound desperate to get off the island and move to, like, Virginia or something.

Timber Timbre, who need to learn that singing about trees hasn’t been sexy since Snoop Dogg ruled the charts.

Imagine Dragons and that song “It’s Time,” which can just go to hell.

– And the OGs of “whoa-ohs” themselves (“whoa-OGs?”), Arcade Fire

Sorry, everyone.


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Daniel Bromfield

Daniel Bromfield

Daniel Bromfield is a writer for the Arts & Culture desk of the Emerald, specializing in music. He maintained the SF Rebirth blog in San Francisco from 2010-2013, and his work has appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, KWVA, and the Oregon Voice.