Brit punk and the world of a new sense of mainstream music

In a hummus shop, I heard the Vaccines.

At first I wasn’t sure, but once I heard the singer, I knew it – “If You Wanna” was being played in Hummus Bros on Southampton Row.

To say “I was stoked” would be to say it lightly.

Hearing gems such as the Libertine’s “Can’t Stand Me Now” being played casually in stores, shops and pubs is something I really need to get used to, and boy, I better let it soak in.

Every now and then back in the US, you’ll walk into a store like Forever 21 or AllSaints and hear something like Au Revoir Simone or tUnE-yArDs, but normally you hop in a cab, and the same top 40 is being played on the radio.

I should clarify something. This isn’t a rant against top 40. In fact, pop and mainstream music has paved the way for independent bands to either rebel against that type of sound or play off of it and make it unique. Pop as we know it in the 21st century is something that constantly changes, so completely writing it off is also hard to do because, well, what of pop are you dismissing?

That being said, I get really tired of artists like Miley Cyrus sometimes.

Why do we turn to people such as that? Because we’re told to listen to her. She has the visual, and bands such as Palma Violets – a fantastic new age punk band with a loosey-goosey attitude that played at Lolla this year – don’t. Then again, not every band wants that same kind of visual.

But, I’ve grown up with not being a fan of top 40. It doesn’t mean I hate all of it, but I am, in the most true sense of the phrase, not a fan. I don’t go out of my way to follow it because I don’t have to since it’s everywhere, and most of the time I’ll either flip the channel to XRT or plop in a CD since I’m still affectionate of albums on CDs. It’s where it started for me – CD players, not iPods.

It’s very easy, as a rock, indie, and alternative fan, to completely dismiss pop or top 40. It’s easy to get into rants, and to feel self-righteous that you listen to the Sheepdogs instead of Kanye West.

But there’s a catch! Indie is starting to become mainstream.

There’s a couple of ways this is happening – indie artists are starting to be top 40 artists. Thank Foster the People for that with “Pumped Up Kicks” (although why that song out of all of them made it big still fascinates me).

Also, Ellie Goulding is becoming a sensation, but she’s not completely new. “Lights” is from 2010, but in recent years it’s become a household song.

This is also happening with the Black Keys – Brothers made it big and you’ll have to go out of your way to find someone who’s listened to Thickfreakness.

Who do we have to thank for this? The Brits, of course.

Now, you can’t completely generalize it, but a lot of these sort of rock or indie bands that make it big in the US were initially hits in the UK.

The reason why I am such a big Kings of Leon fan is because my dad gave me the CD of Because of the Times – which was a sensation in the UK. It wasn’t until “Sex On Fire” and then, more widely played, “Use Somebody,” that Americans started hearing the Kings on Kiss FM and the like.

So I have been given a golden opportunity.

Being in the UK for the semester, I have the opportunity to see rising British acts and acts that have made it big in the UK, but are only a whisper in the states at this point. The most relevant example of this for me personally is the Vaccines. They played to a reasonably sized Lollapalooza crowd in Chicago. In London, they played to a packed O2 Arena, which houses 20,000 seats.


Whether or not the Vaccines reaches Kings of Leon fame doesn’t concern me. But, if they gain success and enjoy it and use it to their advantage, then all the power to them. I cannot stand it when people criticize their bands for getting big. I’m sorry, you don’t like seeing their success? Or the fact that your friends can actually join in a conversation about them now?

Again, as an indie fan it’s easy to have that attitude. The “I was here first!” syndrome.

So, while I’m here in London, I’m going to be musically exploring as much as I can. If I go to a show, check Amplified for a review.

For now, cheerio.

Playlist #1: Traveling

travel playsj

When you’re packing to go traveling, you need a good playlist to keep you steady through your adventures.

I’m about to spend a summer in New York City and a semester in London, UK. I’ve always dreamed of living in these places. I’ve been to both cities a few times, but now I’ll be able to really look around, see what these places have aside from the tourist experience. Also, next semester I’ll be able to travel outside of the UK to other countries.

I’ve always loved traveling and going to new areas, be it in the United States to destinations such as Sitka, Alaska or Yellowstone National Park, cities in Canada such as Toronto, or various places in Europe, such as Glasgow, Scotland, Barcelona, Spain, or Nice, France.

These songs listed are memories and dreams – both the types of songs associated with different travels, and songs that inspire me to keep visiting different corners of the world.

Also, you can listen to the playlist on Spotify – Travel playlist

1. Road to Nowhere – The Talking Heads

Great song to get pumped for the journey. Also, it kind of has that “travel for the sake of traveling” kind of vibe. Also it speaks to me on a deeper level as I get lost a lot… so I’m constantly on roads to nowhere… literally.

2. Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen

This one has a special place in my heart. I’d listen to this in middle school and think of all of the different places I was going to go to. I guess I can tell my younger self I was able to do it. That’s kind of a cool feeling.

3. Who Are You – The Who

This one is a simple one. Just watch that one scene from Louie and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

4. Ocean Breathes Salty – Modest Mouse

I have a memory of me listening to this song on the plane ride over to Scotland to visit some family friends. I think this is a self-conjured memory, though, as I visited Scotland in middle school and I didn’t start listening to Modest Mouse until high school. But I still like to have that fake memory.

5. Let Me Entertain You – Robbie Williams

Okay, so this one illusionist on a cruise I was on did this crazy trick where he was sitting on a motorcycle on stage and then there was a flash of light and then he appeared from behind the audience riding the motorcycle. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. And – he did it all with this song playing in the background.

6. Pomp and Circumstances – Smashing Pumpkins

Another song from a cruise experience – this one is a bit more artsy-fartsy. My favorite thing to do was sit on the deck, draw in my sketch book, and just blast Zeitgeist, straight through. I don’t even really remember drawing all that much – I just really dug Smashing Pumpkins and looking out onto the sea.

7. Postcards from Italy – Beirut (not on Spotify)

I’m a postcard collector and sender – I love receiving postcards and I’ll send them out, even if it’s from school. They’re just fun little things, I feel. That and I have more motivation to write a postcard than an actual letter.

8. The Winner Is – DeVotchKa & Michael Dyanna (not on Spotify)

From Little Miss Sunshine, one of my favorite movies and a fantastic road movie. I loved the sense of realism – how hot they looked in that car is definitely something my family has experienced with our annual trips down to the gulf in Alabama. That and I really dig Greg Kinnear’s dad socks.

9. Satellite – Dave Matthews Band

The first time I watched the sun rise was in a coach bus on the way to Disney World with my high school’s marching band. I woke up kind of early and put on this song and watched the sun lift above the trees. A really peaceful moment.

10. California One/ Youth And Beauty Brigade/ Ask – Colin Meloy

This is from his solo album after Castaways and Cutouts came out. I remember sleepily listening to this for the first time on the plane ride to Boston as I was visiting colleges. I liked the song so much that I listened to it again and fell asleep to it.

11. Manhattan – Kings of Leon

The first time I visited New York City, I got the flu. It was my freshman year of high school. During a performance of Curtains, the show featuring David Hyde Pierce (whom of which I was an aficionado of at the time), I threw up. I was determined to finish watching the show, so my body held it together for the second act. The next few days I spent recuperating in a hostel near Central Park. So, my initial impression of the city was a less than pleasant one at best. I went back my junior year, though, and immediately liked it better. I liked it so much that I decided to go to school in New York with the hopes of eventually living in the city. Funny how some things work out.

12. Belongings – Clock Opera

I had traveled around my whole life, sure, but moving? That was a newer concept to me. The only time I had moved in my life was when I was 8 months old. Moving to college was big for me. The weeks leading up to the move were emotional, as I was starting to realize how much I was going to miss everyone. This song describes that feeling perfectly.

13. Wake Up – Arcade Fire

As much as I was realizing I was going to miss people away at school, I also was ecstatic to go to SU. It was the place I had really wanted to go, and I was entering a major I was stoked for (I mean – how much fun does something like “Television-Radio-Film” sound?). This song was in the background of a welcome video Syracuse played at one of the prospective days. It became my anthem for getting psyched about going to school.

14. Rivers and Roads – The Head and The Heart

I listen to this song whenever I’m homesick. Not really about “home,” though, more about people. So, when I’m in Syracuse, it’s when I’m thinking about all of the people I miss in Chicago. Now, after two very full years at Syracuse, I listen to it and I miss the people that I met at school. I’m sure I’ll listen to it off in NYC and London on those days when I miss home in all of its forms.

15. England – The National

I’m a bit of an anglophile. Ever since Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I’ve loved British culture, art, music, comedy, drama, you name it. Last year, second semester of freshman year, I was starting to realize that I was getting closer and closer to when I could apply to study abroad. Listening to this song with the snow swirling all around inspired me to keep that dream going. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do my whole life, and I can finally go to the place I’ve always wanted to study in less than 100 days.

16. Gotta Knock A Little Harder – The Seatbelts

I listened to this going to and from Breckinridge, Colorado. On the way up the mountain, it was to pump me up for a trip of epic skiing. On the way down, it was a sense of relief that I was able to survive a horrible bout of altitude sickness and still be able to get some skiing in.

17. From Finner – Of Monsters and Men

I just really like how this song talks about how you can be miles and miles away from home and yet still be really, really happy. I feel like that’s something I’ve felt with a lot of different places I’ve visited, and especially with Syracuse.

18. Loud Pipes – Ratatat

Coolest song to blast while wearing awesome shades and driving your car. In my case, it’s a boxy, green Honda Element. Epitome of classiness.

19. Going to California – Led Zeppelin

I’d really like to study in LA, and it’s something I’m going to try to do within the year. Also, I think that this would be the perfect song listen to while looking out the window, driving.

20. Weather With You – Neil Finn

A great sort of send-off song – it reminds me of the Irish Blessing. So to all of those who are planning on traveling or like to travel: may the weather be with you!