Silent Shout: Views From The Monoculture

Carl Williott | May 6, 2016 11:43 am

Silent Shout is our recurring dispatch from pop’s fringes. It may not be music for the masses, but — to paraphrase *NSYNC — this might be pop.

Prologue: If you’d like to skip over some word vomit about mass consumption and consensus and popularity and just wanna get straight to the alt-pop tunes, scroll past the garish purple-and-green image below.


1. The monoculture is supposed to be dead, but it’s actually more suffocating than ever because of social media. It’s harder to bow out of the conversation. There used to be a time when, if you didn’t live in New York or L.A., and you didn’t have cable, then you didn’t necessarily know, or at least constantly get reminded about, whatever annoying song was duping the public into being a hit. You could insulate yourself.

But now it’s really hard to do that, and if you do, you’re some hermetic pariah. An even worse fate awaits you if you disagree with the mass hashtag hive. You’re automatically a troll, a contrarian, if you think, say, 25 is boring-ass grandma music. In this environment, you can’t just listen to a song, now it’s a whole goddamn experience; upon listening you gotta sharpen your wits and put on your emotional armor just to set foot on Twitter for the water cooler conversation.


2. The monoculture is supposed to be dead, but we’ve recently experienced a streak of albums that were juggernauts in terms of sales and were also critic-proof, consensus fare. Stuff like 1989, 25, Lemonade, maybe even going back to The 20/20 Experience (the first half).


3. “Popularity doesn’t necessarily mean quality,” the rallying cry of high school music outcasts across generations and also a sentiment that certain Music Twitter sages will proudly proclaim is a leftover echo of rockism. But that’s total bullshit. It has nothing to do with rock and it’s completely true. For this generation, Exhibit A: E·MO·TION. Exhibit B: Lukas Graham‘s “7 Years,” Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa‘s “See You Again,” etc.


4. The monoculture is not dead, and popularity doesn’t necessarily mean quality. Drake‘s Views did a million in its first week. Drake’s Views is his most mixed critical effort since his debut album.


5. Views sold a million copies and just about each one is sparking a different view and that is a refreshing thing in the age of the classic-trash social media swarm. For the first time in a long time, the breathless praise has subsided, the public and the critics are admitting that one of their super-powerful darlings has released a highly fallible thing. May this help speed the dissolution of the monolithic take.


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Alex Cameron — “She’s Mine”

This Aussie dude looks like Soviet Andrew W.K., dances like your uncle trying to do “Hotline Bling” and is signed to Secretly Canadian. What more do you need to know? Just get down to this electro-pop minimalism.

Adult Jazz — “Earrings Off!”

The 2014 debut album from Leeds’ Adult Jazz was full of the type of circuitous, baroque blog rock you’d see tagged with “RIYL Animal Collective” circa 2k9. But sophomore effort Earrings Off! is shaping up to be an altogether weirder, starker affair — along with “Eggshell,” the set’s title track suggests their more abstract, ponderous tendencies have been swapped out for a nervy, squelchy immediacy. There’s an unhinged quality to it similar to what’s present on Autre Ne Veut‘s latest LP.

Still Parade — “Chamber” On “Chamber,” Berlin-based musician Niklas Krameroff marries the melted synths of chillwave (drink!) with actual, real drums and bass and the nimble psych spinout of Tame Impala. It’s off his debut album Concrete Vision, out June 10.

Smino — “menu” Whoa this beat by Monte Booker is the most brain-twisting bed I’ve heard maybe since that madness Kanye conjured for Pusha T‘s “Lunch Money.” The producer has already teamed up with St. Louis rapper Smino on an entire EP and a handful of other tracks, and their partnership has yielded some bright and brittle futurist rap gems. Is this what it would sound like if the PC Music cohort tried their hand at hip-hop?

BRÅVES — “Unwed Sailor” If the “B” in R&B stood for “breath.” If someone Weird Science’d a male FKA twigs counterpart. If James Blake were an anonymous L.A. trio.