When I Was A Child I Listened to Swell Maps


I’m curious to see whether music critics will hail Haim’s Days Are Gone as a triumph when they issue their 2013 best of lists, or if they’ll use their big moment in the winter sun to proudly flip the band a middle finger from behind their computers because they don’t think the trio is deserving of the tag “indie” (and, technically speaking, they aren’t actually indie), and they don’t believe the group is worth the hype. I’d like to hope that, like me, people that love music and get the chance to write about it from time to time will see the band’s debut as a great pop record full of smart songs that blend the AM radio sounds from the 1970s that were still playing in the background when I was growing up in the 1980s, and that decade’s blend of new wave and R&B. But even though Haim calls to mind sounds that played on the radio at certain points in my life — some I feel nostalgic for and others I just really love — what they represent to me personally is something interesting. I entered into our relationship of them as a band, me as a listener, knowing full well that they’re a band backed by major label money, and that once the album was released you’d see them go from indie blog fodder to playing on the Saturday Night Live stage like they did the other night.

I’ve had a particular aversion towards pop music over the last fifteen or so years. At some point as a teenager I decided to shut off some little switch in my head that made it really tough for me to get any enjoyment out of listening to anything that didn’t live up to my tough and pretty unreasonable standards as to what was “real” and “fake” in terms of music. For nearly two decades my music choices were basically under the scrutiny of a Holden Caulfield test, and I fear I may have missed out on a few gems in that time because of it. In my own search for what I generically coined to be “the authentic,” I sacrificed a chance to enjoy music that was made for the sole purpose of being enjoyed.


The band Perfect Pussy, on the other hand, took the route that I traditionally have found more appealing when it comes to getting into a band: they recorded a few songs, played a bunch of shows, and people took note; the only real difference between them and bands that I grew up listening to is that all it took for them to get a lot of notice from Pitchfork and a really good booking agent was an amount of work that comparatively seems minimal when you look at what bands used to have to do to get notice, and if they did get notice right off the bat, you figured they were connected to the CIA, had rich parents, or something along those lines.  What’s interesting to me is that Perfect Pussy tend to have the sort of resume that I once required for me to like a band, and Haim are pretty much antithesis of those requirements, yet I’m far less skeptical of Haim than I would have been five or ten years ago, and the same goes for some other pop solo artists and groups as well. On the other hand, I still can’t get comfortable with DIY bands and groups that play the type of music that probably won’t get airplay on commercial radio (Perfect Pussy) getting “big” right away thanks to the way the internet makes things so much more accessible. That isn’t a knock against Perfect Pussy, their music, their popularity, or the motives of the members in the band, rather, I use them as an example of how my own personal growth when it comes to liking popular music is outpacing my ability to get comfortable with the fact that what we once knew as this place we called “the underground,” has really peeked more than just its head above the surface for the rest of the world to see.

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