I’ve always loved to discover new music, and I can remember many days spent in the listening station aisles of Tower Records in my city, waiting for a certain station to open up so I could check out an album with a particularly beguiling cover. This was pre-internet days, so really all you had to go on to discover new music was recommendations from friends and interesting CD art.
Of course, times have changed quite a bit. If you listen to the radio, you’ll have lots of Rihanna and Justin Bieber blaring out at you, and you may wonder just what the hell happened to humanity. Maybe you even have Pandora on your computer or iPhone, and you use it to discover new bands from time to time.
But what’s with these skinny, slightly dirty looking people wearing plaid shirts who, when you say, “Hey, I like this band that’s on, who is this?” turn to look at you with an aura of loathing, almost as if you’d announced you have herpes in public, and says, “This is Bon Iver, of course, don’t you KNOW them?”
Staring at your shoes, you feel a bit awkward, as if perhaps there was a quest to find the band the least people knew and you’d failed. Or maybe you thought you’d do some research, rolled onto a well-known website like Stereogum or Pitchfork, and suddenly realized it was a bit like wading out into the ocean and misjudging how deep it actually is 20 feet out. There’s all these fancy words describing albums that you have no idea how to interpret, and you don’t know any of the bands, and oh God, how will you EVER understand music again?
I’m here to let you know that there’s no need to panic. In fact, as much as the current world of indie music seems like a terrifying threshold to cross in which you will either comprehend it or never be cool again, it really isn’t. What makes it that way is the legion of people surrounding it who are determined to appear as if they are cooler than you and everyone else on earth. It’s an annoying movement earmarked by people who have earned the nickname “hipsters” because, in fact, there is no way on earth you could ever know as much as they do, and anything you do know they knew about three months ago anyway.
It’s kind of like “the one upper” — that guy friend every guy has bumped into once who, every time you say something about yourself, they try to say something better. Maybe hipsters aren’t as obvious about it, but don’t ever expect a hipster to hear you out and express enthusiasm over something you discovered. When applied to the music movement, it results in a whole lot of people whose primary job in life is to make you look bad.
To debunk it all, you only need one simple method of attack: realize that it doesn’t matter who knew about a great band first. Instead jam out to whatever you like, whenever you like, and when someone looks at you all sniffy and acts like what you’re loving is yesterday’s news, don’t care. So what if they have every Radiohead album ever made on vinyl (yes, even the limited edition box set!)?
There you go. You just instantly became cooler than a hipster can dream of being.