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HITS LIST SLIPS
INTO SUMMER
Fire up the grill. (5/29a)
TOP 50: SWIFT'S STREAK GROWS; BILLIE'S BIGGEST BOW YET
Ladies' choice (5/24a)
A PRE-SUMMER PHOTO GALLERY
Each worth a thousand words (5/27a)
DOJ FILES ANTITRUST LAWSUIT AGAINST LIVE NATION
A game of Monopoly on Capitol Hill (5/24a)
NEAR TRUTHS:
HOWDY, PARTNER
Redrawing the Mason-Dixon Line (5/24a)
THE NEW UMG
Gosh, we hope there are more press releases.
TIKTOK BANNED!
Unless the Senate manages to make this whole thing go away, that is.
THE NEW HUGE COUNTRY ACT
No, not that one.
TRUMP'S CAMPAIGN PLAYLIST
Now 100% unlicensed!
Critics' Choice
MIDYEAR PLAYLIST: SOUNDS FROM THE INDIE UNDERGROUND
7/5/23

By Bud Scoppa

The most popular indie acts, including boygenius, The National, Spoon, Phoenix, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, hit eight figures on the DSPs, fill amphitheaters and have achieved a modicum of mainstream visibility. But a surprising amount of exceptional music is being made by musicians who create their art in relative obscurity, purely for the love of it. They’re part of a widespread DIY rock, soul and blues underground whose members persevere out of a belief in themselves, the desire to keep currently unfashionable styles alive and an underlying sense of community.

Cut Worms Max Clarke, one of these musicians, recently told me, “I don’t know if there is a community or an element that unifies it, but if there was and I had to guess, I think I’d say it has something to do with trying to make something meaningful within a mode of expression that’s been highly commodified, oversaturated, and voided of meaning by advertising and consumerist trends, along with probably a lack of interest in what currently—sometimes inexplicably—passes for being ‘good’ in a broader sense.”

There’s a lot of connective thread between the bands and artists I’ve been listening to, who appear to be perpetuating and at the same time recontextualizing the music of the mid-20th century. This 50-track Spotify playlist juxtaposes popular and little-known indie talents, from The Lemon TwigsBrian (26) and Michael D’Addario (24) to 77-year-old soul singer Bettye LaVette and 70-year-old Big Star drummer Jody Stephens, now half of Those Pretty Wrongs, both of whom continue to inspire younger generations of musicians.

As for what keeps these artists making music when positive reinforcement is intermittent, Clarke offers, “You never really know how other people feel; you only know how you feel. All I try to do is record that [feeling] as close as I can, for my own sake. If other people resonate with that, then that’s beautiful, but it’s a mystery… I don’t think I could put a name to that feeling, nor would I want to—it would likely be different for everyone, often changing—but if many people really were to feel the same thing, I think that would be enough in and of itself.”

Inspirational lyric:

I got a picture of us playing in a bar
And your shirt cost more than your guitar
But you played so heavy, and you always let me sing a couple
Even though you were the star...

From “When We Were Close” by Jason Isbell