A folk revival within the indie-rock music space has been in the works for almost a decade now. Bands like My Morning Jacket and Bright Eyes have incorporated many of the sounds and sensibilities of traditional American folk music into their songs. More recently, though, indie-folk is getting more attention from the media and thus is starting to make waves in charts.
Fleet Foxes, for example, has emerged as the face of this movement. Their self titled album was the Billboard’s Critic’s Choice Album of the Year and their more recent ep, Sun Giant, has also received rave reviews. This has sparked interest in other indie-folk artists such as M. Ward, Beach House, Devandra Banhart and less recently Iron and Wine. Several artists including Jim Jones from My Morning Jacket, M. Ward, and Conner Oberst from Bright Eyes, have collaborated and released an album under the band name “Monsters of Folk”. The album, as expected, has received excellent reviews.
Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
Why have music reviewers and bloggers alike taken such an interest in these bands? I believe the interest in “indie-folk” is a response to two different discourses taking place in society, one relating to music and art specifically, the other relating to mass culture in general.
The first discourse that seems to be taking place involves the authenticity of new music. In an era where musicians are trading in instruments for pro-tools software and pop artists are auto-tuning every note they sing, many seem to be wondering whether new music can even be looked at as art. This debate hit the mainstream this summer when Jay-Z released the song “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).” I believe this particular movement has played a role in the transition of indie-folk into the mainstream. In a time when people are rejecting music because it is inauthentic, it makes sense that music that mainly features just acoustic guitar and natural vocal talents would be popular.
Jay-Z – Death of Auto-Tune
The second discourse involves the general disillusionment with the culture of excess and greed people seemed to have in the wake of the economic crisis. While rap and rock can be associated with much of the booming culture of the past few decades, folk is quite different. If you take one look at the lead singer of Fleet Foxes, you will immediately take notice of his long grizzly beard and his shabby clothing. The folk culture, which de-emphasizes material possessions and the consumer lifestyle, sends a message that is easily tied in with many of the emotions being felt by the masses.