Spotlight: The 90s Revival

Good guitar pop is timeless, and above anything, that’s really what’s going on here. Still, notable shifts in musical landscapes beg connections to be made, and the stylistic one in motion as of late, recalls a few that swept the early 1990s: grunge, shoegaze, twee/noise-pop, etc … you know, that college radio sound that went on to fill the “alternative” rack at your local Sam Goody. It makes sense from many angles; it became fashionable then and it certainly is now, but more so, this is simply what our generation grew up with—for some of us, this music actually feels like growing up—and all art wears its influences to some extent. Below are a five bands that do that exceptionally (refreshingly, progressively, inventively) well.

[BoxTitle]The Pains of Being Pure At Heart[/BoxTitle] [MusicVideos][/MusicVideos] [Listen][/Listen] [BuyNow][/BuyNow]

It was their self-titled 2009 debut that in some ways launched this entire discussion. Sweet, sweet, hooks — they made it seem so easy, as if we’d spent the past decade getting too complicated. Fuzzy yet sparkling, almost like a warmer Jesus and Mary Chain, the band quickly took off, landing on many end-of-year lists, and in a cushy spot among Pitchfork favorites (eventually playing their festival that year). 2011 brought about the follow up, Belong, which tapped producers Flood and Alan Moulder (see: Smashing Pumpkins, PJ Harvey, U2, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode…) and introduced a higher fidelity, and larger presence all around (hooks intact).

[BoxTitle]Yuck[/BoxTitle] [MusicVideos][/MusicVideos] [Listen][/Listen] [BuyNow][/BuyNow]

A much-buzzed foursome from London, Yuck have an immediate appeal that would feel right at home on MTV’s 120 Minutes, complete with a handful of classic format music videos (storyline intermixed with shots of band playing + modern NSFW concepts). Their self-titled debut channels both the harder (“Get Away“, “Rubber”) and softer (“Suck”, “Shook Down“) side of their indie idols (Pavement, The Pixies, and lets throw-in a sincere Gin Blossoms reference). Catch them them all over North America and Europe this fall — they’re like the Scooby-Doo gang up there, scoring a scene from Reality Bites, but more importantly, a great live band.

[BoxTitle]Veronica Falls[/BoxTitle] [MusicVideos][/MusicVideos] [Listen][/Listen] [BuyNow][/BuyNow]

Another act from the forever excellent Slumberland Records roster (which includes both Pains above and Weekend below), UK’s Veronica Falls will release their debut in September. It should make good on promising little strummy twee jammers like “Found Love In A Graveyard” and “Beachy Head” which have been circulating around for over a year now. They’ve got heaps of charm, and the boy/girl vocal interplay down solid. And teaming up in the studio with Guy Fixsen (My Bloody Valentine, The Breeders) seems to have been the right move.

[BoxTitle]Weekend[/BoxTitle] [Listen][/Listen] [BuyNow][/BuyNow]

Speaking of My Bloody Valentine, these particular San Francisco shoegazers are loud. Draping melodies in violent distortion, bass-lining into dark Cure-like undercurrents, the trio has landed on a massively charged, explosive combination. Last year’s Sports LP was met with heavy acclaim and a big tour, and they’re already gearing up for the Red EP due next month.

[BoxTitle]No Age[/BoxTitle] [MusicVideos][/MusicVideos] [Listen][/Listen] [BuyNow][/BuyNow]

No strangers to the conversation, this Sub Pop duo has climbed steadily since 2007’s Weirdo Rippers, carving out an entire art-punk universe in the process. Naming themselves after a 1987 SST Records compilation — a label associated with seminal acts like Sonic Youth, the Meat Puppets, and Dinosaur Jr.— No Age has been credited for helping the DIY scene in Los Angeles thrive, and paving the way for a whole new era of noise. Their drum-n-guitar assault is gritty, at times layered to infinity (2008’s Nouns), other times more balanced and direct (2010’s Everything in Between), but always unquestionably their own.

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