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Why I Listen To Alternative Music And You Should Too

Joyce Jude Lee |
September 27, 2014 | 4:06 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

"TURN DOWN FOR WHAAT!" can be heard blaring through the streets, parties, clubs, and bars all over America and it riles up everyone in the crowd. Though I don't mean to discredit Top 40 Radio songs and their creators, these songs are overplayed and unexciting. Most songs you hear on the radio these days (including those of Rihanna, Katy Perry, etc.) were not penned or produced by those who sing them. They generally have the same bpm (beats per minute) and follow the same, generic formulas.

Foster The People // Photo: Joyce Jude Lee
Foster The People // Photo: Joyce Jude Lee

This is where alternative music comes to save the day. The genre lumps together the unconventional and is not, as commonly perceived, limited to alternative rock (think Death Cab for Cutie or The National). Artists in this realm are not restricted to the confines of "popular" music and are very much encouraged to come up with different sounds and textures. Alternative music allows creative souls to flourish and feeds the public's desire for non-clubing songs. Though they may not be the songs everyone wants to dance along to at clubs and bars, their depth can heal the soul and connect with listeners in a way that pop music never could. 

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Production and lyricism are two of the main things I listen for when I'm in search of good music. Most of the time, alternative music is honest; it speaks to the soul. That's because the people who are singing these songs are also those who wrote, composed, and produced these songs. Because they're connected to the creation process from start to finish, listeners can hear the raw emotions and stories that abound their tracks. 

Take Vampire Weekend, for example. They're not in the business to put out music and singles one after another. They're making music because they want the end product to be something new, experimental, and something that they could be proud of. That's why it took them three years to create "Modern Vampires Of The City," the follow up to their critically acclaimed sophomore album, "Contra." "Modern Vampires Of The City" explores themes of religion, mortality, and all the while maintains the Vampire Weekend sound--the album is so well produced that it went on to be named Rolling Stone Magazine's #1 album of 2013 and win the Grammy for Alternative Album Of The Year. 

Alternative music does not have to please everyone. With artists like FKA Twigs, James Blake, and Alt-J, all of whom heavily toy with synths and reverbs, alternative is taking on a whole other meaning and these individuals are taking music to another level. One of the best songs that Blake has produced (in my humble opinion) is a tune titled "I Never Learnt To Share," in which Blake, an only child, repeats the line "My brother and my sister don't speak to me, but I don't blame them, but I don't blame them." The track is a standout because of the stellar production Blake creates around one single lyric--the echos of this lined paired with the trip-hopesque synths tell a tale of a boy who confesses about his inability to share with others--the vocal layerings evoke the ghosts of his non-existent siblings. 

While Vampire Weekend and James Blake are both hailed as indie favorites, there are so many other artists who work relentlessly for and around their art because they love it. UK artists like Jack Garratt (listen to "Worry") and To Kill A King (listen to their new song "Oh My Love") may be lesser known on this side of the Atlantic, but their music is some of the best that's out there today. These people pour their hearts and minds into their work, which is why I always try to be musically open minded and imagine why their songs sound experimental. It may take a couple listens, but imagining the stories behind the songs always converts me into being a fan. If it weren't for these artists, all music would be reduced to sounding identical. Alternative music is borne out of the soul, it seeks not attention, but appreciation. It asks not for universal praise, but geniune connection, and that's why I love and stand for it time and time again. 

If you're in need of alternative music, here's a Spotify Playlist of songs I have on heavy rotation. 

Reach Staff Reporter Joyce Lee here



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