When the young, woodshedded strains of folk music began to intermingle with contemporary gloss -- that is, this time around, during the 21st century boom and not the '60s "pick up yer tent, McGuinn" genesis -- the pop public's flirtation with folk instrumentation and melody ended up not being the passing fad so many expected. Who would have thought that so many Mumfords, Avetts, and Ivers would have surged out of the petri dish?
First off, let's get this out of the way: Whoa. That's an album cover right there. Yeah, son. It's Alejandro Jodorowsky slipping peyote in your grandma's tea before sending her off to her sewing circle to cross-stitch this little piece of psychedelia. It's an album cover of the year contender.
Who else here remembers hearing 'Alice Practice' for the first time, back when it was pixel-bombing the pre-Twitter internet? I sure as heck do. Even before Alice Glass finished retching the first lyric ("Scars! Will heal!," for those keeping score at home), it sounded like a classic -- a major missing piece from the blogosphere conversations happening in 2005 and, more importantly, a party track extraordinaire.
One of the biggest surprises of 2003 was the unexpected blockbuster 'The Soul Sessions,' which marked soul chanteuse Joss Stone's entry into the always-bubbling Britsoul arena, showcasing the then-teenaged Stone's bold-throated acuity for tackling the soul and R&B classics of the '60s and '70s. The album wasn't just karaoke night standards from the Smoke and Choke Karaoke Saloon, either. Aided by a cast of producers including soul icon Betty Wright and the Roots' Questlove, she dug hard into the stacks, digging out deep cuts from genre also-rans like Bettye Swann and Sugar Billy.
As far as I'm concerned, that whole 2000s hipster thing really took off around when the first DFA compilation was released in 2003. The epoch ended -- and I think this is a tacit understanding among everybody -- when the Madison Square Garden house lights came up after the final LCD Soundsystem show.
Alternate album title: 'Pity Party 'Til You Puke.' Three years ago, Passion Pit found their electropop piped into homes everywhere when their breakout single, 'Sleepyhead,' became the Big TV Commercial Jam of 2008. That beat -- that still-incredible, 'Ye-influenced beat -- and Michael Angelakos' birthday balloon-huffing falsetto were everywhere -- except for the Billboard Top 100 charts, somehow.
It wouldn't be too much of a stress to claim that Of Monsters and Men are in the middle of what could be the indie rock success story of the year: Icelandic Folk Poppers Make Good, Top Charts in America. Their breakthrough single, 'Little Talks,' is a bespoke fit for the airwaves right now, mashing together the anthemic folkiness of Arcade Fire and the erstwhile pep of Mumford and Sons. Atop of all that, the song is pretty fantastic, to boot.