And Now, a Hipster Music Interlude

As my colleague John Nolte reminded us today, I am incorrigibly and forever steeped in the hipster world. It’s a simple relationship: I love the music, mostly dislike the movies, and hate the attitude. I don’t presume that my age is anything but a disadvantage in the search for wisdom, aka “authenticity,” according to my peers.

That said, the music is why I write today. Take a listen to UK pop artist Jamie Lidell, whose new self-titled album hit stores this week:

There’s a fantastic trend bubbling up in pop, a genre called maximalism surging into the mainstream. I was first exposed to this hyperactive reworking of ’80s R&B through a guy on SoundCloud named Bobby Tank, who has since expanded his profile with radio play in the UK. 

Maximalism is exactly what the name implies–everything and the kitchen sink goes into the mix. Drum kits exploding, retro synths whizzing in stereo, frequent tape acceleration effects–it all adds up to a beatiful mess. You can also hear the intentionally rough vocal performance of Autre ne Veut in Lidell’s singing–multitracked, heavily filtered, letting his voice break at just the right moments.

Now, Lidell isn’t a platinum-selling artist, but he’s made it onto the Billboard 200 and been featured on network TV and blockbuster video games. His use of this type of soul music in overdrive could trigger some U.S. producers to embrace a similar sound (just as many are co-opting dubstep right now) depending on how album sales go.

The great thing about maximalism, especially with Lidell, is that despite the bombast of the accompaniment, there’s still a strong melodic pop core. And that’s a litmus test for me; all the “experimental” music I’m drawn to is actually quite traditional–structure that’s easy to follow, memorable melodies, etc. No matter how much you filter, fracture, and otherwise discombobulate your tracks, it’s got to hold together with a simple, overarching framework. The chaos must not overpower order… at least, not for too long.

And that’s exactly the balance Lidell achieves. Here’s the first music video from the album (warning: lots of strobing lights):