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Key Tracks: "Candy," "Nova Anthem," "In the End is the Beginning"
How To Write An Indie Pop Album, 7th ed.
-Are you a bespeckled, socially maladroit, ambitious young guitar wielder out to inspire the world into peaceful protest?
-Jealous of all the airplay given to that Pump Up the Fostered Kicks song?
-Want to be name-dropped by clueless hipsters everywhere?
Then stop staring at your shoegaze pedals on the floor, because this is the guide for you! With their sophomore album Nootropics, inconspicuous indie pop group Lower Dens has provided you a perfect model for an Individual Artistic Statement. You and all your friends can be unique in your quest to win the hearts of fashionable Spin critics everywhere!
If at any point you become sidetracked in your journey to release your own free-spirited piece of indie art, do not fear. Consult these tips and soon you will have every reviewer inventing contrived genre names for your record:
Pick an obscure album title and cover. This is the first and certainly the most important step to creating your indie pop album, as it will provide fodder for lots of trendy post-modern talk about its themes. In their example, Lower Dens chose the term given to pharmaceuticals that enhance cognitive function for a name, and for their image, a black-and-white collage of a city street, a living room and some kind of dog. Hmm...the malaise of the times as seen by the common man! Five stars.
Follow the instrumental recipe. The second, somewhat important point of decision is how to structure your songs. Nifty things have been done with the tried-and-true guitar, bass, drums and keyboards format, but innovation is not the goal here. The indie pop formula baked to perfection in Nootropics involves an army of spacey synthesizers, layered under droning female vocalizing. Let the bass and drums do whatever they want (see "Lamb" for reference.)
If you insist on a variation, try starting with repetitive drums and one-note bass, followed by a synth loop and a guitar that plays one chord every couple of measures. Keep the singing drone-like ("Alphabet Song"). Rinse, lather, repeat.
Be sure to throw in a couple of exceptions to disguise the pattern. Lower Dens did this by including a more forceful upbeat song ("Candy") and a song with a recognizable vocal melody ("Nova Anthem").
Don't worry about lyrics. More than likely, your keyboard player's ego will cover up the vocals, so feel free to improvise words at will.
Don't worry about hooks. Melodies are for sellouts. You, on the other hand, are an auteur with a creative mind. Just let the vibe of your artistic presence grace the whole album, individual songs don't need to be distinct from one another. You're bound to come up with a creative blend of notes and keyboard tones by accident at some point, like Lower Dens did on "In the End is the Beginning." Then, feel free to use it to fill time for 12 minutes like they did.
Don't sleep the night before recording. That way, everyone will have that much sought-after lethargic feel to their performances. This is especially vital for your singer. A general aura of apathy is key to proving your alt-rock credibility.
Don't tell your guitar player you're making an album. Write all the songs without his knowledge, then inform him as soon as you're in the mixing process. That way, his input can be limited to overdubs and small solos here and there instead of getting in the way of the dreamy feel of a good indie pop album.
Throw in bits of random conceptualization. This goes hand in hand with the purpose of the album title and cover. Some kind of esoteric song linking is needed to display the adequate amounts of pretension. For example, Lower Dens named the second song on Nootropics "Brains," followed by a direct segue into a short instrumental entitled "Stem." "Brains" + "Stem" = "Brainstem!" Brilliant! Not sure what this has to do with anything, but brilliant anyway!
Or for a less subtle example, see "Lion in Winter, Pt. 1" and "Lion in Winter, Pt. 2." Part one is an atmospheric synth instrumental with lots of spacey wobbling. Part two is a bouncy new-wave dance song. Do these deserve to have the same name? What is their connection with each other? What does this all have to do with a lion in winter? All questions to be interpreted by your admiring critics.
With these tricks, you should be well on your way to becoming the hippest, freshest addition to the indie pop scene. Just be sure to change your keyboard sounds with every new album so Pitchfork can praise you for artistic growth.
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