Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Voxtrot - s/t

I really know nothing of any of the current buzz bands, beyond a word or two I see in a messageboard or what I'm visually assualted by when I glance at the front page of pitchforkmedia. Desperate for finding new things to get needlessly mad about, here's what I saw when I looked at it today (besides a lovely story about Neko Case selling lingere on ebay):

Say hello to Voxtrot. They look like they're trying so hard to be uncool. I'm pretty sure my dad has that exact shirt the guy in the middle is wearing (including the little alligator). That yellow and blue striped shirt is also a strong contender for the Most Tastleless Article of Clothing Ever Worn in a Publicity Shot award.

I heard about them from someone at the Oberlin radio station when I was still there and figured that with the name, they must be some sort of irritating twee/dance group. I even downloaded their new self-titled album with the intention of reviewing it here a couple months back, but their music unfortunately didn't live up to my expectations of awful. No, Voxtrot is an exceptionally straightforward and sincere band. I originally thought that was odd, maybe even refreshing, considering what's usually popular in the indie world these days. Then I remembered that it was only a matter of time before dopey, straight-laced sincerity became the new irony.

But it's unfair to get bitter about the state of the "indie" world and not judge these guys on the merit of their actual music, which is suprisingly decent. It's also nothing you wouldn't expect - the whirring, layered mechanical guitars that are present in anything remotely resembling the Strokes these days make appearences, but they're offset by more heartfelt strings and piano. The arrangements themselves are fairly predictable, but nothing too simple or redundant. There's enough variety to keep things from getting too dull, from the intense "Kid Gloves" to the laid-back "Future Pt. 1" to the jumpy, piano-driven "Stephen" to the serious ballad "Real Life Version".

Unfortunately the singer's utter sincerity in everything from his lyrics straight from the mouth of a freshly disillusioned highschooler to his clearly enunciated voice is so sentimental it borders on sappy. I prefer a simple vocal delivery vastly to weird affectations put on purposefully to the voice as a way of sounding more unique, but virtually everything about Voxtrot is as clean-cut and run-of-the-mill as you can get. And that's what I find more than a little bit disturbing. There are some pleasent hooks scattered about, but nothing particularly memorable or compelling. It's just too easy. It's almost as if their popularity is a way for teenage hipster-hopefuls to listen to something they secretly enjoy a lot more than the more difficult and challenging music they're pretending to like without losing cred.

When bands like this get embraced by the "indie" world, I start to doubt my own musical sensibilities. Maybe I'm just not hearing something brilliant that's there? Maybe my ability to recognize brilliance is way off?

But if my taste-meter isn't as fucked up as it seems to be, my question is this: How could people with knowledge of infinitely more innovative and fully-realized bands love stuff like this? Do they just like everything new that comes down the pipe that doesn't suck? It confuses the hell out of me. In the end, I don't hate this album and I don't hold it against people for liking this band's music, but there certainly isn't much on here I could give a damn about either way.