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by Raymond Cummings

December 7, 2013

Indie Rock's Most Bummer Cuts

by Raymond Cummings  |  December 7, 2013

When indie rock spirits dip, they dip low, plunging into remote aquifers of pathos, self-pity or bitter irony, buoyed (usually) by shredded guitar thunder. OCS -- a no-fi John Dwyer project that evolved over time into what is now Thee Oh Sees -- make disillusioned, metronomic lemonade from busted-friendship lemons on "So I Guess We Can't Hang Out," with ping-pong beats and stunned acoustic strum. On early career highlight "I'm Never Bored," The Walkmen try and fail triumphantly at portraying the young, single life as something enviable; the narrator's sadness and longing are never expressed directly, but lurk as subtextual elephants in his apartment, with its "white, unforgiving walls." "Everything's Alright" is Kimya Dawson's frazzled, non sequitur way of saying just the opposite, with a Greek chorus of kiddies singing along just to dial the weirdness up a few notches.

Sometimes depression or discomfort is communicated in less direct ways: Take My Bloody Valentine's tortured quickie "Touched," or Suckers' inscrutably martial "Chinese Braille." Sometimes imitation is the sincerest form of sincerity, as when Built to Spill taunt hordes of lyric copyright attorneys on "You Were Right"; sometimes the doldrums are so sharply rendered they're almost capable of drawing blood, as on Throwing Muses' visceral snarl "Teller," or Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti's dipped-in-formaldehyde gloomer "The Doldrums." But for feel-bad realness, none of the other songs on this playlist can touch "Not a Friend," Sebadoh's scorching ballad of self-immolation; if you claim that you've never been able to relate to this song, you don't know yourself or are just delusional.

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