Bands that Made You Cool in the 9th Grade and What They’re Up To: A Playlist

By Devon Chodzin ‘19

Warning: This article is partially devoted to my coming to terms with my middle/high school existence. Be prepared for a little emotion.
Full disclosure: My middle school years were turbulent, with friendships coming and going and new hormones introducing themselves every other day. I was gross and I looked the part. Even pre-9th grade me knew this, so when it came time to settle on an aesthetic, a clique, an identity: I did the last thing you’re supposed to do, and chose “hipster.”

The word, the concept, the identity reappeared on Meme-Touting Sites during middle school, and by 8th grade, I was turning the tides away from a weird gothic phase (ask about THAT if you dare) into some softer, more lighthearted pop-
rock-acoustic-ukulele jammers.

This is a playlist of those bands I needed to get familiar with before 9th grade rolled around so that I could walk the walk and talk the talk. As you’ll be able to tell from this playlist, I couldn’t.

Also, valid question: what are these bands up to now? We’ll find out!

Phoenix

The French alternative band burst into American consciousness with “1901” (seen above) and “Lisztomania,” both high energy songs with a strong pop-rock denouement from their 2009 success Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
Where are they?: Doing whatever they want in France. Remember, Thomas Mars is married to Sofia Coppola. They don’t need to do much. 2013’s Bankrupt! saw mild success in the alternative universe (“Entertainment” is such a banger, honestly) and they made several strong appearances at all the big-name festivals. Moral: let them be.

Ra Ra Riot

This American alternative group took advantage of every important detail one might need in a pre-2010 indie-pop- strings, tenor vocals, a tempo above 130 BPM. This track comes off of their 2008 debut, The Rhumb Line.
Where are they?: They released Need Your Light, their fourth studio album and fourth with Barsuk Records. It was arguably their least successful record. Highlight: they did tour with one of the latest and greatest acts on the scene today: PWR BTTM.

The Naked and Famous

Another one of 2010’s many indie electronic hits to be popularized on a car commercial, “Young Blood” is easily this LA-based group’s best known song, which came off of their debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You, which they produced in their native New Zealand.
Where are they?: Just two weeks ago, The Naked and Famous released their third studio album, Simple Forms, to lukewarm critics. Critics continue to look back on “Young Blood” as The Naked and Famous seek to release a new anthem.

Two Door Cinema Club

Irish indie rockers Two Door Cinema Club came to Cleveland in September of my freshman year of high school and I can remember not being able to score tickets. Bummer, because even my younger sister knew/loved them and this would’ve done wonders for my reputation.
Where are they?: Still fairly successful. They dropped Gameshows in mid-October, which still holds fast to their radio pop-rock roots. While their singles off of Tourist History are still their most popular, this group is working on keeping a consistent sound without overtly trying to re-achieve anthemhood.

Of Monsters and Men

The Icelandic sources of the indie folk smash hit “Little Talks” garnered all of my high school’s attention, and considering the band name’s close resemblance to a novella we all had to read as freshmen, they were very hard to forget.
Where are they?: “Little Talks” won them such international accord that they were awarded for transcending borders. Peep Keegan James ‘19 reviewing their 2015 album right here.

Matt & Kim

This quirky indie electronic duo burst into teenage consciousness with their 2008 single “Daylight,” seen above. Ask any WKCO staff writer about their Matt & Kim experiences and they’ll tell you about some wild concert stories. Why Matt & Kim is the common denominator, I couldn’t tell you.
Where are they?: In 2015, the duo dropped New Glow, which picked up elements of EDM and hip-hop which had previously been more subtle. Critics were much harsher than in years prior, with Pitchfork only grantinga 4.6/10 on the album. I still have high hopes for their future.

Peter Bjorn and John

Known for releasing that 2006 “hipster song with the whistling,” this Swedish indie-rock trio quickly became a huge focal point in the budding hipster’s repertoire of unproblematic pop.
Where are they?: Sweden. Even though they sing in English and have concerns over American record performance, their work is primarily in Sweden. The three members helped co-found an artist collective and record label INGRID, and in 2015, they started working on album number seven, Breakin’ Point, which still features some successful singles and whistling.

Foster the People

Since “Pumped Up Kicks” hit the mainstream by the start of freshman year, it helped your teeny-bopper-hipster-cred to have known this song in eighth grade (released: fall 2010). The dark lyrics in “Pumped Up Kicks” appealed to emo kids exiting that phase of existence, and I can think of a few emo/scene friends who transitioned from that aesthetic straight into Mark Foster worship.
Where are they?: Torches remains their most successful album, but not by too, too much. 2014’s Supermodel saw great commercial success, which is rather funny, since the concept album heavily (and darkly) criticizes late capitalism. Last fall, Cubbie Fink left the band for other opportunities, and the remaining two members are playing new tracks from an album yet to be released as of October 2016.

Fleet Foxes

The Fleet Foxes people got to meet in 2008 were Sub Pop’s indie folk crown jewel. If the fox wasn’t already a part of the twee aesthetic, then this and Wes Anderson’s family-friendly claymation sure did the trick.
Where are they?: On a touring hiatus, largely due to Robin Pecknold’s desire to go back to school. However, for the past seven months or so, there has been talk of a new album featuring a new collaborator with a new vibe, with release date unknown.

Cold War Kids

This bluesy California rock band brought forth a little more of the adult contemporary style of rock which previously mentioned groups avoided. This track from Robbers and Cowards officially put the band on par with the closely associated Modest Mouse.
Where are they: Album number 5, Hold My Home, received mixed reviews, but spawned a wildly successful single, “First.” On Halloween 2016, Cold War Kids released an anti-Trump protest song called “Locker Room Talk” which, I must say, is a must-listen.

Florence + The Machine

By my eighth grade year, Lungs was making huge waves in the United States, and any young teen with taste found Florence Welch’s impressive vocal range, determined style, and feminine mystique to be freaking fantastic. Plus, her music was great for contemporary dance choreography of any level.
Where are they?: In truth, they never left. Welch and keyboardist Isabella Summers have still been releasing albums fairly consistently, and while Lungs still sustains as their most recognizable album, the band (and Welch in particular) is still extraordinarily active and has provided soundtrack music and collaborative platforms all over the world.

The Wombats

This British three-piece band’s early work was emo enough for some of my friends who were in the depths of that abyss. This song, especially, worked to bridge the gap between the kids who wanted dance-able rock and those who more strongly identified with dramatic emo pop punk.
Where are they?: In 2015, the band dropped Glitterbug, whose most successful tracks are quite different from “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” and similar tracks from The Wombats of pre-2010. Glitterbug received positive reviews and was supported by a tour which stopped in 22 countries.

MGMT

MGMT, formerly The Management, brought forth an exciting rendition on rock and roll with a psychedelic influence, with the pleasantly charismatic Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser at the helm. Tracks like “Kids,” “Time to Pretend,” and “Electric Feel” still permeate the atmosphere in odd places to this day.
Where are they?: MGMT released their eponymous album in 2013, which featured a handful of praised tracks, but one has to wonder if the move towards a thinner collection of tracks with less dense reverb was the right move. As of October of this year, the band has a new album in the works.

These honorable mentions deserve their moment in our collective sentiment, but due to my own time constraints, and the constraints of this article, I won’t dive into their whereabouts right just yet: Miike Snow, The Ting Tings, The Kooks, Bear in Heaven, Young the Giant, Franz Ferdinand, Angus & Julia Stone, She & Him, M83

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