August 23, 2012

The 20 Worst Hipster Bands: The Complete List

Who are these hipsters we see each day in the streets, on our Tumblr feeds, and on the local news? And why are so many in bands? It's not the mere existence of hipster groups that distresses us -- some of our best friends are hipsters, after all -- it's their lemming-like tendency to, if you'll pardon a mixed metaphor, ape each other.

On its surface hipsterdom seems to be an individuality-grab, but most of today's 20 and 30-something bands from Silver Lake and Williamsburg sound shockingly similar. They're all playing variations of retro garage and soul music -- or bringing glockenspiels and choirs on incestuous nationwide tours -- all the while clad in vintage garb likely infested with lice. We're not saying that they should be outlawed by, like, Congress or something. Just that they should be avoided. Here then, is our field guide to the worst offenders. -Ben Westhoff

This list originally appeared on West Coast Sound, LA Weekly's music blog. Read that version here: The 20 Worst Hipster Bands: The Complete List
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20. The Black Keys
The guitar-and-drums "blues" punk combo thing wasn't very good even when The White Stripes did it. Still, that hasn't stopped legions of bearded, be-flanneled ersatz blues men from bringing great shame upon their ancestors. The Black Keys stand at the very vanguard of posh cracker blues rock, displaying a lack of authenticity that would make John Fogerty blush. Further, whereas Jack White can actually play, Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach is more concerned with beard grooming and disheveling his hair. -Nicholas Pell
20. The Black Keys

The guitar-and-drums "blues" punk combo thing wasn't very good even when The White Stripes did it. Still, that hasn't stopped legions of bearded, be-flanneled ersatz blues men from bringing great shame upon their ancestors. The Black Keys stand at the very vanguard of posh cracker blues rock, displaying a lack of authenticity that would make John Fogerty blush. Further, whereas Jack White can actually play, Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach is more concerned with beard grooming and disheveling his hair. -Nicholas Pell
19. TV On The Radio 
Sure, TV on the Radio concocted an original aesthetic, but it was so hideous we should be glad no one thought of it before. The supposed "soul"-indie fusion of their early work is walled up by rigor mortis drum machines, off-the-grid falsettos and drab, moaning textures. This wasn't helped by their look-at-us Pixies cover or calling their first record OK Calculator. Band member-producer David Sitek has even managed to make Scarlett Johanssen sound ugly. -Dan Weiss
19. TV On The Radio

Sure, TV on the Radio concocted an original aesthetic, but it was so hideous we should be glad no one thought of it before. The supposed "soul"-indie fusion of their early work is walled up by rigor mortis drum machines, off-the-grid falsettos and drab, moaning textures. This wasn't helped by their look-at-us Pixies cover or calling their first record OK Calculator. Band member-producer David Sitek has even managed to make Scarlett Johanssen sound ugly. -Dan Weiss
18. Sleigh Bells
Remember in 2010, when we all lost our collective minds over these guys, with their iPod beats, garage-metal guitars and schoolyard-chant vocals? It was, like, the most original sound ever! Then the second album came out and everyone was more like, "Huh. Actually, this kinda sounds like shit." Also, Alexis Krauss started wearing her own band merch at shows, which you're really only allowed to do if you're Morrissey. -Andy Hermann
18. Sleigh Bells

Remember in 2010, when we all lost our collective minds over these guys, with their iPod beats, garage-metal guitars and schoolyard-chant vocals? It was, like, the most original sound ever! Then the second album came out and everyone was more like, "Huh. Actually, this kinda sounds like shit." Also, Alexis Krauss started wearing her own band merch at shows, which you're really only allowed to do if you're Morrissey. -Andy Hermann
17. Fun.
One could argue that fun. is not a hipster band; that the sincerity behind songs like "We Are Young" by default bars them from the title. We argue that having punctuation in their name earns this distinction by default. The stylization is bad enough, but their music rides the very worn coattails of Arcade Fire and Edward Sharpe, the kind of overblown romanticizing of youth and self-destruction that at this point sounds more cliche than "carpe diem." -Andrea Domanick
17. Fun.

One could argue that fun. is not a hipster band; that the sincerity behind songs like "We Are Young" by default bars them from the title. We argue that having punctuation in their name earns this distinction by default. The stylization is bad enough, but their music rides the very worn coattails of Arcade Fire and Edward Sharpe, the kind of overblown romanticizing of youth and self-destruction that at this point sounds more cliche than "carpe diem." -Andrea Domanick
16. MGMT
Exploiting LOLcat culture and synthy, psychedoodling indie-dance for pop crossover was such a good idea, apparently, that MGMT made it all their own. They tried to be meta about it on their big 2008 breakthrough single "Time to Pretend," which is about rocking 'til you die with "models for wives." And a follow-up hit was not to come; the hookless prog meanderings of their difficult second album (2010's Congratulations) made it clear they weren't in on the joke after all. -Dan Weiss
16. MGMT

Exploiting LOLcat culture and synthy, psychedoodling indie-dance for pop crossover was such a good idea, apparently, that MGMT made it all their own. They tried to be meta about it on their big 2008 breakthrough single "Time to Pretend," which is about rocking 'til you die with "models for wives." And a follow-up hit was not to come; the hookless prog meanderings of their difficult second album (2010's Congratulations) made it clear they weren't in on the joke after all. -Dan Weiss
15. Death Cab For Cutie 
Death Cab for Cutie is the grandfather of crappy hipster bands. Singer and songwriter Ben Gibbard delivers sickly-sweet lyrics in a nerdy, nasally voice; he's overtly "sensitive" while employing nauseatingly twee titles like You Can Play These Songs with Chords. (First released on cassette, of course.) Musically, the songs are flat, resting in an "easy listening" register. Death Cab sounds like what would happen if you stripped Weezer of their power chords and sense of humor. -Linda Leseman
15. Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie is the grandfather of crappy hipster bands. Singer and songwriter Ben Gibbard delivers sickly-sweet lyrics in a nerdy, nasally voice; he's overtly "sensitive" while employing nauseatingly twee titles like You Can Play These Songs with Chords. (First released on cassette, of course.) Musically, the songs are flat, resting in an "easy listening" register. Death Cab sounds like what would happen if you stripped Weezer of their power chords and sense of humor. -Linda Leseman
14. Wavves
Wavves sound like a high school outfit exclusively influenced by "ironic" rock bands. Perhaps this is how they've become the darling of the hipster Gestapo at Pitchfork, The Onion AV Club and Spin. (And even, we admit, us.) An early cassette release showed they weren't afraid to use obsolete recording formats, and they've since taken the whole lo-fi "punk" with whining, atonal vocals to levels a million Z-grade Strokes copycats hitherto only dreamt of. Throw in guest appearances from Best Coast and Fucked Up members and you've got a band that are trying way too hard to be off-beat. -Nicholas Pell
14. Wavves

Wavves sound like a high school outfit exclusively influenced by "ironic" rock bands. Perhaps this is how they've become the darling of the hipster Gestapo at Pitchfork, The Onion AV Club and Spin. (And even, we admit, us.) An early cassette release showed they weren't afraid to use obsolete recording formats, and they've since taken the whole lo-fi "punk" with whining, atonal vocals to levels a million Z-grade Strokes copycats hitherto only dreamt of. Throw in guest appearances from Best Coast and Fucked Up members and you've got a band that are trying way too hard to be off-beat. -Nicholas Pell
13. The Decemberists
The real Decembrists protested Nicholas I assuming the imperialist Russian throne. If you think adding an 'e' (like this band) is an ingenious play on words, you're cordially invited by Colin Meloy's cult for a "free stress test." It includes: 1. Fans who think he's literary 2. Fans who think listening to him makes them literary and 3. Folk-rocking 40-somethings who made the Decemberists certified chart-toppers after Peter Buck and Gillian Welch helped them safely cross over to NPR. Meloy's endlessly nasal prog-folk operas deserve them all. -Dan Weiss
13. The Decemberists

The real Decembrists protested Nicholas I assuming the imperialist Russian throne. If you think adding an 'e' (like this band) is an ingenious play on words, you're cordially invited by Colin Meloy's cult for a "free stress test." It includes: 1. Fans who think he's literary 2. Fans who think listening to him makes them literary and 3. Folk-rocking 40-somethings who made the Decemberists certified chart-toppers after Peter Buck and Gillian Welch helped them safely cross over to NPR. Meloy's endlessly nasal prog-folk operas deserve them all. -Dan Weiss
12. Pomplamoose
If you experienced the worst Christmas of your entire life in 2010, it was either because you were too broke to buy gifts, or you encountered one of three Hyundai commercials featuring the Bay Area duo Pomplamoose covering Christmas carols like "Up on the Housetop" and "Deck the Halls." These encounters grew ever more frequent as the holiday season wore on: This compelled some viewers to become infatuated with Pomplamoose, while greater numbers ventured into the streets looking for Hyundais to smash into. Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, the real-life couple who make up Pomplamoose, seemed to epitomize everything about too-ironic, too-precious, too-self-conscious indie pop. If creating cutesy YouTube videos of club staples like Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and Lady Gaga's "Telephone" made the band an Internet sensation, it also betrayed an annoying propensity for holding the wink a little too long, musical talent notwithstanding. -Mike Seely
12. Pomplamoose

If you experienced the worst Christmas of your entire life in 2010, it was either because you were too broke to buy gifts, or you encountered one of three Hyundai commercials featuring the Bay Area duo Pomplamoose covering Christmas carols like "Up on the Housetop" and "Deck the Halls." These encounters grew ever more frequent as the holiday season wore on: This compelled some viewers to become infatuated with Pomplamoose, while greater numbers ventured into the streets looking for Hyundais to smash into. Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, the real-life couple who make up Pomplamoose, seemed to epitomize everything about too-ironic, too-precious, too-self-conscious indie pop. If creating cutesy YouTube videos of club staples like Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and Lady Gaga's "Telephone" made the band an Internet sensation, it also betrayed an annoying propensity for holding the wink a little too long, musical talent notwithstanding. -Mike Seely
11. Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros
This gang of overgrown children aren't just hipsters, they're hippie-sters: A double whammy of annoying that melds the folly and creepiness of a hippie cult with the semi-ironic pretension of a hipster's attempt at spirituality. Their grins are a little too wide, robes a little too Jesus-like and sing-songy joy a little too childlike to ring true, and it distracts from their legitimate talent as musicians. It's good and well that frontman Alex Ebert is sober and pushing himself in different artistic directions, but the new beard and persona make him less of a Bowie than the Charles Manson of twee. -Andrea Domanick
11. Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

This gang of overgrown children aren't just hipsters, they're hippie-sters: A double whammy of annoying that melds the folly and creepiness of a hippie cult with the semi-ironic pretension of a hipster's attempt at spirituality. Their grins are a little too wide, robes a little too Jesus-like and sing-songy joy a little too childlike to ring true, and it distracts from their legitimate talent as musicians. It's good and well that frontman Alex Ebert is sober and pushing himself in different artistic directions, but the new beard and persona make him less of a Bowie than the Charles Manson of twee. -Andrea Domanick