Genres keep us in our boxes
December 27, 2020 5:55 PM   Subscribe

Bartees Strange's debut LP Live Forever is a wildly omnivorous cross-genre blend of indie rock, hip hop, R&B and folk music. It was released in October 2020, seven months after his EP Say Goodbye To Pretty Boy, which featured five covers of songs by indie rock group The National.

Much of the press around Live Forever and Say Goodbye To Pretty Boy centers around Strange's experience as one of few Black people at a National concert, about which he said "It hit me how few black folks were in the crowd, and how this genre (indie rock) seems to exclude the contributions black people have made to it." Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy comments on that erasure in both its cover art and Bartees's choice of National songs to perform, but it's also a personal album in which he makes these songs his own.

Live Forever is a more wide-ranging affair, from the anthemic indie-rock of lead single "Mustang" to gritty rap in "Mossblerd" (its name a portmanteau of "Mossberg" and "blerd," itself a portmanteau of "black nerd," reflecting the boundary-crossing evoked by the track's lyrics and the album as a whole) to Bon Iver-esque folk in "Fallen For You".

The mix of styles might seem eclectic, but Strange doesn't necessarily see it that way, per an interview with
That's why when people ask me, Oh, what's it like making "genre-defying rock music." I'm like “All that is just Black music and I'm Black," and that's it, that’s the whole thing.
At the same time, he cites Bloc Party and TV on the Radio as forebears of sorts: "I didn't know what I could do or become until I saw it." Now, he's joining other Black musicians making indie rock like Vagabon (previously) and NNAMDÏ to pave that trail for others.
posted by valrus (5 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Hell yeah, this is one of my favorite albums this year. I've probably listened to Boomer a zillion times at this point, it just doesn't get old.
posted by thebots at 8:38 PM on December 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Nice post title. Couldn't agree more. Thanks for the new music.
posted by mwalimu at 10:49 PM on December 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Wow... first time I'm hearing this... The drum on In A Cab is phenomenal. My daughter has taken to beating on things with sticks lately and told me that drums just play the same thing over and over again... and we had this whole conversation on the musicality of drumming and I just needed a track that she could relate to because swapping into the jazz didn't work... but this - this she dug.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:56 AM on December 28, 2020

I opened the EP first, and "Going Going" caught my ear instantly. Thank you!

If you're looking for more diversity in your music, Black Bandcamp.Info is a fantastic site to sort and dig through, but you can't easily link to your filters, or I'd link to the "indie" category directly. This site is a crowd-sourced catalog that grew from the volunteer-managed Google spreadsheet of Black artists, producers, and labels (previously).

And if you're holding out for the next Bandcamp Friday, to send all funds to the bands and labels without Bandcamp taking their cut, the next one isn't until Feb. 5, 2021 (see: Is It Bandcamp
posted by filthy light thief at 5:49 AM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much for this post! I finally got the chance to sit down and focus on listening, and it's amazing and exciting. Those National reinterpretations are fantastic, and his LP is on another level entirely. Love it all.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 11:34 AM on January 16, 2021

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