I often get depressed that contemporary indie rock is quickly becoming nothing more than utilitarian music for Starbucks and Urban Outfitters. It seems like every year the big breakout “indie” bands get progressively less weird, but as a result, this has created something of a burgeoning subculture of bands/songwriters who are interested in creating song based music that is largely divorced of commercial intention, yet still firmly rooted in pop song craft. This aesthetic has grown exponentially in recent years and in some ways, I feel like William Alexander’s Girls Basketball is an excellent example of where big indie rock and the weirdo pop scene both meet and split.
Girls Basketball is first and foremost a goddamn beautiful record. Alexander has a gift for song craft and sampling that is in line with folks like Jib Kidder and Dean Blunt. Throughout these nine songs, the dichotomy between the organic and the sampled is constantly blurred in an extremely subtle way. Like Kidder and Blunt, Alexander doesn’t draw attention to the fact that many of his pieces are built around samples but focused listening really reveals the odd ideas about space in Alexander’s work. In this way, Girls’ Basketball is also reminiscent of Yellow House era Grizzly Bear as well as the oft-forgotten work of bands like Califone and Castanets. Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House was an excellent record that really explored the relationship between lovely folk music and sample based electronics in a manner that both Califone and Castanets had previously set a precedent for. However, where Grizzly Bear seemed to largely abandon this aesthetic for more commercial prospects on later releases, Alexander seems to pick up and prove that there’s still plenty of interesting things that can be done with this combination of materials. This is apparent from the haunting electro-folk of opener “You Can Take It” onwards and the suite of songs from the title track through the end of the album really explores the border between the natural and the sampled in a truly subtle yet always beautiful way. Alexander’s music proves that there is still a lot more to explore in the world of lovely indie pop but that it’s up to the other tape weirdos of the world to do it.
Girls’ Basketball is out now via Juniper Tree Songs. You can stream the album in its entirety below: