There is a popular idea, with a shade of democratic idealism, that recording technology has progressed to the point that every would be musician has the means to make a nice professional sounding recording. This is mostly off base if the proof is the effects laden, fragmented and over tracked recordings that I hear so frequently*. The feat is that these recordings manage to sound both arid and congested. So it's with some excitement that I welcome bands like Times New Viking who do away with polish and the veneer of the current indie rock M.O. I've read a number of writers who regard this as gimmickry, likely the same dupes that heralded The Greatest as Cat Power's arrival (I'll take all her drunken half starts and uneven records over that MOR stillborn) or regard Nigel Godrich as anything but the Michael Bay of record producers. Polemics aside, the lo-fi sound is an aesthetic choice, just as recording "clean", and it happens to be in sympathy with every other component of the group's sound. Their affection for noise and hiss means a limited audience, and admittedly, I give points to any band still waving the flag of opposition.

While, initially, they seem to merely hearken to the salad days of lo-fi (they do sometimes share Guided by Voices' annoying affected accent), there is an urgency that's the band's own. Mostly, it's nice to hear the pendulum swing back towards less fussy bands unencumbered by laptops and mountains of pedals, performing songs crafted for live performance. They arrive along with a shift away from (I hope?) nondescript formalism and hyper-stylization. Best of all, it seems that emotions might regain some currency. Neo-hippie folk or the new no-wave, despite the impressive attention to costume, were never very good substitutes for feeling.

Times New Viking - Drop Out
Times New Viking - Love Your Daughters

Pitchfork Festival

*The Shins' last record was the first album I remember thinking truly representative of the perils of digital home recording. Overwrought, careful, incongruous. But then, no one seemed to mind.