Editor's Choice

Hipster Hipster Hipster

Carles (of all people) links to this Village Voice piece by Foster Kamer about how the word hipster can drive internet traffic. He cites this egregious example from Salon, titled "Hipsters on Food Stamps." There's an interesting angle to the story of young people using government money for food, but making it sound as if they are trying to be hip by doing it is patronizing and counterproductive. It's backlash bait, and young people (who suffer disproportionately in recessions) don't deserve that. The article, by Jennifer Bleyer, doesn't even push that angle, but the headline writers have to attract hits, and readers apparently want to read stories about how hipsters are lame.

As Kamer suggests, if the term hipster has any sort of meaning beyond "young-seeming person," then it doesn't seem to apply to the people in the article. His description of the word's history seems pretty accurate:

The truth is that "hipster" - which once only mostly signified only a superficial engagement of certain consumer habits, like tight jeans, Pitchfork-approved bands, and maybe an enclave in whatever part of your town is being gentrified by the moneyed children of baby boomers - has been used so much, it's now just an amorphous term for "young person doing interesting young person things, maybe even some of which could be considered 'cool' or groundbreaking in some way." In the same way we're all "emos" because we're all "emotional beings" who all listen to "emotional music," because most music is inherently emotional. Maybe now that the word has peaked, maybe if we say it enough, maybe if we just read better writing (or write better for our readers), it'll go away. But probably not.

But hipster has become SEO gold, and as such, as meaningless as "hot" or "sexy" or any other marketing word that fires an emotional trigger by evoking a mood rather than something concrete and definable. The term probably thrives at this point because it seems to be something that people feel empowered to voice their opinion about, in a two-minute-hate sort of way. No special insight is required, and nearly everyone believes they have expertise on fashion and consumption -- which makes hipsterism an ideal hot button issue. All you have to do is experience a moment of alienation or exclusion or noncomprehension at the sight of somebody wearing or doing something that seems designed to be noticed. Then you are an expert on hipsters, and can start complaining about how they have ruined everything. Hipster is a reaction, not a person.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Blitzed Trapper frontman Eric Earley talks about touring, the state of the music industry, and (whisper it) progressive rock.

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.