I really like this hipster chick who I think likes me, except every time I put on some music she makes fun of it. Help?
– Heartbroken in Highland Park
Dear Heartbroken in Highland Park,
Hipsters have a complicated relationship with music, that can best be divided into four categories:
1) “I like their early stuff”
2) Ironic appreciation
3) The canon
4) The archaeological find
#1 is fairly straightforward– when in doubt, listen only to the band’s first album, especially if the later works were professionally produced. Prominent examples of this include Beck, Modest Mouse and R.E.M.
#2 is a bit trickier. Hipsters have grown to love a number of bands that are clearly terrible but make for good t-shirts and laughs on the dance floor. There’s something of a learning curve here: Journey, Styx and Dio can all be enjoyed with that right ironic grin. Motley Crue, Guns & Roses, and ZZ Top, not so much.
As for the canon, you simply must learn it. Mostly made up of older bands: The Pixies, Pavement, Joy Division, The Rolling Stones through Exile on Main St. (although Tattoo You can be enjoyed ironically), The Clash, The Fall, The Velvet Underground, Public Enemy, Radiohead, Tom Waits… and so on. You cannot go wrong playing anything by these artists (except post-Exile Stones).
And finally, the archaeological find. Basically, these are obscure bands that hipsters love and follow with all the fervor of a Red Sox fan. It doesn’t really matter what the band is, or if they’re any good. The important thing is that no one has ever heard of them and that you love their music with absolute conviction. It’s a mistake to assume that all hipsters love all obscure music, but all hipsters love some obscure music, and even if they don’t like your obscure music, they’ll respect you for liking it. Unless they’ve heard of it. Then they’ll think you’re an asshole.
Got a question for Ask a Hipster? Send us an email at email@example.com with “ask a hipster” in the subject line.