Making your music lo-fi doesn’t make it sincere. It doesn’t make it more “authentic.” The ramshackle charm of lo-fi music can often add a nice sentimental charge to an already-electrified song (Slanted and Enchanted by Pavement, Bee Thousand by Guided By Voices, the early ’90s in general). That said, it should not be used as a crutch or a substitute for dynamic songmanship. And really, it should not be a genre, though it happens to lend itself well to quirky, sleeve-on-heart indie music.

But today, with Garage Band and the advent of laptops as portable, do-it-yourself recording studios, the “lo-fi” aesthetic has mutated into a bandwagon of egalitarian mimicry and massive carrying capacity. Anyone can be a musician now. And as much as I love free artistic expression, the increasingly rapid rate at which genuine ingenuity is flung into the populist meat grinder for mass reproduction is dizzying.

A few years ago, Animal Collective was still skimming the waters of the indie underground, possessing a sort of subterranean mystique. I remembering hearing Collective for the first time and being absolutely repulsed. The banshee wails and possessed-baby gurgling noises turned me off to the point where I deemed it “not music.” While this was largely a sign of my musical greenness at the time, the point is that the music was subversive enough to scare away a Kid A-bred 12th-grader. And the inimitable style of this truly unconventional band has slipped on some lubricating hype, spread like wildfire across the Internet though cattle-call blogs and forums and been snatched up by rabid indie amateurs across America to be stuffed and conventionalized for the “mainstream underground.”

While chip-off bands like The Dodos provide for some good, combustible freak-folk, they’re a hell of a lot less freaky than Animal Collective. The Dodos lift the surface features of Animal Collective (the tribal yells and frenetic, rim-clacking percussion) and streamline them into more conventional song structures — which isn’t to rip on The Dodos. It’s simply to say that technological advancements have made it incredibly easy for anyone with sufficient passion and drive to arrange the spare parts of their favorite bands into serviceable but derivative pastiches.

This do-it-your-self mentality has even manifested itself in the way we listen to music. While the art of mix-making far outdates the On-The-Go playlist, MP3 players have certainly stunted our dependence on the album as a cohesive artistic statement. Back in the age of the Walkman, there was no “shuffle.” I mean, most Walkmen came equipped with the ability to listen to a single CD in random order — but, honestly, what fun is that?

iPod nanos, with their relatively small storage sizes, are far better suited to compiling an archive of your personal greatest hits than stockpiling an extensive album collection. And, with so many people trafficking music on the Internet nowadays, it’s come down to the sheer logistical fact that songs, with their compact file sizes, are going to enjoy way more broadband movement than digitally bulkier albums. We have entered the era of the single-serving song, and this cultural trend has been picked up on and exploited by legitimate digital music supermarkets like iTunes.

This may seem like small potatoes, but when you open up iTunes, the first chart you’re hit with is the Top Singles chart. You have to manually scroll down just to get to the Top Albums chart. And the store’s marketing technique of selling individual songs for roughly twice the price of a gumball and promoting them with 30-second preview clips has certainly exacerbated our generation’s cultural ADD. Not only are people buying albums less, they’re basing these single-serving purchases on whether or not a micro-ad can hook them instantly. No one is going to have any conception for the scope and value of a 25-minute jazz opus based on the hunk-of-piano-solo a 30-second preview provides. And, consequently, people are going to be less inclined to buy it on iTunes.

What you get is the death of the album. Or, in slightly less hyperbolic terms, the devaluing of the album in the context of popular culture. The world has caught rock star fever — everyone’s either pining to be the next bedroom indie darling or stir-frying their own On-The-Go mishmashes of other artists’ work. This may all seem like a big load of apocalyptic over-generalizing, but there’s certainly been a growing streak of narcissism in music, an art form often toted as the universal language.

The “indie” genre, a faction of music typically correlated with artistic innovation and out-of-the-box-ed-ness, has been busted open to the mainstream by programs like Garage Band. Matt Bradish, owner of local record store Underground Sounds, asserts that, while he is a fervent supporter of local artists, he doesn’t feel inclined to sift through the landslide of self-released music he receives.

“It’s just too easy to make stuff and release it (these days). There’s a glut of releases out there that have no place being released,” he says.

French economist Jacques Attali even goes so far as to wonder if there will ever be a point in the future when the ability to compose music becomes so universal, and the world’s musical library so vast, that “musician” will lose its status as a viable career option — everyone will simply be his or her own composer.

But, as terrifying as this sounds, we haven’t reached the end just yet — we still have Wavves. And for that, we should be thankful.

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