Sunday, August 28, 2011

Is the sax making a come back?

Is it just me or is the smooth, sexy and sassy sax making a comeback in popular indie music?   One thing I've recently observed is that a handful of indie bands/artists are now employing one of my least favorite reed instruments.

It's not that I hate the saxophone.  I think it has a well deserved place in music, e.g.,jazz and big band music.  But when bred with other styles of music - especially rock - it has a tendency to, well.... cheese things up.  And I'm not talking about the cheese you snack on with crackers.  I'm talking about the kind you glaringly wince at in disgust.  I think we have the soft porn industry, the 80s and possibly Kenny G to blame for that.  

The fact that these artists appear to be striving for this corny aesthetic is interesting.  Are they trying to rebrand the sax and make it hip again?  Or perhaps it is simply an honest and genuine celebratory nod to 80s nostalgia.  I will admit that while I found the sax usage to be off-putting at first, it does seem to work in some instances. Others not so much.

Here are a few songs from 2011 buzz bands that are incorporating the almighty sax into their music.  Check them out, and let me know what you think.

If I missed any artists, please let me know in the comments section.

Destroyer - Kaputt
The sax lead in Destroyer's Kaputt is reverb processed and panning. It is soft and delicate, asserting an airy chilled-out atmosphere.  This soft-rock 80s throw back has actually grown on me since the album was released.

Bibio - Feminine Eye
Bibio deploys the sax at the end of this track, mirroring the main vocal melody.   Smooth and understated, nonchalant and out-of-nowhere,  the sax here takes the song right into grocery store soundtrack territory.

Bon Iver - Beth/Rest
Anyone who has spent time with Bon Iver's latest album Bon Iver, Bon Iver, should be able to hear the distinct FM radio and 80s soft rock qualities that differentiates the album from it's folky predecessor.  No track is more showing of these traits than album closer and standout track Beth/Rest.  I say standout, but I don't necessarily mean that in a good way.  Justin Vernon unabashedly pays tribute to the 80s by pairing cheesy guitar leads with equally cheesy sax leads.   Growing up in the 80s, this song certainly conjures feelings of nostalgia and makes me long for the time when things were simple and care-free.  But nostalgia aside, I am wincing hard.

M83 - Midnight City
France's M83 specializes in blissed-out, shoe-gazey dream pop electronica (how is that for adjective stuffing?). Their latest single Midnight City is yet another nod to the 80s and like Bon Iver's Beth/Rest it leans heavily on warm feelings of nostalgia.  It's hard to not like this song.  The synths are dense, heavy and right in your face. The production is top notch.  It's simply uplifting and empowering.  Oh yeah and the song closes with a rockin' sax solo.


  1. Deerhunter - Coronado (released last year) deserves a mention.

  2. you are kind of douche, why don't u stop criticizing peoples work and come up with your own shit... oh right ha ha ha u can't take it only dish it out. Bon Iver sings to my soul and you make it want to die