Pop music is at a very transformative point in 2018. There’s always been diversity in pop, but never before have there been so many styles and genres of music previously relegated to localized scenes now internationally accessible and available to the record buying public. The advent of social networking and streaming sites has made it so much easier for all of us to connect with bands and artists that we never would have in the past, but this new breakthrough has come to fruition pretty quickly when put in contrast to other key moments in the history of pop, and it’s left the establishment fractured and without leadership in many ways.
The Chordaes are a modest alternative rock band out of New York state, but to say that they’re a big part of what’s going on in pop as a whole right now might be a bit of an understatement. While they might not be in charge of the politics that rule over their scene, The Chordaes are effectively changing the landscape for bands like themselves, who are committed to making smart pop music that appeals to a variety of audiences but doesn’t turns its back on the DIY ethics that shaped it. In many ways, their sound and approach to making music embodies all of the biggest trends in rock and pop right now, and their newest single “California” acts as a sort of anthem for one side in the war for chart domination.
“California” is the kind of rock song that doesn’t come pre-cut for big radio DJ’s to put directly into rotation alongside Ed Sheeran and Imagine Dragons, but isn’t necessarily afraid of the seductive nature of brightly colored packaging, either. Built around the incredible vocal set of frontman Leo Sawikin and featuring a guitar arrangement that is enough to make any music lover get weak at the knees, The Chordaes slip us a slow-acting drug in “California” that churns and swirls around us before receding and suddenly evaporating into the atmosphere. This isn’t your mom and dad’s indie rock with a psychedelic tinge; this is 21st century pop music that is earnest, at times suffocating, and indefinitely memorable. It refuses to blend into the crowd.
College radio has always been my go-to when it comes to finding new music, and its embrace of The Chordaes has not been lost on those of us who appreciate the weight of the endorsement. If I were in this band, I would be very resistant to the possibility of total commercial takeover that they could very well be faced with in the wake of the success of “California” and its companion extended play In Itinere. That transformative point that I referenced earlier is staring them down right now, and with all things considered, The Chordaes are figuratively the ones holding all the cards right now. They represent a new generation of performers that give allegiance only to the craft, and if they are able to make the transition from micro to macro without losing the integrity that they so artfully champion, calling such an event legendary might not do it enough justice.
PHOTO BY TOM PARR