We've written about the Sheepdogs plenty of times during their lead up towards last year's excellent, Future Nostalgia
. We even premiered the lyric video for "Downtown" last July (spoiler alert: it's still awesome)
. Today, the Saskatchewan natives dropped their music video for "I'm Gonna Be Myself," and perhaps more than any other retro rock band working today, they get what it is folks loved about the 60s and 70s.
Nostalgia is in right now period. The indie pop space is defined by bands who want to make the best Tears for Fears/INXS/Talk Talk track that never actually existed. 80s pop has been the driving creative force of indie pop for five years now...for better and for worse. On the good end of the equation, we have bands like CHVRCHES and Passion Pit and (at least on their recent singles) the 1975 and Carly Rae Jepsen working in genres that have been left alone for a while to craft something new and meaningful, and they use that established familiarity to make a comforting invitation. The bad end of the equation are the host of copycat bands which are content to simply ape. They don't give anything interesting back.
And that's the pop space. Rock as a genre is almost totally dead at the commercial level. Think about the bands that we traditionally think of as the big commercial rock bands of the last 16 years. I can only really name three: the Killers, Maroon 5, and Coldplay. The last of those two bands haven't been rock bands since their first record (although maybe you could make an argument for Coldplay having two rock records). They're pop bands, and god bless the Killers, but they haven't released an essential album since Sam's Town
in 2006. There are plenty of great rock bands, but they're almost all in the alternative/indie spaces.
But what about those bands. Jack White embraces blues and garage, but I wouldn't call him a retro act. Same with the Arctic Monkekys. They've got some classic Stones-esque sleaze rock, but they aren't especially retro either. And this list can go on for a while. Tame Impala obviously love John Lennon and Pink Floyd but there's nothing nostalgic about Lonerism
. The Hold Steady are the world's biggest The Who/Bruce Springsteen/The Replacement fans, but they aren't retro rockers. The Sheepdogs undoubtedly are, and that's more than just alright. It's pretty damn great.
The Sheepdogs are a contemporary distillation of everything folks love about 1960s/70s hippie rock but in a forward thinking, contemporary context. It's hard to hear something like "Downtown" or "I"m Gonna Be Myself" and not immediately think of the Grateful Dead or The Band or other long-hairs from the era whose music was designed with getting high and dancing in a field in mind. And that's great. People have loved that sort of music for 50 years now and I'm pretty sure we'll love it for 50 more.
One of my least favorite trends of contemporary music journalism is that we're always asking about which bands are pushing the envelope the furthest. And that's an important question. Innovation is necessary for growth. But bands that do something great in an established form deserve credit to. Spoon have barely altered their sound since their debut as a band 20+ years ago, but I'm not sure if Britt Daniel is capable of writing a bad song. It's the same with the National. There's a band that has perfected the notion of "variations on a theme." And with the Sheepdogs, they've found their metier -- rollicking, Southern fried and pot-tinged rock & roll (even if they're from the Great White North). So if you grew up with as much of a classic rock obsession as I did, why haven't you been bumping Future Nostalgia
on repeat since last year? You're behind the times.