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The 20 Worst Hipster Bands: The Complete List

Death Cab For Cutie
Death Cab For Cutie

See also: Worst Hipster Bands: We Admit It, We Were Wrong

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Who are these hipsters we see each day in the streets, on our Tumblr feeds, and on the local news? And why are so many in bands? It's not the mere existence of hipster groups that distresses us — some of our best friends are hipsters, after all — it's their lemming-like tendency to, if you'll pardon a mixed metaphor, ape each other.

On its surface hipsterdom seems to be an individuality-grab, but most of today's 20 and 30-something bands from Silver Lake and Williamsburg sound shockingly similar. They're all playing variations of retro garage and soul music — or bringing glockenspiels and choirs on incestuous nationwide tours — all the while clad in vintage garb likely infested with lice. We're not saying that they should be outlawed by, like, Congress or something. Just that they should be avoided. Here then, is our field guide to the worst offenders. -Ben Westhoff

The Black Keys
The Black Keys

20. The Black Keys

The guitar-and-drums "blues" punk combo thing wasn't very good even when The White Stripes did it. Still, that hasn't stopped legions of bearded, be-flanneled ersatz blues men from bringing great shame upon their ancestors. The Black Keys stand at the very vanguard of posh cracker blues rock, displaying a lack of authenticity that would make John Fogerty blush. Further, whereas Jack White can actually play, Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach is more concerned with beard grooming and disheveling his hair. -Nicholas Pell

 

TV On The Radio
TV On The Radio

19. TV On The Radio

Sure, TV on the Radio concocted an original aesthetic, but it was so hideous we should be glad no one thought of it before. The supposed "soul"-indie fusion of their early work is walled up by rigor mortis drum machines, off-the-grid falsettos and drab, moaning textures. This wasn't helped by their look-at-us Pixies cover or calling their first record OK Calculator. Band member-producer David Sitek has even managed to make Scarlett Johanssen sound ugly. -Dan Weiss

 

Sleigh Bells
Sleigh Bells

18. Sleigh Bells

Remember in 2010, when we all lost our collective minds over these guys, with their iPod beats, garage-metal guitars and schoolyard-chant vocals? It was, like, the most original sound ever! Then the second album came out and everyone was more like, "Huh. Actually, this kinda sounds like shit." Also, Alexis Krauss started wearing her own band merch at shows, which you're really only allowed to do if you're Morrissey. -Andy Hermann

 

Fun.
Fun.

17. Fun.

One could argue that fun. is not a hipster band, that the sincerity behind songs like "We Are Young" by default bars them from the title. We argue that having punctuation in their name earns this distinction by default. The stylization is bad enough, but their music rides the very worn coattails of Arcade Fire and Edward Sharpe, the kind of overblown romanticizing of youth and self-destruction that at this point sounds more cliche than "carpe diem." -Andrea Domanick

 

MGMT
MGMT

16. MGMT

Exploiting LOLcat culture and synthy, psychedoodling indie-dance for pop crossover was such a good idea, apparently, that MGMT made it all their own. They tried to be meta about it on their big 2008 breakthrough single "Time to Pretend," which is about rocking 'til you die with "models for wives." And a follow-up hit was not to come; the hookless prog meanderings of their difficult second album (2010's Congratulations) made it clear they weren't in on the joke after all. -Dan Weiss

 

Death Cab For Cutie
Death Cab For Cutie

15. Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie is the grandfather of crappy hipster bands. Singer and songwriter Ben Gibbard delivers sickly-sweet lyrics in a nerdy, nasally voice; he's overtly "sensitive" while employing nauseatingly twee titles like You Can Play These Songs with Chords. (First released on cassette, of course.) Musically, the songs are flat, resting in an "easy listening" register. Death Cab sounds like what would happen if you stripped Weezer of their power chords and sense of humor. -Linda Leseman

 

Wavves
Wavves

14. Wavves

Wavves sound like a high school outfit exclusively influenced by "ironic" rock bands. Perhaps this is how they've become the darling of the hipster Gestapo at Pitchfork, The Onion AV Club and Spin. (And even, we admit, us.) An early cassette release showed they weren't afraid to use obsolete recording formats, and they've since taken the whole lo-fi "punk" with whining, atonal vocals to levels a million Z-grade Strokes copycats hitherto only dreamt of. Throw in guest appearances from Best Coast and Fucked Up members and you've got a band that are trying way too hard to be off-beat. -Nicholas Pell

 

The Decemberists
The Decemberists

13. The Decemberists

The real Decembrists protested Nicholas I assuming the imperialist Russian throne. If you think adding an 'e' (like this band) is an ingenious play on words, you're cordially invited by Colin Meloy's cult for a "free stress test." It includes: 1. Fans who think he's literary 2. Fans who think listening to him makes them literary and 3. Folk-rocking 40-somethings who made the Decemberists certified chart-toppers after Peter Buck and Gillian Welch helped them safely cross over to NPR. Meloy's endlessly nasal prog-folk operas deserve them all. -Dan Weiss

 

Pomplamoose
Pomplamoose

12. Pomplamoose

If you experienced the worst Christmas of your entire life in 2010, it was either because you were too broke to buy gifts, or you encountered one of three Hyundai commercials featuring the Bay Area duo Pomplamoose covering Christmas carols like "Up on the Housetop" and "Deck the Halls." These encounters grew ever more frequent as the holiday season wore on: This compelled some viewers to become infatuated with Pomplamoose, while greater numbers ventured into the streets looking for Hyundais to smash into. Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, the real-life couple who make up Pomplamoose, seemed to epitomize everything about too-ironic, too-precious, too-self-conscious indie pop. If creating cutesy YouTube videos of club staples like Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and Lady Gaga's "Telephone" made the band an Internet sensation, it also betrayed an annoying propensity for holding the wink a little too long, musical talent notwithstanding. -Mike Seely

See also: Pomplamoose's Christmas Hyundai Commercials Cause Hatred of Pomplamoose, Hyundai and Christmas

 

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

11. Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

This gang of overgrown children aren't just hipsters, they're hippie-sters: A double whammy of annoying that melds the folly and creepiness of a hippie cult with the semi-ironic pretension of a hipster's attempt at spirituality. Their grins are a little too wide, robes a little too Jesus-like and sing-songy joy a little too childlike to ring true, and it distracts from their legitimate talent as musicians. It's good and well that frontman Alex Ebert is sober and pushing himself in different artistic directions, but the new beard and persona make him less of a Bowie than the Charles Manson of twee. -Andrea Domanick

 

White Rabbits
White Rabbits

10. White Rabbits

Why do bands need a second drummer? In recent years everyone from Local Natives to Bon Iver to fucking Radiohead has thrown a second kit out there, or at least a floor tom or two. If you think all that extra bashing make bands' music more interesting, then you must love Brooklyn's White Rabbits, because they've sometimes employed three drummers! Unfortunately, they end up proving that when you write forgettable, buttoned-down indie rock, no amount of percussion can save you from sounding like a second-rate Spoon. -Andy Hermann

 

Beach House
Beach House

9. Beach House

Beach House lead singer Victoria Legrand has been compared to Nico, which makes sense in that Nico has an extremely vapid voice. A wash of down-tuned Baltimore neo-soul, it's trip-hop for people who never knew Massive Attack and post-rock for those who missed Stereolab; in other words, derivative electro mush. The band's moniker is also misleading. As Linda Richman might say, they're neither about beaches nor house music. Discuss. -Linda Leseman

 

The Airborne Toxic Event
The Airborne Toxic Event

8. The Airborne Toxic Event

They named themselves after a Don DeLillo plot device. They frequently play with a string quartet. They released a live album recorded at Disney Concert Hall. Their best-known song contains the lyric, "She's holding her tonic like a cross." They favor the sort of spiky, Modest Mouse-y guitars that signify "edgy." And the bio on their website touts their "captivating blend of literate, visceral indie rock and propulsive, anthemic choruses." If any L.A. band has hipster pretension down to a science, it's TATE. -Andy Hermann

See also: The Airborne Toxic Event Likes Motorcycles, Mexican Food and Blowing Stuff Up

 

Ariel Pink
Ariel Pink

7. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

[Editor's note: The Weekly staff is divided on Pink; for an argument in favor of his genius see our recent feature story. For the opposite opinion keep reading.] Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti is the Inception of hipster bands: From the '70s sitcom synth lines to Pink's nonsensical psychedelic babbling, their music is layers of irony within irony manipulating you into thinking you're listening to something original or innovate. Live, Pink has the stage presence of a bored teenager and sounds like he's doing drunk karaoke covers of Hall & Oates on Sesame Street. -Andrea Domanick

 

Beirut
Beirut

6. Beirut

Beirut's Zach Condon? Please step into our office. It's time to talk about what it is your band does here at Rock Industries' Eclectic Division. "Ok. Um, well, you see, we take Boards of Canada..." Go on... "Then we throw it to a merciless horde of Slavic horn players to be savagely violated while an unintelligible cheap Jonathan Richman knock-off croons. Sounds interesting, right?" No Beirut. It does not. In fact, it sounds like the type of thing you invented just to get laid at Bonnaroo. To boot, Balkan Beat Box is killing you in every performance metric right now. Please collect your things, security will see you out. -Paul T. Bradley

 

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear

5. Grizzly Bear

These altar boys embody everything bad about the clean-scrubbed end of the hipster spectrum. They spend more time on expensive and fastidious arrangements than choruses, which they sound annoyed to have to throw in occasionally. Their lyrics evoke nothing you can see with your eyes, as if they assume the "beauty" of their tentative melodies will fill in the blanks. Many bands have made vaguer, more directionless music but none of those ever had the chutzpah to crack Billboard's top ten. At least with say, Godsmack, you can tell why they're depressed. -Dan Weiss

 

Bright Eyes
Bright Eyes

4. Bright Eyes

Conor Oberst has been straining to open an impossibly sealed mason jar for about 14 years now. At least, that what his singing sounds like. Between his impish whine and depressing lyrics, it's a wonder he has any fans who aren't yet suicide victims. Since he basically robbed fellow Nebraskan Simon Joyner of his sound, he's even unoriginally terrible. Oberst once hilariously told an interviewer that he was influenced by a Cure record he bought in 3rd grade — perhaps the worst "I was into them before you were" hipsterism possible. Presumably he was really into Leonard Cohen as a zygote, too. -Paul T. Bradley

 

Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire

3. Arcade Fire

If the essence of hipsterdom is fetishizing the authentic, then Arcade Fire deserve a Canadian Nobel Prize for sucking the life out of the pop music canon. Sure, all artists build on their influences, but Arcade Fire sap the passion, intensity, and sincerity from greater acts who came before them, wringing their sounds out through a sponge and lustily devouring the drops. In a way, they're like the over-processed food our generation consumed as children; with color and nutrients added after the fact, they almost smell and look like something that's good for us. But they're not. Arcade Fire is not good for us. -Ben Westhoff

 

tUnE-yArDs
tUnE-yArDs

2. tUnE-yArDs

tUnE-yArDs hAs a mOsT aNnOyInG nAmE and their sound isn't far behind. The group's magnum crapus, 2011's w h o k i l l, is a collection of sonic refuse cobbled into atonal melodies and rhythms that fail to approximate tUnE-fUllNeSs. That the album won the 2011 Pazz and Jop awards is a testament to the emperor has no clothes phenomenon that continues to afflict music writing. -Linda Leseman

 

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver
Justin Vernon of Bon Iver

1. Bon Iver

"But the melodies! The harmonies!" You protest. Sorry, but it's time to admit that Bon Iver is the sonic equivalent of an empty canvas totebag. Worse, the Justin Vernon-fronted act is wholly indicative of our musical fall from grace. What happened to us as a generation that this guy gets to bear our sonic torch? Those who came before us rocked, bumped and grinded. They exuded raw sexuality, riotous anger, and sweaty human realism. They hoovered drugs or angrily rejected them, they humped strangers in club bathrooms in adolescent indiscretion; they broke shit, laughed, cried, partied on rooftops or in warehouses, exorcised cultural demons and personal failures, made spectacles. We, instead, get a whiny guy who built his own studio in the woods, perfectly exemplifying that narcissistic hipster ethos of "Whatever man, I'm just gonna go over here and be chill, I don't want to be bothered or have my mellow harshed." Bon Iver coos the celebratory ballads of hip poseurs who refuse to get their hands dirty, that is, unless that filth is quaint and photogenic. -Paul T. Bradley

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