My understanding is that this is the first Elephant 6 album. So, for people who care about such things, that’s a really big deal. For the rest of us, it’s certainly much less of a big deal. Moreover, the degree to which The Apples in Stereo truly represent that beloved “lo fi indie pop” aesthetic is debatable, at least to me.
These songs really aren’t that quirky – instead they’re heavily indebted to the pop songwriting tradition, whether you want to pick out the Beatles’ influence, the Beach Boys’ influence, or something a little more recent. This is just straight ahead pop music in different clothes as far as I can tell. And Schneider’s endless supply of catchy melodies just never connects with me simply because I always want more than that.
This is a “lo fi” record in only the vaguest sense of the term – it really, really isn’t except that, you know, sometimes there’s a deliberately bum note or something. Sure, they are less polished than they would get to be, but by the standards of the other bands in Elephant 6 or even by broader indie rock standards, this is not lo fi music. (Listen to contemporary Smog or something like that and compare.) It’s only barely “indie” in that the arrangements are modernized to the influences of ’90s indie pop, rather than stuck in the influences of ’60s psychedelic pop or ’70s power pop.
Every record of theirs I hear further convinces me that they are really just pop classicists hiding under a veneer of “indie” quirkiness. To the extent you can even say the quirkiness exists, it exists in the arrangements, which really are not very quirky. The people who think they’re quirky clearly haven’t listened to much quirky music.
But it’s well made – despite its reputation as a lo fi record – and Schneider sure writes catchy songs. Still, the hype for this band is mystifying.