Sophomore, economics and mathematics major
By many accounts, the music trend to watch in 2014 was the left-field cult of weirdness on the tip of everyone’s tongue—PC Music. A record label, or more accurately a movement, originating from the wacky corners of underground London (or the internet therein) puzzled the world with its infectious, bizarre electronic tunes last year. Label affiliates show no sign of slowing down in 2015, having already played a showcase at SXSW and being slated to play at Pitchfork’s festival, among others. Pinning the label down is harder than it seems, as the producers and artists thrive on a creepy anonymity that, with the help of the Internet, has only recently become possible to reconcile with a widespread audience. Nonetheless, it is worth taking a look at one of the most divisive trends in recent music.
The label’s founder and de facto director is the producer A.G. Cook, who has been around since at least 2013. Under his direction, the group’s aesthetic is distinct but almost impossible to describe completely. I envision their music as kitschy early 2000s or late 1990s cotton candy pop warped through a hyper drive and studded with digital-era techno weirdness. Certainly hints of J-pop or K-pop come through, but this is a substitute description for the music’s real defining feature: its unrelenting futurism. In a rare early interview with Tank Magazine, Cook mentions “extreme pop music” and the desire to “take pop music and make it as shiny and detailed as possible.” The interview is illuminating, and reveals especially that Cook and his crew are (at least somewhat) serious about the whole thing.
One of the most insightful personality descriptions comes from a reviewer at Fact Magazine who likens Hannah Diamond, one of the label’s prominent and apparently genuine artists, to “the girls at your school who practised Spice Girls dance routines in the playground and smoked fags on school trips.” Diamond’s digital sugar rush of released material, produced by Cook, combines a girlish naiveté with glossy, sometimes beguiling but always infectious electronic music. She is among the most accessible artists, which is not saying much when compared to the bizarre output of her label-mates. At least Diamond is straightforward and a confirmed real person—others such as the nebulous Lipgloss Twins or GFOTY (short for Girlfriend of the Year) are dubiously real; if they are, they certainly must be some sort of tongue-in-cheek joke.
Recently, PC Music members have been linked to other artists who are garnering wider attention. A. G. Cook was a producer for the bouncy debut single from QT, appropriately titled “Hey QT,” released on famed British indie label XL. Producing alongside him (and surprisingly Diplo) was the artist SOPHIE, another name that has gained significant momentum and is often thrown into the mix. Although not on the label per se, SOPHIE produces with and runs parallel to the PC Music tribe. His music (yes, SOPHIE is a man who somehow warps into female vocals, and a whole other article could be written about gender appropriation here) is substantially more bass-driven and dance-heavy. I challenge anyone to propose a song from 2014 that was more of a banger than his stomping, effervescent single “Lemonade.”
Bounce along to SOPHIE’s irresistible “Lemonade”
One issue that is often discussed is whether or not PC Music’s members are “serious.” I happen to believe they are; even if they use comedic elements or exaggerations of consumerism, they have real, original interpretations of experience to add to the field of music and culture in general. Whether Hannah Diamond really worships North Face or just wears the jacket as a commentary on branding, she contributes her unique aesthetic to the field of cultural production, standing up as a distinctive product of her time and place in 21st century London. On the whole, the PC Music collective has divided music fans into two camps: those who cringe at the sound of their hyper-pop and those who (like me, although tentatively) think they are the future of music. No matter which side you fall on, 2015 will certainly be the year to watch for the future of PC Music.