NPR logo Quirk Overload: A Preponderance of Twee

Quirk Overload: A Preponderance of Twee

I haven't counted the number of times the word "quirky" appears in NPR music reviews, but I'm guessing it's a lot. It's not that we lack imagination when describing bands; it's that so many bands now are incredibly cutesy and kooky. Listen to just about any episode of All Songs Considered and you'll hear it.

The quirk aesthetic dominates indie pop and rock, and I admit to loving it. I think, in general, it's a sensibility that's inspired some wonderful creativity. Listen to Jens Lekman or Dan Deacon. But the preponderance of quirk does have me thinking some of it is disingenuous, or cutesy-kooky for the sake of being cutesy-kooky.

There's an interesting article on the effects of quirk on pop culture in the latest issue of Atlantic Monthly. Among many other points, author Michael Hirschorn notes that "quirk, loosed from its moorings, quickly becomes exhausting."

I definitely find myself rolling my eyes from time to time with some of the music I'm hearing. I thought Joanna Newsom was just ridiculous until I met her and found her to be utterly charming and wise beyond her years. (Though I still can't listen to her music).

I love Animal Collective, but after a while it gets, as Hirschorn notes, exhausting.

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Have you had enough quirk yet? Are bands like The Go! Team and Fiery Furnaces being quirky for quirky's sake? Or is it a legitimate and heartfelt sensibility that best illuminates the deeper ideas and feelings of the artists?