‘Hipster Runoff’ runs its course
Matthew Munhall | Wednesday, January 21, 2015
On Monday the domain name HipsterRunoff.com was put up for auction on the website marketplace Flippa. It was the final nail in the coffin of Hipster Runoff, the self-proclaimed “blog worth blogging about.” Although it went inactive in 2013, the satirical website was practically required reading for indie kids in the latter half of the 2000s.
Run by Carles, a pseudonymous character created by the blog’s still-mysterious writer, Hipster Runoff satirized mid-aughts hipster culture with a heavy dose of ironic scare quotes. At the site’s core was Carles’ never-ending desire to be “relevant.” The site mocked the performed authenticity of a certain breed of hipster; it parodied the “entry-level alt” who valued the appearance of being in the know about new music trends as much as the actual knowing.
Behind Carles’ self-knowing voice and use of internet slang, posts from Hipster Runoff’s peak are often quite intelligent analyses of the hype cycle of online music blogging. A 2009 post about the critical acclaim surrounding Animal Collective’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion” questioned the reasons people listen to music and the commodification of indie music.
“In the musicsphere, there are a few key tastemakers of different scales,” Carles wrote, “and most of them have aligned to tell you that Animal Collective is relevant+progressive+transcendent.”
Carles incisively described the natural culmination of indie rock: its commodification. In 2012, Rob Trump smartly summarized Hipster Runoff’s mission: “Reading it was like pulling back the curtain on alternative culture, only to discover that the guy calling all the shots was just as cynical and profit-driven as everyone else. Constructing your identity based on your cultural knowledge, the site seemed to say, was stupid and self-defeating.”
What does it mean to have “good taste” in an industry where Grizzly Bear and St. Vincent end up on a “Twilight” soundtrack and Coachella sells out two weekends regardless of who’s on the lineup? How “unique” are your tastes when they’re dictated by a handful of indie rock blogs?
Once-hipsters have since largely shifted in the opposite direction, for the most part abandoning the pretentiousness that characterized the stereotype. “Selling out,” once the ultimate evil an indie rock group could commit, is now the new norm; indie rock was revealed to be just as much a commodity as the Top 40. Hipsters experienced a collective existential crisis and moved away from ironic detachment. Instead, acknowledging one’s tastes sincerely and enthusiastically has become de rigueur.
Poptimism — treating pop music as worthy of critical consideration as rock — is the default mode among most critical-minded music fans. Pitchfork, still the most influential tastemaker in whatever can be called “indie music,” has taken to regularly covering and praising mainstream pop artists like Ariana Grande, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.
Similarly, normcore, the anti-fashion trend with New Balance sneakers and acidwash jeans as its staples, was the epitome of embracing normality. It abandoned trying to be cool and gave in to the pleasure of wearing “normal” clothing.
It was only a matter of time before Hipster Runoff came to its inevitable death. The self-serious, impossibly-cool hipster outgrew the characterization years ago. The intelligent cultural consumer of the 2010s is unabashedly voracious, enjoying art from both the mainstream and the underground without guilt.
Carles’ last post in 2013 was a poem titled “Is the scene still alive?” In it, Carles muses, “They still seem to take it seriously. It still seems to define them. Are they holding on to something that doesn’t exist any more?” Hipsters let go of an impossibly idealistic vision of indie rock and stopped worrying about being “relevant.” It seems like Hipster Runoff has finally done same.