A pop culture staple: Alternative albums turning a decade old in the new year


Zainib Al-Jayashi, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Black eyeliner. Fanfictions. Doge. Fandoms. Tumblr. 2013 was the year of a new pop culture revelation as the internet transformed into a world of normalized media consumption. Thousands of videos plowed YouTube and the greater use of social media platforms such as Instagram, Wattpad and Tumblr provided a new way to digest the world. As the internet brought communities together, fandoms arose and reshaped different forms of media, one of those being the universe of music.

As trends transpired in the early 2010s, their influence rippled into the sound of music. The iconic tunes many of us still sing along to today were a part of the wave of indie, rock and pop music that enhanced the Tumblrcore aesthetic. Although these albums were staples of the past, they have influenced the Generation Z culture many of us grew up in and still reference. Here are a few of the influential albums that are turning a decade old in the new year:

Twenty One Pilots – Vessel (Jan. 8, 2013)

“Cause somebody stole my car radio and now I just sit in silence.” Despite their global breakthrough in 2015 after the release of Blurryface that included the chart toppers “Stressed Out” and “Ride”, Ohio-based alternative duo Twenty One Pilots gathered widespread recognition with the release of “Vessel”. The title, Vessel, in itself is a perfect explanation for the message of the album; to live on despite the hardships endured throughout our lifetime. In an interview discussing the 2013 album, Tyler Joseph– lead singer– stated, “A vessel carries something that’s important, but the outward shell of a vessel isn’t necessarily as important. The theory behind that is our bodies are going to die…but what we have inside of us is much more important than that.” Twenty One Pilots is a duo known for making music surrounding existential topics in a genuine manner that comes from a place of care. Similar to Paramore’s self-titled album, Vessel’s upbeat, poppy tune is a beautifully crafted contradiction to the lyrics that explore the darkness of the human condition. Joseph expresses his struggles with grappling self-worth and the purpose of existing in an honest, raw manner as he uses vivid commentary to reveal his vulnerability. Vessel is a sincere revelation that tells listeners that regardless of wanting to give up on the life we live, we must explore our own truths and understand that our life has inherent meaning even if it seems like a foreign concept. Joseph’s music is the shoulder we need to cry on and its relatability may be enough of a reason to pursue walking the grounds of this planet.

Paramore – Paramore (April 5, 2013)

“Ain’t it fun living in the real world?” Breaking away from the dark and ominous ambience of Tumblr, American rock band Paramore’s self-titled album, Paramore, set a different mood than the others as the album leaned towards the genre of pop after a history of rock. After the fallout of the band following the release of their prior album, Brand New Eyes, Paramore redefined themselves by introducing a new era for the band as they reset their overall brand. Separating themselves from the somber vibes of other artists at the time, Paramore’s upbeat sound included lyrics exploring potentials of the future, self criticism and acceptance. The optimistic instrumentals, though, are a mask for the lyrics that directly target reality, and it is somewhat of a representation of the tendency to gloss over hardships in order to make ourselves feel better about a given situation. The album shows the versatility Paramore has, and listeners, including Tumblr users, were fond of the new chapter for the band.

The Neighbourhood – I Love You. (April 22, 2013)

“Cause it’s too cold for you here.” American indie rock band The Neighbourhood’s debut album, I Love You., became the symbolic constitution of the emotional, sensitive youth living on 2013 Tumblr. The experimental, moody atmosphere of the instrumentals on popular tracks such as “Sweater Weather,” “Afraid” and “W.D.Y.W.F.M?” helped to strengthen the edgy, sullen teenager persona that was on the rise as emo culture molded to the new times. When dissecting the lyricism of the album, the overarching theme revolves around the pessimisms and self-loathing that arise through failed relationships and insecurities that stem from feelings of inadequacy. The Neighbourhood managed to reach the demographic of grungy teenagers that wanted to fight their loneliness with the companionship of music, and therefore is a staple to the scene of 2013.

Arctic Monkeys – AM (Sept. 9, 2013)

“Do I wanna know?” If there was a prize for the ultimate 2013 Tumblr album, AM by English rock band Arctic Monkeys would be crowned without hesitation. Similar to The Neighbourhood’s album I Love You., AM tackles insecurities and obsessions revolving around an unstable relationship. The mixture of rock and rhythmic guitar infused with dream-like instrumentals sets a scene of getting lost in a big, gloomy city with nothing to hold you but the seams of a leather jacket. Alex Turner– lead singer– narrates a story timeline of being absolutely infatuated with a lover that translates into an obsession when paranoia overcomes him. Popular songs on the album such as “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” and “I Wanna Be Yours” further illustrate the hopeless romantic narrative as his longing feelings to be in love are enough of a persuasion to hold on to a love that no longer exists. The album sends listeners into Turner’s world of endlessly picking flower petals, waiting for the final petal plucked to be “she loves me.”

Lorde – Pure Heroine (Sept. 27, 2013)

“And we’ll never be royals.” At only 16, New Zealand singer-songwriter Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s– stage name Lorde– hit single titled “Royals” broke records globally, and it quickly became an artifact representing the success of gloomy, nostalgic pop music. “Royals,” “Team” and “Tennis Court” managed to find their way to the charts with their catchy melodies, but Lorde’s lyrics throughout Pure Heroine touches vulnerability and the fear of growing out of adolescence in the form of storytelling. The vividness of the world she creates through metaphors and symbolism sends listeners into the passenger seat of the ride she sends us through as we reflect on the years of complicated development. Lorde summarizes the highs and lows of the teenage experience as she expresses the emotions many of us face during our “prime years.” Pure Heroine is comforting, and it is the friend we need as it dismisses the solitude we feel when we are immersed in teenage angst. Pure Heroine is the album that effectively describes all of the dreams and subconscious sensitivities we have either embraced or disregarded in the span of 37 minutes.