The Shins on acid? The Shins if the Shins cared less about showcasing lead singer James Mercer? The Shins with MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden at the helm? All of these descriptors take a stab at putting some kind of label on Pitchfork.com darlings-du-jour Avi Buffalo, and yet each fails to fully capture some je ne sais quoi that allows them to be cutting-edge indie without all that pretentiousness (the same je ne sais quoi that makes it possible to be Pitchfork-endorsed and accessible, for the record). Oh, and it is worth mentioning that they sound a lot like the Shins. This Shins comparison falls flat, though, in light of Avi Buffalo’s youthful vigor (which The Shins never quite demonstrated, or maybe never had) and sprawling style of song craftsmanship. They’re a bit angsty-er than the Shins, for sure. And more psychedelic too. In short, it’s the perfect soundtrack of our generation.
When first hearing an album, it’s best to discard contextual cues that may dictate how one processes the oncoming aural stimuli. After all, hearing the phrases “Ivy League,” “boat shoes,” and “Cape Cod” in reference to Vampire Weekend invariably skew the way you listen to them. The same goes for the whole “youth” angle that Avi Buffalo use to beg for attention. Don’t let it fool you. These guys know how to craft the kinds of complex, euphoric songs that every up-and-coming indie band wishes they could come up with. With some members fresh out of high school, it’s legitimately accurate to say that, despite their ages, the group is making music that’s wise beyond their years (though, of course, high school wisdom is hardly the pinnacle of awareness).
While the band’s post-adolescent status explains some of the more sophomoric lyrics, their youth should by no means define them. However, it indeed seems that Avi Buffalo represents the beginning of a wave of bands who were raised on The Shins, and were only toddlers when Nirvana was big. It’s hard not to dub them heralds of the next great music movement; they’re just that awe-inspiring. But maybe, due to the clinal nature of music evolution, it’d be a stretch to call any band the first of a new wave of indie. Most of us still think of 2000 as not that long ago, and so it might be easy to fall into the perceptual trap of considering Is This It? a recent album, when The Strokes’ debut actually came out almost 10 years ago. Avi Buffalo’s sound is so distinct that you can’t help but think a new era has begun – an era in which bands pattern themselves not on Radiohead and Pavement but rather on The White Stripes and The Strokes.