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“Notable Songs from the 2000s Indie Boom That Have Appeared in Commercials”

I’m choosing to handle this topic today and to, actually, put somewhat of a positive spin on it. A couple reasons surface for why I’m doing this. One is that this sort of notoriety gives indie rock some much-needed positive acclaim, perhaps working toward a shedding of its alleged veneer of stiff-necked, academic pretentiousness, or “wimpiness,” maybe. The other reason, one that I handle with depressing frequency on this blog, is the issue of the harder and harder time that artists have getting paid these days, in the age of streaming. We’ve found Bob Dylan and the Red Hot Chili Peppers both having sold off their catalogues in recent months, the former even in fact having released a stellar album in 2020, Rough and Rowdy Ways, to apparently still no traceable financial triumph. A good song making it onto a commercial is like a buoy for my conscience — it makes me think that maybe musicians can still be rewarded for their work and even make a living on it, something indeed almost unthinkable these days. And what does this mean? You got it: more great music. 

The album is disqualified from this list since it marked a switch to a major label but Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock had some great interview responses to some fan umbrage over “Gravity Rides Everything” being used on an advertisement. He exploded with these rants along the lines of that he’s worked jobs cleaning up animal brains off the beds of trucks and so he feels fully justified for making money off of his music. That song is effing great, too: probably my favorite Mouse track out there. Anyway, here are a couple examples of a rose growing in the desert, of the commercial world actually recognizing artistic talent, and, for once, not just calling it a Nirvana ripoff. 

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Animal Collective – “Sweet Road”

According to Reddit, this tune was used in a Crayola spot sometimes earlier last decade. Ironically, on its original home of Sung Tongs (2004), it’s sort of like a little interlude track, true to form of the album’s general m.o. of light-hearted acoustic rock, predating their plunge into dense, textural electronica.

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Battles – “Atlas”

I was psyched to hear this tune pumping out of a commercial on my roommate’s TV other day but when I look at its Wikipedia page, I see that this new Ford commercial wasn’t its first rodeo — it also made it onto a 2013 spot for the Dodge Dart. I especially like this particular selection as musicially it’s so eccentric, oddball and unfitting into any preexisting mold, hence helping to portray indie rock as the jazzy, multifarious beast that indeed it was.

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Fleet Foxes – “Ragged Wood”

I guess seeing as they marry vast, wide-open spaces with twinings of melodies and easy textures that are usually a little sparse on the percussion, indie tunes and car commercials were just made for one another. Wait… if you listen to indie you’re supposed to be a horn-rimmed-glasses Bohemian walking and using the train, right? Well, maybe that restrictive thinking was part of our problem. 

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Grizzly Bear – “Two Weeks”

“Two Weeks” is about as ubiquitous as indie gets — I’ve heard it on satellite radio in a Whole Foods (another prime money-maker for artists) and it’s placed second on one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the whole movement, Veckatimest. At some point, the tune made it onto a Volkswagen ad, causing an uproar from Trent Reznor but then what doesn’t cause an uproar from Trent Reznor.

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The New Pornographers – “The Bleeding Heart Show”

The bookish, erudite New Pornographers contributed to a memorable University of Phoenix commercial back somewhere around 2008 (hence making them ostensible pioneers of this business) with the middle “Hey-la” portion of the excellent, show-stopping “The Bleeding Heart Show,” typically held as the best Pornos tune other than “Sing Me Spanish Techno.”

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Passion Pit – “Wonder Everywhere”

Passion Pit got in with Chase bank with “Wonder Everywhere,” a song that, true to commendable Passion Pit form, SOUNDS like electronica but is actually being played with live drums and does an impressive job of marrying poppiness with a verbose element of instrumentation and meticulous attention to melodic detail.

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Phoenix – “1901”

Phoenix’s awe-inspiring Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix hadn’t even been out for a full year before Cadillac picked up its second track and lead single “1901” for a soundtrack to their automotive excellence. This places it just a year past the New Pornographers ad (but four years past that album) and perhaps begins to steer the indie zeitgeist in a poppy, streamlined direction, though to not regrettable results, thanks to the Frenchmen. 

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Spoon – “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”

For some reason I’d thought “The Underdog” had been used on a TV ad at some point (it certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on one) but in my search I only uncovered this tune’s infiltration of a Dr. Pepper blip. “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” comes from the same album as “The Underdog,” Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and as such, tends to fuse rich, saturated production with that “underdog” sneer characteristic of any great indie group. 

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