Nostalgia will always haunt pop music, but shades of the past are particularly noticeable in 2014. Look around Seattle and examples leap out of concert venues and practice spaces: widespread acoustic folk revival at full-strum for about five years, turn-of-the-millennium rock bands on reunion tours (Blood Brothers and Murder City Devils), the rapper Gifted Gab painstakingly re-creating 1990s hip-hop.
With Haim and Tacocat performing Friday at the Paramount, we have another good reason to ponder why some pop-music ideas come around again, and others don’t.
Haim (pronounced high-m) hails from California and boasts an international hit album — “Days are Gone” — full of commercial pop-rock music harkening back to the 1970s and ’80s, particularly the slick grooves of Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. Why is this sound popular again right now? Probably because it executes the genre crisscross of transporting nostalgic guitar-based music away from its natural habitat, the dive bar, into the dance club.
The masses love that genre fusion right now. Our current pop context includes crisscrossed country/EDM hits by Ke$ha and Avicii, essentially honkey-tonk music for raves. Haim makes vague rock ’n’ roll and fits right in, with songs dependent on syncopation and arrangement, and the production at the forefront like in disco and hip-hop. Haim is a rock band signed to rapper Jay Z’s Roc Nation entertainment group, and has dueted with rappers A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg. Why is this rap/rock “fusion” popular right now? Could be a cynical directive (get the biggest, combined audience) or an optimistic one (unite different people who like the same things). Expect the former but hope for the latter.
Tacocat, on the other hand, is a quartet seemingly called into being by America’s lapsed feminism in pop music since the 1990s, as well as the current #yesallwomen hashtag on social media, meant to raise awareness about catcalling and unequal treatment. They’re not reinventing the wheel as Seattle’s leading feminist pop-punk band — a legacy position in the land of Bikini Kill, inventors of riot-grrrl feminism in ’90s Olympia — but they excel at it. With banged-out guitar chords and catchy melodies, Tacocat works small wonders. They are semi-recently returned from a national tour behind bright new album “NVM,” where they found fans in all corners of the country who’d heard about them through “teen girl” magazine Rookie, and songs like “Hey Girl” — a cutting anthem about how street harassment is unacceptable. These fans were too young for the riot-grrrl heyday but clearly craved that kind of movement again.
In pop, the convenient thing to do when confronted with retro-activity is to remark that it’s been done before, and that current artists are lazy. Where’s the modernist, futuristic vision of from 20 years ago? Have we forgotten how to dream? With Haim and Tacocat, we have classic presentations of pop rock that will never die, but be more or less relevant as time marches onward.
8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15, at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; $30 (877-784-4849 or www.stgpresents.org).
Andrew Matson: email@example.com