The Guardian Indie

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  1. His American Idol audition went viral, Katy Perry wants to be his roadie, and now he’s touring his acclaimed debut album

    Performing an original track during your American Idol audition is a risky move, but things could not have gone better for Alejandro Aranda AKA Scarypoolparty. He performed not one but two originals – Out Loud and Cholo Love – which stunned judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan and went on to garner more than 16m views on YouTube. Stevie Nicks posted a heartfelt Facebook post about the 25-year-old, saying: “Alejandro, let me welcome you to the grand stage that will be your home for the rest of your extraordinary life.”

    So far, Aranda’s life has taken him from busking and playing back-garden parties in his home town of Pomona, California, to touring the US (Katy Perry joked that she’d like to be a roadie on the tour). Last month he released his debut album Exit Form, which has received plaudits for its expansive sound. On songs like Diamonds and Black Cross, he blends the moody, bold electro-rock of Nine Inch Nails with powerful and sincere vocals that bring to mind fellow Idol runner-up Adam Lambert.

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  2. Our pick of the year’s finest albums defiant declarations of identity, lo-fi indie, dispatches from despair and utopian jams. Check in every weekday as we count down to No 1

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  3. From John Fahey, the Sonics and the Waitresses to Slade, Wizzard and Mariah Carey, we count down the best festive numbers

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  4. Why do some bands resonate with young fans (or musicians) and not others? It’s all about the magic of cultural timing

    At this point, the arguments about Billie Eilish never having heard of Van Halen – as she admitted to US talk show host Jimmy Fallon this week – have been played out: a bare handful saying the band are titans of rock and everyone should know their mighty works! Then a much larger number saying they are old men who were huge decades before Eilish was even born! What’s more interesting, perhaps, is why she (and most other 17-year-olds) hasn’t heard of them, whereas she had heard of Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, and every teenager I know (I’ve got a 16-year-old and a 19-year-old) has some selection of long-departed heritage acts that they adore.

    Often knowledge of older music comes through parents (my kids, I’m afraid, do know who Van Halen are; my son is irritated that he doesn’t know any Oasis songs because I’ve never played them, but all his friends do), but that has always been the way. Other music survives because it continues to talk across generations, and not necessarily because of its greatness – more because it is still part of a wider cultural narrative. And, looking at the sphere in which Van Halen exist – rock music – you can see that most clearly, perhaps when you look at the bands who can fill stadiums with crowds in which there are lots of teenagers and who still get booked to headline festivals for those same teenagers: Foo Fighters, the double bill of Green Day and Weezer that is touring next year; Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blink-182 (when they’re all talking to each other), and in the way it’s not just the old folks who turn out to see Liam Gallagher or Noel Gallagher or U2. I’ve never seen Pearl Jam, so I don’t know whether they can still bring out a younger audience, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

    The three music revolutions of the 90s created new norms. Grunge reshaped the way rock was viewed not just by critics, but by the wider public

    Related:Sign up for the Sleeve Notes email: music news, bold reviews and unexpected extras

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  5. SWX, Bristol
    Claire Cottrill’s sparse, low-key approach is no obstacle to building a powerful emotional connection with her rapt following

    The contrast between the deafening scream that greets DIY pop star Clairo’s arrival on stage, and what comes next, is telling. If the Massachusetts singer-songwriter – real name Claire Cottrill – is fazed by the adulation, then she doesn’t let it show. From its opening note, her set appears precision-engineered to avoid undue fuss – more mood exercise than vehicle for grandstanding.

    The 21-year-old’s stage setup is sparse: disconnected imagery – rolling clouds, raindrops on glass, worms – flashes across a blank backdrop, and she performs the songs from her debut, Immunity (which she co-produced with former Vampire Weekend member Rostam), beneath just a bare white bulb. It’s daring, but they flourish under such scrutiny.

    Related:‘Be urself’: meet the teens creating a generation gap in music

    At O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 2 December. Then touring.

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