The DIY Rollout
The DIY Rollout
Sound Signal

The DIY Rollout

We unpack the success of Cindy Lee's (non)promotional strategy in Sound Signal's latest Trend of the Week.

This piece originally appeared in our biweekly newsletter, Sound Signal, which identifies emerging artists, scenes, and trending tracks, crafted by the world's best writers and curators. Sign up here to never miss our take on what's next in music.

Amid the stylized, drawn out rollouts conducted by today’s biggest and flashiest pop stars, a rogue album crept through the noise. On March 29, Cindy Lee’s two-hour-long Diamond Jubilee was quietly released on a Geocities website, posted as a .zip file, a seemingly self-made playlist widget, and uploaded to YouTube, with a suggested donation of $30 CAD and little fanfare. That is, until the whispers began—AOTY, the people tweeted—and kept mounting, until Pitchfork shouted out its 9.1, the highest score awarded since Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters four years ago, almost to the day. The mind behind the fuzzy ‘60s girl group-esque dream pop act is Pat Flegel, co-founder of ‘00s experimental rock outfit Women.

For over a decade, Flegel has been making Cindy Lee records, self-released and on small labels, that have gone largely under the radar. Something is different this time around. Maybe it is the best Cindy Lee album to date—in his review, Andy Cush called it “sprawling and spectacular,” and suggested that the breakthrough has something to do with the music’s “exuberant generosity” and lack of the noisier elements that suffused previous records. But it remains notable that one can only access this music in a handful of ways, and that it is decidedly not on streaming platforms. It is not even in physical format, on LP or cassette, as with other Cindy Lee releases. 

“If I can swing it on my own, I’d much rather bet on myself and have total control," Flegel said in an interview at the end of last year. So, while figures like Jojo Siwa and Taylor Swift flaunt their major label versions of control, Flegel’s seems, perhaps, more true, or at the very least, more old school. (Swift’s, in particular, grasps at the kind of analog quality Flegel has achieved organically.) Though Diamond Jubilee is currently online-only, the experience of hearing about it, searching for it, and downloading WAV files to a desktop, feels like being recommended the best new underground band by the people who work at the coolest local record shop. It has shades of scouring music blogs passionately sharing Mediafire links to obscure albums. And when everyone seems tired of being on our dreary contemporary internet and succumbing to repetitive algorithmic features, Flegel’s hidden-secret approach is quite exciting.

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