THE BLOG
09/09/2014 10:53 am ET Updated Nov 09, 2014

The Happy Generation

Why is the tens generation is so different from the oughties generation?

This new decade is now half done and has an identity so separate from the oughties. In fact, in some ways, the oughties and the tens generations couldn't be more different.

The former was pre-recession, the latter post-recession. (The tens generation will be able to boast of having grown up during something like a Great Depression.)

The music of the former, coming immediately after 9/11, was heroic (early Arcade Fire), monumental (later Radiohead) and even a bit panicky (early Vampire Weekend).

The music of the latter, coming after the recession, with 9/11 a more distant memory, is more organic, more human-sized. They are the Greeks, the previous decade was Roman.

Classic rock to the tens generation is "Funeral" by Arcade Fire, or "Transatlanticism" by Death Cab for Cutie. ("OK Computer" is sort of their Chuck Berry.)

But an interesting trend is developing with the tens generation. Because they are living at home with mom and dad later in life and in bigger numbers than ever before, they are exposed over a greater period of time to their parents' music that gets played around the house.

Boomer parents play the great oldies by Neil Young and the Grateful Dead and the kids are hearing that and, because that stuff is so great, the new generation is finding it irresistible too.

And they're doing their own versions of that sound. And they respond to bands that sound sort of like what they hear at home. Hence we hear wonderful echoes of young in City and Colour, hints of the Crosby and Nash collaborations of the 1970s in the Head and the Heart, byrdsish elements in My Morning Jacket.

Also, the tens generation is more joyful and have come to appreciate whatever prosperity they have. As opposed to the more depressed, oughties generation that cried listening to "Paranoid Android" and felt emboldened hearing Arcade Fire's "Intervention."

The tens generation, coming out of that nasty recession, is so grateful that things are so much better than they were when Neon Bible was out, so grateful that "tonight, we are young." The band Fun. sums up their mood, as does the definitive song of the tens (so far), Pharrell's "Happy," as does that song in which Kanye West insists on getting his croissant at a restaurant!

It's telling that another signature song of the Tens, "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk, is so upbeat, while the similarly-named "Lucky" by Radiohead, released years earlier, was so mournful. And Jay-Z and Beyoncé were "Crazy in Love" in the oughties but are now, in the tens, more happily, "Drunk in Love."

The Head and the Heart -- a tens band who I heard in the hills above the open-air Greek Theater the other night -- might name-check Arcade Fire from the stage, but they sound much more like early Fleet Foxes and early Silos. Of course, Fleet Foxes initially sounded much like Crosby/Nash.

City and Colour, another tens/oughties band performing at the same show (and, judging by the crowd response, poised for a breakthrough), is sort of a combination of Death Cab and the Lumineers and the My Morning Jacket of the "Evil Urges" tour (before they got put on that Bob Dylan bill and became known to everyone). But they also sound unmistakably like vintage Neil Young and even Pink Floyd.

In other words, the stuff the new generation hears is in their parents' living room on a regular basis -- but reconfigured for the tens in an upbeat way that makes it all their own and quite different from the music made in the previous decade.