Chillwave. It’s probably the most recent new sub-genre to spring forth from mother rock n’ roll in the past 12 months. And in the very short time it has been in existence it has been pretty widely praised, ridiculed, consumed, imitated and hotly debated. First, there were heated debates as to whether or not it should be called ‘hypnogogic pop,’ ‘glo-fi’ or ‘chillwave’ (for all intents and purposes, the term ‘chillwave’ has won out as the most widely-used and accepted). This was followed by debates on whether it had already worn out its welcome in the world of the music elite (indeed, there is already a backlash and a backlash-against-the-backlash). For my part, I’m especially uninterested in the final debate. I’m still listening to music from sub-genres that lasted for only brief periods and the 60’s and 70’s, so I can’t imagine why I’d be any less interested in a still on-going sub-genre that includes a number of talented musicians producing excellent pop songs. After all, its all pop music, and chillwave is just an aesthetic.
Nonetheless, the emergence and growth-cycle of chillwave has made me think about the history of pop music in general. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the way rock n’ roll has mutated through genres and sub-genres and sub-genres of sub-genres throughout the years. For example, you have the dance craze’s of the 50’s, the garage bands of the 60’s, the psychedelic bands of the 70’s, surf rock, hot rod rock, grunge rock, the British invasion, rockabilly, pup rock, blues rock, 80’s metal, the garage rock revival, math rock, post-rock, freak folk, etc. And those are just a sampling of music within the genre of rock ‘n’ roll! Country music, hip hop, rhythm & blues all have equally diverse and interesting sub-genres. Anyways, I’ve been searching for a good book that discusses the history of pop music through the exploration of these genres (i.e. the emergence of these genres, who were the important artists, when the genres appeared, etc.). One notable resource has included NPR’s “All Songs Considered” which offers a pretty amazing program called Rock ‘n’ Roll Summer School that examines many of the most important labels, crazes and developments during rock ‘n’ rolls earliest phases, primarily in the 1950’s. Nonetheless, I still wanted something that expanded beyond rock ‘n’ rolls’ early years. So with that in mind, I’ve decided to work on a series for Musical Pairings that will feature a brief examination of various genres/sub-genres of pop music (i.e. surf rock, Motown R&B, grunge, mash-ups, alt-country, etc.) in an effort to educate myself and to share what I’ve learned/heard with our readers. And since no matter how much I write about any genre, nothing can beat actually hearing the music in question, I’ll put together a mixtape worth of material for you to download and listen to with each installment. This will probably be a somewhat irregular series at first since it will require a fair amount of reading/listening/learning. Further, I make no claim to be an expert on any genre and sub-genre (this is a learning experience), so I hope our readers will feel free to add their thoughts and comments to help enrich my understanding of these genres and the understanding of other readers.
So for the first mixtape, I’m taking the easy route, and covering the youngest sub-genre of rock ‘n’ roll, discussed in part above: chillwave. I suspect a number of our readers know at least as much about chillwave as I do, but some other readers may be unsure of what chillwave is. Chillwave is best understood as a sub-genre of synthpop that occasionally features elements of some of the more various strains of “indie-rock” from the aughts (think Panda Bear, Animal Collective, High Places and Beach House) and elements (notably beats) of club music, neo-soul and hip hop. Notable compositional elements include the frequent use of heavy doses of echo/delay/reverb, samples, downtempo beats, and simple melodies that can be described as sounding like hazy, wistful recollections of warm sunny days at the beach. Increasingly, some of the genre’s leading artists (such as MillionYoung, Neon Indian and Memory Tapes) are producing chillwave styled remixes of music from other genres & artists non-typically associated with chillwave such as Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, Grizzly Bear and Phoenix. To get a better idea of the genre, download the mixtape below:
01. Millionyoung – Hammock
02. Toro y Moi – Talamak
03. Memory Tapes – Bicycle
04. Neon Indian – Mind, Drips
05. Memory House – To the Lighthouse
06. Ducktails – Landrunner
07. Golden Ages – Everything Will Be Alright
08. The Hood Internet – Feel It On The Southside (Birdman feat. Lil Wayne v. Washed Out)
09. Grizzly Bear – Cheerleader (Neon Indian ‘Studio 6669’ Remix)
10. Mirrors – Fear of Drowning
11. Washed Out – Belong
12. Universal Studios Florida – Velvet Painting of the Stars