Some music genres stick around for a long time. Others stick around for a short time. Here are some of the short ones:
Who: Washed Out, Neon Indian, Tycho
You only need two words to describe chillwave: Eighties Beach. A mellow electronic subgenre, it deals entirely in hazy nostalgia set to a laconic rhythm made for summer lounging. Just think of that yellowish Instagram filter. Popularized by Ernest Greene‘s band Washed Out, the slow jam style never really made it into the larger public’s ears, but it was fairly huge in the indie community for a few years. It may make a comeback- Katy Perry‘s 2017 wokeness anthem “Chained to the Rhythm” straddles the line between dancehall and chillwave. The two subgenres share a sonic border, so some bleed-through was naturally going to happen. Ironically, all the artists who spearheaded the movement have long discarded it, so it would be up to the popstars to get the world dreaming of the old days again.
Who: Tiesto, Delerium, Paul Oakenfold
Of all the genres listed here, this was the only one that really made any sort of impact on mainstream airwaves. It’s very sleek, futuristic, slightly cheesy dance music whose peak years interestingly coincided with the Matrix movies and Windows XP screensavers. The very European sound did get filtered into some more recognizable songs- Cascada‘s “Everytime We Touch” and DJ Sammy‘s cover of Bryan Adams‘ “Heaven” are radio friendly pop trance- but it mainly stayed in the clubs. Trance remixes were all the rage at the turn of the millennium as well. It’s strange that modern EDM hasn’t yet started to mine that era, considering its current sound has long run its course.
Who: SALEM, Crystal Castles, †††
Aka “Halloween Goes Electric”. Heavily distorted synths, barely discernible vocals and bleak imagery make this brief fad chillwave’s scary cousin. It’s also like doom metal, but with the guitars switched out for keyboards. Obviously this didn’t light up the charts, but hipster goths did embrace the aesthetic and you’ll still find its influence all over the creepy parts of tumblr. In addition to a weird obsession with digital artifacts, corrupted video and mangled VHS footage, there were a lot of crosses, upside down crosses, triangles, and other weird symbols in the names of witch house bands. Deftones frontman Chino Moreno liked it so much he literally just named his band †††. Weirdly, it was less witch house and more just a gritty electronic Deftones. If you want the quintessential sound, look no further than this song from SALEM.
Who: USS, Pendulum
There’s been a few almost-hits (Lady Gaga‘s “Applause”) loosely based on the ~170 BPM of drum n bass music, but as of 2017 it’s been largely relegated to cult acts. Canadian party duo USS used it to get themselves noticed with their 2008 single “Hollowpoint Sniper Hyperbole”, but don’t rely on it solely. The biggest “pure” drum n bass act would be the Australian Pendulum, whose return to the stage this year drew massive crowds…but didn’t result in a new album as many were expecting.
Who: Bloc Party, Battles, Foals
A hyper-angular version of post-rock, math rock is literally music for nerds. It involves calculations and complex numbers, meant to be pored over and disassembled by the most literate music theorists. It’s usually characterized by spindly, agile guitar licks and taut rhythms, but its most defining feature is odd time signatures. Interestingly enough, there aren’t too many visual cues associated with the genre. It’s almost too smart to be distilled into a scene. The purest form of math rock reached its widest audience in 2007 when Battles got really huge, but both Bloc Party and Foals took elements of it for their earliest work. Foals in particular loved the sound on their first record….before promptly throwing it away when they got big in 2010.