Thursday, March 10, 2011


Are you genre-obsessed? I definitely am. I hate those genre names that are so general that they tell you nothing about what the music sounds like. For example, what exactly is "alternative" music? Alternative to what? Or what about "easy listening"? Isn't every kind of music easy listening to someone? These genre names make no sense, which is why I do my research on the music I listen to. I usually use music blogs to find out what new genres are becoming popular, and which genres fit which bands. Not only does it help me to organize my music, but the genre names much better reflect the music itself and are much more colourful and specific than "alternative" or "rock".

Lesson One, children. CHILLWAVE.

STOP! Before you read the rest of the post, write down what the word "chillwave" means to you. If you were to describe a piece of music that way, how would it sound? Maybe do some doodles in the margins or something, get creative!

Okay, now that you've made your prediction based on 100% speculation, I'm going to dig deep in to the recesses of music knowledge shared among the interwebs and we will find out together just how accurate your prediction was.


The way I found out about chillwave was through a specific band. You may remember that I mentioned Twin Sister a while back, and I loved their sound so much that I did some sifting to find out what the genre of their music was called. The iTunes store calls their music the dreaded "alternative" (altogether now..."TO WHAT?"), and the ID3 tags call it "indie pop" which is not a bad choice to be honest. It's a good starting point, but I personally feel that their sound isn't so much indie pop as it is something more, kind of calming and weird, but a good weird. Indie pop is a little more upbeat than this, so I began my search. According to the band's myspace page, they are "experimental / pop". Both of these, as you can probably guess, are too general for me. It doesn't give a feel of the actual sounds they produce.

In my searching for a genre that I felt did their music justice, I found another band which was being compared to them. It is called Toro Y Moi and you can find more about him on his website. In an interview on, he stated,
"I didn’t want people to get too familiar and for them to think Toro Y Moi is an electronic musician then for them to be surprised when I do something else, so I mix it up. I'm more interested in the end sound than how I record it. If that sound is 'Chillwave' then I'm cool with that. I see how people relate the name to the music.”
So apparently, some artists don't intend their music to be genre-lized at all. I understand where that comes from, like how people don't like to be pigeon-holed or labelled. Maybe that's why some genres are so general, so that artists don't feel trapped within a bunch of pre-set expectations of how their music is "supposed" to sound.

I will defend myself to some extent by offering that no matter how expansive and genre-transcending your music is, it can't be labelled "alternative". That just makes no sense. I can assure you, if a company named their breakfast cereal or shoe design "alternative", we'd all be scratching our heads in confusion. Panic and chaos would surely follow.

Upon further definition of chillwave, I found that there is some drama going on around this "so-called buzzword". Ever since it was invented by blogger Hipster Runoff, it seems to have taken a rollercoaster ride up, down and around in a debate over whether the term is
a) relevant/correct
b) offensive to artists who do not want to be pigeon-holed
c) still relevant now (5 seconds later)
d) over used
e) too mainstream to be considered relevant
f) so irrelevant that it is again relevant

Oh my word, I just wanted to find a better genre name for my music than "alternative"! Now I know better than to do any research about my music. (Just kidding, definitely do research on your favourite music in order to enjoy it all the more!)

Okay, we definitely need a wrap up here. Do genres help you decipher and pick through music to find what you want to listen to? Do you think that human genres (labels) are any worse/better than music genres? Do genres trap artists into doing the same things over and over? Would you get rid of them completely if you had the chance? Do you understand more of what "chillwave" means (to you and to the world)? Were your predictions of the genre correct?

Mine weren't. Sorry I inflicted this drama on you, readers.

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