Let's take a moment to think about labels and what they mean to us. Why do people feel the need to label things? The obvious answer is: It's the only way we know what stuff is.
To anyone who automatically dismisses the very idea of labeling, just imagine what it would be like if you had to shop in a grocery store with no labels. What's in that can you just put into your grocery cart? Who the hell knows? Could be Chef Boyardee ravioli, could be canned yams, could be mechanically separated nutria paste (a Cajun fast-food fusion delicacy, we're led to understand). A very, very entertaining game has been made based on this concept, but it's not something you'd want to subject yourself to every single day.
A Brooklyn musical duo calling itself Creep got into a little bit of trouble when they listed one of their genres on their MySpace page as "rape gaze." Obviously a play on the existing genre "shoegaze," the two sort of likeably dopey kids explained in an interview that they were just being silly with the genre invention. This makes sense; rape as a real thing is never funny, but calling a semi-Gothic electro musical style "rape gaze" after the face its artists tend to make in promotional photos? That's pretty damned hilarious. Especially once you learn that the band's real genre name - "witch house" - is just as ridiculous, if not more so.
That's why a few overly sensitive people took the whole "rape gaze" thing too seriously, we think: Not that it doesn't sound like it's a joke, because it totally does, but because many "legitimate" musical genres also sound like they were named as jokes. Don't believe us? Prepare to be enlightened.
10. Happy Hardcore
Haha, what? These two words should never, ever be together. This genre sounds like an oxymoron until you actually hear it, in which case we have to grudgingly admit, yes, it's pretty happy, and yes, it's pretty freakin' hardcore about it. A type of techno music featuring ridiculously sped-up beats (sometimes exceeding 200 bpm), sugary, sentimental pop vocals and uplifting melodies, happy hardcore is great for those ravers among you who feel like normal techno music is simply too grim. It's also pretty good music to write to. Huh. Who knew?
Coined in the 1990s, this term is used to describe bands which feature whimsical, silly vocals over complex, strange arrangements. From what we can tell, it's sort of an offshoot/amalgam of Frank Zappa, They Might Be Giants, and a toy commercial. Indeed, the genre is named after Zolo Inc., a toy manufacturer whose toys are supposed to evoke the sensibilities of this particular genre, or something. We did a Google Image Search for "zolo" and got a bunch of really weird shit, including multiple pictures of the same green-haired, dual-katana-wielding anime dude. Okie dokie.
8. Paisley Underground
One thing we love about rock and roll is that, as it evolves, it's fun as hell to watch what was once new and exciting become old and stale, and then try and guess how the next generation will rebel against that particular sound. Southern California was, for a decade or two, home to relaxed stoner folk-rock like the Eagles; you know, music to stitch together your own pair of moccasins by. In the late '70s and early '80s, the kids said "enough of this hippie bullshit" and started a staggeringly brutal hardcore punk movement.
After a few years, though, the hippies fought back by forming the Paisley Underground, a movement designed to be as meandering and toothless as hardcore punk is fierce and direct. The most famous acts associated with it would be the Bangles' early stuff and Mazzy Star, but there were many more bands who set about pleasing wusses of all shapes and creeds. It's named after what may be the most hideous pattern in all of fashion, and was completely useless as a genre until Prince put some funk in it, as Prince is wont to do.
We're going to be covering a lot of electronic subgenres here, so now seems like a good time for a public service message. Suburban parents: If you give in and buy that pasty little trust-fund baby of yours a synthesizer for his 18th birthday, he's going to one day claim to have invented a genre. You should know that. There are as many electronic subgenres as there are bored, overprivileged white kids who think being able to use Fruity Loops makes them DJs. One of these genres is known as "glitch-hop."
It's a combination of the terms "glitch" and "hip-hop," yet another example of how the word "hop" gets annoyingly tacked on to any genre that features a sleepy-eyed dorm rat rapping for more than ten seconds. "Glitch," as a genre, simply encompasses any form of electronic music featuring fake errors like skipping, bit-rate reduction, various hisses and skronks, and whatever else could make you afraid your speakers just crapped out.
"Glitch-hop," then, means people rapping over all that mess. We're sure it's just fantastic, but we'll never know, since we've already vowed to never, ever listen to any.
6. Furniture Music
Some genres are ridiculously exclusive, and this one is probably most so. How exclusive? The entire genre, purists claim, consists of five songs by one composer. Erik Satie composed these five short pieces specifically to be played as background music by live performers at some kind of function. In other words, they serve the same function as the furniture: classing up the joint without being obtrusive. Yes, folks, Erik Satie invented Ambient music.
The name is disappointing for those of us who were hoping for a more Les Triplettes de Belleville approach, which utilizes actual furniture. As for the music itself, it's not bad, if a bit repetitive, and certainly noteworthy for being the only type of music it might be considered rude not to talk during. Which means Houston crowds would almost certainly listen attentively during any furniture-music performance.
We've discussed chillwave here before. It's yet another genre embraced by white hipsters with synthesizers, so the less said about it, the better. It stands out, though, as a rare example of a subgenre whose sound is exactly as irritating as its name. Just in case you're unclear: Very.
Grebo popped up in the late '80s and early '90s in the United Kingdom alongside other locale-specific genres as "Madchester" and "Baggy." In fact, we're not sure if there remains anyone today who could tell the difference between any of the three said genres; they all sound like vaguely effeminate English guys playing Britpop over a drum loop.
Maybe there was a shortage of drummers in the UK around 1989? In any case, we liked Grebo better when it was a Star Wars character who didn't fire first.
No, this is not the name of a horrible new energy drink, but in fact describes a sort of fast-paced electronic disco. Yes, you have to add the qualifier "electronic" to some kinds of disco, because believe it or not, people used to play it with honest-to-God instruments. Anyway, Hi-NRG grew to popularity in the UK in the late 1970's, although American Donna Summer seems to have coined the term in 1977 to describe her hit "I Feel Love."
It became popular stateside in the totally tubular and radical '80s, as you might expect, but died down around the time people started embracing house music. It's still popular in Mexico, however, which lends credence to our theory that Mexican radio stations for some reason receive only 30-year-old broadcasts. Man, those guys are gonna LOVE Grebo in about ten years, right?
2. Hard Bop
"Hard bop" should be one of the aliens on Ben 10, because at least those aliens are supposed to sound like they were named by a ten-year-old. (Okay, so we're often up watching cartoons when the sun rises. We have sleep issues.) Instead, it's a subgenre of jazz, which pretty much throws all modern connotations of the word "hard" as it relates to music right out the window.
"Hard," in this instance, seems to be a euphemism for "African-American," as hard bop is known for bringing gospel and blues elements back into jazz and bebop. You'll actually know the sound when you hear it, if you've ever watched any detective noir or grimy exploitation films set between 1948 and 1962. Here's an example of hard bop performed by the awesomely named duo of Cannonball Adderly and Miles Davis.
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SHOW ME HOW
Just reading a list of aliases psybient sometimes goes by gives us a goddamn headache: "psychill"... "psytrance"... "ambient goa"... good God. How specific do we need to get, techno kids? So what is it that makes psybient distinct, let's see. According to its Wikipedia page (of COURSE it has a Wikipedia page), psybient tends to be "structured around the concept of creating a 'sonic voyage' or 'musical journey'." Lord. Sounds like work.
So it maintains the same rhythm... while also creating soundscapes... while also allowing for tempo changes... fuck, we just don't know, you guys. Sounds to us like a vanity label some kid made up so he could pretend he wasn't ripping off Orbital, but what the hell do we know? If you'd like more information, feel free to contact psybient artists Shpongle, Doof, Ott or Freq.
No, those are not words we just made up. Yes, we need to go lie down.