Music has come a long way since its humble inception many thousands of years ago. With new genres of music constantly being created, recombined, or spliced together, by the time this article is published the ten genres within it could be completely irrelevant! Just in the past decade we have seen an extremely rapid proliferation of music that would have previously been deemed inconceivable. With the development of the Internet, music enthusiasts can share, listen to, and explore genres of music that they would otherwise have no access to. This has led to a ‘golden age’ in the expansion of music. Artists no longer have to achieve grassroots support for their music and ascend the slippery rungs of the musical ladder from the bottom up. Many artists have enjoyed immense success through one hit ‘YouTube’ wonders (just think Soulja Boy, Justin Bieber, and ‘Chocolate Rain’).
The following list is an exploration of some of the more eccentric genres that have cropped up in the perpetually changing climate of music:
These raven-haired, skinny jean wearing screechers wail out stories of lovesickness and nonconformist rebellion in high pitched unintelligible babble that is usually drowned out by the screech of guitar. Flocks of teenage girls who wear way too much mascara flock to these bands because ‘they understand the struggles of growing up in suburbia with rich parents.’ Shrieking raconteurs of this genre are usually found in stores like Hot Topic, Zumiez or Wet Seal shopping for masochistically tight pants. This genre evolved from ‘post-hardcore’ in San Diego in 1991 and its namesake is derived from the nearly ubiquitous screaming that accompanies the cacophony of other musical accompaniments. Screamo can be divvied up into two waves: first and second. First wave includes bands such as Heroin, Antioch Arrow, and Swing Kids circa ’91. Screamo experienced a second revival in 2001; a much slower, less harsh spinoff at the hands of bands such as Far, Grade, Thursday, and Alexisonfire. Check them out.
AKA the hipster band with the female vocalist with extremely tight purple jeans and probably-too-low-cut v-neck t-shirts. Always playing in the back of your favorite coffee shop, this is a sub-genre of indie pop that appeals to a very narrow demographic (people who refer to themselves as ‘Cuddlecores’). These under-the-radar bands are usually doomed to a lifetime of performing in underground dive bars and coffee houses for half priced warm beer and expired Venezuelan coffee beans. The lyrics of cuddlecore bands chronicle tales of past loves, heartbreaks, great dates, and mysteries of love. The music they create is as soft as a newborn kitten and equally as feisty. Some of their songs are lighthearted while some are cynical, even cruel. Tiger Trap’s ‘My Broken Heart’ tells one girl’s story of heartbreak that perfectly exemplifies ‘cuddlecore.’ Check out: Tigertrap, Go Sailor, Go Softies. (NOTE: innumerable artists of extremely soft cushy indie music fall under this genre.)
8. Laptop Pop
The Uranium-238 of the music world. It is enriched in basements and hole-in-the-wall apartments all over the world until it is detonated in a mushroom cloud of undulating pulses and tempos. Any person with a laptop and an overpowering urge to spend hours scouring the internet for bizarre sounds and song clips and then engineering them into tracks can be a rogue member of the loosely-defined laptop pop genre. This inorganic music genre was forged in the trenches of suburban basements where overzealous music-loving kids pointed and clicked on Macs with bloodshot eyes in the wee hours of the morning until synthetic beats and abstract rhythms coalesced into tracks. Laptop pop masters are really just gurus of programs such as Garage Band, Cakewalk, or other music creation software that allows the user to design and rearrange free-standing clips into loop-based music. Laptop Pop’s flagship Ratatat has lyric-less songs such as ‘Loud Pipes’ that conjures up thoughts of what it might feel like to roller blade through cyberspace. At concerts of laptop pop bands, you can expect to see sweaty, long-haired 20-somethings romping around onstage to an accompanying light show while their Mac irradiates the sound of their underground-conceived music. Some bands to check out: Ratatat, Girl Talk, Rex the Dog, Various Production, Oval.
7. Blackened Death Metal
As if death metal needed to become any more moribund than it already is! Take death metal and dip it in a flaming barrel of napalm & animosity and you have: Blackened Death Metal. The vocals for blackened death metal bands consist of snarling, shrieking and growling that sounds like a German Panzer knocking over a tree. Behemoth’s ‘Conquer All’ perfectly exemplifies the unintelligible but satanic lyrics/death curses that are a staple of this genre. The vocals are accompanied by highly distorted guitars and other instrumentation. Double bass is a must-have and sounds more like machine gun fire rather than a sound that any humane person would want to create. Forget about conventional song structure- this type of music is an all out war and it is common for blackened death metal songs to lack fundamental structures such as a chorus and guitar solo. Band members are required to have greasy black-dyed hair at least 14 inches long that smells like a wet dog. You can count on all members of the Church of Satan, anarchists and nihilists to be at a blackened death metal show. Bands to check out: Behemoth, Zyklon, Sacramentum, Azarath, Marduk.
6. Comedy Rap
Rap ain’t funny. It’s about the streets; growing up with nothing, a vocal how-to guide of surviving in the slums. But some bands have taken rap’s pitiable message of alcoholism, objectification of women, and materialism and made it into an illustrious festivity lampooning the ridiculousness and superficiality of the “thug life.” Comedy rap pioneers Flight of the Conchords and Lonely Island fill the airtight niche that is comedy rap. It has gained a modest following in teenagers and adolescents that have grown up listening to Biggie Smalls and Snoop Dogg and enjoy hearing their sounds of childhood mocked and spoofed. Flight of the Conchords has a TV show on HBO (of the same name) and Lonely Island has produced two ubiquitous internet megahits in the extremely catchy “I’m On A Boat” and “Jizz In My Pants.” Saturday Night Live alum Andy Samberg lends some of his vocal talent alongside rapper T-Pain in “I’m On A Boat” in a hilarious lampoon of the superficiality and simplicity of rap music. Here are some sample lyrics:
I’m riding on a dolphin, doing flips and shit,
The dolphin’s splashing, getting everybody all wet,
But this ain’t SeaWorld, this is real as it gets!
Extremely long ‘songs’ (if you can call them that) made up of completely naturally occurring sounds of nature such as whale noises, rustling leaves, dog barks, etc. My mother used to play a tape of whale noises before I went to bed every night. I didn’t realize just how weird that was until now. Also known as “sounds of nature,” this genre attracts middle-aged women trying to get in touch with their inner peace, and practitioners of advanced level yoga. To listeners of conventional music this genre can best be described as: boring. The sounds of rustling leaves, lapping ocean waves, and bird’s songs are for those who have the patience and inclination to feel like they are outside while they are inside. Although I do not know of any specific ‘artists’ of this genre- Who knows? There could be someone out there calling himself the Mystical Garden Sprite of Environmentally Induced Rejuvenation, I don’t know- but many CD stores and large retailers compile ‘Sounds of Nature’ CDs with organic names such as “Inspiring Thunderstorms” or “Summer Rain On The Porch.” If you have ever been to a yoga studio, Buddhist store, or crazed left-wing environmentalist’s house, you may have heard this type of music before.
With the explosive proliferation of psychedelic drugs in the 60s and 70s, this cultural paradigm brought with it mescaline and magic mushroom inspired lyrics that can sound as smooth and chilled out as a polar bear relaxing on a beach wearing sunglasses and drinking a pina colada. Or, like someone with tourette’s learning to play the piano while riding a carousel during a tornado. While this genre is rooted in the psychedelic bands of the 60s, (The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix), it has experienced a consciousness-expanding resurgence in bands such as MGMT, Yeasayer, Empire of the Sun and Tame Impala. If you have no idea what psychedelic music is or what it is composed of, I encourage you to watch the music video to MGMT’s “Time to Pretend.” That should clear up any unclear thoughts you might have as to what Neo-Psych is. In Empire of the Sun’s “Walking On A Dream” the singer regales us with the hauntingly catchy chorus:
Is it real now, when two people become one
I can feel it, when two people become one.
The meanings of songs by psychedelic bands are as disparate and far-flung as possible for any string of words in the English language. Some bands employ poetic stream-of-consciousness recordings while other’s lyrics dance around a polychromatic bonfire of reckless abandon. To listen to psychedelic music, check out any one of the aforementioned bands. To understand psychedelic music, drop a few blotter tabs of acid and then listen. (Just kidding. Don’t actually do that.)
3. Country Truck Driving Music
This country-esque honky-tonk hillbilly inspired genre tells the tales of life, love, and- of course- truckin’. These whiskey fueled rants are popular in the ranks of beer-bellied and chaw chompin country bumpkins. Yarn spinners of this genre bellow slow stringy ditties about life on the open road and what it’s like to live on a steady diet of 3-day old refrigerated gas station burritos. Country truck driving music aims to assimilate all the affairs associated with truck driving into a four minute track. Some of these stories include: shifting into fifth while crossing the state line, truck stop and diner cuties, and according to Rhett Atkins “driving my life away looking for a sunny day.” Also check out the classic “Mama Hated Diesels” by Commander Cody. Del Reeves may have said it best when he said being is a trucker means being a double clutchin’ scale jumpin’ mile makin’ tail gatin’ dollar dodgin’ line crossin’ coffee drinkin’ pin ballin’ jack knifin’ fog timin’ wind jammin’ lake runnin’ gear bustin’ sort of a feller. Also check out truck driving songs by: Red Sovine, Junior Brown and C.W. McCall.
Mario-esque tones accompanied by guitar riffs, screaming and throngs of screaming Donkey Kong fans that have left their posts in front of the SNES to get their ears boiled by the raucous thunder of electric guitar and 8-bit tones. These bands are a spin-off of hardcore and grindcore and incorporates its namesake 8-bit tones inter-spliced in scratchy throated screamed vocals that will leave you feeling like you need a 1-Up mushroom. The trademark Nintendo beeps and bops that you heard while playing games such as Mario, Donkey Kong, and Tetris back in the day provide the background fabric of this type of music. An excellent example of Nintendocore is “Tetris” by Powerglove. It starts out with an unassuming string of tones that conjure up phantasmagoric memories of playing Nintendo into the wee hours of the morning. Then it swerves into a discordant jam of electric guitars, shattering the fragile recollections with its respectable blend of electro-pop and good old-fashioned axe shredding. Bands to check out: Band Called Horse, Sky Eats Airplane, Powerglove.
Horrorcore is music that will keep you up at night wondering if there is a god. Serial killers of this genre spew forth repulsive and offensive lyrics and were born in graveyards and do not have mothers. The lyrics of horrorcore bands describe dark and despicable themes such as murder, rape, sadism, and suicide. I would love to give a sample of the lyrics they use but a single cipher contains enough atrocities to implode the eardrums of the weak-minded. If you wish to dunk your head into the black swamp of horrorcore music, then check out “American Psycho” by Eminen. Be forewarned, it will prematurely extinguish any feeling of joy you might experience in the 24 hours after listening to it. In 2009, four Virginians, including a Presbyterian minister, were brutally bludgeoned to death after a horrocore concert. Later, the prime suspect was apprehended; a wild-minded horrocore enthusiast who called himself ‘Syko Sam.’ As you might imagine, bands of this genre are largely unpopular; however some terror titans have fared well: Insane Clown Posse, Twiztid, D12, Tech N9ne, Geto Boys and Necro have enjoyed success at the expense of auctioning off their souls to Satan. (ICP video not included due to explicit language – Editor.)
by Jacob B. McHugh