April 11, 2012

Genres That Suck

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In these column inches, I have managed to praise numerous artists, including Long Island emo world champions Taking Back Sunday, metal gods Iron Maiden, absurdist electro-rappers Die Antwoord, the ubiquitously-heard Carly Rae Jepsen, eternal hype machine victims Arctic Monkeys, introspective ambient savant The Field and even cheese-tastic hard rockers Van Halen. Despite accusations to the contrary, I’ve tried my best to, in financier’s terms, diversify my portfolio. In order to actually be knowledgeable about music, one cannot count an entire genre out due to a need for snobbish exclusionism. Indeed, even Nashville country — a musical style that is often maligned for its slick production and hackneyed songwriting — has contributed a couple of solid tunes to the annals of music history (if you don’t like Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup,” there’s something wrong with you).Despite my idyllic calls for egalitarianism among the constantly warring factions of musicality (okay, please excuse me for watching too much Game of Thrones recently), there are some scenes that just seem a little … off. Artists within these genres appear on blogs seemingly primed for ridicule. Hipster Runoff probably gave them a silly name and they probably evoke a peculiar set of images, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the music is worthless. Here’s a rundown of some things that caught my eye.Genre: ElectrofolkWhile electrofolk sounds like the type of genre one would reference in a parody of Pitchfork Media, it’s got a very simple and, admittedly, agreeable aesthetic: a mix of acoustic instruments playing folksy melodies while electronics provide the beat and various flourishes. It’s been stricken with a horrendous name, but it’s far from a throwaway field. Four Tet, a favorite of Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, is often credited with pioneering the genre with his debut album Pause back in 2001. Owen Pallett, noted string arranger for Arcade Fire and The Last Shadow Puppets, is also deemed part of this genre. The real problem with the name electrofolk (or, alternatively, folktronica) is that it overspecifies what the rest of the world would call “indie rock” or “electronica.” Definitely.

Can I have this music in my library without seeming like an unbearable douche? Yes, but just label it like a sane person would.Genre: Bouncy HouseAlso known as “donk,” this style of melodic dance music uses bass drums distorted into bouncy-sounding square waves amid typical techno sounds derived from scenes in Detroit and Scotland to create hardcore rave-ups perfect for taking ecstasy to. Did all that make no sense? Okay, it sounds like what you’d listen to if you were a guido toddler playing in a bouncy house at a rich kid’s birthday party while hopped up on Pixie Stix, except not as fun. The “gabber,” as the bass sound is called, sounds duly antiquated, only 20 years removed from its heyday and, frankly, it probably didn’t sound all that great then. Over it all, British rappers with no sense of flow or lyricism bark orders to “put a donk on it.” It’s as bad as you think it is, but worse.

Can I have this music in my library without seeming like an unbearable douche? Probably not, although it’d probably be good music to play in order to empty out a house party that has gotten out of control.Genre: K-PopChalk up another victory for Western cultural hegemony! But really, K-Pop songs, aside from the Korean lyrics, sound like the type of productions that make stars out of prepubescent Canadian boys who idolize Usher. The videos and imagery, though, are what make it seem kind of crazy: they feature an array of colors, flashing lights and, most of all, classic choreography. While it’s hard for me to really pinpoint any artist worthy of your attention, the nine-member Girls’ Generation seems like a futuristic version of the Spice Girls (as predicted by Blade Runner) and make videos that seem like Gaga-esque pop events. Basically, it’s shameless pop music obsessed with futurism, CGI and choruses with lasers set to kill. All of it surely isn’t amazing, but there are some songs (and videos!) that desperately deserve your attention.

Can I have this music in my library without seeming like an unbearable douche? Totally. Just avoid obsessing over the artists who creepily sexualize adolescence and you’re good to go.Genre: Witch HouseA meme gone too far, witch house is the product of a couple of artists (including Pictureplane’s Travis Egedy) jokingly describing what type of house music they played. It got picked up by the blogosphere and from there devolved into a series of thinkpieces about microgenres, marketing and their inherent stupidity. To anyone with a working pair of ears, it just sounds like electronic music with a slightly experimental bent or chillwave (another genre that, despite being ill-defined and applicable to way too many people, has become the Internet’s requisite whipping boy), with darker themes. Some of it is even good: Salem’s dark and heavy electonica sounds apocalyptic in the best way possible. I think we’ll all feel better if we CTRL+F the words “witch house” and replace them with “electronic music.”

Can I have this music in my library without seeming like an unbearable douche? If you label it “witch house,” you are a douche. If not, you’re just a scummy hipster like the rest of us.

Genre: SeapunkIt doesn’t sound nautical, save some murky sounding filters, and it most definitely doesn’t sound like punk rock. This is where the whole concept of microgenres jumped the shark. A group of hipsters making adequate-but-not-incredible electronic music started wearing dolphin t-shirts, dyeing their hair green and posting weird images of waves and Spongebob Squarepants onto their Tumblrs and, all of a sudden, the Internet began to care. The New York Times even wrote a story on it, albeit one that basically came to the conclusion of “What the fuck?” While the music isn’t really that bad, it’s just discomforting to imagine all of it occurring as part of a scene, and you don’t want to inherently approve by listening to it. If someone wanted to come up with a reason to ban hipsters from Williamsburg, this is it.

Can I have this music in my library without seeming like an unbearable douche? Most likely not, unless you and your friends are really into cosplay inspired by The Little Mermaid.

Original Author: James Rainis