Those of you who've only followed the Present Author for the past couple years may be surprised to learn that I used to write about music. No, really, a lot. It's been a while since I wallowed in the discovery of new bands.
What I'd like to do for the world this Christmas is illuminate some little-known, niche music micro-genres. Most of them are new, some of them only established after the fact or experiencing a retro revival, all of them are judged to be popular and trendy based on stats gleaned from Spotify (mostly), plus iTunes, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, YouTube, and whatever crazy noise I can run into on the street. I will try to keep it to genres established enough that they won't just disappear by the time you read this.
That's all we're doing. So if, a few days from now, you just received a new music-playing gadget and are looking to load it up with cool new beats, you're bound to find one genre here worth exploring.
#1: Witch House
Witch House is a music genre that's come up in the past couple years. It's an occult-themed EDM genre - think Goth meets Techno (if you're older than dirt) or Dark Synth meets Trip-Hop. It's atmospheric and down-tempo, with Industrial tones applied to a horror aesthetic. Just the thing for your next Saw-themed haunted house, or cyber-coven meeting. But it's maybe not the newest discovery on this list - I think more people have written about this genre thanhave listened to it.
#2: Speed Garage
Don't you love it when a New York influence crosses the pond to the UK and they give it back to us all rebooted and polished? Take New York Garage and make it four-on-the-floor, give it breakbeats, and feed it through Urban Jungle, and you have Speed Garage, which will remind you an awful lot of Reggae Rap. It seems the next logical step after Grime. By the way, I'm a stinking rotten Grime fan, but I knew you'd all already heard of it by now.
#3: Anime Rock
This is one of those genres that have been around for a while, but never had an official name until recently. As you'd expect, Anime Rock combines power J-Pop with mellow Kawaii attitudes fed through the Idol marketing filter. Cuddle with your anime Dakimakura (yes, that's the name for those big body pillows with anime characters) and listen to a stream of this on a rainy day to wash your feelbads away.
#4: Country Rap
Thank you, Internet! You have made it possible for every freaky niche interest to flourish in its own underground subculture until everything is possible and nothing needs to make any sense. Yes, they figured out how to fuse Rap to make something even more unlikely than Nu-Metal, and yet when you listen to it, it works. Country Rap (AKA Hick-Hop, but smile when you say that) is really just urban rap with fiddles and banjos, fewer 187s and more trucks. Both Rap and Country share a common root in Talking Blues, so there you go.
#5: Crack Rock Steady
So there was this band in New York called Choking Victim, a punk-ska type act, who released one album and promptly choked. The remnants of the band formed Leftover Crack. And a few other bands glommed on because in New York whole genres form in the top floors of apartment buildings and stay right there festering for years until they're discovered. Anyway, this is Rocksteady Roots-Reggae played like Crust Punk. With all the angry politics you'd expect from bands out of Alphabet City.
#6: Stomp and Whittle
Rick & Morty fans should know that Dan Harmon started out with a TV series called Community, whose second-season opening episode introduced most of the world to The Fratellis. Well, just like a whole genre formed around White Stripes there (don't tell me they don't belong next to each other), Jon Fratelli's brand of Scottish Alt-Garage-Rock has founded a minor movement that takes Stomp Pop / Pub Rock and rides it like it's the only salvation.
That's right, we've hit Progressive Synthwave. If you hate synthesizers, this genre isn't for you. This genre is all about being the biggest synthnerd (it's a thing) you can possibly be, by whipping your robotic music slave into doing things it was never meant to do. Like Polka. It's a Scandinavian native genre, after all, but its natural instrumental nature makes it international anyway. So give it a try for your ambient study music after you've run out of Chiptune Chillwave.
No, C86 is not a new genre, but it's recently coalesced under this name. Nostalgia for Gen-X's turn in the cultural spotlight (all five minutes of it) rakes NME's legendary C86 compilation tape back from the pages of history to summon a 1980s Jangle-Pop revival. Take Morrisey / The Smiths and expand the scale beyond the two notes Morrisey could drone, add a dash of New Wave. By the way, I love Morrisey, so I kid him lovingly. He picked two very good notes to stick to.
#9: Fallen Angel
Orchestral Heavy Metal, with female vocals. While your humble author left Metal behind circa Nirvana's Nevermind like all six billion of the rest of you at the time, Metal has continued evolving through these weird, fascinating niche sub-genres thanks to half of Scandinavia latching onto it like it was the last lifeboat off the Titanic. Yes, Sweden, we know you're hard. Thank you. You can experiment with something else now. Anyway, this is your new genre for being epic-dramatic.
#10: Kawaii Core
You are so not ready for this. This is J-Pop doing Metal. Hello Kitty in leather and studs. Dark, serious themes fed through anime aesthetics. Sweden meets Japan. What mad scientists unleashed this unholy fusion onto our collective consciousness? Look, I just watched these two videos, and now my brain is bent and I may never be ready to face normal music again.
#11: Charred Death
For a genre that started out rebellious and underground, how conservative has metal become? It has become the institution it sought to destroy. It has cannibalized itself so many times that its digestion doesn't wring out any nutrients anymore, just ashes and oxygen. Anyway, here's the hundred millionth new thing in Metal. It's the extra-extra-dead Death Metal, with a little nod to the melody as a few actual notes are detectable through all the fuzz, buzz, and growls. This genre brought to you by The People's Federation of Republics of Metal, LLC; please hold still while the camera records your reaction and sends it to the Ministry of Genre Conformity for processing.
How about something a little more comforting after the last two harsh entries? Coverchill is a micro-genre where we take covers of popular Pop / Rock songs and cover them in Chillwave style.
Doesn't that sound soothing and gentle? There really isn't much more to say about this genre, you know everything you need to know. Flat out guaranteed to show up in movie soundtracks for generations to come.
When you want to chill to electronic music but still be intellectually stimulated enough so you don't fall instantly asleep. Think Shoegaze fed through Chiptunes: eccentric time signatures, quirky glitches, warbling tones, and oops, I dropped the Korg DW-8000 in the bathtub but I dried it with the blowdrier for half an hour so plug it in, it'll be fine.
I know I complained about too many Metal genres already, and I'm gearing up to rave about the ultimate Synth genre coming up, but - aren't we also good on retro synthesizer genres about now?
#14: Brill Building Pop
Again, not new. Just now officially recognized as its own genre, even though I've been going around calling it that for forty years now while nobody paid attention to me. Brill Building Pop is Top-40 Billboard Pop as released from the offices of the cathedral-like building at 1619 Broadway, Manhattan, NY, during the 1950s and 1960s. Think the songwriting teams of Goffin-King, Leiber-Stoller, and Mann-Weil, with girl groups rounded up by Phil The Creep Spector and Don The Vampire Kirshner. I kid! I love the music from this era, I'm just realistic about the kinds of producers working then.
Attention KMart shoppers! Yeah, you've heard about Vaporwave for years now. But I just can't shut up about it anyway. Talk about Generation-X nostalgia, Vaporwave is the ultimate cynical outcome of the post-Reagan post-Capitalist 1990s and the rise of the home computer.
This is what we're stuck with for culture now: the last wave of optimistic futurism being devoured by cyberpunk and being passed out the back end as cybernetic lotus machine. We dream in our electronic cocoons now, never to deal with reality again.
I, for one, can spend days at a time listening to Vaporwave and watching Dan Bell's Dead Malls series, and when I go, you can bury my sterilized, shrink-wrapped, fabric-softener-scented body in my Solo-cup Jazz pattern coffin and send me to the Great Neon Arcade in the Sky. Maybe I'll finally have enough time to finish Earthbound then.