Last July our Hipster of the Decade, blogger Carles, arbitrarily coined a genre known as chillwave or glo-fi. It's now on iTunes, which is as close as possible to an official seal. So what makes a genre?
Or, if a blogger invents an arbitrary genre in the woods, finds a few bands to shove into it, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Carles, on his blog Hipster Runoff, described his baby as "like something playing in the background of an old VHS cassette that you found in your attic from the late '80s/'90s." Bands, he argued, like Small Black, Neon Indian, Memory Tapes and Toro Y Moi fitted his new category.
The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal jumped on the bandwagon (pun intended), admittedly with some references to the blog origins of this new category. The Times' Jon Pareles described it more specifically than its inventor.
They're solo acts or minimal bands, often with a laptop at their core, and they trade on memories of electropop from the 1980s, with bouncing, blipping dance-music hooks (and often weaker lead voices). It's recession-era music: low-budget and danceable.
In a blog post he was more scathing, saying acts he saw at the South by Southwest Festival bounced on as mindlessly "as a bobble-head doll," and were "annoyingly noncommittal... a hedged, hipster imitation of the pop they're not brash enough to make."
Whereas musical movements were once determined by a city or venue where the bands congregated, "now it's just a blogger or some journalist that can find three or four random bands around the country and tie together a few commonalities between them and call it a genre," said Alan Palomo of Neon Indian.
And now it's on iTunes. Expect your mother to ask about chillwave in 8, 7, 6, 5...