Every decade in music seems to have a flurry of new genres that can seemingly rise and fall overnight, but leave behind a sonic record of the times we live in. Some stick with us for quite awhile, like grunge or post-punk revival, and others evaporate into the nostalgic ether to be later discovered and treasured by music junkies. For instance, do you or anyone you know regularly listen to grebo? Big beat? Nu-rave? Jangle-pop? No Wave? If not, then perhaps it’s time for them dig into music’s near past and pick their favorite flavor of musical time travel. Here’s some of the sounds that have been quietly defining our current decade.
Probably the most marketable genre on this list, it has also been given the most ironic (and unfortunate) name. It seems to have started as a backhanded description for the more independent-minded, emotional hip-hop and R&B exemplified by Frank Ocean and the like. Because of its crossover indie appeal, people have taken to tacking on the “PB” in reference to the alleged affinity hipsters hold toward Pabst Blue Ribbon. The term is too tacky for the atmospherically produced, lyrically thought-provoking music, and also too dismissive, because this would-be microgenre could be heralding a larger change in hip-hop and R&B, ushering out the era of ringtone club-rap and replacing it with the bursting floodgates of Indie rap, glitch-hop, ambient juke, experimental hip-hop, Tumblr-Wave and more (much in the same way Alt-rock replaced Hair Bands in the early 90s.)
Best Examples: The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Kindness, How to Dress Well
A fairly recent buzzword on music-uploading sites such as Soundcloud and Bandcamp, Vaporwave is a particular brand of electronic music that often sounds like a dusty floppy disc containing a variety of sexy computer-game menu tracks. Like other blog-centered genres, such as seapunk and witch house, it is often accompanied by intriguing digital artwork, often incorporating images of computers, dolphins, palm trees and 8-bit city skylines. There is a heavy influence of ’80s and ’90s soundtrack music, which makes this growing scene perfect for those with a taste for video games, but want something a little more sophisticated to listen to than the Mario theme.
Best Examples: Esprit, Macintosh Plus, Blank Banshee
Future Garage / Post-Dubstep
This genre includes a plethora of former UK dubstep acts, hip-hop beat makers that have gone instrumental and cutting-edge producers manufacturing the latest incarnation of nocturnal headphone music. Much of it is infused with subsonic, whirring bass and heavily syncopated beats, over which pitch-shifted vocals careen like an ecstasy-fueled ghost. This is the music of choice for audiophiles who prefer electronic music but with the innovative styles of classic jazz.
Best Examples: Flying Lotus, James Blake, Sepalcure, Burial
ANDREW RUSSELL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.