Friday, April 1, 2011

R.I.P., chillwave: the top 10 chillwave artists, and where they are now

Posted By on Fri, Apr 1, 2011 at 9:12 AM

What chillwave sounds like. Sort of.
  • What chillwave sounds like. Sort of.

Last summer, chillwave emerged as the go-to genre for emerging artists. Its songs were digestible but often forgettable, snippets of sample pop accented by reverb-heavy vocals leaning heavily on the DIY aesthetic. It had its day in the sun, but much of the genre's foundation and critical support began to erode as early as last fall.

Initially, South Carolina's Toro Y Moi -- playing tonight at the Riot Room -- was clumped into this genre and seemed to enjoy the goofy characterization of his music. Others, like Neon Indian's Alan Palomo, were more defensive and did what they could to avoid the chillwave label. Of course, that didn't work, but chillwave (also called "hypangogic pop" by UK's The Wire) was never really built for durability.

Your top 10 chillwave artists: Where are they now?

1. Toro Y Moi: Toro, which started out as the bedroom project of Chaz Bundick, put out one of the sharper glo-fi releases with last year's Causers of This, but it was clear that Bundick had chops unlike his sample-pop peers. This year, he changed directions with his excellent new LP, Underneath the Pine, which combines more hi-fi textures with disco, funk and improved vocalwork.

Where are they now? En route to Kansas City!

2. Washed Out: Ernest Weatherly Greene Jr.'s Washed Out probably had the biggest target on his back -- I mean, for God's sake, look at that yuppie-ass name -- but songs like "Feel It All Around" and "You and I" were undeniably infectious, despite having some of the same faults that will be associated with the genre forever (you know, like the complete absence of a low end).

Where are they now? Touring, with dates all across the south and giving Carles from Hipster Runoff material for a weekly post.

3. Ariel Pink: Ariel Pink is the self-proclaimed father of glo-fi, as his early work proudly adopted DIY techniques that found the Los Angeles native playing all the instruments on his recordings, despite, um, not knowing how to play them in many cases. Last year, he ditched that process for a band of ringers and recorded one of the year's best indie-rock albums, Before Today.

Where are they now? Gettin' WEIRD all across the country. Scope this featurette for more intel.

4. Memory Tapes: Dayve Hawk's Memory Tapes gained some acclaim with Seek Magic, but a truly awful live act killed much of the momentum and good vibes that Memory Tapes was riding. Despite the music being rather synth-heavy, Hawk showed up onstage with a guitar -- did I even hear guitars on Seek Magic? -- and it all went downhill from there, somehow.

Where are they now? I haven't received a press e-mail about Memory Tapes in at least 10 months. That's not a good sign.

5. Small Black: Brooklyners Small Black embraced the chillwave label -- lead singer Josh Kolenik once joked with me about naming his tour with Washed Out and Pictureplane "Chillwave Meltdown." They, too, bent the genre's merits to the band's own strengths, releasing the awesome New Chain on Jagjaguwar last year.

Where are they now? Touring through April. Then, drummer Jeff Curtin, who also played in a "Lost"-themed band at one point, might get to live out his fantasy and write that Disney musical.

6. Pictureplane: Denver's Travis Egedy blasts the samples in his darker take on lo-fi pop, creating thudding marches accented by R&B vocal snippets that are, generally, massive-sounding. Also, dude sports a ridiculous T-shirt collection.

Where are they now? Probably at Rhinocerpolis, Egedy's performance space/living commune/warehouse that's even weirder, in person, than it sounds.

7. Neon Indian: Neon Indian's music just sounds pretty cartoony, with all sorts of fried-out rock licks and cheesy synths bouncing around in such songs as "Local Joke" and "Deadbeat Summer," which probably set the record for "most iTunes plays for a song that I had to look up the name of." A single issued through Green Label Sound, "Sleep Paralysist," displays a little bit sharper songwriting sense.

Where are they now? In every Williamsburg party pic album.

8. Ducktails: Matthew Mondanile's Real Estate offshoot has grown more into a spacy, lazy indie-pop outfit, but early tracks suggested that he, too, was a denizen of chillwave village, songs such as "Beach Point Pleasant" leaning on the warm, but hollow, textures often evoked in the genre.

Where are they now? Swimming in a pile of gold coins, festooned with monocle and top hat. Oh wait, that's that other thing.

9. Millionyoung: Millionyoung frequents a little dancier territory but also seems to provide stock songs that adhere to Jon Pareles' description/dismissal of the genre -- "It's annoyingly noncommittal music, backing droopy vocals with impersonal sounds -- a hedged, hipster imitation of the pop they're not brash enough to make," Pareles said in the NY Times. So, there you go.

Where are they now? In New York, patiently waiting for the snow to cease and people convince themselves they like shallow indie pop again.

10. Idiot Glee: Kind of like doo-wop meets chillwave. I don't get it.

Where are they now? Living forever in the entrails of long-forgotten blogspots.

R.I.P. Chillwave, 2010-2010.

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