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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » Chillwave: a momentary microgenre that ushered in the age of nostalgia


Chillwave: a momentary microgenre that ushered in the age of nostalgia

Delivered... Emilie Friedlander | Scene | Wed 21 Aug 2019 11:59 am

In a summer riven by financial meltdown, a niche trend for lo-fi retro pop couldn’t have seemed more trivial. Yet it was the first sign of a generation fleeing to the past to escape a bleak future

When I think of the so-called “summer of chillwave”, I remember sitting at a desk in a giant office in midtown Manhattan, shivering in the air conditioning and listening to songs about the beach. It was June 2009 – the summer after the sub-prime mortgage collapse had precipitated what was then the largest single-day point drop in Dow Jones history – and I was a recent graduate, working an entry-level temp job in the library of a corporate law firm. Whenever I wasn’t helping summer associates (or secretly updating my music blog), I was listening to Sun Was High (So Was I), a shoddily recorded love song full of fried guitar chords and easy-breezy rhymes by a little-known Los Angeles rock band called Best Coast fronted by stoner Bethany Cosentino. At a time when I couldn’t stop worrying about the future, its apparent effortlessness was soothing, like a blurred dispatch from an endless teenage beach hang where all you have to worry about is the sand getting in your fries and your crush not returning your texts: “Watched the cars go by / The sun was high / And so was I.”

It was the first song to give me that sensation. By the following month, it had a name. “Feel like I might call it ‘chill wave’ music in the future,” proclaimed the pseudonymous blogger Carles in a 27 July post on Hipster Run-Off, writing in character as the microgenre-obsessed creator of an mp3 blog that doubled as a satire of the proudly amateurish music writing bubbling up at the time. The tag described a new crop of melodic dream-pop artists such as Washed Out, Neon Indian, and Memory Cassette – artists that on paper were very different from a rock group like Best Coast, with an emphasis on cheesy-sounding old synths, vintage drum machines and an expressively degraded, echo-and-reverb-laden production aesthetic. But the spirit of the music – its delirious lo-fidelity, its fondness for the obsolete formats of our youth – was the same: “Feel like chillwave is supposed to sound like something that was playing in the background of ‘an old VHS cassette that u found in ur attic from the late 80s/early 90s,’” Carles wrote.

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