Sometimes, it’s not exactly clear why a musician decided to start making music. Hopefully, there was at least a bit of anger in there to keep things interesting, maybe a deep desire to prove oneself. Chillwave seems to come from an inexplicable need for these musicians to show the world how non-threatening they are. Say we’re in a movie about the rise and fall of a great founding chillwave artist. They would form a band from a ragtag group of the one guy in his bedroom, because that’s all you need to make chillwave. Then this person (let’s call them “they”) would have to overcome tough obstacles, like putting the music on for the first time around their friends who have never heard it before, and not getting any sort of reaction at all because it’s nearly impossible to notice. In disgust, they play it for their parents as the ultimate “fuck you” move only to find that they find it rather pleasant and don’t even notice when it starts repeating.
In case you don’t pay attention to dull cracker music and are unfamiliar with the term “chillwave,” just hop on over to gorillavsbear and listen to basically anything, or watch this:
It’s often billed as being “summery,” which shows an obvious bias toward the type of summer that rich college kids have where they lay on their floors and talk about how bored they are. Have you considered maybe doing something more interesting with your summer, like adding bass to the sounds you’re making? The genre seems to be a conceptual tribute to David Foster Wallace since instead of putting melodies in the songs they've hidden them in footnotes.
The problem isn’t that no one is making cool guitar music. There’s a ton of it. But sites like gorillavsbear and pitchfork have bizarrely decided to construct a narrative where people are mostly listening to this type of music instead of something with chords and yelling and feedback that are the cores of what make for good indie rock. At least when you do that, it sounds great to blast it through your windows, whereas no matter how high you turn up a chillwave song, it never gets any louder.
A sensible person might bring up the fact that chillwave is “very 2009” and that I should get with the times. But that brings us to the real issue here, which is that this boring electronic remix music has been slipping out from its confines of a group of a dozen artists that do nothing but collaborate with each other and into the greater umbrella of indie rock, bringing us “shimmery” “fuzzed-out” “incessant” “aaaaaaaaaa” bands like Girls and Beach House that are even worse than last year’s beeps and boops in chillwave.
Aren’t we moving backwards? I was under the impression that part of the founding concepts of making such bordering-on-ambient washes of sound was to show people that you can have a bland single with a pop melody that’s based on samples instead of guitars, and now the guitars are rising up in response to show that they can be more boring while appealing to people that want to see live music, so we have a brilliant combination of intolerable music and ROCKISM. That’s right, I’m calling you out, every single artist that’s influenced by chillwave, you are a rockist. The only way to attone is to immediately drop all current musical projects, leave Ariel Pink off your Best of 2010 list, and go back to power chords and two-minute songs. It’s the only way to be sure.
Essay question: In five years, will a chillwave artist be declared the inventor of computers and/or guitars and/or whispering by a glowing review in the New York Times, or will indie rock get closer and closer to Music For Airports until it dies a merciful death and we all renew our Maximumrocknroll subscriptions?
Follow-up: can someone send me some copies of Maximumrocknroll?
End note: I do not want this to be taken as some sort of attack on electronic music. I would be even happier if they all switched genres and made ragga jungle the hot thing of 2011.