Surfing the chillwave

To celebrate the release of Neon Indian’s second full-length album, Era Extraña, which was released last Tuesday (September 20), we’re going to delve into some chillwave glory this week.

Neon Indian has been one of the leaders of the chillwave music movement, a growing genre that focuses on the use of a lot of processors, effects, samples, loops and so on. Throw some 80s influence in with all of that, and distort some of the vocals so that they aren’t really at the forefront of the songs, and you’ve got the basics of a chillwave song. (This isn’t rap, although some of it is artistically similar. Chillwave is just… chill.) Of course, individual artists have added their own touches and tweaked rules to their needs, as often happens in these kinds of off-kilter genres. There is a ton of wiggle room – you might even argue that it’s kind of like a relaxed dubstep, if that’s what you’re into right now.

Neon Indian performs in 2010. Their newest release came out Sept. 20.

Anyway: Call it what you want, if you haven’t listened to any of it yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Some people think it peaked last summer (2010), but I’m telling you now:

Chillwave is here to stay, and it’s only getting better.
Still not convinced?
You’re about to be.

Reason to love chillwave: In a roundabout way, chillwave was actually inspired by bands like the Cure and Bauhaus. Yay 80s Goth rock! At first, you might wonder how these two – Goth rock and chillwave – could possibly be connected. But it turns out that these bands hugely influenced Ariel Pink, perhaps the most eminent leader of the chillwave movement, when he was younger. The songs he’s written have subsequently drawn a ton of influences from Robert Smith and his other mopey pals from the 80s. His song “Round and Round” (named the best song of 2010 by Pitchfork, by the way) is actually the perfect example of an in-between. It’s full of chillwave and Goth. You’re being converted as we speak, aren’t you?

Next reason to love chillwave: It’s cheap. No, seriously, it’s really cheap. You can probably make this music yourself if you want to. If you don’t want to, it’s cheap enough that a lot of up-and-coming chillwave artists post their music online for free (and we all know how I feel about free: If it’s free, it’s awesome). Think I’m kidding? Go to Bandcamp, a website that allows artists to post their albums and charge as much or as little as they want. Most of the chillwave artists (80 pages worth of them!) don’t charge a penny.

Another reason to love chillwave: Chillwave is easily transitioning into the festival scene. Artists from the genre are being included in festivals including Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, as well as Coachella. Can’t make it to those? Well, there’s also Electric Zoo, which tags itself as New York’s Electronic Music Festival. This is essentially dubstep/chillwave/electronic heaven. It helps that chillwave is pretty easy to dance to. Previous artists at the Electric Zoo include not just chillwave, but people like David Guetta and Afrojack.

M83 perform at Webster Hall. Their next album will be out in October.

Still another reason to love chillwave: It’s always the perfect summer soundtrack. Always. Just listen to Psychic Chasms by Neon Indian or Saturdays = Youth by French pioneer M83. Just do it. Seriously.

Which leads to another reason to love chillwave: The artists! The genre wouldn’t even be worth mentioning if it weren’t for the artists that populate it. Obviously, I’m all about Neon Indian and M83, as you can see above. However, Ariel Pink is also worth listening to, as are MillionYoung, Toro y Moi, and Panda Bear. Still don’t think that’s enough? You can listen to Washed Out, Com Truise, and even the Horrors, a band not notorious as a chillwave band whose last album had the hallmarks of the genre. Even Beach House and Girls fit into the genre. Your iPod is going to have an entire new family on it by the time you’re done with your exploring!


And I’ll even get you started on your search.
Just for you guys, a playlist of chillwave.

  • “Polish Girl,” Neon Indian (You can get it free and legally here.)
  • “Round and Round,” Ariel Pink (Listen to this song here.)
  • “Midnight City,” M83 (Free download here! It’s legal!)
  • “Weak Ends,” MillionYoung (Stream it here.)
  • “Still Sound,” Toro y Moi (Hey look… another free and legal download.)
  • “Last Night at the Jetty,” Panda Bear (You guessed it.)
  • “You and I,” Washed Out (Click me to make your iTunes sing.)
  • “Sundriped,” Com Truise (Get it right over here.)
  • “Still Life,” The Horrors (Stream on this link here!)





Neon Indian photo courtesy Julio Enriquez.
M83 photo courtesy Penningtron.

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