Music to my Ears

When I look at what kinds of music I like, it runs a pretty wide spectrum. If you asked me what my favorite genres are, I’d probably say progressive rock, new wave, and electronic, but that barely scratches the surface of the kinds of music I enjoy. When you break it all down, genre is irrelevant to me; if I like what I hear, it doesn’t matter what kind of music it is.

This post will not be about the biggest players in my music library. I won’t be going on about progressive rock, synthpop, J-Pop, or anime and Japanese RPG soundtracks. Those are my mainstays which I already cover from time to time on this blog. This will be an overview of some of the more hidden corners of my music interests.

So in no particular order, here are some of the kinds of music you may not have guessed I was into. I have provided links to hear each style as well, since music is meant to be listened to, after all.

Shoegaze and Dream Pop
These closely related styles are actually a type of music I can listen to without paying particular attention to who the artist is. That’s because these styles are more about mood and atmosphere, so it can be “samey” from song to song at times, but that’s not an insult here. Shoegaze is typically walls of distorted guitars with lots of reverb and effects, while dream pop is its less distorted cousin, with a brighter sound and airy vocals. Both styles of music are good for spacing out or relaxing.

Shoegaze on Pandora
Dream Pop on Pandora

Future Bass and Kawaii Bass
This one is kind of hard to explain without actually hearing it. I got into kawaii bass first, which is a Japanese spinoff of future bass, featuring a “cuter” sound. Since I am having a difficult time trying to describe future bass, just have a listen at the link instead! (And for a taste of kawaii bass, check out Snail’s House on Bandcamp.)

Future Bass on Pandora

Take hip-hop beats, slow them down, drench them in electronic sounds, and you get trip-hop. Generally speaking, of course. As with any kind of music there is variety within each genre. Trip-hop is another kind of music good for relaxing and just spacing out to. It is a bit “trippy” after all, giving the genre its name.

Trip-Hop on Pandora

Folk Metal
What do the Scandinavian gods listen to? Folk metal of course! A blend of metal music with traditional folk instruments, most often from Scandinavian countries, but found elsewhere in Europe as well. Songs about mythology, legends, and Viking battles (and in the case of Korpiklaani, drinking) are often the subjects of folk metal songs. Turn down the temperature to well below freezing, imagine yourself in a snowy forest, and get in touch with your inner Scandinavian.

Folk Metal on Pandora

Smooth Jazz
You heard me. There’s actually a very good reason for it, and it goes way back to my school days (way too many years ago now) as I was deciding what I wanted to go to college for. I was – and still am – fascinated by the weather, so when we got cable and I discovered The Weather Channel, I was watching it nearly every waking hour. Of course, they had the local forecast every ten minutes, and the style of music they used was usually smooth jazz. I took a liking to the local forecast music, and began attaching a microphone to the TV speaker and recording it to tape. I still have those cassette tapes. Early to mid 1990s smooth jazz especially gives me great nostalgia for those days when I was growing up and decided I wanted to be a meteorologist. Sadly, that dream didn’t pan out, but that’s a story for another time and place.

Smooth Jazz on Pandora

I have a complicated relationship with vaporwave. Apparently there’s a whole philosophy behind it dealing with anti-capitalism and irony, and it’s all meant to be a false nostalgia of the 1980s and 1990s, even though vaporwave itself didn’t exist until very recently. Whatever its origin, the resulting sound is something I actually took a liking to, even with the false nostalgia. Vaporwave is meant to be the lo-fi “soundtrack” to 1980s and 1990s commercialism, manipulating pre-existing music and electronic sounds into something that could be muzak in an abandoned mall somewhere. Oddly enough, one of the kinds of pre-existing music vaporwave often draws from is smooth jazz. Maybe that’s why I like it? Like shoegaze and dream pop, this is a style of music I can listen to without particular regard for who the artist is. It’s mood music, and actually I find it good to fall asleep to.

Vaporwave on Pandora

Blade Runner.

(Okay, I’ll expand on that a bit. Music made in homage of the iconic analogue synthesizers of the 1980s, often bringing futuristic soundscapes to mind. It is also excellent driving music.)

Synthwave on Pandora

Space Ambient
This is a style of ambient electronic music with an astronomical influence. Cold sounding synthesizers meant to evoke images of stars, galaxies, and nebulae while floating about in the vacuum of space. Ideal music for relaxing or falling asleep to.

Space Ambient on

Psychedelic Trance
Heading back to the mid to late 1990s for this one, though it still exists today in an evolved form. Trance was a popular form of EDM in the 90s, and this was its trippier variant, with a distinct sound influenced by everything from hallucinogenics to science fiction to aliens. Fast-paced and with a throwback sound, psy or Goa trance is still one of my favorite kinds of electronic music.

Psychedelic Trance on Pandora

Going way back in time for this one, all the way back to when I first started paying attention to music on the radio as a child in the late 1980s. Pop music was often on our family and car radio at that time, and Latin freestyle was having big crossover success at the time. Even listening to this kind of music now, I have so much nostalgia for the time. And thinking about it in retrospect, it actually makes a lot of sense why I like freestyle, as drum machines and synthesizers – two instruments I still like to this day – feature heavily in the songs.

Freestyle on Pandora

New Jack Swing
Like freestyle, new jack swing is also a reach back into my youth. It was a form of R&B which featured heavy use of synthesizers and drum machines (I’m noticing a pattern), and was also all over the radio in the late ’80s and early ’90s. New jack swing and freestyle were the music of my childhood, along with the mainstream pop at the time.

New Jack Swing on Pandora

And there you have it. A brief tour of some of the other music I listen to, which helped to form the wide variety of music that has captured my interest. Surely I’ve overlooked a few genres, but for me all that categorization is just an afterthought. I just know what I like.

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