Hipster music is a strange and scary thing. A many-limbed beast, it’s hard to pin down. While groups like Sonic Youth and the Velvet Underground are staples of any hipster music collection, hip-hop, heavy guitar rock, metal and other subgenres are harder to predict.
- The Velvet Underground is in many ways the birth of hipster music. Lou Reed and Co are the face the launched a thousand indie rock ships and live happily in the record collections of countless bespectacled insecure boys and girls in vintage clothing. The band trafficked in a number of styles, from simple pop to balladry to extreme weirdness, and its members would go to innovate genres such as noise.
- Post-Punk is a completely absurd musical genre because it pretty much entails all guitar after punk that isn’t hardcore. From REM to The Strokes, if you can call it “indie,” it’s post punk. REM is particularly important to post-punk for taking the DIY ethics of punk and applying it to rock. Other seminal bands of this genre include Gang of Four, Fugazi, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Pixies, Pavement and Joy Division.
- Punk, Hardcore and Metal are genres hipsters have a difficult time with. They don’t like anything that’s too blatantly aggressive or associated with meatheads, but appreciate originality. So, bands like The Clash and Black Flag have earned hipster respect, but groups like Rancid and Gallows are generally shunned. In metal, hipsters appreciate bands like Converge or Mastodon that are intellectual and conceptual, or stoner or sludge stuff like Sleep and Melvins but shun groups like Death and Entombed, Helmet and Deftones that, despite their complex and original musicality, are associated with fans of hipster no-nos like Metallica and Pantera.
- Post-Rock is a genre of mostly instrumental music featuring intricate arrangements, long songs, untraditional structure, slow builds and passages of monumental noise. Groups like Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, Sigur Ros, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mono and Slint fall into this category. Some hipsters love this stuff, others prefer poppier post-punk.
- Electronic genres have endeared themselves to some hipsters, particularly downbeat electro like Alias, ambient composers like Star of the Lid and Kyle Bobby Dunn, and dubstep maestros like Burial. Hipsters like electronic music because its esoteric, generally available on vinyl and anyone can dance to it, even people with no rhythm and a taste for obscure beer.
- Hip-Hop and hipsters have a tormented relationship. Hipsters are generally privileged, over-education and hyper literate people who have trouble accepting the content and linguistic elasticity of a number of rappers. However, they love anything related to Wu Tang. So they can listen to a whole record of Ghostface talking about bitches but won’t tolerate an album of Nas’ about the black American experience, despite its high-minded concept and fantastic execution.
- Foreign Bands are fun for hipsters because they can play the “I bet you don’t know all these weird groups that I do” by name dropping Japanese metal and noise titans like Boris, Haino Keiji, Merzbow, and Acid Mothers Temple alongside Krautrock pioneers like Can, Cluster and Popol Vuh and Scottish post-punkers Orange Juice or Dog Faced Hermans.
- Pitchfork has been instrumental in bringing hipster music to the forefront the American musical consciousness. The website is double-edged sword as it promotes a self-important, pretentious world view and only gives space to certain genres or styles, but also helps a number of good underground bands gain exposure. Arcade Fire is the most obvious example of an indie band made big by Pitchfork.
- Shoegaze, no wave and more is a near-limitless cache of genres that hipsters love. While the original wave of shoegaze, populated by great British bands like Ride, Jesus and Mary Chain and Catherine Wheel (My Bloody Valentine? Please. Overrated band of the century.) was fantastic, its contemporary counterpart is lackluster by comparison.
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