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Music Genres

As you saw, a few weeks ago I listened to You Bred Raptors? I was expecting Post-Rock but received something I wouldn’t describe as post-rock. Looking into them I have seen genres as varying as Alternative and Post-Folk.

So, what’s in a genre?

Has anyone else noticed the number of music genres has exploded in the last 15 years or so? I remember when Rock music could only be split into a few sub-genres, such as indie, metal, rock’n’roll, punk. these days there are some fairly obtuse genres. Technical Death Metal? Rock In Opposition? Crustgrind?

You just need to look at some of the descriptions to know how out of hand it seems to be getting:

Metalcore is a fusion genre that combines extreme metal with hardcore punk, and at the same time draws on groove metal. Like grindcore, metalcore can feature breakdowns as well as intense passages conducive to moshing. In the mid-1990s, some metalcore groups began to take inspiration from developments in grindcore. For example, mathcore groups such as Dillinger Escape PlanSome Girls, and Daughters. These groups also include elements of post-hardcore. By late 2000s, deathcore bands described themselves as grindcore. In addition to metalcore some early screamo groups, like Circle Takes the Square and Orchid, have been associated with grindcore by some commentators.

Yep. That’s a lot of different genres. Are they really needed? I’m undecided.

Sure, it’s great to know exactly what sort of music to keep an eye out for, but I think things are out of hand. I’m a big Post-Rock listener. I love Silver Mt Zion, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

I think Post-Rock is a very undecided genre. While a lot of it is fairly quiet, thoughtful, atmospheric music (think Sigur Rós [who themselves eschew the tag of Post-Rock in favour of Slow Motion Rock] or Explosions in the Sky)

There is also some much heavier stuff (check out Maybeshewill and You Slut!)

And even some that goes well into the realms of electronic music (65daysofstatic and M83).

Should these very different styles come under different genres? Potentially. But something else worth keeping in mind is that a lot of the time multiple genres will be applied to a band. Math Rock is a genre often applied in conjunction with another, and implies the use of unusual and/or changing time signatures. By describing a band as Post-Rock and Math Rock, of the 6 we discussed earlier, we now have closer to 3. We can also split them them by calling some of them Post-Rock and Instrumental.

How else could music be categorised though? Tempo? Instrument set? Country of origin? None of these, even when used in combinations, are going to cut it. Although the current genre system seems a bit vague at times and over-specific at others, I don’t think there is a better alternative short of the well defined nesting of existing genres. More hassle than it’s worth.

There is one other alternative, and it’s one that would never work in a record shop. Crowdsourced data on similar artists. Anyone who knows me well will know that I’m an avid user (just look down the right hand panel of my blog and you can see the last 10 tracks I’ve listened to of my 83,000+ total). tracks all the music that you listen to, and with its 21million (in 2008) users, it has enough data to accurately guess which artists are similar. This isn’t really a filing system and hence would never work physically, but it’s a great system nonetheless. Worth its own post in the future.

So, that’s about it. I guess we’re stuck with what we’ve got. We have to lump music in with a genre which it probably doesn’t fit. The only plus to this is that you’ll just have to listen to more music in trying to find new bands you’ll like!

Have fun with all that listening ahead!

All artists featured in this post are on Spotify:

Silver Mt Zion
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Sigur Rós
Explosions in the Sky
You Slut!