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Chillwave, sometimes also referred to as glo-fi or downtempo pop,[1] is a genre of music whose artists are often characterized by their heavy use of effects processing, synthesizers, looping, sampling, and heavily filtered vocals with simple melodic lines.[2]

The genre combines the larger 2000s trends towards 80s retro music and (in indie music) use of ambient sound, with modern pop, as in electropop, post-punk revival, psych-folk, nu gaze, and witch house. It is often described as "summer music."[3][4]

Defining the genre[edit]

The term "chillwave" originated on the Hipster Runoff blog[5] by Carles (the pseudonym used by the blog's author), on his accompanying 'blog radio' show of the same name.[6]

Kevin Liedel of Slant Magazine listed the genre's characteristics as "faded soundscapes, dreamy lyrical reflections, and warm, anachronous instrumentation meant to invoke the analog glow of late-'70s/early-'80s slow jams."[7] The New York Times' Jon Pareles described the music thus: "They're solo acts or minimal bands, often with a laptop at their core, and they trade on memories of electropop from the 1980s, with bouncing, blipping dance-music hooks (and often weaker lead voices). It's recession-era music: low-budget and danceable."[8] Its musical predecessors are diverse and include the synthpop of the 1980s, shoegaze,[9] ambient, musique concrète and various types of music outside of the Western World.

The genre is also a prime example of shifting the idea from defining a musical movement's birth in part by a specific geographic location, as is historically done, to focusing instead on how the groups became linked and defined through various outlets on the Internet. The Wall Street Journal quoted Alan Palomo of Neon Indian on genre: "Whereas musical movements were once determined by a city or venue where the bands congregated, 'now it's just a blogger or some journalist that can find three or four random bands around the country and tie together a few commonalities between them and call it a genre."[6] Despite the stylistic similarities listed above, Palomo and other artists have questioned whether chillwave actually constitutes a distinct genre.

George McIntire, of the San Francisco Bay Guardian described chillwave's origin as in the "throes of the blogosphere" and called the term a "cheap, slap-on label used to describe grainy, dancey, lo-fi, 1980s inspired music" and a "disservice to any band associated with it."[10]


The primary acts to fit the genre are Toro Y Moi, Tycho, Neon Indian, Small Black and Washed Out.[3]

Observers have noted that Panda Bear, especially his 2007 album Person Pitch, foreshadowed the movement proper. (Although Panda Bear's technique places an emphasis on found sounds looped and sound collages as opposed to chillwave's emphasis on vintage synthesizers and synth programming.)[11][12] In addition to Panda Bear's solo work, Animal Collective are noted as foreshadower of the movement.[3] Scottish electronic band Boards of Canada have also been mentioned as an influence.[13] Associated bands and artists of the genre include Keep Shelly In Athens, Small Black, Teen Daze, Zagar, Com Truise, Mansions on the Moon, Eightcubed, Fixers, Chad Valley and Youth Lagoon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hinkes-Jones, Llewellyn (15 July 2010). "Downtempo Pop: When Good Music Gets a Bad Name". The Atlantic. 
  2. ^ "Is Chillwave the Next Big Music Trend? - Speakeasy - WSJ". The Wall Street Journal. 
  3. ^ a b c The Decade in Music Genre Hype - Page 3 - Music - New York - Village Voice
  4. ^ Is Chillwave the Sound of Summer 2010? - San Francisco - Music - All Shook Down
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Pirnia, Garin (2010-03-13). "Is Chillwave the Next Big Music Trend?". The Wall Street Journal. 
  7. ^ Liedel, Kevin (11 August 2013). "Washed Out: Paracosm". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  8. ^ Jon Pareles (2010-03-21). "Spilling Beyond a Festival's Main Courses". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-11. 
  9. ^ Wyatt Williams, How Ernest Greene Became the Poster Boy for Chillwave, Creative Loafing [Atlanta], March 23, 2010.
  10. ^ McIntire, George (February 26, 2013). "Just chill". San Francisco Bay Guardian. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  11. ^ Slothbear, Indy Rock Reviews [sic]::: Panda Bear - Tomboy/Slow Motion 7", SPOTBLOG, July 23, 2010.
  12. ^ Brent DiCrescenzo, "Bros Icing Bros: Which Mellow Act Is the True King of Chill?" Time Out Chicago, July 15–21, 2010: 20.
  13. ^ Fallon, Patric (June 10, 2013). "Deep Inside: Boards of Canada 'Tomorrow's Harvest'". XLR8R. Retrieved 4 October 2013.