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Unless one is immersed in the pop-music scene, genres can come and go before you’ve noticed them. This one appeared in the summer of 2009 and within three months was being described as past its peak, though references to its demise have proved premature.

It has also been derided as one of the dafter genre coinages, and that’s in a scene that has grunge, goat metal, psychobilly, gabba, shoegazing, grebo and grindcore. Other names that have been applied to it are lo-fi (although that’s a generic term dating from the 1980s and didn’t catch on), glo-fi and hypnagogic pop.

As so often with derivative musical forms, it’s difficult to define chillwave. One writer has called it “mellow, cooled-out, laid-back beach music”. Another tried “lo-fi but pop; dance-influenced but bedroom-based; summery but melancholic.” Tracks considered to be definitive include Feel It All Around, by Washed Out, Bicycle by Memory Tapes and Psychic Chasms by Neon Indian.

There is now a name for the latest game in indie rock. “Chillwave” describes those low-fi electropop newbies who deal in hazy, stoned, warped retro grooves.

The Irish Times, 4 Dec. 2009.

It’s a highly anticipated album from a one-man lo-fi band that defines the term “chillwave.” These washed-out electronic beats and smooth melodies will make even the most Minnesota of winters feel like a lazy summer day.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), 31 Jan. 2010.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 13 Mar. 2010

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 13 March 2010.