What does hipster music mean nowadays?

Is this what qualifies as hipster music in 2019?

Hipster music. Rarely has a term been more used in popular culture. But, with the shifting of trends, how is this often referenced style defined in the modern age?


For all the opinionated talk of hipsters, most of us struggle to define them, their tastes and desires. Once, the word came to describe a group people knowledgeable of the counterculture. Now, it is often used as an affront.


Hipsters, it is expected, do things unlike others. Their style, their jobs, even their music, are supposed to be different from the choices of mass majority. Hipster music shares a lot of similarities with alternative rock. Some would go so far as calling it them the same thing. But, alternative rock bands sometimes achieve mainstream success. Moreover, some bands are proud of it.

Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea


Does the same thing apply for hipster music? It does not. There is no official source to confront on the matter. But, there’s close to a consensus on the trait that characterizes it. It is better enjoyed provided only a select few know of its existence.

What was hipster music once?

Calling someone a hipster during the 1960‘s was generally considered a compliment. Today the term is often used as an insult. Back then it was a type of synonym for the world cool. The records enjoyed by hipsters were not accessible. This required extensive research. Presumably, their enjoyment also required good taste.


Hipster music of the 1960s and 1970s had a profound influence on future generations. Bob Dylan‘s, with his early output, could well have been the most famous of the hipsters. Leonard Cohen, not yet a household name, enjoyed a similar status.


Garage rock, like that found on the legendary Nuggets compilation, was held in well regard. Bands like the Stooges and the Velvet Underground would go on to influence punk and grunge.


German Kraut Rock served a similar purpose during the 1970s. While not a hit factory by any stretch, bands like Kraftwerk and Can had a profound impact on the music world. Artists like David Bowie and Brian Eno sought inspiration here. And for a newer generation, the music represented a window into the future. Gary Numan, Duran Duran, Joy Divison, all used elements of the wintry German sounds.

What is hipster music in the modern age?

While it’s different to agree upon a definition we will venture to find a way to describe the term hipster music. In the modern age it’s music not enjoyed in the mainstream. It’s represented with pride by people who, on purpose, live on the outskirts of society. It’s a code. Music that can only be properly enjoyed by a small group of chosen ones.

While it’s different to agree upon a definition we will venture to find a way to describe the term hipster music. In the modern age it’s music not enjoyed in the mainstream. It’s represented with pride by people who, on purpose, live on the outskirts of society. It’s a code. Music that can only be properly enjoyed by a small group of chosen ones.

radiohead-hipster-music
Radiohead


Bands associated with the term include Radiohead, Arcade Fire or Neutral Milk Hotel. Those are different sounding bands, of course. But, they share a level of eccentricity to their music. Their visions are often outlandish. Yet, the sound itself is not abrasive enough to keep all the more traditional music fans away.


Bands with fuzzy guitars and fast drumming of garage rock continue to be popular in this world. The 2001 alumni The Strokes, Interpol continue to enjoy considerable popularity. The now defunct duo of the White Stripes is modern rock gospel. And newer bands like the Arctic Monkeys and the Black Keys play on routine to large festival crowds.


The hipster style also shows an openness towards electronica flourishes. Many of the most famous bands take an EDM approach to their music. Bands like Kasabian and Tame Impala have taken the mix all the way to the big festival stages. Genres like witch-houseoffer more acute electro listening experience.

Belle and Sebastian


For that matter, the more eccentric the better. Music styles and genres born from the cauldrons of the internet find a home here. Especially, if its intent is comedic. The vaporwave trend had its supporters. So, are genres such as black and doom metal. While enjoyed exclusively by devoted metalheads until recently, hipster music welcomes it. In an ironic way? It’s difficult to tell.


What is hipster music in the modern age anyway? Like alternative rock or indie, it is a style that strays away from mainstream culture. It is often eccentric, challenging for the listener, supportive of alternative ideas. Hipster music trends will more than likely continue to flourish in the same accelerated rhythm within the future.

Eduard Bănulescu

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