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What does hipster music mean nowadays?

Is this what qualifies as hipster music in 2019?

Hipster music. Rarely has there been a term more prevalent in various aspects of 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, their likes, and dislikes. Decades ago, the word came to describe a group of people knowledgeable of the counterculture. Now, it is usually used as an affront, some smart alec looking for attention.

Hipsters, it is expected, do things unlike others. Their style, their jobs, even their music, are supposed to be different from the choices, or at least the preferences, of the mass majority. The Hipster music shares a lot of similarities with alternative rock. Some would go so far as to call them the same thing. After all, the one common trait between bands being labeled alternative is their willingness to push the boundaries of cliche soaked styles. But, alternative rock bands do on occasion achieve mainstream success. Moreover, some hipster bands even wear their fame as a badge of honor.

Hipster musician also talk about honoring the muse, rather than seeking commercial success. While it’s a noble objective, this often is reflected in overly complicated music that pleases the musician more than it does a potential audience. For the record, hipster culture shies away from including technical metal or jazz within its ranks, likely because of their lack of humor. Although how anyone can miss the humor in Cannibal Corpse’s body of work is beyond me.

Mind you, acting pretentious is unlikely to get you many friends. But, let’s look at events differently. In a time when the popularity of music, art, and entertainment will often be determined by just how much the corporate entities decide to push them forward, aren’t music hipsters some kind of resistance-era heroes? Yes, self-indulgent, arrogant heroes. But, heroes none the less.

Neutral Milk Hotel, folky hipster music masterwork

Well, then. Does the same thing theory apply to hipster music and all other aspects of their culture? Not exactly. While no clear source exists to provide some form of definition, what seems to tickle hipsters fancy is music that is enjoyed by merely a select few. In other words, it’s not the sounds of the words that are being sought after. It’s the degree of enjoyment others get from it. And, sometimes, it’s all about how hard one has to work to enjoy to get any semblance of enjoyment from the music, like someone trying to solve some difficult puzzle.

What was hipster music once?

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

Hipster music of the 1960s and 1970s had a profound influence on future generations. Bob Dylan, represented by his early output, could well have been the most famous of the hipsters, a kind of model of detached, mysterious cool and hard to pin down meanings. Leonard Cohen, not yet a household name, enjoyed a similar status.

Garage rock, like that found on the legendary Nuggets compilation, was held in high regard. Bands like the Stooges and the Velvet Underground would go on to influence punk and grunge. They also sold poorly and were known by music fans with a taste for the theatrical.

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

What is hipster music?

As previously stated, it’s difficult to agree on a definition for the term hipster music. And, as we mentioned, this type of music usually has less to the with the sounds themselves, but rather with the artists’ intention to create something that not all observers will be capable of fully understanding.

In the modern age, hipster sounds are those not enjoyed in the mainstream. These are represented with pride by people who, on purpose, live on the outskirts of society, or at least claim and fantasize to do. It’s a code. Music that can only be properly enjoyed by a small group of elite members.

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 living on the periphery. What is punk rock’s influence on society? It’s a code. Music that can only be properly enjoyed by a small group of chosen ones.

Is Radiohead hipster music? While the band escapes definitions, yes, yes, they are

Lists of bands associated with the term will almost by de-facto include groups like Radiohead, Arcade Fire or Neutral Milk Hotel.

Which brings us to an interesting point. How do hipsters balance between the popularity of certain bands and their use of left of the dial music strategies? Here’s a frequently asked question that deals with this issue.

Is Mumford and Sons hipster?

While Mumford and Sons share many of the characteristics that would make them appeal to hipsters (use of old fashioned instruments, a retro sense of style etc.) their enduring acclaim and wide-reaching appeal make them less choice for the music that a hipster would choose to listen to.

The groups that make up the hipster index share very little in terms of musical styles, but they share similar ambitions. They all feature a level of eccentricity to their music. Their visions are often outlandish. At the same time, their sound is rarely abrasive enough to keep more traditional music fans away. And, they can even get sneaked into on to indie disco playlists on occasion.

Now, if you are going to cite these groups as your favorites, let me issue out a warning. Your choice of favorite records from a band’s discography can also make or break your hipster rock cred. Choosing Radiohead’s OK Computer as your preferred release by the band is, all things considered, a tad obvious. Hipsters will tend to dig deep. B-sides, exclusive foreign releases, demmo collections, are more up their alley. Uttering the phrase Kid A was Ok, but a bit commercial can go a long way in this world.

Don’t dare call Joy Division‘s Love will tear us apart, their best song! You have been warned. Although severely and rather unfairly more famous than their brethren Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division do make for some of the best hipster music ever created.

Who do hipsters listen to? You see, hipsters are overly zealous collectors. While other members of geekdom are content to keep their interests relatively private, the hipster wears his/hers like a badge of honor. Going to the trouble these people voluntarily put themselves through seems a bit extreme to the ordinary oink like myself. But, then again, what is more worthwhile than investing time in music, snappy clothes, and bygone music formats like CDs and cassettes?

Bands with fuzzy guitars and fast drumming of the garage rock variety continue to be popular in the world, representing the retro and forward visions all at once. The 2001 alumni The Strokes, Interpol continue to enjoy considerable popularity. The now-defunct duo of the White Stripes is modern rock gospel albeit still very popular in 2020. And newer bands like the Arctic Monkeys and the Black Keys play routinely to large festival crowds. Yes, ye’ ole’ hipster can still sell tickets.

While we are on the subject, 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-house offer more acute electro listening experience. Doesn’t modern tech go against ideals based on old-fashioned values? Not when it displays your willingness to experiment and move past ordinary forms of music-making.

What is hipster music? Belle and Sebastian also knwn as a bunch of hipsters.

For that matter, the more eccentric the better. Music styles and genres born from the cauldrons of the internet find a home in hipsterville. Especially, if its intent is comedic. The vaporwave trend had its supporters. If the hipster music genre ever becomes a thing it will hold at its foundation vaporwave or at least its modern equivalent.

The more extreme it is the better. 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? Like alternative rock or indie music, it is a style that strays away from mainstream culture. It is often eccentric, challenging for the listener, supportive of alternative ideas. Hipster music cannot die as long as people are busy making music that the mainstream listener cannot possibly fancy, or even comprehend.

Eduard Bănulescu

About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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