Recently, the Sputnikmusic contributors had a fun conversation about the kinds of people who claim they listen to “all genres” of music, and how they’re probably either ignorant or lying. Almost everyone has genres they’d rather avoid, and if you think you don’t, consider whether you’d pick up a record of polka, free jazz, harsh noise, or drone metal.
This conversation got us thinking about our own genre blindspots, and we decided to explore them further. We asked you, the users, to recommend us genres that listeners tend to avoid, and two songs each to serve as introductions to those genres. We then assigned these genres semi-randomly to contributors who didn’t listen to them. Here’s what we thought about the first batch of genres.
Recommended by Papa Universe
Assigned to SitarHero
Before listening to your two songs, what’s your opinion of post-punk?
Being a child of the ‘80s it would have been pretty hard to avoid post-punk completely. The Police (love), The Clash (love), U2 (like), and R.E.M. (dislike) were constant presences—I’m not going to quibble about where these bands fall in the punk/new wave/post-punk continuum—there were occasional appearances by Depeche Mode and Devo, and youthful dalliances in XTC and Echo and the Bunnymen. Then as a young adult in the mid-2000’s I was bombarded by the post-punk revival of The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, etc., which, quite frankly, I hated for the most part. So, the TL;DR version is: I loved some of the more mainstream strands of post-punk that were around when I was young, but the older I got, the less interested I was in it—except for whatever the hell it is that Four Stroke Baron is dabbling in right now.
Positive Noise – “No More Blood and Soil”
This seems pretty generic to me. It’s got all the main features I associate with post-punk. Disco-influenced percussion: check. Jittery white-boy-funk guitar strums: check. High-pitched singing in a nearly unintelligible British accent: double check. If post-punk was/is the apocalyptic dance music of disenchanted young Manhattanites and disaffected young Englishmen dwelling in sunless industrial towns, then this seems like it would be more than adequate at getting them bopping on the dance floor. It’s got a catchy chorus built for crowd participation and a nice arpeggiated synth hook, but I’m probably not going to remember anything else about this song by the end of this review.
Manicured Noise – “Metronome”
Did Papa Universe pull a fast one here with this recommendation? Is this the same band under a slightly different moniker? The results of my google-fu are inconclusive. However, despite its similarity to the previous song, I like it a fair bit more. The production is better, it’s got a swinging bassline that propels the song nicely, and the saxophone vamping is a nice touch. The downside is that the vocals aren’t quite as good or as hooky and the lyrics seem nonsensical (”metronome / hypnotised / metronome / your eyes”), but the song vibes with me a lot more. It’s fun.
Will you seek out more Post-Punk? Why or why not?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t think so. Listening to these songs mainly made me want to go back and listen to Combat Rock—which I’m doing right now—but it hasn’t piqued interest in what else this specific strand of the genre has to offer as the soundtrack to the kind of dance party that I’m unlikely to willingly attend.
Recommended by SoulFunction
Assigned to hesperus
Before listening to your two songs, what’s your opinion of darkstep?
I hadn’t even encountered the word before we solicited recommendations for this feature. SoulFunction, who recommended the genre, described it as “an offshoot of DnB,” which likewise means very little to me because I never really took the time to learn the differences between various electronic subgenres. I listen to a decent amount of electronic music (mostly ambient and what I think is called IDM), but if you played me a random new electronic track, I probably couldn’t tell you if it was techno, drum and bass, house, EDM, or something else entirely. I doubt that I’ll be able to learn much about those differences by listening to a couple darkstep tracks, but I’m willing to give it a shot regardless.
Current Value – “Dark Rain”
This is pretty neat. I gather that drum and bass, and by extension darkstep, is closely related to breakbeat (breakcore? Again, I couldn’t tell you the difference) because the beat sounds like something from a Venetian Snares or Squarepusher track. But the murky production gives the track a unique feel, and it’s pretty cool how the beat gets cut up halfway through the track to make a new beat that’s twice as fast. For all I know, those elements have been done to death in drum and bass, but they’re compellingly novel for me.
Ram Trilogy – “Titan”
There are definitely enough noticeable similarities between “Titan” and “Dark Rain” that I’m beginning to see what makes darkstep darkstep; both tracks have a breakbeat foundation, prominent bass elements, and dirty production. But “Titan” also has a couple of key differences that make me like the track a bit less than “Dark Rain.” The bass elements are quieter and more atonal, and the progression of the track focuses a lot more on subtle, gradual shifts than blatant, abrupt ones. I can definitely appreciate subtlety in certain genres like drone metal and ambient, but with “Titan,” there just isn’t as much for me to grasp onto.
Will you seek out more darkstep? Why or why not?
I probably won’t actively seek out more darkstep. I generally find this style of electronic music enjoyable enough, but it needs to have a hook that’s really up my alley in order to grab me, like the classical and jazz samples in Rossz Csillag Alatt Született. But I’m not averse to the genre either, and if a darkstep album grabs a lot of people’s attention in the future, I’ll be more enthusiastic about checking it out than, say, a new album by The National.
Recommended by dmathias52
Assigned to JohnnyoftheWell
Before listening to your two songs, what’s your opinion of alt-country?
As someone who semi-actively avoids country music, the concept of alt-country threw me somewhat. I read up on what supposedly constitutes the genre and ended up confused; when a style is defined by its relation to alternative rock, you know you’re in vague territory! There were a few lists including artists I feel I should have checked out by now (Wilco, Neko Case, Silver Jews, Papa M), so I suppose the closest thing I have to an opinion is mild embarrassment? If you count The National’s Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, Pavement’s Range Life and some early Oomori Seiko as alt-country, then I guess I’m definitely partial.
Jason Isbell – “Elephant”
I’m a sucker for cancer songs, so I was never exactly going to shrug this off. The music didn’t grab me initially, but once I clocked the theme it made a lot of sense; the composition is simple but smart, taking a chord progression you’d hear in a straightforwardly sad ballad but complementing it with guitar (and banjo?) licks that add a brighter feel. It catches the forlorn sunny-side-up tone of the lyrics very well. Even so, I wasn’t blown away by the music and didn’t love the vocal style, but the song is well-crafted and movingly penned.
John Moreland – “Blacklist”
For the life of me, I don’t think I could tell you what makes this song alt-country and not country-country, but I do like it. A lot. John Moreland has a great raspy voice (getting flashbacks to my favourite Tom Waits ballads here) and the sparse instrumentation suits him very well. Simple but effective dynamics and arrangement, and stirring melodies all round. I listened to this twice, first without paying attention to the lyrics and second while following them in time with the track; their nostalgic existentialism definitely added further depth, but I had already felt the emotional sense of them through the music (which I suppose is a good sign). A very good song.
Will you seek out more alt-country? Why or why not?
Given that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is on my list of obligatory checks, the answer to this was always going to be yes. But beyond that, yes again. I’d be interested to hear the rest of that John Moreland record and can see alt-country finding its niche in my music library eventually. It’s not something I’d rush into because I get the sense that these are songs that speak to you in their own way rather than cheap thrills to be indulged in at liberty, but I’ve definitely got time for it.
BRUTAL DEATH METAL
Recommended by brainmelter
Assigned to Conmaniac
Before listening to your two songs, what’s your opinion of brutal death metal?
Oh God. Let me just use this space as a friendly disclaimer for all of the metalheads out there eagerly awaiting a contributor’s opinion on the brutal subgenre of death metal. I can promise you this isn’t my cup of tea, as I’ve already heard a few death metal songs myself. I can also promise you that the way I talk about these two suggested tracks will be upsetting to any fan of the genre in some way. Despite all of this, I will try my very best to put my “reviewer” cap back on (been awhile huh?) and analyze these suggestions as best as my fragile emo heart can. I am, however, excited at the prospect of having an already brutal genre go even harder than before.
Suffocation – “Liege of Inveracity”
I’m pretty impressed by the production on this song, not gonna lie. There’s noticeable space between each instrument, whether it be the driving guitars, the erratic drums, or the croaking toad burping each word out. However, this almost takes away any grimy or muddy distortion I expected, making the sum of the parts less impactful. This is obviously a metal song, but it seemed to fall more on the hard rock side of things compared to some other modern metal I’m used to (granted, this is from 1991). The screeching guitar solos that give the frog’s voice a much needed rest are fantastic despite being a bit short. My favorite part has to be the breakdown around 3:50 where the vocalist gives up on any pronunciation and grumbles his way through with some “hurrs” and “durrs” before the rest of the band speeds back up to a furious ending that barrages the listener with percussion and riffs. Overall, it’s not as brutal as I had hoped it would be, obviously the vocals aren’t my thing (where’s the Bowser feature at?), and while it’s well produced and has more than competent musicians, the song as a whole isn’t something I’d ever revisit.
Defeated Sanity – “Naraka”
Oh wow, I’m so glad I got a quick history lesson on the brutal death metal genre, as this song is a much more recent endeavor (2013). The jazzy bass pluckings to begin the song were a welcome surprise, and man, this song just goes that much harder than the Suffocation track. The drums fly by at an urgent pace with the bass and guitar matching this intensity with ease. And look, they even got a vocalist that’s able to growl even deeper than the last one! I especially loved the part where they mixed his vocals to sound like a wind tunnel around the three-minute mark before he does his impeccable pig impression (bringing it back to nature, love this theme). Apart from the strangely high-pitched tom that clangs a bit abrasively every so often, this song impressed the hell out of me. The fury and passion can definitely be seen throughout the track, and the bassist slapped the hell out of this one, much like Incubus’ S.C.I.E.N.C.E., which is the only Incubus album I fully enjoy. This puts the brutal back into brutal death metal.
Will you seek out more brutal death metal? Why or why not?
As you may have guessed already, no, neither song really convinced me on the genre of brutal death metal. While the vocals are always a huge problem, whether I try to decipher them or simply just let them become a background instrument (animal), the music itself also fails to really grab me. Sure, the riffs are impressive and the drummers sound like they’re on all of the uppers, but unfortunately it’s a bit too abrasive and lacking in melody for a newcomer to metal like me to really latch onto. I’m not sure being really impressive and “brutal” musically is enough to grab me (I’m looking at you, prog). I won’t knock the musicians, nor will I judge the singers for bringing the attention back to the wild earthly animals that roam this earth. However, I must pass on coming back to this genre.
Recommended by calmrose
Assigned to Nocte
Before listening to your two songs, what’s your opinion of cybergrind?
Having not specifically dipped my toes into the world of “cybergrind” (seriously, when did this become a thing?), my opinion of the genre comes from guesswork. I mean, is cybergrind an unholy amalgamation of Anaal Nathrakh and 90s dial-up tones? Are we entering The Matrix? Are we in The Matrix right now? Please don’t let Hugo Weaving stick his hand in me. Or, on second thought…
Cutting Pink with Knives – “Airz”
There’s a noxious, yet completely uplifting luminescence that draws in a listener. Similar to sticking your toe into “too hot” bathwater before completely submerging oneself up to the chin. Musically, the twinkly, often upbeat parts relive a nostalgia that isn’t presented properly, fleshed out or expanded on. It could simply be that I want more from a single track, heard out of context – ignoring what may be on offer on the album’s other songs.
Genghis Tron – “Board Up the House”
Genghis Tron’s title track off their 2008 record is easier to digest despite being chaotic and electronically infectious. The all-over-the-place build and hypnotic dance loops meld into a fight against melody, while simultaneously making perverse love to it. It’s a song that makes more sense when it doesn’t, shown especially when things do kick into a higher gear. The synths and blasts work hand in hand… Or is that hand in foot?
Will you seek out more cybergrind? Why or why not?
The chances of me personally going out of my way to explore more of what cybergrind has to offer is unlikely. While I do see some meritable features (as well as some things I should be a sucker for) I did not enjoy this experience. Genghis Tron may have nailed their chaotic, synth-fused art but Cutting Pink’s approach left me completely unwilling to experience any further efforts of what they had to offer.
Recommended by SandwichBubble
Assigned to TheSpirit
Before listening to your two songs, what’s your opinion of twee pop?
Presently, I don’t have much of an opinion on it at all! Judging by its wiki entry (is it cheating for me to look this up?), there are very few “bigger” twee pop bands I’ve even heard of! Does Alvvays really count as one? That doesn’t seem right…. Either way, I will say this: based on the general description – which seems to be summed up by “bubblegum indie rock”- I have great confidence I’ll enjoy what I hear. Though I know they’re not exactly comparable, I’ve always had an affinity for groups like Jellyfish or The Push Kings, bands that sort of toed the line between indie and power-pop and placed immense emphasis on HOOKS. My feeling is that though twee pop seems (to me and my uninformed opinion) to be a more “delicate” iteration of those aforementioned examples, the melodies will still have enough brawn to catch my ears. I’m excited!
St. Christopher – “My Fortune”
This is kicking off exactly like I expected it to: jangly acoustic guitars and vocals absolutely dripping in reverb. I don’t particularly care for the singer’s voice, but I am all in as far as the music. It almost seems as though the bright disposition of the instrumentation is kind of a front for a sense of longing that still somehow manages to permeate the overall vibe of the track. There are some moments where the song almost seems like it’s going to derail off into a noisy, shoegazing fervor, but then composes itself at the last second, which kind of gives it a very chaotic feel in parts. I like this! I would definitely be interested in checking out more from this band.
Beat Happening – “What’s Important”
This track surprised me in that it feels very “punk” in a lot of ways. The vocal melody felt very simple (not in a bad way) in that it followed the instrumentation, and the instrumentation itself was a little sloppy, with some grit attached to it. I dig how straightforward the whole thing is. This to me seems like one of the more earworm-y tracks, where you don’t necessarily know how catchy it is until you find yourself humming it a day later. Overall, it’s not bad. I can see myself jamming something like this one day where I’m feeling something a bit more rock-oriented and minimalistic.
Will you seek out more twee pop? Why or Why Not?
I don’t know if I would seek it out, but I may think twice about checking it out when it crosses my path in the future. These two songs have given me a pretty fair impression of the genre, so I can see myself possibly getting more into it somewhere down the line.
Recommended by J() Alexander
Assigned to granitenotebook
Before listening to your two songs, what’s your opinion of Lieder?
I have heard of it before, but that’s about it. I am very inexperienced with basically all genres that appeared before 1960, so I’ll try my best to be open-minded here. That being said, don’t expect me to have any particularly interesting commentary, as a total newcomer.
Franz Schubert (Hans Hotter & Gerald Moore) – “Gute Nacht”
This performance is long-winded, dark and powerful. With multiple extensive verses, this song tells a depressing tale of someone moving on from a breakup – “A stranger I arrived, a stranger I part again” – and does so while keeping listeners engaged. My main gripe is that the vocal is, to my ears, abrasively baritone, but it was competent at the absolute worst, and beautiful in many moments.
Richard Strauss (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau & Gerald Moore) – “Traum durch die Dammerung”
A more dynamic piece than the first, the immediate “Traum” accomplishes all it needs to within three minutes. As such, in brevity and vocal style it sounds more like an old-fashioned folk standard Brenda Lee-type song, rather than the indie-shoegaze-Rachel Goswell vibe “Gute Nacht” suggests. It reflects on the power of traversing towards a loved one and the relaxed beauty that said journey gives the landscape. The vocal is, again, not my cup of tea, but the piano is striking and subtle in the best way.
Will you seek out more Lieder? Why or why not?
I will probably not be looking more into Lieder, at least not for an extensive period of time. I enjoyed these two songs, but I don’t think I really appreciated them, and I think that traveling from a period I do know better (the late 20th century) and slowly moving backwards to a point where I can understand the genre on a deeper and more meaningful level would be a more effective method.
Recommended by SlothcoreSlam
Assigned to Bloon
Before listening to your two songs, what’s your opinion of Afrobeat?
I can safely say that I’ve heard one Afrobeat record: Fela Kuti and Africa 70’s Expensive Shit. From what I remember of that record, it was a thoroughly intriguing blend of African roots and genres started in America. But other than that, I’ve got nothin’. Other than a basic definition and a single record, my knowledge of this sub-(sub-?)genre is more shallow than a half-evaporated puddle of rainwater. But hey, to nudge myself closer to omnipresent genre knowledge (I’ve a looooong ways to go), I have enlisted to listen to two Afrobeat songs. This won’t be a particularly arduous task (I consider myself a fan of both jazz and funk, especially combos of the two like Head Hunters and On The Corner), but then again, few tasks outside of sleep are easy after a long night shift at the Winn-Dixie deli.
I Hate My Village – “Tony Hawk of Ghana”
Kickflipping us into it is a strangely titled song by a strangely titled band. Sure, I don’t have high hopes for a bunch of Italian white guys making a song in the genre so closely tied to African culture, but [insert positive trait about the song here]. I’m not vibing with this one. It feels like the psych-rock white-washing of an African artform. Genre discrepancies and questionable respect for the origins of Afrobeat aside, this is a boring song, flaccid and low-energy in all the wrong ways. Not the worst track I’ve ever heard, but at least that’d be kind of interesting.
Golden Dawn Arkestra – “Stargazer”
Next up is another psych-rock/afrobeat combo, this time from a Greek, yet multicultural, band consisting of quite a few members. The first thing that struck me about this one is the very atmospheric vibe of the intro, that lingers peacefully until a very, very funky take on neo-psychedelia. It’s a bright, excitable ensemble of tight performances that adds up to build a charismatic personality. I’m cool with this one, although I could do without the slow burn intro. Its high in dreamy auras, sure, but on relistens I just want to get to that sick bass line and those cheery horns. Once it gets to that sweet part, though, it hits hard.
Will you seek out more Afrobeat? Why or why not?
First, I’m just going to say that it seems odd to start someone off with two genre fusions that seem to be low on the Afrobeat, but hey, that’s just me. I’d say that I’m at the very least interested in other Afrobeat records.
FRENCH HIP HOP
Recommended by dedex
Assigned to Slex
Before listening to your two songs, what’s your opinion of French hip hop?
Alright y’all, I’m going to be completely honest: I am absolutely dreading this. Hip hop/rap is one of my favorite genres, and I’ve been getting into more foreign artists, so maybe it won’t be so bad? I don’t know. I’m afraid every foreign hip hop act is going to sound like Die Antwoord, and they’re truly one of the worst musical acts to ever exist. However, I’m going in with a decently accepting mindset, I promise! Seriously, though, Die Antwoord are the WORST. It is illegal to like them and I am the cops. They are annoying and ignorant and devoid of talent, and in today’s TedTalk I will outline wh-
IAM – “Dangereux”
Well, first of all, this beat knocks. The production is very crisp, very well done. The MC has a commanding presence, which I like. The almost psychedelic swirls of sound accentuating the beat are very cool, too. The hook is awful, but let’s be real, good hooks are a scarce commodity in hip hop. The second MC has such a deep, gruff voice that is instantly compelling. Besides the fact that the track feels dated (understandably so, since it’s apparently from 1997) and it has a very weak hook, this is a great, quietly hypnotic song.
Alpha Wann – “Le Piège”
God, the bass in this song goes. Very crisp drums and atmospheric production again. The MC has a very smooth but free-wheeling delivery; I’m already interested in knowing if he has any other flows in his repertoire, in a good way. The song drags a little bit, but only because of the language barrier, because it’s obvious that this guy is laying waste to this beat. No hook here, just three and a half minutes of bars, which I always appreciate. Overall, this is a captivating and hard-hitting song with a great performance on the mic.
Will you seek out more French hip hop? Why or why not?
Honestly? Hell yeah. Both songs had a nice balance between being atmospheric and hard-hitting, with great performances all around. They seemed pretty serious-minded, with the no-nonsense and dexterous flows only broken up by “Dangereux’s” awful and dated hook. This is the kind of hip-hop I’m always on the lookout for, and I went from being extremely disappointed that I was assigned this genre to looking forward to checking out both of these respective albums in full. A successful foray into a new genre for sure!
Recommended by Sniff
Assigned to neekafat
Before listening to your two songs, what’s your opinion of chiptune?
I feel like I’d get a sick kick out of it. I think a friend of mine unironically likes it, and from what I know of modern nostalgia-based electronic stuff like vaporwave and Iglooghost, either I’ll really enjoy it, or I’ll think it’s over-ironic, unnecessarily meta trash.
Little-scale – “Less Than”
Oh man, I dunno. This is pretty grating. This sounds like it’s for people who never grew out of the “only things from when I was a kid are good because I’ll never be as happy and free as then and therefore anything new is bad” phase, exemplified for the modern depressed millennial audience. Okay, I will admit, there are some cool ideas going on in the change-ups and progression of the song, so there’s some enjoyment to be had in how they process and elaborate on the sounds. I’m liking this a lot better as it goes, but I don’t know if I’m sold on the genre yet.
Bit Shifter – “Particle Charge”
Ew, this is like the last song but way more trivial, lo-fi, and uninteresting. This is literal main menu music, whereas the other one felt like it was cleverly emulating main menu music. I’m sorry, but I really can’t do this stuff. It’s beyond lame and cloying. It feels desperately, depressingly nostalgic, and makes me feel like the artist really either needs to get a life or get a hug.
Will you seek out more chiptune? Why or why not?
Maybe if there was more… um… progressive chiptune(?) like the first, then maybe I’d be able to get behind its subversion of the expectations of video game soundtracks. But then again, I’m not at all interested in pure emulations of my childhood. I can always just listen to those soundtracks whenever I want, so what’s the damn point?
Recommended by Scheumke
Assigned to Dewinged
Before listening to your two songs, and what’s your opinion of metalcore?
Well, as most of you on Sputnikmusic.com know, I’m an old tank so my knowledge of metalcore goes way back to that time when bands like Botch, Vision of Disorder or Coalesce were the face of the genre. Entering the 2000s I kinda drifted away from it. By the time Killswitch Engage, Atreyu, etc, were taking over I started to lose sight of it and in recent years I have simply no idea what’s going on in the metalcore universe anymore. My opinion of the genre is not necessarily negative, but I do think it’s a branch of metal that peaked a long time ago and nowadays it’s just a pig rolling and groaning on the same pigpen for over a decade.
Fit for a King – “Tower of Pain”
Taking the bands I quoted before as a reference, there is an obvious and huge step forward in instrumental prowess, a.k.a. “the crazy shit young people do nowadays”. That breakdown around the 2 minute mark is a good example. The vocals are good, not the kind of guy I would trust to garden my backyard as he would probably burn the house down, but he has lungs resilient enough to cook that fire breath of a growl. I like the chorus, it edges that middle point between screams and melody that I like in this kind of stuff. There is a somber theme about the fear of death, existential crisis ahoy, with an underlying positive message of improving oneself and gathering the strength necessary to power through, which is basically what I do every morning when I hop on the coffee machine and throw some bread in the toaster while my cat is biting my toes. Cool track.
Ice Nine Kills – “Stabbing in the Dark”
Ok, where to start with this one. Let’s just say that I want to… to believe that this is all performed and conceived for the “lolz,” as this is the metalcore equivalent of a discarded Scary Movie spin off. With profound lyrical content as “Trick or fucking treat,” before a merciless slamming takes place led by a guitar simulating a stabbing sound reminiscent of, hereby butchered, Hitchcock’s iconic Psycho soundtrack (if the man knew, he would indeed wish someone would stab him to death), this is exactly the kind of music that made me avoid the “metalcore” tag like the plague. The song has a catchy melody, yes, and the band plays tight a.f., and hell, it even sounds cohesive, powerful. The singer has pipes, a damn fine voice all things considered, so… what’s wrong?! Well, everything else. The police radio sample, the Michael Myers obsession, the ultra-macho low growls… It is the constant and unwavering fixation of this side of the metalcore planet with terrifying kids while being as “loco” as possible, which seems to be a hereditary disease from distant cousin nu-metal. This crosses the line for me, as it dies in the distance, never to be heard again.
Will you seek out more metalcore? Why or why not?
The answer is yes but no. Or no but yes. I do enjoy the riffage, and I can even bob my head to those breakdowns while doing something else, but I wouldn’t go as far as promising you will see me next week screaming on first row with INK’s singer, “You can’t kill the boogeyman!” I believe the genre has been stretched out to accommodate a vast array of different bands doing different things, and while some of them are good, others are an absolute mess. So let’s just say I would gladly get infused with the kind of metalcore closer to Swedish melodic metal, or to old school hardcore, but keep that Halloween pestilence far away from me and my offspring.
If you’d like to listen to the songs we were assigned, check out the Spotify playlist embedded below.
Many thanks to the contributors who participated, and to the users who submitted genres for us to explore! If you didn’t get a chance to submit a genre this time around, don’t worry; we plan to do multiple rounds of this feature! If you submitted a genre that wasn’t included in this round, it’ll most likely be included in the next round.