Chillwave shmillwave

In all honesty, I'm not sure what we're supposed to be taking from chillwave music. I know I like it because it sounds enchanting in a gloomy way. The chillwave I like most lets me wallow around—not so much in pity or misery, rather in a sense of exploration for the sake of not sitting still all the time. Ironically, I take most chillwave while sitting down.

And in all honesty, I don't know what that means for my consumption of chillwave. Take, for instance, Small Black, who's debut EP I gobble up whole and hard. They're probably not the best chillwave band in the world—hello, Neon Indian—but they seem like the one best suited to my conception of it as an exercise in monotonous relocation.



Their new single, "Photojournalist" from their forthcoming debut LP, sounds like all the other Small Black songs, but the vocals are more reverbed, more slippery. They sound like Washed Out—which is cool, but not as cool as if they'd still just sounded like Small Black. And when he sings "Rise up again / Rise up again like a ghost" it sounds more like a precursor than the chorus they've dressed it up to be. Chillwave is an exercise in monotony, but all too often it's an exercise in frustration as well. The chorus is a launching point, and the only thing that separates those things from cliffs is a strong motor. "Photojournalist" grooves alright, and if New Chain was filled with songs exactly like this I'd probably be just fine with it. But it only bolsters the argument that chillwave is too pretentious for its own survival. Sometimes pretentiousness just means you know more than everyone else—but if that's the case then someone needs to go to the head of the class and prove it.


But we can take solace in bands like P.S. I Love You, who are finally making the dots and lines to chillwave more pronounced. P.S. I Love You is a stupid name for a band, but a good band, you see. Their song from last year's split 7" with Diamond Rings was a seemless re-capturing of what made Wolf Parade's Apologies to the Queen Mary so comfortably enriching. Matter of fact, I've already blogged about it.



Earlier this month we got two new songs from them, and neither recreate the same immediacy of "Facelove." "2012" starts out appealing enough, with that slick pick-work on the guitar, and it carries it throughout. My one concern about P.S. I Love You (other than the fact that their name sucks so much) is that they don't have enough ideas to sustain the dynamic nature their songs demand. But that's not really a problem here, and it seems "2012" sounds better each new listen.

"Butterflies and Boners" has the opposite deal going on. It starts out slow and lurching—I might even call it fluttering if that guitar wasn't so heavy. It ends up picking up with a pretty rad breakdown, led by that fluttering guitar finally finding a direction and doing what ultimately sounds more like fluttering anyway. Maybe the title has it backwards.



Either way, they're both pretty sweet, and especially interesting because of the lines we can draw between them and chillwave. They're muffled and not particularly thrilled to be getting in our ears, but they show how that can manifest in a more angular sound that accredits Wolf Parade (or, shit, Pixies and Guided by Voices) more than the Beach Boys. It doesn't hide itself behind such dense reverb, and it's not too pretentious for catharsis. If the whole point of chillwave is the unwillingness to get out of bed—and I could be wrong about this; I don't think I do enough drugs to really know—then it's about time someone cook themselves some goddamn breakfast, lest we all starve.

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