For a genre of music that is as easy on the mind as it is on the ears, getting a hold of what exactly chillwave is can be absurdly frustrating. In fact, thereâ€™s a good chance that the sound will fall far out of fashion before itâ€™s even quantified.
But if chillwave were to be a true genre, and if it was actually definable, I would have to say that Small Blackâ€™s â€œNew Chainâ€ would be a prime example of it.
The bandâ€™s formula of heavily effected vocals, vintage synthesizers and drum loops makes its music accessible no matter what it does.
In fact, the only moment on the entire record that could be described as â€˜off-kilterâ€™ is the first few seconds of album-opener, â€œCamouflage.â€ But the song quickly drops into a head-nod groove that persists throughout the rest of the albumâ€™s 10 songs.
At times, the reliance on 1980s synth-pop influence gives way to other more varied sounds.
A personal favorite, â€œGoonsâ€™â€ heavy beat and siren-esque synthesizer lines sound straight thug (if such a thing exists in a genre that is markedly thug-less).
The albumâ€™s most distinct track, â€œHydra,â€ borrows heavily from the Animal Collective sound, relying on little more than a click track and hazy vocals. Disappointingly, though, is that itâ€™s one of the easiest tracks to skip over.
Therein lies the catch with â€œNew Chain:â€ If it isnâ€™t a head-nod track, then itâ€™s not worth listening to. The layers of sparkly noises and groove beats donâ€™t leave much room for substance or risk.
Thing is, substance is a bit overrated. Thereâ€™s enough â€œmeaningfulâ€ art and information thrown at us on the daily.
This album may wear thin in a short amount of time, but thatâ€™s okay. For now it will drown out all of the important stuff in life as I listen to it in between classes.
Music reviewer Nic Turiciano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.