A short introduction to… Chillwave

Synthesizers have been used in music since the 80s but only recently has it experienced such a heavy revival, particularly in the indie music scene. The genre, chillwave, has emerged with its heavy use of, you guessed it, synthesizers, sampling, and drum machines. It’s been called names such as glo-fi and summer music due to its use of ambient samples and its much more quiet sound.

It has evolved not only from 80s pop but also dream pop and shoegazing music; to me, this music tends to blend with other genres in its definition. Chillwave, if I was going to put it in the simplest of terms, reminds me of surf rock slowed down and put through synthesizers and drum music, hence the pseudonym “summer music.” It’s some of the most relaxing, or at least calming, music I’ve listened to. Here are some artists to help you discern chillwave from all other indie synth pop:

Panda Bear

If you don’t know Panda Bear, you probably know Animal Collective, the Baltimore-native band he helped create. Panda Bear as a solo artist is seen as one of the acts that foreshadowed chillwave, particularly with his 2007 album Person Pitch. If you’ve ever listened to Animal Collective, you’ll know what to expect of Panda Bear: a lot of looped noise and lyrics that you would never expect to go together so well.

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Panda Bear… in a way scarier than an actual panda bear

Washed Out

Ernest Greene takes pairs his quiet voice with drum machines and a dash of synthesizers to create Washed Out, one of the primary bands of the genre. His album Within and Without with tracks such as the dreamy “Amor Fati” and “Far Away” helped define just what the chillwave movement was.

Toro Y Moi

Another band credited with defining the sound of chillwave, Toro Y Moi’s creator Chaz Bundick looks like he stepped right out of the 80s. Even his music videos have a late 80s vibe. Despite appearances, Bundick’s use of looping and his subdued vocals create music that makes you feel like you can party, or chill out, like it’s 1985.

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Toro Y Moi… playing Pitchfork Music Festival this year


Tycho sounds what sunset on the beach looks like. The combination of ambient sounds and synthesizers create a dreamy evening on the beach, particularly with the song “A Walk” from their album, Dive.