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A Beginner’s Guide to Identifying Obscure Music

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Edited by: Kavya Mittal

What’s the deal with obscure music? Even worse, those who listen to it? As a passionate fan of the Arctic Monkeys and Olivia Rodrigo, I have a musical palette defined well enough to tell you the single truth about obscure music. It’s just noise. 

Here then is a guide to identify such music, so that you may swiftly steer away from anyone caught listening to any of the below.

  1. Science Fair — Black Country New Road

The first  rule to making songs that are obscure is that they must be excruciating. Science Fair is a repository of pure chaos since the very beginning. The beats in the first six seconds sound like a twelve year old discovering GarageBand, while building up to an murderous excuse of a guitar solo. Progressively, as the song introduces other sounds, the music becomes even more intolerable, with lyrics that don’t rhyme and devoid of a single danceable beat. For some apparent reason they’ve been lauded as post-punk dark horses, but in my opinion should probably recede back into the unknown.

But I was just covered in bubbles of methane gas / And you ended up burnt / I am sorry //

  1. Celebrity Lifestyle — Swans

Some assume that a voice that simply sounds eerie and weary can create a song of distinct characters, making it obscure. Michael Gira, with his deep, daunting voice, delivers this song with little passion and understandable boredom. A singer that sounds like he’s been completely removed from his song, devoid of emotion and creativity, is what this community of music listeners want to uphold.

She’s got a celebrity lifestyle / And she ties her naked children up with wires and lace //

  1. only shallow — my bloody valentine 

The easiest yet undeniably effective way to create an obscure song is to make the lyrics utterly incoherent. The genre of Shoegaze fares amazingly in this regard. My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins, amidst other artists within shoegaze and dreampop are famously (except not famous because they’re obscure) pioneers in creating such white noise.  A common fact agreed upon within the community is that if you do listen to shoegaze, “you are most likely to feel lonely and isolated. You use warm, thick guitar tones as a substitute for emotional warmth.” Apart from that, shoegaze is just the genre for sneakerheads.

Soft as a pillow, touch her there / Where she won’t dare, somewhere //

  1. Hogwash and Balderdash — black midi

The other end of the spectrum of obscurity would then be explicitly absurd lyrics. Accompanied also by disastrously sounding music, black midi sets a contemporary tone to obscurity, however bordering more on the mainstream than you’d expect. The sheer thought that goes into their lines, as is evident in the lines: but please first take your hands off your d*ck (“Ducter”, Schlagenheim) shows the ingenuity of what they produce, churning literary masterpieces after another.

Chickens from the pen / Are coming down the rivers //

  1. Come to Daddy [Pappy Mix or the Little Lord Faulteroy Mix] – Aphex Twin

The music video of this song, however bizarre it may be, cannot compete with the haunting discomfort of the song itself. This brings me to the fifth way to identify an obscure song — it probably makes you squirm in your seat, or in case of the second mix, simply uneasy.

Oh, you dirty little boy, dirty little boy / Oh, you dirty little boy, dirty little boy //

  1. Those Boys (Twin Fantasy) — Car Seat Headrest

Next we come to a combination of a musician with little will to live, harboring an unbearably sad voice, along with obnoxious lyricism. Will Toledo, who took on his mother’s maiden name in place of his birth name so as to not rightfully taint the poet William Barnes, creates music not from his soul, but purely his nasal cavity. Maybe if someone tells him it’s okay to be gay he’ll stop making music.

Those two brothers / Those two lovers / And their smooth cocked adventures //

  1. A Quick One Before the Eternal Worm Devours Connecticut — Have a Nice Life

While the signature vibe of songs by Have a Nice Life tend to be ‘gloomy-fourteen-year-old,’ this instrumental piece pushes the horizons of their creations to give us ‘gloomy-forty-year-old.’ The initial seven minutes of the song sounds just like being stuck inside the fourth dimension in Interstellar, and the final 60 seconds sounds like dad cursing at strangers from the balcony.

Vyshnevi is a to-be crazy cat lady with an incomprehensible love for music, chai and literature. An undergraduate student of Ashoka University, she grapples to the idea of better tomorrows and believes in spending valuable money on speakers just to listen to distorted shoegaze music.
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