Out of all the genres under the electronic music umbrella, trip-hop is the primary one I’d describe as “elegant.” It is slow, engaging, and it rarely has any of the frills found in other types of electronica. It is very listenable, and directors have found ways to use it in commercials, tv shows, and movies for years. It is so prevalent in this media (a recent example being the theme song of House) that most people have probably enjoyed trip-hop without even knowing what they were hearing. To those people, groups like Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky, and Lambare a great starting place. To people that have encountered those artists already, I address this article:
Halou. Halou is one of the best bands I discovered while researching this post. To be honest, I have a hard time explaining what it is I like about them so much. It comes down to their really well-written songs. They’ve got a sick mix of instrumental and electronic elements (not to mention the vocals), and they’re very listenable. My favorite song at the moment is Things Stay The Same. The song is put together very well. It builds up to the strings part in the middle, and it begs to be listened to. Some other good songs to look at are Honeythief and Today.
Mandalay. The vocalist for Mandalay is possibly even better than Halou’s. She has a tremble in her voice that makes the songs feel more delicate. I’d been doing a trip-hop marathon and nothing in particular had stood out until Believe started playing. Absolutely amazing – for a song with so little actually happening, it does a great job of grabbing my attention. It’s a benefit that comes from it being a song that takes its time. They put nothing into that shouldn’t be there, and I found that to be the case with later Mandalay tracks I listened to. Check out Like Her and Deep Love.
Yppah. Yppah sounds like a Boards of Canada trip-hop hybrid, which sounds good to me. He’s definitely faster paced than the previous two groups, but his songs are very well-composed and well-produced. I feel that he also has a good grasp on the fine line between electronic and instrumental, where his works don’t come out sounding “too digital.” He’s also got that ever-desirable grasp on groove. Listen to Blue Schwinn, you’ll see what I mean. Whenever I hear his tracks, I say “YES.” Some other good ones are Never Mess With Sunday and Film Burn.
UNKLE. These guys are a long-time favorite of mine. Many of their songs are anywhere from “amazing” to “stunning,” and I believe many others agree – their songs have been used in countless soundtracks. The production quality is very high. The area I feel they excel in is being dynamic. Their songs don’t repeat the same parts for very long, and transition across a wide range of sounds even in shorter pieces. I couldn’t ask for more. Check out Chemistry (which I actually heard first in a very good Lupe Fiasco song, and didn’t even realize), Lonely Soul (truly epic), and Bloodstain.
Cyesm. Cyesm captures a lot of what I find good about trip-hop. He’s got good groove sense, his songs don’t have unnecessary elements, they’re engaging, and overall they are good to listen to. Also, I couldn’t help but notice that he’s got several interesting music videos. I don’t really have a favorite song by him at the moment, but Abnormal People, No Match Found, and Somehow.
I could give plenty more recommendations of trip-hop artists, but I believe I’ve said enough about what makes the genre good to serve as a jumping-off point. (And also, it’s taken me long enough just to narrow the list down this far.)