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Gijs

Interesting pop-music

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I'm looking for pop music that is interesting on a instrumental level. The term 'pop' is a bit misleading. I'm looking for music with let's say 'normal' siging voices. So no opera-like singing. The band/person who makes the music has to be alive and kicking. Do you know any 'pop' music that is interesting harmony-wise, instrumentation-wise, etc.? And that is active at this point?

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There are plenty of obscure hipster bands playing weird music out there. I can even name some off the top of my head, having spent a sizeable amount of time in nerdier parts of the internet: Deerhoof, Giraffes? Giraffes!, Battles, Naked City, Animal Collective, and such, to pick random examples from a sea of names. Not that I care much for any of those, but they pretty much fit your description.

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Coming from one of those "nerdier parts of the internet" that Ian mentioned, I'd have to say Jonathon Coulton (if you don't mind the occasional humorous song about monkeys, robots, and sea creatures -- although his new album tends to be more serious and sometimes more abstract). He's primarily a singer/songwriter, and the instrumental parts never really overshadow the song, but they do tend to have something interesting going on in them, whether it's neat chord progressions (he's admitted an over-fondness for half-diminshed chords and modulations to the flat-VI key), or some type of contrapuntal line, or just an interesting texture. He also has a good sense for how to layer a song -- when to build it up, and when to break it down.

He's best known for the song "Still Alive" which underscored the credits on the video game Portal, and which he

(with theramin and celesta) for his new album. But his repertoire is much more diverse. It's hard to pick out any one song that represents his entire style, but two that I think have particularly noteworthy instrumental accompaniments would be Creepy Doll (featuring some very contrasting sections, a bass drum that imitates a heartbeat, a descending chromatic line on a glockenspiel, and the use of canon to depict "following"), and, from his new album, Fraud (which features a bizarre poly-metric pseudo-counterpoint that somehow vaguely reminds me of a Bach invention).

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