Cobalt Magazine presents: The Genre Guide

Genre Breakdown: Baroque Pop

At a first glance, musical genres are seem pretty basic- pop, rock, country, rap, etc- at least until you have this conservation.

“What kind of stuff do you listen to?”

“Oh you know, rock mostly…”

“What kind of rock? Indie? Riot grrrl? DIY? Math rock? Art rock? Baroque? Punk? New wave? Sadcore? Shoegaze? Ska? Acid rock?  Experimental rock? Psychedelic rock? Brit rock? Glam rock? Surf rock? Sea punk? Lo-fi? Hi-fi? No-fi?”

“Did I say rock? I meant to say pop.”

“What kind of pop?”

And the conversation carries on until you are thoroughly confused and ridiculed.

In this article and upcoming ones, a few of the seemingly infinite genres will be discussed, starting with a personal favorite of mine- baroque pop.

Unlike baroque art, baroque pop is anything but stagnant, dull, and outdated.  Using traditional instruments (strings, classical piano, brass instruments) with instruments commonly found in bands (guitars, vocals, drums), baroque pop is a delightful fusion of all instruments that ultimately results in a large capacity for variety.


The Beach Boys and The Beatles were the major forces of early baroque pop, circa 1960.  Yet another contribution to add to the endless list of ways these two groups influenced modern and music.

Telltale Signs

When you hear sounds that don’t should not belong, but miraculously do, a case of baroque pop is present, like the pipe organ in the opening of Arcade Fire’s “Intervention”. Sometimes this is hard to identify, so doing some research as to what instruments are in the group may be helpful, but only do this as a last resort.  It takes all the fun out of trying to answer the quintessential baroque pop question- “What in the world is making that noise?”

Often Confused For

Art rock and math rock are often confused with baroque pop because of the guitars.  While art rock or math rock may have a guitar that sounds more like a theremin, baroque pop may have a violin that in undistinguishable because it sounds like a theremin.  In short, baroque pop uses uncommon instruments to sound common while art and math rock try to make common instruments sound uncommon.

Notable Acts

Pre-revival groups (60’s):

The Kinks, Nick Drake, The Zombies, and The Rolling Stones

Post-revival groups (90’s and beyond):

Arcade Fire, Florence + the Machine, Regina Spektor, and Ra Ra Riot

Check out some tracks by these baroque artists.

Like a challenge? Try to figure out what instruments are being used in these baroque pop tracks! (Videos with asterisks show instruments)

The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance- Vampire Weekend

***Fitz and the Dizzyspells- Andrew Bird

Extraordinary Machine- Fiona Apple

***Keep the Car Running- Arcade Fire

***Holocene- Bon Iver

Abbey Maynard


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