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Image for So what's the triple j "sound" anyway?

So what's the triple j "sound"anyway?

EDWARD SHARP-PAUL goes in search of that elusive triple j sound.

Heard about the triple j thing? You’ve probably heard about the triple j thing. Bands have to change their sound to get airplay. No they don’t. Well why did you ignore my stuff? Et cetera.

In among all the accusations and counter-accusations, though, no one has yet been kind enough to enunciate exactly what the mythical “triple j sound” really is. A lot of the discussion has come from disgruntled former listeners and musicians who feel marginalised by the station. Much as I have sympathy for the views of both parties – being as I’ve belonged to both at various points – it’s worth considering that these are not regular listeners, and that they might be focussing their anger on an unrepresentative caricature; the fear-mongering triple j-is-breeding-a-nation-of-hipsters narrative that invariably seems to focus on San Cisco, Cloud Control and their ilk, with a lashing of skip-hop for balance.

Any sustained listen, though, reveals that triple j is a genre clusterfuck. Some genres are favoured over others, no doubt, but over an hour or two, a heap of ground gets covered. Loads of indie pop, yes, but also hip-hop; grunge; garage rock; wispy female singer-songwriter fare; earthy, male singer-songwriter fare; indie dance; psych; and the moist, lush, dubsteppy electronica that doesn’t really have a proper name yet;

A dominant mood and format, rather than a dominant sound

But regardless of genre, what really strikes the ear when listening to triple j is that almost everything played fits a prevailing mood: positive, propulsive and sincere, the sort of versatile, malleable happy-sad mood that can be applied to most life situations. No long intros, no slow-burners, all hook-driven and immediate. Lyrics are of the vague, wistful variety: nothing too depressing, not Ke$ha dumb, but not Drones-smart, either. Nothing overtly political, and make sure you wrap it up in three to four minutes, maximum.

Across all genres, these general principles apply, which is really no different to any other radio station ever, and not massively different to how triple j used to operate in its dark, distant halcyon days – only the genre mix has changed. Detractors argue that as a publicly-funded concern, however, it has a responsibility to provide exposure to acts that don’t fit the restrictive template of the commercial stations, rather than providing a marginally less restrictive template of their own. But that’s an argument for another time.

Within the major Triple J genres – guitar pop, indie dance, aussie hip hop, sensitive singer-songwriter fare and electronica – though, things get pretty specific. If you’re altering your sound to get that sweet, sweet j play, make sure you heed the following guidelines:

Genre: Guitar pop

(Archetypes: early Vampire Weekend, The Holidays)

Must have: Plinky guitars

The jangle is out, the strum is out, and fiddly little melodic riffs with no distortion are where it’s at.

Must be: Breathy or bust

Got a rich, baritone croon? An operatic soprano? Put it away. Think pillow-talk volume, or saying-something-rude-about-the-person-sitting-opposite-you-on-public-transport volume.

Must have: A beat that goes “boom…BA!–boom–BA”

Also known as a rhumba beat.

Must have: Anthemic choruses


Genre: Indie dance

(Archetypes – Cut Copy, Rüfüs)

Must: Arpeggiate!

All things chiming and vaguely hypnotic are very in right now.

Must have: Pulsing synth bass

Ditto big analogue synth bass.

Must not have: Pointy bits

It’s important that adjectives like “icy”, “breezy” and “blissful” are applicable. Singing must be sleek and Auto-Tuned, and the sonic palette must be soft, hazy, and without any abrasive edges.

Must have: Anthemic choruses


Genre: Aussie hip hop

(Archetypes – Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N’ Eso)

Must: Bellow

This is the only way Australians are allowed to rap.

Rags-to-riches stories are encouraged

Even if you never wore rags, and haven’t yet obtained riches.

Must: Get a sensitive singer-songwriter to sing the hook

Salty ‘n’ sweet. Classic combo.

Must have: Anthemic choruses


Genre: Sensitive singer-songwriter

(Archetypes – Sarah Blasko, Angus and Julia Stone)

Must: Choke your syllables

You are a Sensitive Artist®. Sound like it.

Must have: Falsetto

I don’t think I need to explain why a swoon-worthy, Corby-esque falsetto is a good idea.

Banjos are optional, but encouraged

Pairs well with nostalgic lyrics.

Must have: Anthemic choruses:


Genre: electronica

(Archetypes – Flume)

Must have: Pitch-shifted vocals Because your own average voice is boring.

Must have: Sub-bass

Because no-one “listens” to bass any more – they feel it.

Must have: Glitchy rhythms

Start. Stop. Start again. Lurching beats, loads of wide open spaces.

Must have: Anthemic choruses


Genre: Hardcore, metalcore, metal, hard rock, etc.

(Archetype – Karnivool, Parkway Drive)

Must: Hang in there

You could become Triple j’s go-to heavy mascot band at any moment, without warning. It happened to Northlane, and it could happen to you. Beware, though: there can be only one. Be patient.


The golden rule:

Don’t be Airbourne.

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Comments

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Snutty

Snutty said on the 16th Jan, 2014

"there can be only one"

so true, when it comes to hard rock. at least it used to be. lately they've embraced dead letter circus and karnivool so at least there's a bit more of the genre.

markrees

markrees said on the 17th Jan, 2014

The sound of JJJ is similar to that on the fasterlouder forum, which are both made by people who are connected to the music industry:

Either they are:
1. Whiney folk who are in their early twenties, that firmly believe they know everything

or

2. Smartasses making cheap pop culture references (The Simpsons anyone?)

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 17th Jan, 2014

If there's one person on this forum who is acting like they know everything with very little to back it up, it's you.

Between your various conspiracy theories and claiming that music sucks today because grunge/alternative rock is no longer the dominant genre you've provided a whole lot of speculation with almost nothing to back it up.

Each time someone actually tries to engage with you in a discussion who have a whine and change the topic.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 17th Jan, 2014

I think markrees named himself after the wrong soccer player. David Icke would seem a better fit.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 17th Jan, 2014

The sound of JJJ is similar to that on the fasterlouder forum, which are both made by people who are connected to the music industry:

Either they are:
1. Whiney folk who are in their early twenties, that firmly believe they know everything

or

2. Smartasses making cheap pop culture references (The Simpsons anyone?)

ooo which one am I?

nos235

nos235 said on the 17th Jan, 2014

I'm Brian and so is my wife.

Monty Python references are sooo much cooler than Simpsons references

cl66

cl66 said on the 17th Jan, 2014

a sure winner is a chorus with the 'ohh wehh ohh weh ohh ohh' style multitracked backing vocals over a lame chord progression with insipid melody.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 18th Jan, 2014



You mean these guys?

http://wegaveitseven.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Simpsons.jpg

Demosthenes

Demosthenes said on the 18th Jan, 2014

Well, it's this obviously innit?

[youtube]OtymGAfwQgQ[/youtube]

AceElectric

AceElectric said on the 18th Jan, 2014

this might sound strange... and totally crazy, and bare with me and my crazy ideas...but here it goes:
there are people out there in australia, (who wouldn't be pigeon holed as a bogan) within jjjs demographic (18-25) that... love hard rock, classic rock, heavy metal, rockabilly, thrash, surf, grunge, blues, glam rock/metal, doom,punk, hardcore, garage (not the fluffy jjj pop tone), metal-core and good ol rock n' roll.

there are people out there that don't wanna listen to music that sounds like a play school episode.
and these kids, are inspired to create and play music, will they ever get played on jjj?
probably not... so whats the problem??
if you're not on triple jjj you're not worth australias time. worst than that, it seems if you're not in jjjs demographic, your voice is mute and you should grab your walking stick, tune in to triple m and stop complaining about how the times have changed blah blah blah.

i've noticed quite a bias opinion by the latest entries of faster louder, one which suggests the opinions of anti-triple jjj are invalid, sure... you can not listen to the station and go to soundwave... but you can also kiss your dreams of hitting the aussie charts goodbye...
oh unless you have the sounds featured above.
especially if you sound like airbourne... a band who wanted to sound like one of australias biggest exports... who created the 'aussie sound'... ac/dc.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 18th Jan, 2014



I dunno, I think that the old grey mare is still as good as she used to be. But that's just me.

nos235

nos235 said on the 19th Jan, 2014

I'll follow Davey boy's lead and post a totally unrelated Simpsons reference which shows that I have nothing of value to add to the conversation just snark. This is Davey when he sees women -

http://imageshack.us/a/img823/593/6ba8563d94499b67ee74b88.gif

back_to_you

back_to_you said on the 19th Jan, 2014


if you're not on triple jjj you're not worth australias time.
worst than that, it seems if you're not in jjjs demographic, your voice is mute..............

i strongly disagree with the first sentence!

i disagree with the second sentence.

as for an arguement.........i'm not going to make offensive comments, i'll just sit here and smile in the knowledge that our opinions are equal (as is everyones). :)

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 19th Jan, 2014

this might sound strange... and totally crazy, and bare with me and my crazy ideas...but here it goes:
there are people out there in australia, (who wouldn't be pigeon holed as a bogan) within jjjs demographic (18-25) that... love hard rock, classic rock, heavy metal, rockabilly, thrash, surf, grunge, blues, glam rock/metal, doom,punk, hardcore, garage (not the fluffy jjj pop tone), metal-core and good ol rock n' roll.


There are, you're right. They are a smaller number than the bulk of Triple J's target demo who prefer the music Triple J is playing regularly throughout the day. They can here this kind of music on specialist programming on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Do you really think if their marketing said there were more people who preferred this other stuff they wouldn't play it?

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 19th Jan, 2014

this might sound strange... and totally crazy, and bare with me and my crazy ideas...but here it goes:
there are people out there in australia, (who wouldn't be pigeon holed as a bogan) within jjjs demographic (18-25) that... love hard rock, classic rock, heavy metal, rockabilly, thrash, surf, grunge, blues, glam rock/metal, doom,punk, hardcore, garage (not the fluffy jjj pop tone), metal-core and good ol rock n' roll.

So what if there is? It's not JJJ's responsibility to cater to EVERYONE. Because that's not possible.


if you're not on triple jjj you're not worth australias time. worst than that, it seems if you're not in jjjs demographic, your voice is mute

As in, if you're not in JJJ's demographic, your opinion about what gets played on JJJ is less important than those that ARE in the demographic? Absolutely correct, and the way it should be.


and you should grab your walking stick, tune in to triple m and stop complaining about how the times have changed blah blah blah.


Not at all. There's been heaps of times when "Waaaaa! Times are changing!" have successfully stopped progress.


i've noticed quite a bias opinion by the latest entries of faster louder, one which suggests the opinions of anti-triple jjj are invalid, sure...

They're not invalid, they just tend to trend to "JJJ doesn't play what *I* want to listen to, therefore it's letting down its audience" which, considering as mentioned in other threads, JJJs audience share is actually increasing, is demonstrably false.



Well, I just had a look at the current ARIA charts, and hardly any of the artists there are JJJ regulars. It's almost as if there are multiple pathways to chart success.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 19th Jan, 2014

Weren't you JUST writing about not blinding these idiots with actual facts?

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 19th Jan, 2014

i know but im voting in the hottest 100, and the website is taking ages to load each page, so i have to keep myself amused somehow.

Plain Views

Plain Views said on the 19th Jan, 2014

tr-i-p-el j-ay

last time i checked, i could be wrong but I'm pretty sure thats how it sounds when pronounced.

nos235

nos235 said on the 19th Jan, 2014

In Adelaide we have a station dedicated solely to dance music, so obviously enough people in their market demo. I would have thought the eastern states would all of had 2-3 genre specific stations each?

Plain Views

Plain Views said on the 19th Jan, 2014

we have something similar on the east coast but unfortunately its not divided by music genre, but on whether you own a Ford or a Holden.

Demosthenes

Demosthenes said on the 20th Jan, 2014

So what if there is? It's not JJJ's responsibility to cater to EVERYONE. Because that's not possible.


They're not invalid, they just tend to trend to "JJJ doesn't play what *I* want to listen to, therefore it's letting down its audience" which, considering as mentioned in other threads, JJJs audience share is actually increasing, is demonstrably false.

Well, I just had a look at the current ARIA charts, and hardly any of the artists there are JJJ regulars. It's almost as if there are multiple pathways to chart success.


Two observation based on this, or maybe just some more facts to mull over.

Arguably a higher rating means that the Js are going more mainstream. More ratings more people you have to go to the "center" to get them.

On the other hand, the lack of correlation between ARIA charts and the Hottest 100 listener lists is a counter to that?

On the other other hand (apparently we have three hands today), there's not a lot of resemblance between a Hottest 100 list and a Hot 100 list.

So ... evidence seems conflicts on the mainstream sell-out vs underground street cred. Really the Js seem to be doing some sexy straddling shit that is turning on a whole lot of people.

Ultimately, I'd be asking, what niche (for wont of a better word) is Triple J filling that neither the major commercial stations (whether Triple M or Nova or wutever) nor the community stations (FBi, Triple R, Triple Z) service? That's the J sound or difference, or something. In any case it's what's making them tick.

Did any of that make any sense?

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 20th Jan, 2014


Arguably a higher rating means that the Js are going more mainstream. More ratings more people you have to go to the "center" to get them.

On the other hand, the lack of correlation between ARIA charts and the Hottest 100 listener lists is a counter to that?


Maybe more people are moving away from the 'centre'?

I think social media plays a part in exposing people to songs they otherwise wouldn't hear.

I think the popular genres of alternative music tend to be more ubiquitous than perhaps they were previously. I'd say that indie pop/folk/rock of today is a more accessible sound than say grunge or alternative rock in the '90s. Whereas previously, if you didn't like grunge, your options were far more commercial pop and rock whereas now, the popular alternative genres sound more similar to the popular commercial genres.

Hip hop is also massively bigger in the mainstream today than it used to be. Hip hop has probably taken over from where R&B stood on the commercial spectrum in the '90s. Part of this is probably because many modern hip hop songs have more R&B elements than they did in the '90s.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 20th Jan, 2014



I would say in this case, it's not so much a difference in sound as accessibility. One of the key things about JJJ is that it broadcasts to such a large percentage of Australia. If JJJ was just in the capitals, you'd probably be right, but JJJ reaches so many regional people that have so few radio options.

Demosthenes

Demosthenes said on the 20th Jan, 2014

If that was the case, would ratings for community stations be rising too? If fragmentation is occurring, logically it ought to occur all along the spectrum. But then, does digital (spotify, pandora even fucking youtube) leech away at the comm stations? (and the others as well?)

Undeniably that's a good hypothesis though.

If enough people move, you've just got a new centre tho. Whether Triple J is the new "centre" is probably a different argument.

Hip hop seems more "aspirational" these days and less about "fighting the man" from my grumpy old man give me Ice T or give me death perspective. Which I'd vaguely argue is what R&B was doing so yeah I guess I agree?

Demosthenes

Demosthenes said on the 20th Jan, 2014



Does that hold with digital (and internet) broadcasting anymore? I mean, Farmer Skollcrusher5000 can probably listen to Triple R etc over the web if she wanted.