The days are gone when music could be grouped neatly and innocently into piles like rock, country and classical. Contemporary music genres now fork off into sometimes arbitrary and often perplexing sub-sets. Some of them we can wrap our heads around pretty easily – gangsta rap and indie rock, for instance, we get those – but others leave us dumbfounded. Here we decode 10 of the most bizarre genres.

Blackened Death Metal

Marrying black metal and death metal, this genre focuses its energy on the most unwholesome of themes – think Satanism, occultism and evil. Many of these bands wear costumes that are, frankly, terrifying. If a junkyard pile of burned scrap metal could sing (read: scream), this is what it might sound like.  

Acts That Play It: Sarcófago, Blasphemy, Behemoth, Akercocke



An offshoot of indie pop, cuddlecore is most often the work of an all-girl group that’s been influenced by both riotous punk and sweet vocal harmonies. The genre presented a poppier alternative to the riot grrrl scene that raged during the mid-’90s.

Acts That Play It: Cub, Bunnygrunt, Maow



In the same vein as psychobilly or punkabilly, cowpunk had its heyday in Los Angeles nearly 30 years ago and became forbearer to what we now call alt-country (as in, Lucero, Drive-by Truckers, Uncle Tupelo, Mike Ness). Melding the oddly compatible punk and country genres, cowpunk is likely the progeny of Hank Williams, whose work was a study in drunken antics and miles of twang.  

Acts That Play It: The Cramps, Rank and File, The Knitters



This joke genre has little to do with any one sound and more to do with a particular dance move that looks decidedly crustacean-esque. The term derived as a derogatory description for the gesticulations of Ohio metal band Attack Attack! Some compare the modern-day version to squatting moves pioneered by Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.

Acts That Play It: Attack Attack!, Dirty Sexy Knights, Bullets & Belvedere


Dream Pop

Preceding the grunge movement by a few years, the breezy, largely electronic sound of dream pop materialized out of the U.K. in the ’80s and is still alive today in the songs of dreamy of-the-moment bands like Beach House and M83.

Acts That Play It: Cocteau Twins, Air, The Cranberries



In our minds, electronica music is the antithesis of folk, but this genre manages to artfully blend the two, sampling acoustic instrumentation and overlaying it with hip-hop beats.

Acts That Play It: Badly Drawn Boy, Kaki King, The Beta Band


Gypsy Punk

This is what you get when you take the traditional tunes of the Romani people and cross them with good old-fashioned punk rock. Often incorporating the trumpet, tambourine, accordion and sax and using several different languages within one track, the songs from this genre are rich and textural. 

Acts That Play It: Motherhead Bug,Gogol Bordello



What if you could encapsulate the joy of playing Duck Hunt within a song? There is a way! The Nintendocore genre picked up speed in the last decade, becoming especially prevalent now that video game fanatics have grown nostalgic for vintage 8-bit Nintendo games like Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. Nintendocore usually involves bands adding heavy metal riffs to old-school video game soundtracks.

Acts That Play It: Horse The Band, The Advantage, Powerglove


Wizard Rock (or Wrock)

Capitalizing on the craze surrounding J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series, a new type of music called wizard rock has emerged. Massachusetts rock band Harry and the Potters pioneered the movement, which features band members dressed in Harry Potter-themed costumes, singing Harry Potter-themed songs. A 2008 documentary was released chronicling the Harry Potter tribute band phenomenon. It’s called The Wizard Rockumentary: A Movie about Rocking and Rowling.

Acts That Play It: Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, The Remus Lupins, The Whomping Willow, The Moaning Myrtles


Yacht Rock

This subset grew out of the 2005 online mockumentary series Yacht Rock, which recreated the tight bond shared between the light rock songwriters who dominated the radio waves between 1975 and 1984. Not sure what yacht rock sounds like? Just imagine what CD an aging, yuppie yacht owner would pop in during his jaunts at sea. In 2007, John Oates gave credit where credit was due, telling Seattle Weekly, “I think Yacht Rock was the beginning of this whole Hall & Oates resurrection.”

Acts That Play It: Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, Toto, Kenny Loggins, Hall & Oates, Christopher Cross, Jimmy Buffett