Hipsters cornered the market on nostalgia years back, in a massive cultural gentrification that matched the real-life one taking over urban areas across the US. Suddenly lumberjack beards were in vogue, vinyl made its impressive comeback, and rolled cuffs were seen on the skinny ankles of coffee shop patrons everywhere. To be honest I’m often the opposite of the hipster in that I’m the last to pick up on the latest trends. Not because of snobbery or anything like that; I’m just plain out of the loop.
But this summer, that thing is obviously Pokémon Go, the augmented reality Nintendo app which has eclipsed giants like Angry Birds, Candy Crush and Farmville to become the biggest mobile game in US history. Pokémon Go is unique in that it couples elements of the quantitative fitness craze with that nostalgia factor: kids, teens and young adults who grew up during the original Pokémon era have flocked to the game in incredible numbers. Even I, the anti-hipster, was inspired–not only did I download the app, but I dug out my old Gameboy Advance and spent an hour or two reverting to my childhood, laying on my bed playing Leaf Green. More than anything else, it was the music that took me back, all those cheery, tinny, often annoying 8-bit tracks. Still, the music of that game and others are ingrained in my memory to this day, so that’s something.
Now we can all relive that childlike wonder with the Sympathizer’s Pokémon Hunt Playlist! Go forth, catch that Dragonair or Scyther or Rapidash, whilst listening to a variety of chiptuney, video-gamey, nostalgia-saturated songs that are guaranteed to draw the rarest of Pokémon to your current location.*
*Not actually guaranteed. But it might help, you never know.
What It Is: cheery video game-inspired techno that wouldn’t seem out of place in the next Super Mario game.
Sounds Like: the way a really, really good day feels.
What It Is: Dubmood has been making music since 1996, so this is chiptune classic–a bit intense, fast-paced and clearly influenced by the rave scene emerging at the time.
Sounds Like: going on an epic quest to find a sword or rescue a princess or slay a dragon. That, or a warehouse party circa 2001.
goto80, “Crossword Puzzle”
What It Is: A jazzy take on chiptune that features “chipspeech,” or computerized vocals.
Sounds Like: the soundtrack to a sci-fi film produced in the 1970s but set in the mid-2000s. They thought we would have robot servants and hovercars by now.
Mareo Akifuji, “Emotional City Makes Her Have A Cheerfully Dreams”
What It Is: a chill blend of white noise and delicate synth melodies.
Sounds Like: a fruit smoothie that you drink while lounging in the grass on the first spring day. Refreshing and utterly relaxing.
Platon Koukakis, “Sapphire 2”
What It Is: Straight up 8-bit / electronic goodness, no frills.
Sounds Like: the musical equivalent of a frantic sprint.
Anamanaguchi, “My Skateboard Will Go On”
What It Is: a rock band crossbred with 8-bit electronica.
Sounds Like: the adrenaline rush of bombing a hill on your skateboard and feeling the wind whipping past your face.
Dream Avenue, “Universe”
What It Is: spacey chiptune-inspired experimental music from Brazilian producer Dream Avenue’s first album.
Sounds Like: a dream that’s simultaneously very peaceful and very sad.
Motherchip & Malmen, “A Thousand Sunflowers”
What It Is: a sparkling chippy tune to bring a smile to your day.
Sounds Like: the ending credits to a lighthearted movie. Or sunshine. Either one, really.