What I hear a lot of, these days:
- “808” kits (in trap, dubstep, “EDM” genres)– Roland TR-808 (drum machine from the early 80s, or sampled versions of it)
- super-fast-programmed closed hi-hats (even in indie/alt stuff)… sometimes it sounds pretty lame.
- Exaggerated, dated synths (early 90s) in albums such as Halsey’s debut, and most top 100 alternative/modern rock charts (sounds/genres always go in cycles)
- heavily-reverbed grand pianos (Lana Del Rey, countless other stuff). In my opinion, pianos sound better dry, like you’re hearing them in a room. But, sometimes reverbed pianos have their place.
- very obvious drum machines/fake drums. This used to be taboo, in the late 90s or early 2000s. These days, go for it, and go big.
- Beats without hi-hats or ride cymbals (think Lorde’s “Royals”)
- “Stomped” kick drums… “four on the floor” (obviously borrowed from early 90s techno and house). Often found in new-folk music.
I’m always the first to say— try to avoid trends where possible. Be YOU. It’s cool to take sounds/production styles from other artists, but what always matters most? The song, and its lyrics. If it’s a good-enough song (on acoustic guitar and vocals ONLY, or piano/vocals ONLY), then you usually don’t need much else.