In April of 2020, when the realization of how long quarantine would be in effect, I set myself the goal of listening to a new artist every day. Though I got a bit lazy after the 70th artist or so, I gained a completely different taste in music, and expanded my Spotify library by about 200 songs. Since last April, I’ve listened to a lot of great music, not so great music, and just some downright weird music. I wanted to share a few of my favorite musicians that I have either learned about or just gained a better appreciation for over this time period, so here are five musicians, along with my favorite album of theirs, and a song recommendation to get you started. These are obviously not “new” musicians, but they were at least new to me. This list is in no particular order, and I think all artists on this list should be given a good listen.
Ween is most known for the song “Ocean Man” from the television series Spongebob Squarepants, which I personally do enjoy, but I think their true sound really shines through in their 2003 album, Quebec. Quebec starts off with the raw, heavy rock sound in “It’s gonna be a long night” but then transitions into the dreamy, lo-fi song, “Zoloft”; from there, it transitions back into a more rock vibe, just to immediately go back to a much slower vibe a song later. This pattern of switching between rhythms and “vibes” continues on for the whole album, and I think perfectly demonstrates the breadth of Ween’s talent. The album is truly diverse, with each song shaving a unique sound of its own.
Recommended song: “Tried and True”
Amanaz is one of my favorite bands from the highly underrated genre, Zamrock, or Zambian rock. Zamrock has an interesting history, with it emerging from a government order in 1964. The president at the time declared that all music played on Zambian radio stations must be Zambian music, which led to a surge of new musicians. Shortly after, in 1973, Amanaz recorded their first and only album Africa. Africa, and all Zamrock for that matter, has a truly interesting and unique sound that really cannot be compared to any other style of music. The best I can describe the album is as a calmer, more rhythmic version of psychedelic rock, and I would still say that isn’t a proper description of the sound. I would highly recommend to anyone to listen to Africa, as well as other Zamrock bands, as it’s a very interesting sound.
Recommended song: “Khala My Friend” or “Nsunka Lwendo”
Flyte is a British alternative rock band, with an incredibly melodic sound. Though I think their whole discography is worth a listen, their 2014 album, The Loved Ones has to be my favorite. I think Flyte’s heavy use of layered vocals in this album is one thing that makes it so addictive to listen to. Almost every song on the album has some sort of vocal layering which makes it sound like there is a whole choir behind the lead vocals, but in reality it is just the lead singer’s vocals layered on top of each other. This technique, combined with use of dreamy synth notes, heavy drum beats and snappy keyboard playing, truly makes the album a joy to listen to.
Recommended song: “Cathy Come Home” or “Archie, Marry me”
Weyes Blood (pronounced “Wise Blood,” real name Natalie Mering) has been performing under the moniker since 2003, first starting in the noise music scene, then slowly transitioning into the rock scene. I personally enjoyed her latest album, Titanic Rising. I would describe Titanic Rising as more of “soft rock” than rock. Throughout the album, Weyes Blood’s vocals carry each track, complimented by notes of acoustic and electric guitars, as well as various keyboard sounds. The album feels timeless, as if it could be from any decade in the last 60 years. I think this is one thing that really makes Mering’s music attractive–she somehow sounds like someone right out of the 70s, yet still manages to have notes of modern production in her music.
Recommended song: “Andromeda”
Although Denzel Curry is not a new artist by any means, and frankly I do not know how it has taken me so long to give him a good listen. During quarantine he has become one of my favorite hip hop artists, and just a favorite artist of mine in general. If you have not already given him a listen, I highly recommend all of his discography. I’ve found myself listening to his latest piece, UNLOCKED on repeat. The EP is full with tons of sampling, heavy drum beats, and Curry’s vocals. The mix of sampling and the wide-ranging effects that have been put on Curry’s voice make every song a total adventure. It really feels like there is a musical story in each song, and Curry and various people in the sampled tracks are “characters” in such stories. I think it is a truly overlooked piece from this year, and has become one of my favorites.
Recommended song: “‘Cosmic’.m4a”