Free time seems to come in heaps these days, and I know I’ve been spending a lot of that time listening to music. I’m used to having just a few minutes a day to listen to a favorite album of mine, or just a quick song when I need a pick me up, but now I’ve got all the time in the world to listen to music!
However, this presents its own challenges. There’s only so many times I can listen to my favorite songs on repeat. At some point, we all hit a dead end when we listen to music. Sometimes you’ve heard that one song or album too many times and you just can’t find anything else that lights you up. You’re bored of what you have. But that’s ok! There is so much music out there waiting to be discovered. This article details a few ways in which you can broaden your musical horizons and find something that you love.
There are two main places to look on Spotify for new music. If you’re looking for new bands that have a similar style to the music you currently listen to, “Discover Weekly” is your partner in crime. This playlist includes thirty new songs each week from artists you may have never heard of, or big names you never bothered to check out.
As you go through your Discover Weekly, I recommend giving feedback on songs that strike you (heart the songs you love, click the circle with a line through it for songs that bug you), as it will help their algorithm fine tune what you are interested in.
If instead you are looking for music that’s completely different from your regular taste, I would recommend searching Spotify for a specific “vibe.” They have playlists for every moment, from “Femme Fatale” to “Happy Acoustic.” It will have a range of genres and artists, so you may stumble across something totally new that strikes your fancy! Remember, the perfect band may not pop up right away. Nevertheless, persist; it’s worth it.
Though this isn’t the most COVID-friendly option, when we return to normalcy getting a recommendation from someone you trust is always a good idea. If you have that friend who is an absolute geek about music and could talk about it for hours, let them! Or, an even better option is to go to a record shop (the one in Manayunk is a nice local option) and ask someone working there for music recommendations. They are the experts, after all.
This is my favorite place to find new music. The passion and precision with which people are able to write about the songs they hear is remarkable! And, it can also help filter out the songs you may not enjoy just by reading the description. If “80s pop punk” doesn’t sound like something you would like, you can just click away. I’ve had much trial and error over my years of music blogging, but I’ve settled on the following five. I’ve arranged them from “least indie” to “most indie” for your convenience:
This blog does not call themselves “the most trusted voices in music” for nothing. Established in 1995 as a small music magazine, they have since become one of the world’s largest, with their own radio show and podcast. They also organize three music festivals in Chicago, Paris and Berlin. They tend to stick with the mainstream, wandering a bit off the beaten path to write about up and comers in the industry. Here you can find exclusives and recommendations on today’s hottest artists. They also have updates about which festivals are cancelled because of COVID-19, so double check there before you make any summer plans.
Atwood is what I would consider the best crossover between indie and mainstream. They have a great mix of both, and through “Best of the Decade” album charts and “Weekly Roundup” Spotify playlists, it is super easy and efficient for you to discover music! They quote themselves as “Celebrators of Creativity” and I always manage to find something that will entertain me and brighten my day. They also have exclusive interviews with many of the artists they write about, so if you become interested in a particular artist, it’s easier to dive deeper.
-Line of Best Fit
My favorite thing about this blog is that it covers musicians from all ages. Most blogs like to focus on new music, but when an older legend puts out something new and different, Line of Best Fit is the first to let you know. This blog is almost exclusively indie, with some more popular coverage, but it has a really good mix of genres, and it covers artists from all over the world. You’re likely to find something from a far off and magical studio if you peruse this blog.
-The Most Radicalist
I am especially attached to this one because it was the first indie blog that I followed religiously, and I still count on it today to give me some new hits. This blog is based in the UK and focuses almost exclusively on English artists. It is easy to navigate and practically bombards you with recommendations on the home page. The soundcloud and youtube clips are embedded in the website, so you don’t even have to go anywhere else to listen. This blog is exclusively modern indie, though some of the British artists have gotten bigger. They’re also pretty good at guessing who is going to be a big hit. So if you’re looking to say to your friends, “I listened to ____ before they were cool” this is an excellent spot for you.
-Various Small Flames
This blog is just a joy to look at. Beautifully designed and run by two brothers from the UK (one is a writer and PhD candidate, one works at a museum), this is definitely the most indie/underground of any of the blogs that I’ve seen. Not only does it have music recommendations, it also has book recommendations and mixtapes for each month! There is a larger emphasis on British artists, but this blog also includes artists from all over.
To finish it off, I thought I might provide you with recommendations to get started! There really is no time like the present to start broadening your horizons, so why not start with these? Find these on the Spotify pages of each album, or if you are not a Spotify listener look it up on Youtube or your preferred streaming platform.
The Bridge School Concerts Vol. 1 by Various Artists
This is the album of my childhood, and it has a wonderful story behind it. Some of Neil Young’s children suffered from intellectual disabilities, and they attended a school called The Bridge School in Hillsborough, California, which focused on teaching those with intellectual and physical disabilities through creative projects and family involvement. His children were very happy at the school, and in order to thank them, he organized a fundraising concert. The album includes some of the greatest names in rock from the 70s, 80s and 90s. After the first one was such a success, Young continued organizing it for many years. This first album features greats such as Patti Smith, David Bowie, Simon & Garfunkel, and Elvis Costello.
Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae
This album is such a fun, dancy and genre melding piece! Drawing heavily from rap, pop and the influences of Prince (one of Monae’s most trusted mentors), this album is sure to brighten your day. However, not only is it a wonderful pop piece, but it also has incredible social commentary, especially in the realm of femininity and modern racial bias. This album is bright, insightful, and great for almost any listener.
SATURATION II by BROCKHAMPTON
I thought that this album would align well with the genre preferences of many Harriton students while also being providing thoughtful social commentary. BROCKHAMPTON is a thirteen person rap group (they call themselves a “boy band”, hoping to redefine the term) that has written and produced, among other things, the SATURATION trilogy. I chose the second one because I think it has the broadest appeal stylistically. This is a very thoughtfully written album and I love that you can hear the voices of each person throughout the album.
Stay safe and happy listening!