While Nicki Minaj and Adele are great, sometimes it’s nice to branch out from Top 40 hits. That doesn’t mean you have to listen to music you hate, though! We’ve pooled together some of our favorite under-the-radar pop and alternative artists, so give them a listen—this could be the making of a whole new playlist!
Marina and the Diamonds
Despite the misleading name, this act is a one-woman show: the name is a play on singer Marina Diamandis’s name. Diamandis’s pop beats are infectious, and her lyrics are full of Lily Allen-esque zingers. She’s been featured in Nylon, Marie Claire and Teen Vogue, and she also did a style series for Vogue UK. For an introduction to Diamandis’s music, start with “Oh, No!”—it’s fun and poignant, and the video is full of bright colors and Batman-inspired pop-up exclamations. Her first album, The Family Jewels, is currently available on iTunes, and her second album will be released in the U.S. later this year.
You may have heard Passion Pit’s first single, “I’ve Got Your Number,”when the band debuted its first EP back in 2007, and dismissed it as generic techno. But if you heard their song “Moth’s Wings” in the “Gossip Girl” season three premiere, you’ll know they can produce pop beats too. Their second album, Manners, develops the beats and lyrics they created with their first EP, and they’ve blown up on the electro-pop scene, playing packed shows and landing spots on various soundtracks. What was started as a gift from lead singer Michael Angelakos to his girlfriend has become an international pop sensation. A good introduction to Passion Pit is “Make Light” because it’s upbeat and fun. Once you’ve heard some of their more beat-driven stuff, you’ll have deeper cuts like “Seaweed Song” on repeat for weeks.
Matt and Kim
This duo isn’t totally obscure, but they produce ridiculously awesome albums. They turn traditional gender roles upside down, with Kim Schifino on drums and Matt Johnson on the main vocals and the keyboard. Matt and Kim are sort of a pop-inclined alternative band – their lyrics are snappy and the chords will be stuck in your head for hours, but in a good way. If you’ve heard any of their songs (and not realized it was them), it was probably either “Daylight” or “Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare” off of their second album, Grand. Last November, they released their third album, Sidewalks, which is arguably their best album yet. The sound is more refined than Grand, so if you don’t know these two songs, “Block after Block” and “AM/FM Sound” are great places to start, because they’re memorable without being overwhelming.