The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Finding new music and artists to listen to has never been easier thanks to the internet. New songs and bands are shared across platforms such as TikTok, older music is being reintroduced to our generation as vintage and retro styles have become aesthetics, and new and up-and-coming artists have been able to rise in the charts through the viral sharing and streaming of their songs.
Despite this, I somehow still feel that it is all too easy to stick with the artists you know and never expand or reach outside of the musical box. Spotify and other music streaming services create playlists based on artists that you frequently listen to or songs that you like and engage with, and in this way, it can be too tempting to stay trapped in a musical bubble. So, while there is nothing wrong with listening to your favorite artists, here are five singers and bands to spice up your next playlist.
I discovered Leon Bridges’ music last year and I immediately loved it as it incorporated a vintage sound and nostalgic lyricism with groovy beats and gentle instrumentals to create something that feels old but with a modern edge—like a faded photograph in a new frame. Bridges, a Texas native, rose to popularity with his 2015 debut album, Coming Home, featuring a single under the same name and “River,” among many others. His musical style (reminiscent of 1960s soul music) helps to create a unique edge to his sound, and his single “Coming Home” (released through Columbia Records in February of 2015) eventually rose to become a Top 10 Most Viral Track on Spotify for that month.
Musical critics liken his sound to that of soul legends Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, and his vintage style creates a memorable atmosphere (you can almost smell the smoke and patchouli). For a 70s inspired sound, his work with Texas band Khruangbin on “Texas Sun” is an homage to the road trip, heat-wave rhythms of Fleetwood Mac and the Allman Brothers. If you are looking for something R&B that feels nostalgic yet new, I would highly suggest checking out his music.
I also discovered this band last year and I really enjoyed the indie pop-rock sound and 80s inspired aesthetic. The band is led by Michelle Zauner, a Korean American musician and author (she just released her first book, Crying in H Mart, in April 2021). While the band (consisting of members Michelle Zauner, Peter Bradley, Craig Hendrix and Deven Craige) have been making music since 2016, their third album, Jubilee, has helped them break into the mainstream music scene. The first released single from the album, “Be Sweet,” is the song that I first heard from them, and I liked the energetic, 80s experimental pop vibe. If you are in the mood for something fun and indie, I would highly suggest checking out their music.
I had concert tickets to see the Avett Brothers on their summer 2021 tour, however it was cancelled because of the pandemic. So, while that was a bummer, I am hopeful that I will get to see them in the future. I discovered the Avett Brothers when I was in high school, and they immediately became one of my favorite groups. Their folk-rock sound encapsulates some of my favorite styles in music, and their North Carolina country twang adds a raw musical element to their overall sound. Comprised of brothers Seth and Scott Avett, Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon, their sound has evolved throughout the years while remaining distinctive and authentic.
Writing their own music, they often incorporate beautiful and poignant lyricism about loss, divorce, fatherhood, life and happiness. Since 2000 they have released seventeen albums, and many of their songs have made it to the Billboard charts and have been nominated for several Grammy Awards. Some of my favorite songs include the beautifully simple love song “I Wish I Was,” the tragically comforting “No Hard Feelings,” and the energy-driven “Live and Die.” If you want to hear a band of passionate musicians, singers and songwriters, then look no further than the Avett Brothers.
I first heard of this group at the 2020 Grammy Awards for their performance of the song “Colors,” and I was immediately hooked on the groovy, guitar-heavy beat and psychedelic influences. The band is composed of singer/songwriter Eric Burton and guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada. The band’s success and rise to popularity is a classic tale of the American underdog—Eric Burton had spent years playing and busking for money on the Santa Monica Pier, debuting his songs that would later be nominated for a Grammy. The duo’s retro sound and enthusiasm for music create a unique listening experience—you can really feel the passion and energy that they have put into their music. While their song “Colors” is their most popular (with 118 million views on a live performance on YouTube), they have released many other songs and covers that are worth checking out.
I discovered Sufjan through his songs featured on the movie soundtracks for Little Miss Sunshine and Call Me by Your Name, and I immediately fell in love with the softer vibes and indie sound. He has released nine albums since 2000 and his music has been featured many times at the Grammys. His music experiments with lush instrumentation and often balances ethereal tones with nostalgic rhythms, accents of indie rock and the aesthetic styles of an old cassette stereo. In his work, he often balances themes of love, religion, loss, and the unknown, and these themes often present themselves through avant-garde and realistic interpretations. Some of my favorites include “Mystery of Love,” “Chicago,” “Fourth of July” and “Futile Devices.” If you are in the mood for something with softer vibes, I would highly recommend these songs and checking out his other albums.
In the end …
It can be hard to get into new music (I find myself constantly sticking to the same few playlists), but I think that it is important that we explore and experiment with new musical styles and artists as we have the tremendous opportunity to do so in this digital age. I hope that you give some of these songs a listen and that you can find some of your new favorites. Once you step outside of the musical box, there is a beautiful world of music to explore!