Whether you’re regularly called “pretentious” by your friends for your preference of underground movies and lavender coffee, or you’re just in the mood for new music, I’ve assembled this list of musicians from a wide variety of genres that you need in your library.
Listening to Anju is like sitting very still in a creek, watching water trickle over your shins and the shadows of leaves play on your arms. Her voice and instrumentals are relentlessly soft yet strong as she croons about love, healing and her South Asian roots.
RECS: “Cassiopeia,” “Garden Prayer,” “Fill Into Me”
BbyMutha is proud to be a black mother in rap, and these important facets of her identity shine through her music. Her songs are outlets for unapologetic self-expression as well as tools for empowerment for the larger communities she belongs to.
RECS: “Roses,” “Religion,” “R.I.P.”
Cam the Artisan
What initially drew me to this Atlanta-based hip-hop artist were his raw, utterly honest songs about depression. However, Cam the Artisan’s smooth beats also carry over into his more upbeat songs about relationships and life experiences.
RECS: “Bliss,” “WYA?,” “SadderDays”
I had the opportunity to hear Clarence James live last August, and his voice was just as refreshing then as it is now streamed. He plays and sings with reckless ease, with bass notes that reverberate inside your chest and get your head nodding along unconsciously.
RECS: “Ronson Princess,” “I Think It Might Be Hell,” “Losin’ You”
KAYE is a powerhouse of a pop vocalist whose dance-worthy songs challenge societal expectations for women, prioritize self-love over romance and encourage women to derive power from their sexuality.
RECS: “Closer Than This,” “Porcelain,” “Carry You”
Kitten has gone through several band member changes in the decade that they’ve been a band, giving them an incredibly unique sound influenced heavily by both pop and rock genres. Their bassist, Blu DeTiger — who is currently touring with pop musician Caroline Polachek — produces electrifying electronic dance music on the side.
RECS: “Cathedral,” “Memphis,” “Devotion,” “Apples and Cigarettes”
Hopeless romantics, look no further: Luna Luna’s ethereal love ballads will transport you back to the ’80s, where you and your lover sway in each other’s arms under pink-tinted lights. The Texas-based band also works closely with Pretty Boy Aaron, a dreamy R&B singer/rapper.
RECS: “Fro,” “Daydream,” “Commitment”
If you need a break from this fast-paced world, give blues musician Nai Palm a listen. Her slow, full voice, prominent guitar plucking and heavily nature-inspired lyrics will transcend you beyond the stressful present to an otherworldly forest realm.
RECS: “Atoll,” “Haiku,” “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)”
Orville Peck is reworking contemporary topics into traditional-sounding country music with his deep, soulful voice. The many songs in which he pines after another cowboy will have you yearning for your own wild West romance.
RECS: “Roses Are Falling,” “Turn to Hate,” “Dead of Night”
Ray Gifted Keys
“Gifted” refers not only to Ray Gifted Keys’s silky vocal abilities, but also her extensive piano-playing and poetry-writing history. Her lyrics are sensual and confident, leaving listeners both helplessly charmed and exhilarated at once.
RECS: “Girls Need Love 2,” “Nani,” “Lil Youngin’”
Beyond these incredible names, there are so many talented, under-recognized artists in the music world right now. Deviating from the mainstream might be uncomfortable at first, but doing so will ultimately enrich your listening experience. Challenge yourself by listening to something or someone new every week—you might just fall in love!