Once you’ve found your music comfort zone, in terms of artists and albums you listen too, it becomes quite difficult to venture out and discover something new and something completely different to what you normally listen too. Sometimes you need to take the plunge and look into artists that you would normally just brush over, they come from a variety of different genres such as Country, R&B and Rock, but all have similarities - including that of great songwriting and capabilities as storytellers, both of which contemporary pop seems to have forgotten.
The Shires - Country music in the UK has a history of being boring and dull, however this trend is finally changing. The leaders of this change have to be The Shires, the duo who only formed in 2013, have changed the way country in the UK is perceived. With two top 10 albums (on the pop charts) to their name, the Shires have transformed the way UK listeners see country and sound Nashville-bound on both of them albums (so far). This can be put down to the fact they’re the first UK act to be signed to a Nashville label and for The Shires, the sky truly is the limit.
Track you need to listen too : State Lines
Lord Huron - If you’ve been watching ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ on Netflix you would have heard one of Lord Huron’s songs, ‘The Night We Met’, but there catalogue goes far beyond this. With two albums, ‘Lonesome Dreams’ and ‘Strange Trails’, they have made indie rock emotive and really relatable. As well as this the band have created LPs that are great listens from start to finish and at the end of the day, thats what we all really want from a band isn’t it ?
Track you need to listen too : The Night We Met
Rag ‘N’ Bone Man - In the UK, Rag ‘N’ Bone man seemed to appear out of nowhere, but it is easy to understand why he has become such a success. With a bellowing bluesy voice and a killer sound Rag ‘N’ Bone man has a distinctive sound which when paired with a good song become a combination that stands out from the rest. Even though his debut album as a whole wasn’t what many had hoped for, you can be sure that Rag ‘N’ Bone Man will be round for years to come.
Track you need to listen too : Human
Leon Bridges - Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke - all three are timeless Rhythm and Blues artists but sadly it has felt as if there sound is left in the past, left in the 1960s. However Leon Bridges rejuvenates that old-school R&B sounds and brings it into the 21st century. With his debut album, Comin’ Home’ Bridges creates a sound that is so rare but also so beautiful. The albums comes from the soul and that is what music should be about, even though he has only one album at the moment - Bridges is sure to be able to emulate that sound (and success) onto many albums in the future.
Track you need to listen too : River
Chris Stapleton - What Leon Bridges has done for R&B, is what Chris Stapleton has done and continues to do for Country Music. The Kentucky native has brought back the sound of yesteryear blending Country with Southern Rock to create ‘Traveller’ which is by far one of the standout country albums for many years and has countered the bro-country movement perfect. Accompanied by his wife, Morgane, on backing vocals, Chris has created a country sound to cherish and admire which I can listen too time and time again. I cannot wait for his second album… which will hopefully be released this year.
Track you need to listen too : Fire Away
Jenny Lewis - Every now and again you get that perfect blend of genres, this is seen with Jenny Lewis who blends alternative music with country, and in the process creates something really great. Even though she has had three albums out (as a solo artist) I don’t tire of her sound. With truly country lyrics and an alternative sound, Jenny creates something just short of masterpieces, especially songs such as ‘Just One Of The Guys’ and ‘Acid Tongue’.
Track you need to listen too : Just One Of The Guys
Michael Kiwanuka - Personally I didn’t like Kiwanuka’s debut album ‘Home Again’, I just wasn’t a fan of the sound. However this has changed since he released the follow-up last year, ‘Love and Hate’. My love for his sound re-emerged after ‘Cold Little Heart’ became the theme tune to ‘Big Little Lies’ and has seen his work achieve even more praise than it did before. He is a soulful artist and his second album is a really good piece of music. Well worth a listen.
Track you need to listen too : Cold Little Heart
James Bay - If you want a blend of radio-friendly blues rock, Americana and indie then you need to listen to James Bay. The British artist has only had one album out at the moment but has made a big impact, his song ‘Hold Back the River’ has been a hit, but others from the album such as ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Scars’ make him an artist with depth and the ability to be self-aware, something that is really rare and needs to be appreciated. ‘Chaos and the Calm’, his first album, is a bit hit and miss in places, but when it works it really works.
Track you need to listen too : Let It Go
Kacey Musgraves - This is Country Music at its finest. That is all I can truly say about Kacey Musgraves, a two-time grammy winner, who has brought her retro sound to the forefront of a genre with an identity crisis. What makes Ms. Musgraves so unique is her ability to go from light and airy songs to something very dark and very deep. She also brings a political message with her, see ‘Follow Your Arrow’, but does it in a way that isn’t stuffy and in your face. She is a legend in the making and once you start listening, you won’t want to stop.
Track you need to listen too : Late To The Party
Tobias Jesso Jr. - A singer, a songwriter and a musician is what makes Tobias Jesso Jr. a triple threat. His album ‘Goon’ is filled with piano driven songs that are deep and emotive, rather than bland and boring - which many piano artists can be. Jesso also has the ability to make you feel what he is feeling and avoids making his music pop-friendly, which makes him an even greater artist. Although the album keeps a similar narrative throughout it doesn’t get tiresome and just makes you want even more.