Back in 2018, I did a fun little column about five songs you’d probably never heard – including Montreal bluegrass, Canadian indie rock and rock cello. Now I’m circling back with a sequel and some more little-heard gems that you should give a shot.
But first, why Spotify? Bandcamp gives more to artists, and Spotify’s issues are well-chronicled. That’s very true, and I will also be making a sequel to this for Bandcamp artists! But one of the things I’ve found with Spotify is that people often put up their music and completely forget about it. So there’s bizarre and unexpected stuff on Spotify lurking in the shadows that may never get popular, forgotten and wasting away.
- Touch The Ceiling by The Smelling Fresh
This one actually has quite a lovely little story around it. I wandered across this through a gadget I’ve forgotten about – one that pulls up songs from Spotify that have never been listened to – and was startled by how good it was. Touch The Ceiling is a sweet, grungey love song full of hope for the future and youthful passion, somewhere between Blink-182 and Sum 41, and a chorus that is catchy. Nor are the other songs on the album any less excellent; Grounded Skies, Daydreamer, Running, etc. are all clearly from young but incredibly talented songwriters. Which is why I was very sad to find out that they haven’t produced any more music – especially with that guitar playing!
I proceeded to find both of them on LinkedIn and tell them how good the album was and that they should make more music. Because I am a very normal person and look, apparently nobody ever told them it was good.
Anyway, if you need some pop-punk/grunge to get stuck in your head, I can’t recommend The Smelling Fresh enough. One, because they’re good. Two, because if they start getting an actual consistent number of streams, then they’ll HAVE to pay attention to me telling them they have good music. Ha. (I swear I am mostly joking.)
2. Fakes by Porcelain Black
While Porcelain Black is much more listened to than The Smelling Fresh, they’re also in a deeply unfortunate position – in that, no, they are not the industrial-pop artist previously known as Porcelain and the Tramps. In fact, they were called Porcelain Black long before she changed her name to that, and it’s impossible to find sources on their work that don’t include a good amount of name-calling from Tramps fans about how they “suck” in comparison. (As someone who also likes Porcelain Black/Porcelain and the Tramps, this is pretty upsetting, not going to lie.)
Nevertheless, the double-name problem is exactly how I ran across their work, and I’m glad I did! Porcelain Black’s work is hard-edged industrial/goth with a bone to pick, and my one regret is that there’s currently no source on the lyrics. “The fakes the liars and killers of truths, the fakes, the fuckers and the breeders of lies” is one couplet I do know, and it is great.
3. LET’S GO CRAZY by the one and only PPL MVR
I’m not usually into the gimmick masked bands, but I’ll be honest – PPL MVR is fun. They’re loud and obnoxious in a way I really enjoy, especially on this track (I haven’t checked out others as much yet). In particular, the mixing for this track is bizarrely good, especially if you’re listening in surround sound or with good headphones; I always feel like I’m in the middle of them yelling instead of nodding along to a Performance, and it’s fascinating.
What genre are they? Vaguely arena rock something, don’t ask me these things. I just know they dress up in literal monkey/Sasquatch suits, ride motorcycles and write awesome music. It’s like Insane Clown Posse, but without all the extra baggage that juggalos have.
4. Coloured Glass by The Breathers
Hey, if you’re expecting consistent genre from me, you must have missed the memo. (And the column title.) This is a folk-pop/singer-songwriter piece that reminds me of Sarah McLachlan – the two singers have nice voices, too, if untrained. I just really, really like the lyrics, those I can catch, anyway. It’s a bittersweet song, and I always get sad realizing that a lot of really good music just never gets listened to.
5. Together Again by Joerg Reiter
A bit of an unusual example here in that the song is old, and the artist himself is actually deceased; Joerg Reiter himself was actually quite well recognized in Germany during his lifetime, and the lack of numbers on Spotify and wider recognition in the Anglophone world has more to do with… well…. how many German jazz pianists do you listen to? (Personally, I think we should all make a concerted effort to change that, but also, I am me, and I have a relationship with music that most people find Bizarre.)
This particular song encapsulates a lot of what I love about jazz – the rhythm of it, the sense of atmosphere, and the fact that you get to the end and almost forget that there weren’t any vocals. I’ll be listening to more Reiter, and I think you should too.
6. Pearl by Helen Chadwick
I’d say “this is a weird one”, but I think PPL MVR ruined that phrase for this column. Helen Chadwick writes a cappella songs, and I don’t remember how I ran across this one in particular, but despite being strange, it’s stuck with me. It’s the kind of song that I desperately want to see performed; it’s a recorded classical piece, or at least I would classify it as such, and so it does lose something in the recording process. However, it also reminds me of songs like Adiemus, which is the gold standard for “what can a cappella achieve”, and I just wish it was longer! (I have to sit down and listen to the album as a whole, to be fair; I haven’t had the focus.)
7. Joythoven by Joy Black
If you haven’t noticed before how few prominent Black violinists there are, congratulations, now you can’t unknow that. (Another band is Nuttin’ but Stringz, who are no longer on Spotify, otherwise I’d have them on here!) Joy Black is a young violinist and poet who mostly does self-empowerment meditative music, which is admittedly not my thing. However, this track in particular, despite being short, gets stuck in my head on a regular basis. It’s a wonderful blend of hip-hop and classical violin, taking what was popularized by Lindsey Stirling and “bringing it home” so to speak.
8. Meow Meow by Simon the Magpie
This is a synth-laden, frustrated love song… written to the singer’s cat. It is sung in part in cat language. This is a beautifully weird song that I cannot overstate how much it works and should not. (Fun fact: I want to mash it up with Deerhoof’s Panda Panda. For reasons.)
It’s also such a great reminder that songs can just be fucking weird. Like, sure, you can write another breakup song. Or you can tell off your frustrating cat. In song. Why not? Who’s gonna stop you?
9. Panes by LOOPRAT
LOOPRAT is a jazzrap collective from St. Louis with three emcees, a vocalist and a live band, and I don’t know how that works in practice, but it sure comes out sounding cool. This particular song – I’m not sure how it came across my radar, just that I like listening to it. It’s interesting because I often still find myself saying I “don’t listen to rap”, but honestly, I do! I listen to a lot of rap, and this is an example of what I like in rap; vocals that lean into the rhythmic nature of it and almost provide extra percussion over the instrumentation. Do more bands do jazzrap? I like jazzrap.
10. The Albatross by Dividing the Line
So, you know how a lot of hardcore and metal bands will have that One Soft Song on their album to prove that they can actually sing, and how it’s a hit or miss, every time? Either it’s excellent, or it’s terrible – and the ways in which those songs are either excellent or terrible are fascinating. Sometimes, at least in my opinion, they’re good in ways that people can’t really classify. I can’t compare notes with anybody on Dividing The Line since I don’t know a single other listener, but I think The Albatross probably inspires that reaction in people. It’s not quite a soft song; it gets hardcore at places, and it’s got screamed/guttural vocals later, but it’s still a gentler song with a wistfulness to it. I don’t have any lyrics for this song, but one has to assume that it’s a reference to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (particularly with that album cover) and it’s always struck me as bittersweet.
Perhaps that’s just me. But I really like the song, enough to keep it with me since 2009 when it originally released. (I did not originally have it on Spotify – imagine my joy when I found it languishing away on there.)
So there you go – ten new songs you may not have found on your own! Keep your eyes peeled for some hidden gems from Youtube, Bandcamp and others.
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