On The Dial: Discovering New Music

How do you discover new music?

The advent of social media has opened up the lid on artists you may have never heard of. No matter the genre, your eyes scan first before you listen. Then, you can dig it or pass on it. 

Once you latched onto a new song or artist, you have to play it in your vehicle.  

That’s the beauty of streaming and smartphone integration. You can use your device as a catalyst to play your newest tracks through your vehicle’s audio system. Depending on your audio system, that new track or artist will get a trial listen through those speakers. The litmus test is whether you can take a drive with that new song or artist and enjoy each mile with it through your speakers.

In the case of two artists, I found them somewhere on social media and the internet. It is exactly how I discovered artists, such as Matthew Good, Sam Fender, Michigander, Stormzy, Nora En Pure, and so forth.

Not everyone is into every genre. You might not have heard these artists before. If you did, you’re awesome. If not, indulge me for a moment. 

Granted, some of these artists already had albums, tracks, and awards elsewhere around the world. They have even scored some success of the charts. You might have heard them on the radio…somewhere. 

So, let’s deep dive here on these artists…shall we?

In Canada, Matthew Good had a long-standing presence in that country’s music scene. The guitarist-songwriter has been around since the 1990s forming a band that seemed to be on the level of iconic Canadian groups, such as Barenaked Ladies, The Tragically Hip, and many others. The Matthew Good Band garnered chart success and accolades until the band’s breakup in 2002.

As a solo artist, Good took his music towards deeper subject matter. That came at the cost of his marriage, addiction, and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Through his 2007 album Hospital Music, that is how I discovered Good and back catalog. From there, I found his stunning his Juno-winning album from 2009, Vancouver, was. It was a very deep exploration into his life. To me, it felt almost like The Police’s Synchronicity sonically and emotionally. 

Since then, Good continued to put some great music. I check out both his back catalog, as well as current tracks. 

From Canada, I skip to North Shields in the Northeast of England.  There, you will find the 27-year-old Sam Fender. The tall, blonde guitarist had been influenced by Bruce Springsteen. Both came from working class communities from rough and tumble societies. Fender got his band together and recorded a song called “Play God” in 2017. That track wound up on the FIFA 19 video game. The next year, he was placed on the BBC’s Sound of 2018 shortlist with other notable new artists, including Lewis Capaldi, Billie Eyelish, and Khalid. That would catapult Fender into recording his first full album, Hypersonic Missiles, in 2019. 

One of the tracks from that album, “The Borders,” is where I found Fender. The cheeky Geordie was able to channel The Boss’ storytelling art using a pop-rock tapestry fuel by a Fender American Pro Jazzmaster in Sonic Gray. Well, there’s two of them – the other played by Dean Thompson. 

Fender dropped a new album this summer, Seventeen Going Under. If you like Fender’s storytelling, he gets personal and deep on this album. He has won his share of Brits and had plenty of chart success in the UK.

Staying in the UK is a Grime Legend (at least over there) named Stormzy. The tall MC has been ripping up the UK charts since the early 2010s. The track that landed him the most notice was “Know Me From,” with a funny video that went along with it. However, Stormzy accelerated his progress in the UK scene with the track “Shut Up.” 

I caught Stormzy when that single landed on his 2017 chart-ripping album Gang Signs and Prayer. “Shut Up” and “Big For Your Boots” anchored a solid album. Both tracks show Stormzy’s lyrical power – a deep, South London voice with some inflections. Despite some controversies that got him in trouble in 2017, Stormzy kept on putting out tracks, albums, and live appearances while collecting his share of Brits and MOBO Awards. 

If you love EDM and DJ-based music, I must turn you on to Nora En Pure. The South African-born Swiss DJ and producer has put out some sonic landscapes that are both melodic and mellow. Her Deep House/Progressive House/Tech House sound is entrancing and warm. 

I kept on listening to her shows on SiriusXM Chill and found her style to be just right when the mood comes around. It was Nora’s track, “Life On Hold,” that finally drew me in. Her video sets from near her home in Switzerland were just as heavenly as her sound. Along with her, I found tracks from Nora Van Elken, Matt Fax, LP Giobbi, Rufus Du Sol, Black Coffee, Adon, Jason Ross, Mahalo, Steand and Andy Kulter…among others… to augment my soundtrack during my drives out into the countryside. 

Which brings me to an artist called Michigander. Lead by Jason Singer, this five piece band offers lots of personal stories from the lead singer/songwriter’s heart. There is an atmospheric tone in these songs, not unlike many alternative acts. Michigander recently released their latest EP, Everything Will Be Ok Eventually

This band caught my eye through Stellantis’ Ram brand and their Ram BandVan campaign featuring new bands that we might want to listen to. I have been listening to two songs from the EP, “Together” and “Better.” These would be songs I would either ignore or cringe over. However, it would be Singer that was the deal maker for my ears – and eyes. Not every lead singer has to be skinny, handsome, and charismatic. In some cases, I like seeing people who somewhat resemble me and my body up there leading the band. If they put out great music, I’ll definitely support them. 

That’s the thing about discovering new music and artists, you’ll never know what will catch your eyes and your ears. Be open to new sounds and aesthetics. Let your audio system free!

All photos by Randy Stern

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