Discovering a great new band is one of the best feelings in the world, isn’t it? OK, maybe you guys don’t share my enthusiasm but I thought I would write an article with some of my favourite sources to find good tunes, since I get asked this question on a semi-regular basis.
Sometimes, trying to make musical discoveries on the Internet is not an easy task. There are so many websites that cover the subject, from niche sites to music magazines. Here are some great places to start:
1) NPR: First listen
For those not from the USA, NPR stands for National Public Radio. NPR has some great programs that are worth listening to including, but not limited to, great musical content. There are many podcasts available on the website but one of my favourite things to check out is the First Listen page, which features exclusive full-length previews of new albums by a wide variety of artists. As I publish this article, we can listen to new music by Ty Segall, Japandroids and Tift Merritt, among others.
Also stay posted to the NPR website or Facebook page for the yearly playlist that is released for SXSW. You get to download 100 songs by artists playing at the festival and the choices are consistently good (I keep at least 2/3 of the songs and have discovered great artists through this list). This is the 2016 Austin 100 list if you’d like to check it out.
* By the way, the new US administration is threatening to cut government funding for public radios, which is a terrible shame because the programming is extremely rich, promoting all forms of culture and political discourse. I know that this isn’t my country but I will still be sending money to chip in.
2) NPR: Tiny desk concerts
Bob Boilen’s tiny desk in the NPR offices has been turned into a stage for some of the best artists currently in the music scene, from Adele to Ana Tijoux, John Legend to Edwarde Sharpe and the magnetic zeros. These intimate concerts are fun, compelling and make for a great environment where the musicians’ talents truly shine. Plus, the sound quality is excellent, which is great considering that these are live performances. New videos are released most weeks.
Here are 6 of my favourite performances ever on Tiny Desk:
3) Sounds and colours
This online magazine focuses on south-american culture, with a lot of articles focusing on music. You will learn more about music of the past and the present in countries like Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru. There’s something for everyone here, from jazz to electronic music.
4) Ici musique
This Montreal music station is great in and of itself, with a focus on “world” music and chanson francophone. The website is chock-full of playlists, podcasts and exclusive first listens. Current albums include Alejandra Ribera, Kid Koala, Tony Bennett, Dear Criminals, La Femme, Benjamin Biolay and many, many more.
5) KEXP song of the day podcast
This great, great radio station has been a true blessing in these troubled times. From the friendly, knowledgeable hosts to the incredible playlists, this has become my go-to radio station during the daytime. They have a “song of the day” podcast which is worth checking out.
6) KEXP El sonido
During the daytime, KEXP playlists feature a mix of funk, alternative, folk, new wave, punk and hip hop. However, in the evening and on weekends, other genre-specific shows fill the programming. My favourite is El Sonido, which focuses on Latin music and culture. They have great live sessions.
7) Radio Nova
Radio Nova is one of the best french radio stations, with a solid playlist and interesting shows that mix humor, philosophy and good tunes. One of my faves is NEO GEO, which plays is a musical trip around the world. They often concentrate on the sounds of one country and will visit different events and festivals to cover artists that are playing there.
I also love a show called Dans les oreilles de… Each week they invite an artist to prepare a playlist which includes the songs that have held most meaning to them in their lifetime. It’s a great way to learn more about your favourite artists and to find out about great music. The episodes with Richard Bona, Dom La Nena, Tony Allen, Céu, José Gonzalez and Virginie Despentes are particularly good.
8) Huw Stephens
Huw Stephens’ weekly BBC radio 1 show lasts more than 3 hours and throughout the duration of the show, we get to hear a wide variety of songs, including, but not limited to, many british bands. The show doesn’t focus on one genre, meaning that one episode can move from straight-up pop to dark electronic sounds. This show also has high-quality live sessions and guests.
9) Poulet Neige :
Christmas is all about gifts, family time and Poulet Neige! This generous organization lets you choose between dozens of albums which you can download for free (you can get them all if you wish to do so). At the beginning of december, you get a message saying that you can visit the website to prepare your christmas list. You can listen to samples of the songs to choose things that you know you will like. Once you are done, you send in the list (along with a donation, if you wish to do so) and you wait until they send you a message saying that the albums are ready for download (on december 25th, Merry Christmas!).
Albums that are chosen to be a part of the list are consistently good, as the selection process is taken very seriously by Poulet Neige (which, by the way, means Chicken Snow). In the past, artists such as DJ Champion, Valaire and Yann Perrau have made their albums available for download through these means. The list mostly focuses on local Quebec artists, but there are also bands from other parts of the world.
Sign up to be notified for next year!
10) Gilles Peterson Worldwide
Gilles Peterson is one of the most important radio DJs in recent history. Originally from Switzerland, he has made a name all over the world. Though he does seem to call London home, he often travels to different areas to dig for new sounds. In the last few years, he focused quite a bit on Cuban music, releasing two discs with various artists, as well as remix albums.
Listen to his weekly show, Gilles Peterson Worldwide,which is syndicated on stations allover the world and is available on the Internet. From acid jazz to funk, afro beat to salsa, I guarantee that unless you are a record collector, you’ll be hearing many of these songs for the first time. I swear, this guy must spend nearly every waking moment searching for new music and stuffing it into his brain to remember it for sets and radio shows.
There you go! I hope you enjoy these suggestions and get to know loads of new bands to add to your collection. I actually have a few more sources but alas, a girl has to keep a few secrets to stay ahead of the curb 😉