An ever-evolving list of my top five musical artists within genres of music I frequently listen to. I’ve added one statement per artist as my justification for them making the list. Feel free to comment, make suggestions, or call me out. Obviously, these choices are filtered by my age and life experiences and, as a result, are definitely slanted towards my center, as opposed to trying to represent a more all-encompassing or rationally justified view, like general popularity, albums sold, etc… Note, I haven’t really put things in any order of importance or rank here, it’s just a free-flowing list…
- Idles – Click this link and watch them. If that’s not the best thing you’ve ever seen then skip to the next genre.
- Fugazzi – Unwavering energy, attitude and just one of the best walls of sound ever.
- Sonic Youth – This one is an acquired taste and requires a deeper exploration of their catalog to get it.
- Clash – These guys were Green Day before the Green Day boys were alive 🙂
- PJ Harvey – Something about the vocal feocity coming out of such a tiny body just inspires me.
- Gillian Welsch – The most beautiful songwriting, guitar playing, voice and presence I’ve ever seen in this genre.
- Bob Dylan – Can’t be denied. A poet and entertainment God.
- JJ Cale – He’s been ripped off by so many other artists (e.g. Clapton) in so many ways and you don’t even realize it.
- Lucinda Williams – Love her voice, songwriting and the way she bares her soul in the songs she writes.
- Bruce Springsteen – Just too many great lyrical achievements and cultural relevancy to deny.
- Marc Rebillet – This dude is a crazy fiend. You must see him live to understand the magnitude.
- Thievery Corporation – I’m in a trance just saying their name.
- Chet Faker – Another great live creator of beats, vocal coolness, and hypnotics.
- Zero 7 – Great voice, great vibe. Sooths my soul
- Daft Punk – Great entertainment and eclectic mix of eveloving electronic music.
- Vulfpeck – This band is gettin all the youngsters back into funk!
- The Meters – Just listen to this clip and tell me if you think I should take them off the list 🙂
- Parliment – I will never be able to shake that feeling of listenting to “Flashlight” over and over in 1977
- Sly & The Family Stone – In many ways helped popularize and solidify the category. Deep catalog.
- Scary Pockets – Taking non-funk covers and making them funky better than anyone!
- Elton John (Early Work) – Arguably one of the most prolific musical artist of our lifetime. I really like is earliest stuff, it’s just so musicaly rock solid.
- Ben Folds – Love his ferocity.
- Rufus Wainright – Increibly intricate and delicate songwriting and composition. It’s about the words and chord progressions. Not for everyone.
- Regina Spektor – Mega quirky and entertaining to me on many levels.
- Tori Amos – Always liked her creative approach and voice.
Don’t Know How to Categorize:
- Yola – An undeniable musical force is within her.
- Teddy Swims – All over the map, but a sweet voice and interesting personality
- Khruangbin – Just so interesting to listen to, and look at.
- Vampire Weekend – I like how they can cover just about anyone from the Grateful Dead to Bruce Springsteen and make it sound new and unique, while writing their own stuff as well.
- Tom Waits – I just want to hang out and play harmonica or something with him down by the river as we down some beer and scotch!
- Aretha Franklin – Truly the Queen. From the begining to current.
- Al Green – A holy presence, with the most soulful of voices.
- Stevie Wonder – You are the sunshine of my life!
- Erykah Badhu – Love you super freak!
- James Brown – The whole package. The definition of entertainment
- Linda Ronstadt – No boundaries and a voice that can cure sickness.
- Norah Jones – A vocal timbre like no one else. So soothing even if you don’t like her music.
- Billie Holiday – I could listen all night.
- Marvin Gaye – Haven’t heard anything like him since he’s left us.
- Ella Fitzgerald – The definitieve jazz voice of all time.
- John Coltrane – So smooth. Nothing better to listen to while cooking a big meal 🙂
- Thelonius Monk – Oh man, the chord phrasing and transitions, interesting, captivating and never dull.
- Chick Korea – Mega talented and wide ranging, deep catalog of jazz projects.
- Herbie Hancock – Decades of relevancy and evolution in jazz. Never standing still.
- The Bad Plus – What really sold me on this band was their “For All I Care” Album. Check it out.
- Ryan Adams – A prolific songwriter, with an incredibly high rate of producing great songs. I really like his voice too.
- Elliot Smith – Gone way too soon, but from the start, I really liked the depth of his lyrics and voice.
- Carole King – One of the best pop songwriters ever.
- Elvis Costello – The voice, the music, the attitude, the look. All good.
- Jack White – Another prolific songwriter, keeping it simple, raw, and always fresh.
- Patsy Kline – I fall to pieces.
- Hank Williams Sr – I think he owns the best list of country songs ever written
- Hank Williams Jr – You might say he benefits from his Dad’s name, but I would argue he’s his own and is the real deal of country music, at least the stuff I like.
- George Jones – Love listenting to his voice and lyrics.
- Johnny Cash – Probably mor Americana than country. But I’ll put him here and firmly say he desreves to be near the top of one of these lists.
Glam or Art Rock:
- T-Rex – Mark Bolen is a genius that left us too soon.
- Roxy Music – Just love Brian Ferry’s voice and phrasing through the Roxy Music melodies.
- David Bowie – Bitch, we’re talking David Bowie!
- Queen – Long Live Queen. RIP Freddy!
- New York Dolls – Nice and Raw!
80’s & 90’s Rock:
- Talking Heads – David Byrn is a genius, throw in Brian Eno and things just got crazy! One of a kind.
- The Police – Love their early stuff rooted in ska rythms and Sting’s voice.
- B-52’s – It’s pretty damn hard to have more fun than with this band. Those girls have great voices too!
- Cake – I guess this is Rock or Pop music, it’s hard for me to categorize. Anyway, they’re probably my favorite 90’s band and I just love the funky bass lines and lyrics.
- The Cure – May not be on everyone’s list, but this band really defined an era for me in my life.
- James Gang – Joe Walsh is just the man of this era.
- Led Zepplin – An undeniable force and line-up of talent across the board. The definition of late 70’s rock.
- Chicago – Just love the horn section too much to deny them a spot here.
- Heart – Holy crap, their voices!
- Credance Clearwater – So many great songs and a voice that hits you to the core.
- Bob Marley – Simply the name and face of reggae. A spirit for generations to follow.
- Peter Tosh – Legalize it!
- Toots and the Maytals – Best Reggae music to sing along too, hands down.
- Augustus Pablo – Simply the best of reggae roots and beats!
- Shabba Ranks – Love his voice and dancehall vibe.
- Muddy Waters – Man his voice and style is just so smooth!
- Howlin Wolf – Another great voice that has defined the genre.
- Leadbelly – Very interesting, very dark, very much the roots of blues music
- BB King – Sweetest guitar licks and great voice.
- Susan Tedeschi – Current. Amazing voice, presence, and a damn good guitar player. I sense that she is genuine and channeling the late, great ones.
- Flaco Jimenez – I am sucker for that accordian!
- Ibrahim Ferrer – Just makes me want to dance.
- Nelson Cavaquinho – Beautiful and genuine stuff.
- Fruko Y Su Tesos – Nothing says it’s Salsa time like this.
- Los Lobos – Inspriring group that’s beautifully melted two cultures into one with their music.
- Beatles – OK, lame pick I know, but, really, can you deny them a spot?
- Metallica – See them live before you second guess my pick
- Radiohead – I love this band and Thom Yorke in particular. They have artfully pushed Rock music forward when there didn’t really seem to be a path.
- Rush – Oh my God, the musicality of this band. Geddy’s voice, the guitar licks, and Neil’s lyrics were just so mind-blowing to me as a young kid.
- AC/DC – Gotta be one of the most electrifying live rock shows ever. I especially like the Bon Scott era (RIP Bon).
- Eagles – The multi-part harmonies do it for me. Solid.
- Allman Brothers – Debatable choice, but I’ve always liked them and listened to them almost as I would Jazz, intricate and layered.
- Graham Parson (With Emmylou) – Not for everyone, but I feel this music inspired so many others to follow. Like the songwrtitng and harmonies.
- Lynrd Skynrd – Three guitars. Very real. Boogie woogie good times.
- Avett Brothers – Modern stuff that navigates, bluegrass and country rock. Love their voices together.
- The Beat – RIP Roger. Let’s dance!
- The Specials – Unique convergence of reggae, ska, and punk.
- Sublime – Not only kept the genre relevant, but pushed it forward. RIP Bradley.
- Fishbone – Another band that you need to see live to appreciate.
- No Doubt – Without Gwen there’s no way. But her energy and voice push them into the list.
- Weezer – Oh come on, you know you like it!
- Gaga – The outfits, the piano playing, the voice, and the depth. Legitimate.
- Adele – Obviously an amazing voice and phrasing, but I love her personality too.
- Bruno Mars – He’s taken over where James Brown left off. The dude is more talented than you know.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – You might say this is Rock musc, but they just keep evolving and remaning relevent. This clip with James Corden will make you love them.
Hip-Hop/Rap: I don’t really spend much time listening to this genre, it all seems so over-produced to me. But, trying to stay open-minded, and I do like small doses from:
- Kendrick Lamar – Love the beats and his lyrics and delivery.
- Vince Staples – Some soulful stuff. Lyrics and delivery are tight.
- Dojo Cat – Guilty pleasure. Sorry.
- Eminem – Infectious attitude and energy from his lyrics will always fuel you.
- Dr Dre – When I think of this genre, Dr Dre playing in my head; I’m also hearing Snoop in the background 🙂
- I don’t really spend much time listening to this genre.