The Song Sommelier Presents: New Kidz On The Rock

Boy Azooga portrait by Mick Clarke

For a few years now, the pop music scene — as represented by the charts and browse pages of the big streaming services — has been dominated by R&B and Hip Hop. I’m not big in those genres personally, so it can be frustrating sometimes to hear so much of it around my ears, on the radio or leaking out from the earbuds of some young millennial (are those original Apple ear buds making a comeback? — there are more of them than I would have expected these days). If the dominance of R&B niggles me, I’m sure it must be tough for young guitar bands these days, as well as the labels and managers that represent them. And perhaps other music fans feel that way as well?

Well, this playlist is something of a fightback for rock! I listen a lot to the UK’s wonderful 6 Music, which can be relied upon not to succumb to any one music trend or another, but carries a flame for rock and indie to a large extent. Some of these tracks were bands I’d read about in the review section of the Guardian — another discovery stalwart for me. And others were served up using Spotify’s ‘Recommended Songs’ feature — the recommendation engine that sits at the bottom of your personal playlists — always eager to suggest and ready to be refreshed. If you persevere with the function it works really well for filling up your playlists more quickly — though my golden rule is I must listen to the songs first and make my own judgement about how good the song fits the playlist.

The tone of this playlist is very pop-rock (i.e. no Deafheavan or heavier stuff like that) and focused on younger bands/solo artists. My hypothesis is that this kind of rock is making something of a comeback. I like the way these bands use guitars too — not showy like the classic rock bands of my formative years, but more like the indie guitar bands of the 90s heyday — jangly chords and simple riffs. Don’t worry, I can catch you up with classic guitar based rock from the archives later…

A few entries here are worth a mention. The Stroppies represent the ‘boom’ (if you can call it that) sub-genre slacker rock emerging from Melbourne, Australia — led in part by Courtney Barnett. Bodega’s ‘Jack In Titanic’ expands the slacker feel too, with a funny lyric that’s worth sending to Jack & Rose fans everywhere. You’ll get a similar vibe from fellow New York band Parquet Courts’ ‘Wide Awake’. The slacker rock revival is a global thing I guess.

In more traditional territory, Harry Styles has surprised and impressed me with a move towards classic rock, and ‘Kiwi’ is one of the rockier tracks from his really good debut (a good Dad-Daughter bonding album). And for another young brit, try the gritty but very modern take on blues-rock with the track Lady by Joe Slater. The 22-year old from Croxteth in Liverpool has released his track through the ‘live-label’ TalentBanq and I have high hopes for this track and for this kid. See, these young dudes are bringing classic guitar music back!

Also among my favourites here is Weathers’s ‘1983’, which is such a nice example of the well-written and constructed pop rock I find rare(r) these days. As the title implies it’s something of a throwback, with a little art-punk appeal, made by a super-young LA band who make their music with beat-up vintage gear. I hope to hear much more from Weathers and I hope they can lead the way in making rock more fashionable (though I sense the band is aiming for timelessness). Finally, perhaps a British answer to Weathers is Southend band Asylums, who were brought to my attention by their own co-manager and ex editor of the NME. Their track Millennials is a great and very apt for a playlist, given Spotify is the most popular brand in the world for Millennials. So Spotify, how about more support for young Rock bands? The band’s second album Alien Human Emotions was recently released and is well worth checking out.

The playlist should work just as well on shuffle — not all my playlists are like that. Some I’ve designed very much as a schedule, but not this one. Rest assured, I’ll keep adding to it as & when I come across other suitable tracks (oh the joy of playlisting!).