At this time of year, streaming services reveal our listening habits with a digest of our most played tracks for the year. Hooray?!
Round ups from the likes of Spotify Wrapped and Apple Music Replay are already available for 2022, and although these give an interesting insight into our listening behaviour with a playlist of our most played songs, I can't help thinking that it's a bore being presented with a playlist of tracks I've already heard repeatedly over the past year.
Do I really need my music streaming service of choice to remind me how mainstream my music tastes really are?
Spotify admits that the most listened to artists of the 2022 are similar to last year, and with so much music choice out there, I find it disheartening that my end of year playlist is full of tracks that have already been pushed to me by its algorithms.
Of course, I do enjoy an end-of year soundtrack as much as the next person. But with so much music out there, I feel compelled to share with you about how refreshing it can be to breakout of my own music comfort zone every now and then, and find alternative music to help me get into a new era or genre rather than listening to same types of music again and again.
Voyage of the undiscovered
The best music streaming services each have their own version of Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist that taps into your listening habits and serves up a selection of new music tracks based on the songs, artists, and genres you play most often. But there's so much new music out there that gets overlooked by this kind of streaming algorithm, and I often find myself using more traditional search methods to grow my music tastes, rather than sticking with the streaming services' push to 'here's music we think you'll like.'
Whatever the reason for wanting to breakout of your music streaming comfort zone, read on for my suggestions to help you find new music outside of the algorithm that could help you discover your next new favorite song or band.
Which music sites are best for new music?
At this time of year, there are plenty of music sites that pull together 'best of' lists, covering every music track and album that received critical acclaim from respected music writers and reviewers, and these make a good starting point.
- The 100 Best Albums of 2022 by Rolling Stone is a great place to start if you're seeking an alternative selection to the 'year in review' from your streaming service subscription of choice. Although hopelessly clichéd, another great place to build your knowledge of respected albums from current and classic bands you may have overlooked is Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
- AllMusic is beautifully presented, and lists its annual best of albums with art and a short description that links to a longer review. There's no ranking to its listings, but check out the alphabetical lists by genre or mood for song and album highlights to track down.
- Rate Your Music touts itself as one of the largest music databases and communities online, and is a respected source for discovering new music.
My top music sites to follow
Music fans have never had so much choice when it comes to keeping on top of new music and the latest reviews. There are hundreds of music blogs out there, but with so much choice it can be difficult to know which sites are right for you. To help sort the wheat from the chaff, Audiohype has a useful round up of the best music blogs right now. Alternatively, my own suggestions, which by some coincidence are also included on the Audiohype list, run to:
- Rolling Stone is perhaps the best-known rock music magazine/blog site that was established in 1967. Although some 55 years old, it has expanded beyond its rock roots, and currently also explores more popular music genres as well as pop culture, movies, TV, and political news.
- Pitchfork is one of the biggest music magazines in the world and posts trusted album reviews daily.
- Metacritic is a good starting point to find out how an album has been rated across critical review sites. The site averages the ratings to show you what’s universally acclaimed with links to the review sites.
- Consequence of Sound is more than a music reviews site, covering album reviewx, film reviews, and television reviews. Consequence of Sound is one of the best music blogs to hear about the latest music news and rumors for festivals worldwide, they also have news editorials and reviews of music, film and TV.
TV show and movie soundtracks
TV show and movie soundtracks have been a recent revelation in expanding my music collection, both in terms of introducing completely new music to my listening selection through recent movies including Spiderhead (terrible movie but great soundtrack), and TV shows like Euphoria, and Industry — as well as reminding me and introducing legions of new fans to classic tracks like Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" that made a pitch-perfect placement in episode 4 of Stranger Things, Season 4.
From my own searches in trying to track down movie and TV show soundtracks I've enjoyed, Spotify and Apple Music are the more reliable sources for official as well as curated soundtrack playlists, often put together by fans of the show. Try out the official Industry playlist on Spotify.
Late Night Tales compilations
Late Night Tales is without doubt one of the most influential album compilation series I've found. It's curated by some of the most inspiring recording artists around and includes the music that inspires their own work with rarities and deep cuts as the artists impress and surprise you. I first discovered this series in 2002 with Groove Armada's "Another Late Night", and have been hooked ever since. Try this sampler of The Glorious Mixes of Late Night Tales on Bandcamp for a taste of this expertly curated series.
I heard it on the radio
Although once my go-to place for listening to weekly countdowns and late night broadcasts to discover new songs and bands, these days radio tends to be a petty poor place to find new music. Songs on traditional over-air radio stations are very much played to death, and only occasionally do you get to hear a new gem or rarely played classic. BBC Radio 6 Music in the U.K. has a wider reaching range of music catalog than most, and regularly pushes my own music boundaries while playing away in the background.
Consider signing up to the online radio services to discover more new music:
- Siriusxm is a subscription-based radio service marrying live radio, podcasts, news and celebrity interviews. Pick a channel featuring an artist you already know you like and see what else they play.
- PopVortex throws up charts from around the world and is a worthwhile explore.
- Join last.fm, which tracks your music listens across different platforms, and you’ll have a centralized record of your listening habits, along with recommendations. I’ve had an account for over a decade, and sometimes I dig into the archives to find forgotten favorites.
- Pandora is a custom radio service that builds stations based on your favorite artists. Simply type in a band that you’ve only recently discovered and see what it throws up.
Of course, the best podcasts can also be an incredibly valuable source for new music discovery.
Follow your favorite band or music producer
If you’re still using Facebook, join some music-based groups, or follow the pages of your favorite artists or music producer to get a community insight into their influences and recommendations. Music should be accessible to all and Facebook has a way of making these often intimidating communities feel a lot more accessible than most.
Note: It took me years to realize that a lot of the music I enjoyed listening to across several different music genres came from the same music producer. Once I made that connection, my eclectic music taste and influences began to make a lot more sense.
Lastly, one of the most underrated ways to discover new music that's enjoyed by your favorite artist or band, is to look at who they're touring with as a support act or gig openers. Chances are that the up-and-coming artist is on the same page musically as the headline act.
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As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.