We’d just watched Dave Grohl join Prophets of Rage, the Rage Against the Machine spinoff band, for a surprise performance at their Toronto show.
A sweaty man I don’t know is standing beside me. “They don’t make ‘em like this no more!” he says. The gentleman in question is wearing cargo shorts, a trucker hat, a System of a Down shirt, and the apparent belief that music reached its creative peak in 2001. You could describe, him, technically, as a dad rocker. Except, this was no suburban baby boomer. He was about my age. I’m 31.
According to a recent study by The Echo Nest, a music intelligence company, most people stop searching for new music at 33. The research, based on Spotify listener data, says our musical tastes tend to solidify in our 20s, then stagnate in our early 30s. It happens for various reasons; sometimes the demands of parenthood and/or a career leave less time to invest in pop culture; sometimes your brain just takes more comfort in the familiar. But essentially, early Millennials/late Gen-Xers are now turning into their parents: dismissing new music, insisting it was better back in their day. Think Young Thug sounds like tuneless noise? Boomers said the same thing about Nirvana.
I’m making a pact with myself, as I get older, to never slip into this sad cycle of playlist malaise. (This is in addition to the pact I already made with myself to never wear a trucker hat). And so should you. After all, it’s not like you hit 30 and stop watching new movies, or trying new restaurants, or reading new books (hopefully). So why only listen to the (relative) oldies? There’s still a ton of great music being made by today’s younger cats, and it’s more readily available than ever (thanks, Internet). Let’s start here: we’ll recommend some newfangled artists to you, based on the oldfangled artists you already like. Open your ears, gramps.
If You Dig: Elliot Smith
Listen to: Alex G
We get it. You like your sad white guy rock. Lucky for you, they still make sad white guys. This 23-year- old spins homemade, unfailingly melodic indie rock evoking Elliot Smith at his most thin-skinned, with songcraft so strong Frank Ocean asked him to help write his new stuff.
If You Dig: Foo Fighters
Listen to: Black Mountain
Dave Grohl himself recently praised this Vancouver stoner rock band for making him feel that “spark” again. Given the quintet’s Sabbath-y riffs, hazy melodies, and prog ambitions, draw your own conclusions as to just what was being sparked.
If You Dig: Wu-Tang Clan
Listen to: Black Hippy
Before Kendrick Lamar broke big, he was in Black Hippy, a hip-hop collective featuring Californian MC’s ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock. The MCs still collaborate frequently, trading infectious bars. They’ve got a not-so-subtle song called “West Coast Wu-Tang.” Thankfully, they’ve also got the talent to back it up.
If You Dig: Moby
Listen to: Kaytranada
Eminem lied. People still do listen to techno — or, well, EDM. This Montreal beatsmith chops up obscure pop samples to cook up a genre-bending stew of funk, R&B, soul, and dance music, all with monomaniacal attention to detail.
If You Dig: Black Flag
Listen to: Every Time I Die
Between all the sketchy iterations of Black Flag and the formulaic also-rans flooding the Warped Tour, hardcore’s in a sad state today. But this Buffalo fivesome breaks out of the constrictive genre with their rhythmic looseness, whip-smart humour, and refreshing a lack of cookie monster growls.