The 30 Most Intriguing Musical Artists of 2023 (Part 2 of 3)
Here are 10 of my favorite contemporary artists—but don't expect to find these musicians on the Billboard chart
Below is the second installment of my guide to the 30 most intriguing musical artists of 2023. For part one, click here.
In each installment, I celebrate 10 favorite artists who are doing fresh, exciting things—often in the face of a larger musical culture that is increasingly homogenized and formulaic.
Many—perhaps most—of these names may be unfamiliar, even to music fans. But I make no apologies for this. Great music increasingly operates under the radar. If you’re only guide is the Billboard chart, you’re missing out on most of the fun.
That’s because we live in a stratified culture, where only a tiny number of artists get fame and fortune. But these rewards are often aligned for fitting into the prevailing business models. None of these musicians do that.
Instead they reject narrow commercial definitions and conventional boundaries. They pursue deeply personal visions. Above all, they make great music.
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Do you remember when the guitar was a wild, unpredictable instrument? Some people even thought it was dangerous, and you never knew what those six strings would do next. How long ago was that? Well, Daniel Champagne still plays the guitar in that bold, unconstrained way. This Australian (now living in Nashville), pursued his music education by dropping out of school and going on the road. You feel as if he just invented the instrument yesterday and was discovering its possibilities afresh. And I haven’t even started telling you about his singing and songwriting—but go find out for yourself.
As far as I can tell, John Depew sits out on his farm in Kansas and sings lonesome songs every night to the stars and moon. Maybe I’m romanticizing things, but Depew does live on an isolated farm and his musical style is aptly called the “lonesome Kansas sound.” One thing I’m sure of is that he gets amazing sounds from his voice and guitar. If you can’t fit a visit to rural Kansas on your next travel itinerary, it comes to you in his emotionally charged tracks—all self-produced out on the farm. Be on the lookout for Depew’s new album Yellow Threads, scheduled for release next month.
These three women live in Georgia, but not the one Ray Charles had on his mind. I’ve long had a dream of bringing the Mandili Trio to Austin during South by Southwest—not for a concert, but just to walk down the streets. That’s how they perform in their online videos (sometimes with a donkey as unacknowledged fourth member of the trio). This is closer to the essence of real folk music than anything you will see at the local coffee house.
Let me introduce the band—they are Tatuli Mgeladze, Tako Tsiklauri, and Mariam Kurasbedian. The trio is starting to tour, at least judging by this recent video from Paris, where they stroll along the Seine. I just wish they had bought a plane ticket for the donkey too.
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