With every musical trend, there are independent musicians operating behind the scene, slightly out of reach, but with a charm and style that may be completely unique to themselves. Here are five singer/songwriters from around the country that are currently operating beneath the mainstream, but are still making musical innovations that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Korey Dane – Americana/Roots
With a Southern-Californian, beatnik charm and mythos that would give James Dean a run for his money, the 27-year-old Korey Dane is one of the most promising singer/songwriters working today. Dane’s nostalgic, off-the-grid image screams classic cars, motorcycles and the sprawling unknowns of the Southern California desert. All wrapped up in an old-souled charisma that sends you straight back in time.
His 2015 debut Youngblood is a hazy, Americana daydream; a flawless balance between virtuosic playing and sharp, literate songwriting. With adventurous, infectious ups and wistfully nostalgic lows that echo a long lost spirit of roots music, it feels classic after only a few listens.
Dane has a new album due sometime this year, and if Youngblood is any indication, you’ll be hearing more of him as the year progresses.
Gold Star – Alt-rock/Country
Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and artist Marlon Rabenreither, who plays under the moniker Gold Star, is part of a growing fleet of musicians who have more in common with the past than the present.
Rabenreither has been performing as Gold Star since 2012. His songs beaming with a long-lost, sun-drenched spirit of country music that he makes his own through literate, eclectic songwriting that paints a vivid, nostalgic picture of the culture and history of LA.
He released his debut LP Dark Days in 2015, and his forthcoming sophomore album Big Blue is set to release in March 2017. The lead single “Sonny’s Blues” is streaming now.
Laura Stevenson – Folk/Rock
Originating in New York City, Laura Stevenson has been playing her unique, adventurous, and emotionally-dense folk-rock for almost eight years. Stevenson got started playing keyboards in the Jeff Rosenstock led music collective Bomb The Music Industry!, but since she released her debut A Record in 2010, she’s been playing with her band The Cans.
Her last two efforts—2013’s illustrious, folk-rock driven Wheel and 2015’s upbeat, pop-rock oriented Cocksure—are both portraits of a singer/songwriter with a masterful grip on sentimentality and emotional expression. Her charming, elastic, and detailed lyricism is hard to match.
Alex Dezen – Alternative/Rock
Alex Dezen’s career spans almost twenty years, most of that time spent fronting the Brooklyn Americana and indie-rock band The Damnwells. He released his first, self-titled solo album in 2016, and in only a year’s time, he’s back with a followup.
Alex Dezen II, his second solo endeavor, was released in February 2017, it’s predecessor partially held on to his Americana origins. II is a full departure from his roots, instead favoring challenging, nostalgic songwriting that calls back to his exposure to rock music growing up.
These intricate, confessional songs deal with politics, relationships, loss, loneliness and the tropes of growing up. But Dezen’s takes on these common topics feels unique and unparalleled due to his reluctance to cater to pop music norms, instead favoring challenging arrangements and honest—often aching—emotional exposure.
Phoebe Bridgers – Folk/Emo
The LA based singer/songwriter Phoebe Bridgers was relatively unknown until 2015, when she released the Killer with the help of the prolific rocker Ryan Adams. With Adams’ name attached to the project, Bridgers’ heart-wrenching, stripped-back and confessional folk music was given a platform that put her on her way to becoming a household name.
Killer features three intense, emotionally bare musings on past relationships, but her honest narrative and enveloping vocals make you feel like you were there all along, living these experiences right beside her.
Bridgers’ music contains a sharp, profound sadness that immediately likens her to the downtrodden musical presence of songwriters like the late Elliot Smith. She’s set to release a full-length debut sometime this year, but until then, her poignant new single “Smoke Signals” is out now.