I’ve never been that girl who’s on the cutting edge of the music scene. I pretty much just ate up whatever the local Top 40 station was playing, and gratefully accepted alternative music suggestions from my cooler, more culturally adventurous friends. Turns out, however, that poking around online for new music is a perfect instrument of procrastination—and that is most definitely a talent of mine.
Mostly hailing from across the pond, the following is a sampling of new-ish artists and a song from each to kick-start your love affair. Enjoy!
Just Jack, “Starz in Their Eyes”
Sadly, Just Jack is not the realization of Jack McFarland’s one-man revue from Will & Grace; it’s “Just” Jack Allsopp, a young Londoner whose nondescript appearance belies a propensity for infectious pop beats. At just about 5 minutes long, the energized, uptempo “Starz in Their Eyes” is the perfect song for a speedwalking workout warm-up.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor, “Catch You”
Fans of techno-infused, gratuitously danceable pop (Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”, Britney Spears’ “Toxic”) will want to turn up “Catch You” by Sophie Ellis-Bextor. The model-pretty Brit has roots in the indie music world but, to the delight of UK club-goers, has made a new home under the disco ball. To those who might accuse her of selling out, Ellis-Bextor is defiant: “Pop music should be about extremes and a day glow version of reality. Who wants the mundane? It’s boring. Bring on the sparkly stuff, please!”
Amy Winehouse, “Rehab”
Some people feel that stars should use their influence to endorse an image of squeaky-clean, model citizenship—see Mandy Moore, Hilary Duff, the Angelina Jolie of today or the Jessica Simpson of yesteryear. Yawn. But if you’re like me, you want your celebrities with a side of scandal. Kate Moss! Nicole Ritchie! Lindsay Lo! Now those girls actually earn their tabloid headlines.
Enter the reigning queen of Brit misfits, miss Amy Winehouse. She’s been a pothead, an anorexic, and an alcoholic—but then again, a girl’s gotta do what it takes to become a bona fide soul singer at 23. “Rehab” goes down hot and smooth as scotch; other must-listen tracks are, ominously, “Back to Black” and “You Know I’m No Good.”
Regina Spektor, “Fidelity”
Shhh! Listen up, ‘cause it only comes once in a blue moon: the sound of something new. Like Fiona Apple with a whimsical twist, Regina Spektor delivers a hybrid, genre-defying sound. Influenced by classical, folk, and punk works, the Soviet-born American artist is as delightfully esoteric as her music. She’s had a considerable following in the U.S., Europe, and Australia, but only recently won over mainstream audiences with this ditty off her Begin to Hope album. Hunt down “Us” from Spektor’s 2004 release Soviet Kitsch and you’ll be quirkily rewarded.
Mika, “Grace Kelly”
Based on his irrefutably stunning good looks, it’s hard to believe that Mika was a social outcast growing up—the Lebanese-American was displaced to London as a kid, and never quite adjusted to the cultural mainstream there. All the better for us, as this imposed isolation allowed Mika to blossom into the uncanny creative force he is today. The bright and giddy single “Grace Kelly,” off his debut album Life in Cartoon Motion, shot to the top of the UK charts within weeks of its release.
Paolo Nutini, “Rewind”
What’s with 20-year-olds who’ve accomplished more than I will in this lifetime?? Sigh. But I can’t begrudge Paolo Nutini his spades of talent—the young Scotsman is simply too delightful to listen to…and, okay, devastatingly hot. “Rewind” is a soulful, extremely listenable tune in the vein of Ray LaMontagne or John Mayer. Watch his “New Shoes” video on MTV.com, and then go book a ticket for his fast-selling U.S. concert tour!