Top 30 Musical Acts Discovered On Their Own

The other day I was thinking: ‘When have I ever found out about a band or solo artist on my own; not through word of mouth and not by hearing them on the radio?’ My next thought was, ‘does learning about them through Rolling Stone magazine, guitar mags, or trade mags with local venue listings count as word of mouth?’ For the purposes of this list: yes, yes, they do. So the following is a list of acts curated by from artists that we discovered either with the help of a nifty algorithm on a streaming app, on compilation CDs, browsing through anonymous strangers’ mp3 collections back in the days of Napster and other P2P sharing platforms, and other such ways. A few I just love so much I had to break the rules to get them on the list, but that’s okay, nobody’s going to read this anyway. Right, reader? This list is in no particular order but these are thirty of our favorites. Hope you find some new sounds for your memory banks and to impress your friends with how underground or cutting edge your taste in music is. Though by the time I finish this piece, most of the newer artists will be old news.

30. Dead To Me

This band I discovered seeing them open for a more well-known punk rock act in the late 00s. Usually I am a hard sell on opening acts; after all they are automatically being compared to the band or artist I came to see and usually they are less experienced and not as popular, hence being booked for the opening slot to perform while people are still filing into the venue. Still, this band had enough presence and intense pre-song ranting to focus people’s attention on the stage and catchy guitar and vocal hooks to be memorable enough to download their tracks when I got home from the show. If you like that Bay Area/classic rock-infused punk/power chord-lacking sound, check out Dead To Me, preferably on some platform that gets the band paid to offset my freeloading.

29. Pavers

I truly do not remember how the algorithm on Spotify chose to play Red Suzuki by a band called Pavers but it might have something to do with the fact their lead singer is from the more well known punk rock outfit called All. The music of Pavers however is a bit more mellow melodically than All’s pop skater punk roots with hints of Dogwood in their chord work and Weezer or slower songs from the Riverdales with their smoother vocal lines. But really, it is hard to pin down the almost jazz scat-like vocalizations and the novel harmonies between distorted drop-d 9 chords and said vocals. It’s smooth listening relative to hardcore punk but still has an edge and sticks out as novel. Check out their only album, Return to the Island of No Return on Spotify.

28. Ten Foot Pole/Pulley

Punk-O-Rama 3 changed my life and introduced me to so many bands, many of whom I would later hear on the radio, many others whose only good song was featured on this compilation CD, but some of which were my own to discover and come to be a fan of. Ten Foot Pole and their original singer’s next project, Pulley, are two of these bands. TFP is classic 90s skate punk though they continued well into the 2010s with a new singer but with the same basic sound. Pulley are more poppy but also on some tracks more adventurous than Ten Foot Pole and the vocalist has improved from his slightly tone deaf ways fronting TFP in their early days.


Found this non-punk (you’re welcome) artist through Apple Music’s version of the original music video-centric MTv. Yes, this is a publicly available streaming broadcast, Apple’s music television. No, I am not an honest person, so I lied in the introduction and I have indeed included artists I discovered on public broadcasts. That said, I have only watched Apple Music tv once in my life and the only song of five that caught my attention was The Best Part of Life by SAINt JHN; I am counting it since it is so difficult to find good RnB/trap music in the sea of what’s available these days.

26. Blenderhead

Thanks to Napster and a friendly file sharer, it must have been around the turn of the millennium that I discovered the post-punk emo band or alternative rock band, Blenderhead. Likely named for the Bad Religion song of the same name, though their label, Tooth & Nail Records is decidedly a Christian band-friendly company, the band sounds like the Get Up Kids or At the Drive-In or Minutemen. If that description does nothing for you, they are a noisy, somewhat dissonant and sped-up Beatles.

25. Project Pitchfork

One day I wanted to find out more about so-called “industrial” music, so I used yahoo! to find me a list of industrial bands and of all the names, this one stuck out to me the most.

24. Metric

Using the Shazam app, I learned that the emotional track playing in the restroom at my favorite pub at the time was Help, I’m Alive by Metric. Immediately upon waking up the next day, I paid for the digital copy of their album, Fantasies and fell in love with the rest of the tracks on this album.

23. Lakey Inspired

The offerings from this artist are in the genre of “downtempo” electronic music. I was introduced to this artist via their track Gardens. Siri played it for me when I asked her to play “chill electronic instrumentals.”

22. Infected Mushroom

My least favorite on the list, the Israeli duo, however, is one of the best-selling artists in their country, including in terms of international sales. I believe it was YouTube music’s algorithm that introduced me to this trance/electronica/dubstep artist via their song Converting Vegetarians. The two producers formed IM in the mid-90s but I only really discovered their catalogue in the late 2010s. For me, I have to be in the right silly mood to enjoy most of their tracks. But enough about me, check them out and learn for yourself if you can listen to their music without laughing at rather than with the tunes. That is not meant to be a dig against IM, they just skirt the line between corny and too bumpin’ to care about being corny.

21. L’indécis

However you pronounce this artist’s name, they produce a chill brand of electronically infused instrumental jazzy music. ‘Nuff said. Apple Music/Siri introduced us and I’ve never looked back.

20. Crowbar

Specifically, the song Planets Collide from this sludgy doom metal band sold me on them. Their album cover for the record that this song is on, Odd Fellows Rest, features a photo of the four band members with tortured expressions melded together, years before Metallica did something similar on their Hardwired… album cover. Their vocals are nice and gruff and the riffage can compete with the likes of Black Label Society (e.g., their song End of Days). Several other runner-up metal bands did not make the main list, like Meleveller, for instance, another decent band from Apple Music’s heavy metal playlists.

19. Marvin Parks

An instrumentalist, I believe Spotify recommended him and it stuck.

18. MCC (Magna Carta Cartel)

A rock group with a rap-sounding name, this was one of those I found, or Siri found me, when I listened to ‘rock’ music for hours until the less popular acts started getting some attention from the algorithm.

17. midwxst

This act is one of the new kind of hip-hop that takes cues more from angsty whiteboy emo. For some reason, I like it. Thank you again for the lesser known rap goes to Apple Music’s hip-hop playlist.

16. Mont Vorace

I have no idea how I found this group. I started with theme songs from Disney Afternoon cartoons and ended up with this before I conked out for the night. It’s slow indie rock instrumentals from this band only as far as I know. Enjoy.

15. North Kingsley

I found this act via the Instagram account of Shavo Odadjian from System of a Down. The end. It’s Shavo’s bass playing and riff sensibility mixed with hip-hop, plain and simple.

14. WZRD

According to the bio on Apple Music, this is Kid Cudi and Dot da Genius’ rock-inspired project. Their one collection of tunes that I know of includes a cover of Nirvana’s version of Led Belly’s ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night’ and an instrumental track called ‘The Arrival’ that tricked Siri into playing WZRD for me when I requested ‘instrumental electronic.’

13. Tyler, the Creator

Yes, I found out about Tyler, the Creator through a Jackass-type show on Adult Swim called Loiter Squad as did many people. But, it made the list because I had to do the extra work to look into the fact that the cast of Loiter Squad are almost all members of a rap collective called Odd Future. The even more famous Frank Ocean many people used to not know contributed to several Odd Future tracks.

12. Penelope Scott

On a goof once I Googled the words “Elon” and “Muskrat” and at the end of the digital rabbit hole this search opened up I found Penelope Scott’s song Rät that is clearly a similar play on the same billionaire’s name. She has other songs I think, but this is her best. Enjoy it on YouTube.

11. The Matches (formerly the Locals)

I was able to see this band perform at a local show on the border of Oakland and Berkeley in California and they were well on their way, the audience could feel, to a record label deal soon. Sure enough, a year later (2003) they changed their names and re-released their first record on Epitaph records, the label famous for being founded by Bad Religion guitarist Bret Gurewitz and for releasing Offspring’s smash hit record Smash.

10. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

An old but goody, I had Siri play me old-school rock ‘n’ roll and I heard Screamin’ Jays version of a song that I thought Marilyn Manson had written (but it turns out he just did a cover version of for the Lost Highway soundtrack) called I Put a Spell On You and I was hooked. Listen to his song I Am the Cool to really get a feel for why Hawkins is one of the legends of rock music.

9. VCR

I had the pleasure of playing a show with this band. They are a punk band marked by heavy use of synths and employing two vocalists, a man and a woman. Like, literally, my band and VCR played on the same stage in a place called the Cherry Bar in San Francisco. Our tour had us heading south, while they were headed northward. Good people. They are no longer together but their tracks are available at

8. Jinsang

More chill electronic instrumental music suggested by Siri.

7. dryhope

Even more chill electronic instrumental music.


And yet some more chill electronic instrumental music.

5. the Hold Steady

Saw this band perform a live set on a PBS show I believe so though it breaks the rule by being a public broadcast it was such an obscure show that I cannot remember the name of it, and I caught it just channel surfing, so I figure why not put them on the list. I would call their style Elton John-infused post-punk rock if anybody asked me, which they didn’t.

4. Santigold

I have to thank Spotify for stumbling onto Santigold for me. The female-identified solo pop artist with hit singles like The Keepers and Disparate Youth, the latter song being featured in a trailer for the Netflix series “Unorthodox.” With some bleeps and bloops and beats reminiscent of M.I.A. and boasting infectious vocal melodies and thought-provoking lyrics it is hard to pin her down to one genre within the larger umbrella of pop music. I think she’s great, and you have to take my word for it if you don’t want to take the time to check her out yourself.

3. Joji Hirota

Not sure why this guy is so high up the list but his instrumentals are soothing and complex and I like them. The End. Oh, this also came from Apple Music’s algorithm.

2. Bugs Bunny

From what I can tell Bugs Bunny is a lady-dude duo from Eastern Europe or Eurasia that play heartfelt pop music and came up on one of those weird nights where I just asked my phone to play music and it started to run out of popular tunes to play me.

1. Kidneys

The son of one of my high school teachers is a well-known drummer who fronts this band on guitar and vocals; not to be confused with the less alternative rock and more shoe-gazer indie sounds of the other band on streaming platforms of the same name. If you like bands like the Lemonheads or Wheatus you’ll definitely dig Kidneys. In fact, you might enjoy both bands that share that name but the only way I would know about the indie duo named Kidneys is because of the pop alternative/punk band Kidneys fronted by one of the renowned Wackerman brothers.

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