My Top 10: Non-Hip Hop Artists

Even I get tired of rap and hip hop. When you have any type of music in your ears almost 24/7 it can easily become stale. So when I need to go outside of my wheelhouse a bit, I have some staple artists that I turn to. I’m not particular to any one genre, so long as it isn’t GZA or Gucci Mane. Jazz to metal, here’s the top 10 non-hip hop artists I listen to (in no particular order).

10. Stan Getz

Jazz music is a fantastic departure from my typical listening habits. The smooth, flowing strings and soft percussion of bossa nova music always center me a little bit and clear my head. It’s almost inevitable to feel anything but calm listening to Getz/Gilberto, Getz’s collaboration with João Gilberto, and bossa nova standards like “The Girl from Ipanema.” Gilberto’s wispy vocals and softly plucked strings contrast well with Getz’s bombastic saxophone, though Getz showcases a dynamic repertoire of tones throughout the album.

9. Sweet Valley

Video game-y goodness. Samples from childhood classics like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time mixed with the synth stylings of the production duo make for a nostalgic sound. Their 2012 album Eternal Champ is a go to whether I’m hanging out with friends or laying in bed playing games. Their sound borders on hip hop, with heavy use of drum machines in the production, but I’d say it’s enough of a departure to make the list.

8. Mac Demarco

I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore, and I’ve never owned a pair of overalls, but I have an inclination towards Mac Demarco. How New Paltz.

7. Animals as Leaders

In the last issue of The New Paltz Oracle, I reviewed their recent concert at Playstation Theatre. Their live performance hinged on their ability to recreate the same sound they get in the studio and, god damn, if that isn’t a clean one. Technical precision in their guitar riffs and flourishing drum licks send chills down my spine in tracks like “The Brain Song.” Their entire discography is fast, complex and just jaw-droppingly awesome.

6. Cashmere Cat

Synth synth synth. Cashmere Cat’s Mirror Maru EP is another versatile record in the same vein of Sweet Valley. Less N64 with this one, though, and a lot more pop. At low volumes it’s all study jams with Cashmere Cat, but turn it up and it’s dancing, bouncy electronic. 2017’s 9 brings on a few hip hop artists – Ty Dolla $ign and Tory Lanez – but it toes the line of R&B and the production is distinctly Cashmere Cat.

5. Purity Ring

I love electro pop. Purity Ring is electro pop. I love Purity Ring. Stemming from my early love of CHVRCHES, I started listening to the Canadian duo. Megan James’ vocal delivery cuts with clarity through murky electronic instrumentals. The pitch distortion on songs like “Lofticries” make me feel like I’m swimming while the sharp, crystalline high notes of “Fineshrine” emerge from the depths to create a sense of floating. 

4. The Doors

They’re my favorite rock group. They’re your dad’s favorite rock group. They’re your favorite rock group. “Peace Frog” is essential for hitting the slopes and “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” is a motivational anthem.

3. Mild High Club

The brainchild of Los Angeles-based Alexander Brettin, the psychedelic pop group’s fading electronic sounds would probably be best enjoyed in a sensory deprivation tank. The laid-back simplicity of it all is what makes listening to them such an experience. Lo-fi vocals, awkwardly pitched guitars and loads of synth make Skiptracing and Timeline such mesmerizing ebbs and flows of sound.

2. Gojira

Headbanging metal to get your blood pressure up and your hands shaking. It’s the music I listen to before heading into battle, it’s the music I listen to to focus physically. Shredding guitars, commanding vocals and driving drums make Gojira’s discography – especially 2016’s Magma – one of my favorite in metal.

1. Darwin Deez

Fun indie pop, in my mind, is the opposite of hip hop. Darwin Deez has delivered consistently strong pop music over three albums that just keeps me coming back. Themes of love are found heavily in the Brooklyn artist’s work, but the variety in how these themes are tackled is where Deez shines. Fun and bright tracks like “Radar Detector” are the narrative of carefree love and a fast paced take on life. “Redshift,” with its stripped instrumentals and contrast between full bodied vocals in the chorus and defeat in the verses, embodies the lack of understanding that follows growing apart from someone. There is a Darwin Deez song for any mood.