Let’s be honest. It’s been a tough year. If there has been one bright side to our ongoing isolation it’s that I’ve been able to discover some incredible artists that I may have otherwise missed. I figured it would make sense to call out 3 artists that have made my pandemic more bearable.
There are so many things to be excited with around this mystery group out of the UK. First off, who doesn’t love a mystery artist collective? There’s just something so alluring about an anonymous group who not only produces excellent material, but also avoids the accolades in a way that makes the impact of the music all the greater. Next, they have dropped FOUR albums in the last two-years and not only has each album improved on the next, but they’ve continued to do so while embracing the volatile issues of race and discrimination in a way that does what art does best; it gives outsiders a view into another’s reality.
Their sound is an incredible mix of neo-soul, disco and 90’s UK trip production that bounces between an array of styles from Raphael Saadiq, Massive Attack and even doses of funkier and more dance fueled tracks that remind me of 90s funk-groove band Deee-Lite . I suggest listening to the full albums but have singled out a few of my favorite tracks below, including the absolutely intoxicating soul of “Wildfires” (timely as ever, and OMG that bass line) and “I Just Want to Dance” which may win my pick for best track of 2020 to put a little more wiggle in your waggle. Just don’t dismiss that both of these tracks’ lyrics don’t stray from controversy – which, in a way makes them all the more guaranteed to act as a soundtrack of these times.
This band has seen the most plays out of any of my pandemic discoveries. Clearly I’m on a UK binge as this group also hails from across the pond and were winners of the prestigious Mercury Award, which singles out incredible young artists and producers from the UK and includes other artists such as The xx, Kae Tempest (formerly Kate Tempest), Alt-J and an exceptionally long list of others. To me, they could be akin to gateway jazz as their musicianship is daunting yet their music is not overly complex. The closest artist I could compare them to is The Cinematic Orchestra as I can often be carried away in thought while enjoying their albums. I have also been impressed with the diversity of compositions across their albums as some have infused more electronic elements than others and provides for ample choice depending on your mood. Again, I would recommend going wild in their catalogue but have made a short playlist of my personal favorites here:
I Am SAKURAN/ZENSEN
Let’s be real. I miss concerts. You miss concerts. WE ALL WANT CONCERTS.
This video and song are my pandemic spirit animal. It contains the RAW energy I think we’re all going to feel the moment we’re able to get back to any kind of normalcy and live shows, no matter what they are like. I want it to be fun, crazy, and completely bananas and SAKURAN/ZENSEN are that feeling bottled into a Japanese punk rock ensemble , and I’ve got some serious feels. I just love a band that can align their visual and musical energy. Need some sprinkles on this rock ‘n’ roll sundae? Their name means “Front of the line of the crazies” and they went with it solely because it sounded so cool. WARNING: video may induce dancing and spontaneous scissor kicks.