Every month, Utne Reader presents free, downloadable music gleaned from current and upcoming releases on independent music labels. This sampler was curated by editor-in-chief Christian Williams and associate editor Ben Sauder.
Artist: Tim Darcy
Record Label: Jagjaguwar
Latest album: Saturday Night (out now)
Featured song: “Still Waking Up”
Why we like this song: The singer/guitarist for post-punk band Ought dug deep into his poetic past for the collection of songs on his solo debut. “Still Waking Up” features a breezy background choir and an Orbison-like croon that alludes to the wide-variety of influences Darcy explores on the album.
Artist: Nana Grizol
Location: Athens, Georgia
Record label: Orange Twin Records
Latest album: Ursa Minor (out March 31)
Featured song: “Nightlights”
Why we like this song: Sometimes a song comes along that you feel compelled to listen to over and over again, as if it is sustenance for the deprived. Whether it’s the clever lyrics and honest vocal delivery, the wash of horns, the forward momentum of the guitar or the whole stew of sounds, “Nightlights” is such a song.
Artist: RF Shannon
Location: Austin, TX
Record label: Cosmic Dreamer
Latest album: Jaguar Place (out March 31)
Featured song: “Had a Revelation”
Why we like this song: Singer Jeff Renfro’s voice floats high over the wide open sounds of a diving lap steel, twinkling piano, and chugging rhythm.
Artist: Bonny Doon
Location: Detroit, MI
Record label: Salinas Records
Latest album: Bonny Doon (out March 10)
Featured song: “What Time Is It in Portland”
Why we like this song: Underneath a cheery mix of twangy guitar riffs and a laidback beat lies a pained vocal of melancholy and longing.
Artist: Les Amazones d'Afrique
Location: West Africa
Record label: Real World Records
Latest album: République Amazone (out March 31)
Featured song: “Anisokoma”
Why we like this song: Les Amazones d'Afrique are an all-female collective of West African musicians campaigning for gender equality. “Anisokoma” opens with a couple koras riffing and slowly builds with layers of powerful vocals, handclaps, drum beats, acoustic guitar, and bass.
Artist: Yasmine Hamdan
Record Label: Crammed Discs
Latest album: Al Jamilat (out March 17)
Featured song: “Douss”
Why we like this song: An icon in her native Lebanon, Yasmine Hamdan is considered a trailblazer for the masterful way she’s modernized Arabic pop music by combining Arabic vocals with contemporary Western styles. Songs like “Douss,” off her latest album, demonstrate her willingness to expand that amalgamation to Western indie folk.