Music is my life, and it’s been my saving grace amid a year laden with unending trauma and turmoil. I love discovering new artists and bands to groove to and 2020 has provided time aplenty to do just that. Recently, I was listening to a playlist curated by punk duo Nova Twins entitled “Voices for the Unheard” on Spotify. It amplifies Black alternative artists and bands that deserve the spotlight. I was taken aback by the talent on said playlist and just how many of these acts initially flew under my radar. Thus, this article came to fruition.
Below, I’ve included some highlights from the playlist that I loved, along with a few Black alternative artists/bands that weren’t on the playlist. Peruse at your leisure, and be sure to add these supremely talented acts to your musical rotation!
FEVER 333 is a hip-hop / punk hybrid whose messages of activism ring clearly amid blistering guitar riffs and guttural vocals. Jason Aalon Butler (originally of letlive.), Stephen Harrison and Aric Improta come together to create searing politically charged anthems regarding the current state of affairs. It’s bold, brash and brutal. Just the way I like my hip-hop / punk fusions. “BURN IT,” from their full-length album STRENGTH IN NUMB333RS, was my introduction to FEVER 333. It’s an in-your-face battle cry that propagates the message of burning down old systems like systemic racism in order to truly rebuild for the better. It’s a vital message that the world needs to hear.
Yes, I’ve written about Militia Vox before. But it bears repeating: give her a listen. Hands down, she has one of the best rock voices I’ve ever heard, and I listen to a boatload of rock music. Her cover of TOOL‘s “46 & 2” manages to evoke the same aura of the original version while putting her own spin on it. Industrial metal is a huge influence, but she’s also inspired by classical music. This is definitely evident in the arrangements of some of her tunes. Vox is also in a band called Judas Priestess that covers, you guessed it, Judas Priest jams. It’s just as badass as you think it is. Militia Vox should be a staple in the metal world. Fun fact: she has a four-octave range.
Meet Me @ The Altar
If you’re like me and you love old school Paramore, then pop punk outfit Meet Me @ The Altar is the answer to both of our prayers. Edith Johnson (lead vocals), Téa Campbell (lead guitar, bass guitar) and Ada Juarez (drums) comprise Meet Me @ The Altar, although Johnson joined the fray later than the rest. The band just signed with Fueled By Ramen this year, which was Paramore’s old label. Johnson’s vocals are pitch perfect for this genre and I’m happy to see them carving their niche in the pop punk world. Long live pop punk, says 2005 Melody! Check out “Garden,” their latest single, for all the catchy, punky goodness.
Sophia Urista with Brass Against
If Rage Against the Machine and the brass section of a jazz band had a baby, Brass Against would be the result of that lovemaking. Brass Against is a massive compilation of brass instrumentalists and a bevy of vocalists. While they’ve had multiple singers amid their tenure, Sophia Urista has become a mainstay for the band. Frankly, her tracks are my favorites. Urista and Brass Against are a beautiful union of in-your-face, punchy vocals and brass instrumentation. They cover a wide array of punk songs, notably “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine and “My Own Summer (Shove It)” by Deftones. If you think that “Killing in the Name” would sound less badass with brass at the forefront, let me tell you this: it sounds exponentially more badass.
What is there to say about Nova Twins that I haven’t already said? I realize I covered them previously, but I feel their signal needs another boost from yours truly. Without their “Voices for the Unheard” playlist, I wouldn’t have discovered the majority of the artists / bands on this list. Georgia South provides slap-happy bass riffs while Amy Love brings the gritty vocals and searing guitar notes. Who Are the Girls? still gets regular playtime from me. It’s a perfectly feminist punk installment that ups my own badass factor tenfold when I listen to it. It’s the epitome of empowerment. If you want to know who the girls are, then give Nova Twins a listen.
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Toronto artist SATE brings the funk and the rock. Her music is the perfect mixture of rock, gritty funk and bluesy soul. She has one of the best rock voices in the business. Her full-length album, RedBlack&Blue, is rife with empowerment and invigoration. “Warrior” was the track that struck a chord with me and I’m sure you’ll be hooked too. My new dream is to see SATE and Militia Vox sing a duet together. The world needs this. Her most recent single, “Dirty Little Lie,” is a good time and a half. If you love dirty, funky rock, you’ll love SATE. I have no doubt.
Oxymorrons have successfully blended hip-hop and rock for a wholly unique sound that’s their own. Warning: listening to their music will make you want to rage against the machine. Kami “KI” Bellevue and Demi “Deee” Bellevue provide vocals while Matty Mayz plays drums and Jafe Paulino adds vocals, guitar and bass to the mix. Additionally, Oxymorrons recently brought lead guitarist Adam November into the fold. Their latest single, “Justice,” is a bastion of amplification for the Black Lives Matter movement. Oxymorrons aim to “speak for, and to, the rejected.” You can’t listen to this band without feeling a burst of uninhibited energy.
Big Joanie is a Black feminist punk band that hails from the UK. The trio consists of Chardine Taylor-Stone (drums and vocals), Stephanie Phillips (guitar and vocals) and Estella Adeyeri (bass and vocals). They’ve extensively toured with popular feminist punk acts Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney. I’d say their music is highly influenced by the aforementioned, but I also get faint Hole vibes when I listen to them. “Fall Asleep” from their full-length album Sistahs was my introduction to Big Joanie. I haven’t looked back since. Be sure to check out their latest double single Cranes In the Sky, and you’ll get a taste of the slight Hole vibes I’m referring to. Big Joanie is the raw punk cure for what ails you.
The New Respects
The New Respects is a family affair. Twins Zandy Fitzgerald and Lexi Fitzgerald, brother Darius Fitzgerald and cousin Jasmine Mullen comprise a multi-faceted musical act that infuses pop, soul and rock ‘n roll. “Trouble,” their most popular tune from 2018 album Before the Sun Goes Down, was the song that got me hooked. Their cover of “You Should Be Dancing” by the Bee Gees was featured in Netflix’s To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. Full disclosure: I actually prefer The New Respects’ version. Their music is infectious and mood elevating. You can’t help but feel a rush of serotonin when listening to them. If you love old school soul and pop, you’ll dig The New Respects.
Shingai is the lead vocalist / bassist for UK indie rock outfit The Noisettes, but since 2019 she’s been churning out music as a solo artist. Her debut solo album, Too Bold, was just released last month. What really struck me about Shingai was the seamless blending of genres in her music. There are definitely elements of soul, pop, indie and plenty of intriguing instrumentation. Her Spotify page cites her sound as “inspired by her London, Bantu and Zimbabwean heritage, which gives ‘Too Bold’ an effervescent soundscape spirit, which is both electrifying and compelling.” I’m always on the lookout for pop artists who take bold risks musically, and Shingai does that and then some. If you like ethereal soundscapes unlike anything you’ve heard before, you’ll love Shingai.
Honorable Mention: Infinity Song
Family bands are the best bands. That’s just straight up fact. Detroit’s Infinity Song boasts Abraham Boyd, MoMo Boyd, Victory Boyd, Angel Boyd and Israel Boyd. They started performing publicly at a young age, hitting the streets of the Big Apple in the hopes of sharing their immense talents with the world. There’s just something so calming about their music. It’s rife with breathtaking harmonies, soulful melodies and sweet rhythmic sounds. Their tone really lives in the jazz, soul, acoustic, pop and cinematic musicscape. I recently discovered them on Twitter when they did a wonderful rendition of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. I was smitten from the start. Infinity Song’s debut album, Mad Love, was released last month. Give “Everything Is Gonna Be Alright” a listen. It’s a comforting respite from the cataclysmic world we currently live in.
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What are your favorite Black alternative artists and bands? Sound off in the comments below! Be sure to check out Nova Twins’ “Voices for the Unheard” playlist on Spotify here.
This article was originally published on 11/6/20