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Your Guide to Today's Best Music

The top 10 musicians you're sure to love — and their classic influences

By Jill Krasny

Discovering new music isn’t easy if you’re not hanging out with a younger crowd. And searching online takes up way too much time. If you think today’s music isn’t what it used to be then you need to listen up. We’ve rounded up 10 of today’s hottest recording artists for you to sample. Even if you haven't heard of these singers and musicians, chances are you’re familiar with their sound — or at least their classic influences.

So give your CD player and iPod an update by checking out the new music that'll remind you of someone you've been listening to forever:

If you like Janis Joplin, you’ll love Alabama Shakes. When Janis Joplin stormed onto the stage at Woodstock, giving her wildest performance yet, she essentially paved the way for women in rock everywhere. Today that torch is carried by Brittany Howard, lead singer for Alabama Shakes. When Howard assures her lover how devoted she’ll be on “I Found You," you can’t help but feel her burning emotion. No woman has sounded this raw or headstrong since Joplin brought down the house on “Me and Bobby McGee.”

If you like Lee Hazlewood, you’ll love Daniel Romano. Don’t let the gem-studded cowboy getup fool you — Romano is the real deal. His fresh take on the late '60s country sound will give you something to cry in your beer about. All of Romano's songs are produced in his home studio in Weiland, Ontario — not exactly the stuff of Montana pastorals, but good enough to pass for AM radio or at least the local honky tonk.

If you like Serge Gainsbourg, you’ll love Foxygen. The dirty old Frenchman lives on in Foxygen, a California-bred pastiche of nearly every midcentury influence under the sun, from symphonic soul to Brit pop and garage rock. On their first single “Shuggie,” an aw-shucks reflection on fading romance, Foxygen's genuine love of camp is as apparent and convincing as Gainsbourg's.

If you like the Beatles, you'll love Tame Impala. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker described the making of the group's second album, Lonerism, as “a two-year-long nightmare, which nearly drove me insane.” Fortunately the album won’t do the same to you, though it will transport you to 1968, when the Beatles released the seminal White Album and headphone music became a phenomenon. All the prog-rock elements are there, from woozy synthesizers to thunderous drums, but Lonerism feels very of the moment — "ferocious and alive," as The Guardian put it. Listen to “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and you’ll immediately know what we mean.

If you like Prince, you'll love Miguel. “These lips can’t wait to taste your skin, baby/And these eyes, yeah, can’t wait to see your grin.” With lyrics like that, it’s hard not to jump on the “Miguel is the Prince of our generation” bandwagon. But not so fast, says the Grammy-winning singer: “It’s cool for people to pick parts of him that they see in me, because he is one of my hugest influences,” Miguel tells BET. “I think it’s cool if you see it, but I would never compare myself to him.” Even so, the honeyed vocals, suggestive lyrics and funk-meets-soul flair have us slipping on our dance shoes like it’s 1999.

If you like Van Morrison, you'll love Michael Kiwanuka. Michael Kiwanuka has racked up some impressive comparisons in 24 years, starting with the inimitable Bill Withers and ending with Richie Havens. But the dots really connect when you draw the line to Van Morrison, another balladeer who knows a thing or two about longing. That they both love the jazz flute and a well-placed horn only drives the point even further.


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If you like Smokey Robinson, you'll love James Hunter. James Hunter is clearly influenced by the soul of the '50s and '60s, but as an early boomer — Hunter is 50 — he seems more focused on expanding the sound than retreading it. Sounding like a subdued Marvin Gaye, he has long dabbled in ska beats and strings. No surprise, then, that he recorded his new album, Minute by Minute, at Daptone Studios in Brooklyn, where evoking the spirit of soul is all in a day’s work.

If you like The Band, you’ll love Father John Misty. When Joshua Tillman unveiled his alter ego, Father John Misty, last year, hipsters weren't the only ones to take notice. Rock historians drew comparisons to everyone from Neil Young to the Velvet Underground, but it was The Band they forgot to call out. The group’s rollicking mix of blues, folk, gospel and rock 'n' roll can all be heard in Father John Misty’s bacchanal, a place where hopped-up scribes wander streets without pants and willful sons mourn their deadbeat fathers. Like the man in "The Weight," these are characters you won't soon forget.

If you like Sade, you’ll love Stacy Barthe. Funky is one way to describe Barthe, who sounds every bit as seductive as Sade, the '80s chanteuse and perennial smooth jazz favorite. Growing up in Brooklyn, Barthe idolized Sade and others like her, which eventually led to songwriting credits for pop singers like Britney Spears. Now she's breaking out on her own, "crafting real-life music, in real-time for real people," as she explains on her site. "It's a personal release."

If you like Etta James, you’ll love Elle King. Move over, Adele. Elle King is every bit as soulful, if not more brassy and loose. "Sometimes I'm really funny, sometimes I'm quiet, sometimes I'm shy, but I'm constantly changing," the 23-year-old Ohio native tells The Austin Chronicle. We're big fans of "No One Can Save You," a heart-wrenching ode to self-destruction, and what the Chronicle called the "defiant growl" of "Playing for Keeps."

Jill Krasny is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y., whose work has appeared in MTV, Reader's Digest and Newsweek, among other publications. Read More
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