All Spotify users have one thing in common: the Starred Playlist (SP). It’s sacred ground – a place for the best of the best. I personally use it as a collection of my favorite singles. You won’t find a full album here…simply a stockpile of my favorite songs and artists. Recently, I sifted through my stars to share these gems that need to be on your SP, but probably aren’t.
1. Cassino – “The Levee”
You’ve heard of Punk Goes Acoustic and Punk Goes Pop, but what about Punk Goes Bluegrass? Ex-Northstar frontman Nick Torres showed no interest in waiting around for that album, making the rare leap nearly a decade ago. Over that timeframe, Cassino has released two EPs and tours Nashville (and surrounding areas) regularly. Their most recent album, Kingprince, showcases their dynamic sound featuring a variety of instruments from twangy mandolins to howling harmonicas. “The Levee” is a personal favorite and certainly SP-worthy.
2. Right Away, Great Captain! – “Blame”
Manchester Orchestra main-man Andy Hull’s solo project isn’t easy to come by on Spotify – only one of his three albums are available. Fortunately, “Blame” is featured on that album. Hull has long been one of my favorite musicians not only for his music and songwriting, but for his interesting upbringing. Most preachers don’t expect their sons to headline rock bands, and Hull isn’t shy of touching on the spiritual in his lyrics. “Blame” is a slow, somber story laced with questions of morality. We all know what Hull can do with a heavy electric guitar. Right Away Great Captain! gives us a deeper dive into the soulman who wields it.
3. The Shouting Matches – “Seven Sisters”
Justin Vernon is a pretty polarizing musician. His work with Bon Iver (and even Volcano Choir) has a very distinct sound – one that most listeners either love or loathe. However, his work with The Shouting Matches has a very different feel than what you may be used to. You won’t find secluded piano solos and high-pitched choruses on their latest album Grownass Man. Rather, the album boasts an amplified bluesy sound with an upbeat tempo and the occasional organ. The Shouting Matches’ “Seven Sisters” makes my SP, along with “Gallup, NM” and the instrumental “Milkman”…if you’re into that sort of thing.
4. Polyenso – “Push”
Polyenso is a popular local band here on the Tampa/St. Pete scene, and their music is true to the area. The pseudo-jam band produces a very laid-back sound, and “Push” is indicative of that. Great band if you’re looking to tune out for a bit and certainly one best consumed while relaxing in the sun.
5. City and Colour – “Soon Enough”
While City and Colour may already have a song or two on your SP, I wanted to highlight a couple of the lesser-known gems on Spotify. “Soon Enough” is a cover of a Constantines original. Dallas Green (singing) really gets an opportunity to highlight his folk side on this recording. Singing with a lone acoustic guitar and harmonica, the song is desolate and raw. If you’re digging it, check out other off-the-beaten-path C&C stars including “How Come Your Arms Are Not Around Me” and the Alexisonfire cover “Boiled Frogs”.
6. JBM – “You Always Keep Around”
If I had to put a genre to JBM, I’d settle on something like Mellow Mountain Music or Mountain-Bound Sound. Singer-songwriter Jesse Marchant has an incredible way of transporting you with his music. Distant, muted echoes coupled with sorrowing strings evoke a Smoky Mountain feeling that soothes the soul. This is definitely comfort music. See also “Friends For Fireworks” and “Winter Ghosts”.
7. Tallhart – “When I Talk to God”
Formerly known as Marksmen, upstart Tallhart easily makes this list. I originally noticed the band when they opened for Max Bemis & Sheri DuPree’s acoustic tour a couple years ago. “When I Talk to God” was a major standout that ended many of the side conversations that typically occur during opening acts. Upon further review, this track certainly holds up.
8. A Great Big Pile of Leaves – “Fun in the Sun”
I’ve been digging these guys since I stumbled across The Fiery Works on their MySpace page in 2007 (please save your #humblebrag comments until the end of the column). Much to my enjoyment, their most recent release, You’re Always On My Mind, has garnered some national attention. The band’s mellow tone and youthfulness really thrives on this album, particularly on “Fun in the Sun”. Other AGBPOL stars include “Great Fun” and “Moving in Slow”.
9. From Indian Lakes – “Paintings”
Another band that caught my ear opening a show, From Indian Lakes are one of those bands that impress right away. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, “Paintings” is a great first listen – and certain to be one of your favorites. The final minute certainly grabbed me the first time I heard it and makes this track a standout from the album.
10. All Get Out – “Me and My Lovers”
One of my favorite debut albums from the past couple years belongs to All Get Out. Their ten-song release of The Season in 2011 brought a much-missed sound surge back to the genre and begs me to break my self-imposed “no full albums on the SP” rule. You’ll find “Me and My Lovers”, “My Friends” and “Girl, Gun” on my SP.
So, what did I miss? Let me know what songs my SP is lacking in the “Comments” section below.