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The music world is often changed forever by musicians who break the rules. They slide in and out of genres, they string together a set of obscure noises you didn’t know could become music.

It’s the music you have to hyphenate infinite times for it to make sense, like pop-punk-gooey-retro-psych music, or something. You may refer to it in terms of a vibe, because the only way you can talk about this music is in the way it makes you feel.

Here’s a list of five contemporary artists you just can’t pin down.

The music we love is full of genre-bending artists who break the rules. We’ve compiled a list of 5 contemporary artists who cannot be pinned down.

My Baby

My Baby is your yoga soundtrack on genre-bending steroids. Let’s just look at their latest 2018 album Mounaiki. The title track is almost country. Supernatural Aid is like a burlesque Kylie Minogue mixed with Sneaky Sound System. Borderline gives off tribal Joni Mitchell vibes. Shadow Dancer is a woman from the ’50s laying on the piano and singing, paired with the Arctic Monkeys, all over a club beat. And it goes on.

Mounaiki is a concept album. It tells the story of a hero’s journey using all the genres at their disposal. The genres they enter for a moment tell a story in themselves.

My Baby are currently on tour throughout Australia and New Zealand. To catch this inscrutable band in the flesh, check out their tour dates here.

Sampa the Great

Sampa the Great raps in her own personal language. As soon as you hear it, you understand it’s nothing you’ve ever heard before. Her music doesn’t fall into modern rap trends. Instead of sticking to a genre, she draws a figure of herself out of her sound.

Her 2017 mixtape The Birds And The Bee9 combines rap with reggae, soul, RnB and jazz. She allows for this simple tribal energy, for lack of more educated description, to resonate. But it feels like you’re close to the ground. It’s heavy in some parts and it’s liberating in others. Her genre is making music so true to herself it sounds free.

Methyl Ethyl

Technically Methyl Ethyl are a rock band. Their beats are rocky. But if you listen to their 2017 album Everything is Forgotten it’s hard to support that claim. It’s full of crazy sounds that don’t fit any one musical narrative.

L’Heure des Sorcières, translated ‘Time Witch’, is a spooky-retro-space-traveller song. Act of Contrition is your warped memory of a Spanish village you never visited. Weeds Through the Rind is a light, psychedelic ballad. Methyl Ethyl makes scary movie rock soundtracks that move your body, and it makes them hard to pin down.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are prolific and the transitions between their songs and albums are inimitable. Drummer Eric Moore told the Rolling Stones in early 2018, “As a young band, people always tell you not to do stuff, which is kind of strange. It’s always, ‘No, you can’t do that,’ and, ‘People don’t do it like that’.”  To prove that anything goes, they released five albums in 2017.

The records move from intense to subdued to extra-terrestrial. Their experimental sound finds its way into garage punk, baroque pop, raga rock, psych rock and many more sub-genres. But somehow it all makes sense when The Gizz are doing it.

Jonathan Bree

Jonathan Bree’s music is collected not by genre but by a certain darkness or melancholy. His 2018 album Sleepwalking is an absurd art-pop album which enters his crooning voice into a number of alternate scenarios.

Say you love me has Gainsbourg whisper vibes. Roller Disco is a lethargic ballad. Valentine is a sweet, slow, sad-teenager soundtrack. Static is a spooky, soft-spoken back-and-forth between a man and a woman. Altogether, it’s kind of absurd but it works.

His absurdity is also in his look, wearing a white bodysuit that is in parts creepy and shocking. To hear his deep, sentimental voice ringing out of that costume creates its own contradictory experience.

 

Find out more about My Baby’s tour here.

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January 9, 2019

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