Alternity 2020

In a year most of would like to quickly put in the rear-view mirror, it’s important to get a healthy dose of perspective and find some silver linings, as allusive as they may be.  For one, I think overall as a species, we are much cleaner.  Hand washing regimens bordering on the psychotic mixed with junkie like hand sanitizer usage has ingrained in humanity pristine hygiene that should carry over for years to come.  Which is fun to think about until one of your “working from home” friends told you they have begun to look at showering as more of a weekly thing now and you realize that… It’s a wash.   

While the past year hasn’t been a very strong year for music, and frankly who can blame it for having an off year, it still has managed to have some bright spots.  Some silver linings that will hopefully propel us to better times.  One of those silver streaks comes from Alternative music with the emergence of some exciting new acts and sounds, and the steady progression of now veteran outfits slowly becoming household names.  

Our annual roundup of the best in Alternative music embodies the various elements that make this corner of music so appealing to many.  While it has definitely evolved over recent years from its post-punk and new wave roots, it has carved out its own path through rock and electronic music coming out on the other side often as an amalgamation of the two.  As long as it doesn’t quite fit the mainstream mold and is hopefully a little weird, then you can find your place here.  From southern rock influences, funk, electronica and even hip hop, this year’s class is brimming with talent.  

Most lists start from the bottom. We’re gonna take it from the top.

How alternative of us.

1. Is It True by Tame Impala 

Funky, psychedelic outfit Tame Impala has been building a reputation for the past decade or so and seem to be getting better with every album.  While the band tours with a solid selection of musicians from the Perth music scene, including members of the group Pond, they are essentially the brainchild of Australian multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker.  If you only knew them from their breakout single Elephant. you might not realize that was an exception more than a rule.  The retro rock vibe of that commercial darling has been replaced in recent years by hypnotic grooves and thick beats. It’s a good thing. 

Kevin Parker is Tame Impala

2. Trouble’s Coming by Royal Blood

Following on the path of iconic rock duos like The White Stripes and The Black Keys, Brighton’s Royal Blood comes blazing back this year with a single from their third album slated for release in the spring of 2021. These dudes are a force to be reckoned with from the sheer power that Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher produce. Alternative music can run the gamut of moods and the blood brothers represent its harder edge to a tee on Trouble’s Coming.

Peep the lyric video

3. Stargazing by The Neighbourhood

It didn’t take long for it to grow on me and I found myself cranking this number up when I was weaving through traffic on the Stanley Park Causeway. A much more uptempo arrangement compared to their 2012 alternative hit Sweater Weather. The 80s continue to add their influence into modern music with this track likely finding a good spot on throwback DJ sets between A-Ha and the Pointer Sisters, if you know what I mean. Cool video featuring Lana Del Rey and Benny Blanco.

Shiny new song by The Neighbourhood

4. Dirty by Grandson

Being a Canadian, it’s always nice to see one of your countrymen shining on a world stage and the past few years has seen Grandson begin their climb up the ranks. New Jersey born and Toronto raised Jordan Benjamin aka Grandson is part of the new guard of artists stretching boundaries and continuing the genre’s evolution. Entering the scene with Blood // Water from his debut A Modern Tragedy Vol. 1, Benjamin’s fusion of alternative rock, chunky drum machines and electronic music elements quickly resonated with new listeners. Borrowing from dub and drum and bass rhythms fits perfectly with the dark imagery resurrected through gritty vocal performances. His latest offering Dirty speeds things up and leads the way on the forthcoming third album which should be coming our way sometime next year.

5. All I Need by Jake Bugg

English singer/songwriter Jake Bugg is a relative newcomer to the scene here but stormed onto the scene in Britain as an 18-year-old phenom landing his self-titled debut on the top of the UK Albums Chart. Since then, he’s stayed busy with projects every couple years collaborating with the upper echelons of rock including Grammy Award-winning Black Keys producer Dan Auerbach. This up-tempo pop folk composition is primed and ready for a modern rock radio crossover on this side of pond.  

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6. Guillotine by Mansionair, NoMBe

Landing on the electronic side of Alternative, I was lucky enough to see these guys live when they opened up for Bob Moses at The Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.   They didn’t disappoint and were a solid opener that night, quickly landing them on my radar.  Their latest Guillotine should land them on yours if they aren’t there already.  

7. Dirt in my Eyes by Cold War Kids







8. Cotton Candy by Blu DeTiger

This trippy joint is a mood to say the least.  This song builds nicely and is dripping with vocals begging you to get lost.  In a good way. It gets the job done and then some.  

Cotton candy skies in my eyes when they open wide / Fountains full of lemonade

Where am I?

Let’s run away from home…

9. Upside Down by Mondo Cozmo

If Kanye West and Damon Albarn had a devil’s three way with Sheila E, Mondo Cozmo might be the love child.  Philadelphia’s Josh Ostrander crosses late 90’s chipmunked hip hop and melodic rapping/singing lyrics with an alternative twist that comes across raw and genuine.

10. Francesca by Classixx and Local Natives

#mood

11. Officer of Love by Caamp

Akron, Ohio’s Caamp is making a name for themselves with this follow-up to last years Peach Fuzz and anthem-in-the-making By and By. A song which sounds oddly familiar and new at the same time like it was written by the ghosts of a southern rock super group that never happened. Officer of Love continues that trend channeling a band of horses to bring love criminals to justice.

12. Bang! by AJR

Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met(zger) aka AJR (get it?) have been cooking up tunes in the family living room for a few years now. Gotta respect a family business like that. It seems to be working as they blaze a trail through alt-pop with a solid formula for crafting catchy songs that chart.

Bruh(s)

13. Let Me Down by Paris Jackson

Speaking of family businesses… Pretty cool song.

Michael would be proud.

Spotify playlist link:

YouTube playlist link:

JT James is a DJ, producer and writer based out of Vancouver, Canada.   A veteran of the DJ and recording worlds. he has produced several projects in the genres of hip hop and electronic music under various aliases such as James Divine, Track Nicholson and Sandy Villanova.  When he’s not on the decks, in the studio or staring into a blank word document you can catch him at the beach, hiking through the forest or telling people how much yoga can change their life.  Look out for his latest project Wulvun and their debut single ‘Far Away’ streaming now on all major platforms.

Wulvun Single

Company:

http://essentialent.ca

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