As a subscriber to the AllMusic online newsletter, I get regular updates of the latest international releases. The information includes the artiste, album title, label and genre. Unless it’s a musician known to me, it’s the last detail, which helps me decide whether to proceed further or not.
After getting the newsletter for almost a decade now, the way I've used it has changed now. Initially, I would jot down only those albums I wanted to purchase in CD format, and look around in a store. Most of the time, I wouldn’t find them. Later, I would sample a song or two on YouTube, and make my choice. Today, I just search for an album on an online streaming platform, and press play.
Needless to say, there's a lot of interesting music I've discovered through the newsletter. In the last couple of weeks, among the known artistes, I already knew about when grunge band Pearl Jam’s new album Gigaton and British singer Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia were being released. The known artistes are anyway listed on the new releases sections of streaming platforms, or talked about by fans.
Through AllMusic, I found out about Canadian singer The Weeknd’s album After Hours and American actor-singer Childish Gambino's record 3.15.20, named after the date of release. Both these were described as alternative rhythm n' blues - which was interesting because earlier, one had only heard of alternative rock. Anyway, this was the name given to “more contemporary, serious and artistic" rhythm n' blues, though one wonders who decides on those qualities. British-Jamaican singer FKA Twigs, who released the brilliant album Magdalene last year, falls under this category.
An alternative world
The AllMusic classification also has something called alternative singer-songwriter, whatever that is. You either are a singer-songwriter, or you aren't one. What’s this alternative variant? This description has been given to American musician M. Ward for his album Migration Stories . Out of curiosity, I checked it out and was impressed by its narrative style of lyrics. I realised Ward has released many albums since 1999, but had somehow evaded me.
I was also tempted to check out Chicago-based British indie-folk artiste James Elkington, who's recently released the album Ever-Roving Eye . He's earlier played with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention, and has a quintessential folk-rock sound.
Other discoveries through the AllMusic newsletter route have been the latest albums by chart-topping Australian pop-rock band 5 Seconds of Summer, Australian psychedelic pop artiste Tame Impala and the outstanding American saxophonist Jimmy Greene. And there are some on the yet-to-listen list, including works by ace producer Brian Eno and American electronic duo The Chainsmokers. Even as I keep returning to old favourites, the newer material provides much-needed variety. Alternative variety, to be precise.