18 Additional Lesser-Known Artists of the Last 35 Years, Picked by 18 Well-Known Artists

SPIN Staff
·8 min read

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As part of our 35th anniversary celebration, we asked 35 well-known artists to select their 35 favorite lesser-known artists. The response was so overwhelming. We had too many responses. Thus, part two was born.

There are so many great yet obscure artists you probably haven’t heard. We figured “Why not create another list to showcase them?” Without further ado, here are 18 additional lesser-known artists you’ll probably dig. - Daniel Kohn

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Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s on the Beaches

 

The Beaches
The Beaches

Credit: Felice Trinidad

 

The Beaches are fresh, rockin’, badass musicians making cool music while having the time of their lives, and I love them.

 

Laura Stevenson on Helen Chambers

 

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helen-chambers-1609174670

Credit: Facebook/HelenChambersMusic

 

Helen Chambers is a singer-songwriter who lives in a tiny village outside of York, England. Her style harkens back to 1970s British folk like Sandy Denny and Richard and Linda Thompson. She opened for me the first time I came to the U.K. over a decade ago, and now every time I’m over there I ask her to play with me just so I can hear her beautiful, lilting voice again.

 

Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge, Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators) on Alain Johannes

 

Alain Johannes
Alain Johannes

Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

 

Though Alain Johannes may not be a household name, he is held in the highest regard among those who have been exposed to his work over the last three decades. From the records he made with his wife Natasha in the band Eleven to his contributions as a player, producer and writer with the likes of Queens of The Stone Age, Chris Cornell and Them Crooked Vultures, Alain has proven time and time again how much he can bring to the sonic party. The incredible depth and versatility of his solo work also highlights the musical prowess of this multi-instrumentalist. Some refer to Alain as a genius. Though that accolade carries a lot of weight…I tend to agree.

 

Ellen Kempner/Palehound on Drill

In my opinion, anyone in their right or wrong mind should listen to Drill. This band is composed of three of the coolest people in arguably the coolest city (Philadelphia), and I turn to this EP when I’m in a Mood.

 

Jesse Malin on Hennessey

 

Hennessey
Hennessey

Credit: Instagram/hennessey_the_band

 

A young new band out of New York City: kind of pop, kind of edgy, kind of melodic, kind of electronic. Thought-provoking and heartfelt lyrics. Leah Hennessey, the front person, and E.J. on the keyboards collaborate in a way that’s got me excited about music in a way I haven’t been in a long time. They also play live and put on a show. Worth going to see them, even if it’s a livestream. Can’t wait to see them back in clubs again.

 

Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) on Shaina Shepherd

 

Shaina Shepherd
Shaina Shepherd

Credit: YouTube

 

I met Shaina last year when we both played a benefit that celebrated the songs of Neil Young. She sang “Southern Man” with impressive vocal strength and confidence on stage. She was also very engaging and charismatic in person.

She teaches voice and she sings with Bearaxe, a great rock band with prog, punk and soul elements.

I recently performed with Shaina to honor Alice In Chains, the MoPoP Founders Award recipients for 2020. Her interests, talents and range provide her with the versatility and vision to have an amazingly successful and creative future.

 

Matt Cameron (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam) on Snow Bud and the Flower People

 

snowbud-and-the-flower-people-1609175459
snowbud-and-the-flower-people-1609175459

Credit: Dean Fletcher

 

Mind-bending northwest garage-psych from Portland legend Chris Newman (Napalm Beach). Snow Bud released two cassettes in 1986, Snow Bud and the Flower People and Vegetable Matter. I purchased both, listened incessantly and was a fan for life. Chris Newman embodied everything I loved about the Northwest garage psych-rock aesthetic.

 

Eric Earley (Blitzen Trapper) on Morgan Delt

 

Morgan Delt
Morgan Delt

Credit: Lily Keep

 

His last recorded material, Phase Zero, is some trippy bedroom psych, packed with ingenious changes and unique sounds. You can tell he’s a psych-entist dabbling with the far-out sounds he hears in his head. Subject matter is timely, everything from rampant materialism to gun violence and environmentalism.

 

Lilly Hiatt on Nikki Hill

 

Nikki Hill
Nikki Hill

Credit: Leslie Campbell Photography

 

Her voice and words are powerful, and her album Feline Roots is awesome. I love her song “Don’t Be the Sucker.” Nikki rocks.

 

Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots) on Camp Howard

 

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camp-howard-1609175771

Credit: Facebook/CampHowardBand

 

Lovely band. Had the pleasure of doing many shows with these cats. Their latest release, Canon, is a beautiful record. I think you’ll dig it.

 

Robby Staebler (All Them Witches) on Bohren & Der Club of Gore

 

Six years ago, I broke my leg the day before a small ATW tour. A buddy of mine heard of this misfortune and sent me Bohren & Der Club of Gore to get into the mending spirit. I thought for sure it was going to be some crazy unlistenable industrial metal, but how I was wrong…If death metal was the slowest most relaxing jazz music you’ve ever heard — this is Bohren. Hooked on their albums Piano Nights and Dolores. Legendary stuff.

 

Margo Price on Dillon Warnek

 

dillon-warnek-1609175896
dillon-warnek-1609175896

Credit: Facebook/DillonWarnek

 

I met Dillon Warnek backstage in a green room in Australia where he was drinking all the tequila on our rider. At the time, he was playing guitar with Courtney Marie Andrews, who was opening the shows for me during our first tour in Oz. Warnek had a big personality and was talking 100 miles a minute, rambling on with self-deprecating jokes and a dark sense of humor that I connected to immediately. He spoke with so many words, it was a miracle his tongue could even keep up. Later, when I heard his songs, I understood why. He has a sharp wit and a writing style that seems both familiar and foreign at the same time. He is a songwriter’s songwriter, and some of his songs are too smart for the general population. Like many of my favorite songwriters, it is both his greatest talent and greatest downfall. His stark originality and colorful vocabulary may be detrimental to him ever having “massive mainstream appeal.”

My band backed him up on his latest EP, Fruit From Crooked Trees, and I sang on a song called “Morning In Memphis.”

Maybe if it were the 1960s, all my favorite writers would be respected like they truly deserve…I don’t know. But I do know so many talented folks, so I’m gonna leave you with a laundry list of people who should be wildly successful: Steven Knudson, Kyshona Armstrong, Rayvon Pettis, Evan P Donohue, Erin Rae, Teddy and the Rough Riders, Darrin Bradbury, Lilly Hiatt, Willy McGee, Sam Doores and Emily Nenni.

 

Eric Slick (Dr. Dog, solo artist) on Make a Rising

 

Make A Rising
Make A Rising

Credit: Bandcamp/Make A Rising

 

They were proggy and angular, but they also had this beautiful melodic side that harkened back to Van Dyke Parks and 10cc. In 2008, they released their second album, Infinite Ellipse and Head With Open Fontanel. It had everything I could ever want in a record: drums that split apart at the seams, dense vocal harmony stacks, ELO violins, Flaming Lips-meets-Beach Boys vocal melodies and a dark humor enveloping the lyrical content. I got to finally see Make A Rising five times, and each performance was magical in its own way. Unfortunately, the original line-up dissolved in the early ’10s. I have heard rumblings that Make A Rising will return. I long for the day when I can see them again.

 

Jonah Ray on Paws

 

paws-1609179166
paws-1609179166

Credit: Facebook/wehavepaws

 

The Scottish band that put out increasingly mature albums with each release. Jumping off as a fuzzed-out indie punk band and splashing into a beautifully sad and soft fourth album drenched with melancholy. I spend a lot of my time preaching about this band!

 

Josh Klinghoffer (Pluralone, ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers) on John Foxx

 

John Foxx
John Foxx

Credit: Luciano Viti/Getty Images

 

The original singer of the late ’70s band Ultravox! made a solo album called Metamatic. It was released when I was three months old. It’s one of my favorite albums of all time.

 

Tony Hajjar (At the Drive-In, Gone Is Gone) on Holy Wars

 

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holy-wars-1609179361

Credit: Facebook/HolyWarsMusic

 

Holy Wars is an L.A.-based band. Its main contributors are Kat Leon and Nick Perez. I love the way they put songs together and the production value of them. The songs feel like dark pop with a refined sound that is clean yet still huge in all ways. Kat’s voice is incredible and so versatile. You can hear that on every song they release. Lastly, their live show is raw and powerful. Kat brings it every single time.

 

Eric Hilton (Thievery Corporation) on Isabelle Antena

 

My favorite artist who is a rare unknown gem is Isabelle Antena. Hailing from the underground New Wave and jazz scene in Belgium, she has a large cult following around the globe, and her early records have always been part of my top shelf.

 

John Flansburgh (They Might Be Giants) on Big Thief

 

big thief
big thief

Credit: Burak Cingi/Redferns

 

I got one sentence? OK. I have watched the Pixies open for They Might Be Giants (with my mom in the audience) in a tiny club in Jamaica Plain, Crowded House open for TMBG at a sold-out show at CBGB to general indifference six months before they had a number one international hit, the Cardigans play to mumbles at the Esplanade in Boston for 10,000+ people (again with a number one hit six months later), and I recently had the pleasure of sharing a bill with the band Big Thief on a radio show — and they are just fantastic, important, and if there is any justice in this world will be just as big or a bigger deal as anybody in this one sentence.

To see our running list of the top 100 greatest guitarists of all time, click here.