One of the greatest traps as a music fan is getting stuck in your ways. Internet radio and streaming services are opening listeners up to a wider selection of music than ever before. Nothing matches up to that feeling of stumbling across a musical gemstone, a beautiful, fresh display of audible art. These artists vary in their level of obscurity, but they are far from regulars on radio rotation or music channels.
Regina Spektor plays a unique brand of eclectic, quirky “anti-folk.” She’s a classically trained pianist who was first exposed to rock music when she was growing up in Soviet Russia. Her music is both beautiful and simplistic, and she punctuates her performances with playful vocals and self-generated effects. You might know some of her songs from films and adverts, but her highest chart position in the UK was 30 for an album and 45 for a single.
Related: Regina Spektor - "Us"
Tom Waits is likely to be the most well known musician in this list, but he still hasn’t enjoyed much mainstream success in the UK, with a chart-high of sixth back in 1992. With a ragged, sandpaper voice ravaged by alcohol and nicotine, Waits croons out hard hitting tales of lowlifes, pushers and scumbags through poetic lyricism. Musically he’s hard to classify, with different songs ranging from blues rock to percussion heavy tribal madness, but he is always thoroughly entertaining.
Related: Tom Waits - "God's Away on Business"
Despite having released a song featuring Kylie Minogue, Nick Cave (and his band, the Bad Seeds) haven’t enjoyed much success in the UK, charting only once in the top 40. Cave started out as a punk front man, before taking his savage lyrics onto new ground with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. His music varies from tender ballads through to scorching, punk-inspired tirades. It provides an atmospheric and unusual backing for his beautifully constructed, literary lyrics, flirting with themes like religion and exploring the human condition with ferocious zeal.
Related: Nick Cave - "I Had a Dream, Joe"
Thea Gilmore is a British singer-songwriter schooled on Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. She plays tender, heartfelt folk songs and has toured with the legendary Joan Baez. She refuses to conform to folk singer stereotypes, and tackles issues such as love, sex, politics and death in her lyrics. With no real chart success (with only two top 100 placements), she continues down her personal path with confidence and grace. She isn’t shooting for success, just trying to create her art and hoping people take something from it.
Related: Thea Gilmore - "Holding Your Hand"
Rodrigo Y Gabriela
This guitar duo is made up of Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero, two guitarists who initially bonded over their love of heavy metal. The two studied new styles of playing, and eventually formed their flamenco twosome, which achieved some success when the pair left Mexico City for Ireland. Their virtuosity on their instruments is matched only by their innovative style, which incorporates drumming on the body of their acoustic guitars. Metal still is a fixture, with the pair covering Metallica tracks like “One,” but they also write their own material.
Related: Rodrigo y Gabriela - "One"