If you're feeling adventurous, and looking for some of the most engaging and creative artists currently working, then you might find some of musicians or bands listed below satisfying.
A singer-songwriter with a long and storied career that includes membership in the indie power-pop supergroup, The New Pornographers, Dan Bejar has shifted from the David Bowiesque rock of earlier albums to a synthesizer, keyboard, and brass based effort which references the excesses of eighties era Steely Dan and Roxy Music. Destroyer's Kaputt melds pop, disco, and smooth jazz into a cohesive vision which transcends some of the more melodramatic elements of the genres it references. Hallmarks of Destroyer's previous work remain, including Bejar's penchant for lyrics filled with witty and self-referential observations. Meanwhile, Bejar's lyrics also take aim at the bands and genres of music referenced in his lyrics.
Last year the British artist James Blake released a series of singles which melded the musical genre of dubstep with elements of soul, and created a more sublime and contemplative version of the dark genre dubstep. His debut album includes a cover of Feist's Limit To Your Love, which made the rounds among blogs last year, and his subsequent album has been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in Europe. The songs on the album consist of soulful ballads wrapped in layers of synthesizers and programmed beats, which build around repetitive refrains sung by Blake in a mournful and somber tone. Blake's promising debut has allowed dubstep to progress after too many contrived efforts by lesser artists in recent years.
One artist who has come to dominate coffee shops, and the dorm rooms and apartments of sensitive college students, is the evocative folk project Bon Iver. The project is primarily the effort of Justin Vernon who wrote his debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago in a remote cabin in rural Wisconsin. The now mythologized story and album led to his inclusion on several best of the year polls and a collaboration with Kanye West. On Vernon's most recent effort Bon Iver, Bon Iver, he utilizes an expansive array of musicians, thus providing a larger and more nuanced sound beyond the more simple arrangements of For Emma, Forever Ago. In terms of vocals, Vernon's ethereal falsetto lends poignancy to his poetic lyrics, which evoke a variety of emotions and places. The greatest distinction on this album remains Vernon's progression as a songwriter and his focus on production and the subtle inclusion of a variety of instruments.
One of the most discussed and debated genres since 2009 has been chillwave, or what is otherwise known as glo-fi. The genre primarily consists of an individual artist working with synthesizers and software to arrange instruments, samples, and loops together into a hazy and psychedelic rhythm. The best album to emerge from this genre, and manage to push the genre's boundaries, comes from Toro Y Moi, the bedroom project of Chaz Bundick from South Carolina. His second album Underneath the Pine adds greater clarity to his vocals and the music contains a variety of instruments from organ to drums, along with the inclusion of the musical stylings of funk and pop. Several danceable songs appear and are filled with basslines and synths that align well with Bundick's smooth vocal delivery.
For those seeking to move away from the world of synthesizers and programmed beats, Okkervil River's latest album I Am Very Far, while not their best, should hold your interest. On their latest album, the band's principal songwriter Will Sheff, and now producer, has refrained from making another concept album, and instead has shifted his excesses to the amount of musicians present on the album. Each song contains multiples of several instruments from piano to drums, and lends the album a density which packs a punch. Otherwise Shelf blends his celebrated literate and cerebral lyrics with a rollicking mixture of rock and roll and Americana that reaches orchestral levels.