I need some strange music
May 12, 2014 1:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to expand my music library with unique, unusual artists. What would you suggest?

So I have a pretty diverse taste in music and a nice-sized library, but I want to expand it. I am kind of an odd person, and I love hearing music that speaks to that part of myself. Music that, if I were to play it in my car, would cause someone to do an aural double take or question my sanity a little bit if they hadn't heard it before. Some characteristics I like:

- Lyrics that are somewhat arcane or explore subjects one would not normally expect to hear about in a song
- Music or vocals that are maybe a little discordant or would be off-putting to some people, but nothing so experimental that it doesn't have a discernible beat or melody or anything
- A style that is strange without being "gimmicky" or having humor as its main purpose...in other words, I'm not looking for things like Weird Al or the Aquabats
- Artists that are from the last few decades or so (you don't have to stick to this in your answers, but most of what I listen to is from the '90s or later)

Some bands I like that I think would fit these criteria include Screaming Females, Tracy + the Plastics, Rasputina, Soul Coughing, the Pixies, Fever Ray, Talking Heads, and Throwing Muses. And I haven't listened to her that much, but Joanna Newsom would also be a good example.

I'm flexible on the genre, I'm looking for more of a "feel" I guess. And I am looking more for artist and album recommendations than individual songs. So with that in mind, please share with me some weird music that you love. Danke! :)
posted by cosmicbeast to Media & Arts (86 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Your criteria seem very broad to me, but that's good because after reading your question the name "MC 900ft Jesus" just came into my head as someone who might fit quite well.
posted by Jimbob at 1:51 AM on May 12, 2014

I think we have somewhat compatible taste in stuff, so:

Arthur Russell is lovely - his style varies quite a lot but a lot of his songs have a little pleasing frisson of discord about them. Sun Kil Moon too - Benji is really strange, and at times uncomfortable, but it grows on you. April & Ghosts on the Great Highway, his other albums, are just as good, although probably not as odd. Also, my favourite song on the verge of melody/fuzz is Hopefully by Astrobrite, and if you like that, listen to the rest of their stuff!

But also, I think you'd really like John Maus if you don't already.
posted by lethologues at 2:23 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Pulp, here, here here, and here. I would still marry Jarvis after all these years.
posted by Blitz at 2:33 AM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Some more suggestions: Tom Waits, the Tiger Lillies, iLiKETRAiNS, Jenny Hval, cocoRosie.
posted by gnimmel at 2:40 AM on May 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You should listen to the Roches. Everyone should listen to the Roches.
posted by pracowity at 2:50 AM on May 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

The album Joe's Garage (all three acts) by Frank Zappa totally blew my mind a few months back. It was the weirdest thing I'd heard in a very long time, and it's long and complicated (musically and lyrically), so I've been consistently getting a lot of new stuff out of it on (many, many) subsequent listens in the months since I found it.

I'm also getting a lot of mileage out of Age of Plastic by The Buggles - two British record producers trying to make a very what-is-the-modern-age-coming-to album on purpose, but a lot of the synths & electronic sounds in it were done pre-proper synthesisers, so they had to use some pretty interesting techniques to pull off those sounds, rather than, say, plugging a Korg unit into something and just going for it.

gnimmel mentioned Tom Waits, and I'd also recommend going one weirder on the Tom Waits front and listening to Anywhere I Lay My Head, which is (mostly) Scarlett Johansson doing Tom Waits covers. It's...unusual, to say the least.
posted by terretu at 3:06 AM on May 12, 2014

Here are a few that could be considered lyrically unusual but not too far left field.

Vic Chesnutt
Tom Waits
Frog Eyes

posted by ianK at 3:07 AM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Try Bill Callahan, for example the album Dream River. The first song on that album has a slightly gimmicky feel, but overall it's a very beautiful and somewhat strange album. Like these lyrics from "Spring":
The wind is pushing the clouds along
Out of sight
A power is putting them away
A power that moves things neurotically
Like a widow with a rosary
From the amazing and hypnotic "Javelin Unlanding":
You looked like worldwide Armageddon
While you slept
You looked so peaceful
It scared me
Here's his NPR Tiny Desk concert.
posted by mbrock at 3:21 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thinking Fellers
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:33 AM on May 12, 2014

Best answer: You need to check out Snog

they are the best!

ohgr is really amazing too
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:34 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Captain Beefheart released two albums in the 80s that might appeal,
"Doc At the Radar Station", and "Ice Cream For Crow". All of his work is genius but these two are more approachable than the earlier work.
If you decide you like Beefheart after hearing these, "Safe As Milk", and "Clear Spot" stand out.
posted by Abinadab at 3:36 AM on May 12, 2014

Do you know Shawn Colvin? Her A Whole New You is deeply strange. Almost an album about personal strangification. From it, try:

Another Plane Went Down

A Matter of Minutes
posted by bertran at 3:39 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Renata Przemyk is interesting.
posted by pracowity at 3:47 AM on May 12, 2014

Oh, also, how about: The Suburban Lawns. (Mainly the songs where the female vocalist sings are serious strange. The song with the male vocalist tend toward being novelty numbers.)

And: The Tindersticks. (You should turn off the lights before listening to.)
posted by bertran at 3:56 AM on May 12, 2014

Best answer: One last one: From the Choirgirl Hotel from Tori Amos. Strange in so many dimensions.
posted by bertran at 4:10 AM on May 12, 2014

Danielson Famile (start with "Fetch the Compass Kids")
Animal Collective (start with "Sung Tongs")
posted by unknowncommand at 4:18 AM on May 12, 2014

Music or vocals that are maybe a little discordant or would be off-putting to some people,

Have you heard Colin Stetson?
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:26 AM on May 12, 2014

Best answer: Can't go wrong with some staples of avant-garde

Einstürzende Neubauten
Throbbing Gristle
Cabaret Voltaire

bonus - one of my favourites
Les Georges Leningrad

or try some antifolk like David Cronenberg's Wife
posted by handybitesize at 4:34 AM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ween, The Dead Milkmen, The Dead Kennedys
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:37 AM on May 12, 2014

Hang on! I forgot about The Fall

and my female vocaled Fall proxy Life Without Buildings
posted by handybitesize at 4:43 AM on May 12, 2014

The Dirty Projectors
The Fiery Furnaces. Rehearsing my Choir is amazing, an album that rewards close, repeated listening.
Os Mutantes
Pere Ubu. "Waiting for Mary" is their most accessible.
posted by hydrophonic at 4:58 AM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mr Bungle
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 5:01 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by considerspace at 5:03 AM on May 12, 2014

Neutral Milk Hotel
posted by backwards guitar at 5:05 AM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Dengue Fever is my go-to recommendation whenever someone says "I want something a bit weird."
posted by Katemonkey at 5:09 AM on May 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Twenty One Pilots - Vessel (Album)
posted by dobi at 5:10 AM on May 12, 2014

Nick Buzz. Plenty of weird and wonderful.
posted by Poldo at 5:12 AM on May 12, 2014

Robert Lippok

Discordant but still somewhat rhythmic.
posted by Gev at 5:13 AM on May 12, 2014

Seconding Tom Waits and Pere Ubu.

Also try John Zorn.

(Suggestion: these three plus probably a bunch of the other suggestions you'll get will have some fairly deep catalogs and have covered a lot of musical territory, so listen to a variety of their work before you decide yea or nay. It's entirely possible that some of their stuff will hit your sweet spot and some will not.)
posted by soundguy99 at 5:17 AM on May 12, 2014

I'm gonna try to cast a wide net here, so probably some of this isn't at all what you're looking for.

A Silver Mt Zion
Laurie Anderson
The Tear Garden
Saul Williams
cEvin Key / Ogre
Have A Nice Life
posted by Jairus at 5:28 AM on May 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Tokyo Incidents. A few examples.
posted by jbickers at 5:33 AM on May 12, 2014

Iris Dement has a voice that people either love or hate. Pure Appalachian soul.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:42 AM on May 12, 2014

Best answer: We have VERY similar musical tastes, and I think you might enjoy the profound, sometimes-unsettling weirdness that is Oneida. They are nigh-unto unclassifiable and vary considerably album to album. They're almost always repetitive, often psychedelic (but in a chilly, completely NON-hippie-ish way), and occasionally unlistenable (there is a track on Absolute II that I CANNOT listen to because it's like entering a childhood nightmare. More often than not, though, they are INTENSELY listenable ("Changes in the City" is on my eternal playlist, despite being over fourteen minutes long).
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:15 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet.
posted by alms at 6:15 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Great suggestions above! I like lots of different folk music, and one thing that usually makes a dent is Djivan Gasparyan - I Will Not Be Sad In This World. It can take a while to sink in. This particular cd seems to be less influenced by outside stuff than the other disks I've heard.
posted by sneebler at 6:32 AM on May 12, 2014

posted by thejoshu at 6:36 AM on May 12, 2014

Deerhoof. I think they fit a lot of your criteria.

You might have heard Behold a Marvel in the Darkness off of Deefhoof vs. Evil. It got some radio play (at least in Seattle).

(I'd also nth Dengue Fever.)
posted by sevenless at 6:49 AM on May 12, 2014

Nina Hagen, Eels, Icarus Line, Tune-Yards, Juana Molina, Circle Takes the Square, Sonic Youth, Lene Lovich, Cibo Matto, Bjork, Death Set, DJ Koze, JJ, Laura Mvula, Micachu and the Shapes, Parenthetical Girls, Thundercat, Vivian Girls, Maserati, Jenny Toomey, Gillian Welsh, The Watson Twins, Jaga Jazzist, Horse the Band, Grizzly Bear, CSS, Bat for Lashes, Anna von Hausswolff
posted by WeekendJen at 6:54 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Architecture in Helsinki
posted by h00py at 6:58 AM on May 12, 2014

Lots of good specific suggestions here. My general advice is look at the liner notes of the artists you do like to see who else is playing on their albums, and then seek those people out. Like if you do this for Talking Heads, you'll find Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp and Brian Eno among others, and if you iterate that process with those folks you'll be off into a whole universe of awesome music.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:03 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

when someone asks me what the hell i'm listening to it often turns out to be mark stewart and the maffia. i'd recommend 'as the veneer of democracy starts to fade.' first. another interesting vocalist that these same guys do the music for is gary clail. the same musicians also do a pretty cool project called tackhead.

the weathermen often go into some pretty different territory vocally. i'm also fond of a recoil.

amon tobin is pretty popular but his album cujo has a pretty unique sound.
posted by lester at 7:13 AM on May 12, 2014

I can't believe no one has suggested Julia Holter yet.
posted by The Michael The at 7:17 AM on May 12, 2014

Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel
posted by Rob Rockets at 7:33 AM on May 12, 2014

There is a sizable opposition party to the notion, but I think Sufjan Stevens is absolutely brilliant, and exactly hits the criteria you mention. Sad, beautiful, arcane.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:50 AM on May 12, 2014

Music that, if I were to play it in my car, would cause someone to do an aural double take or question my sanity a little bit

Big Black - Atomizer
Suicide - S/T
Wire - Chairs Missing
posted by Beardman at 8:24 AM on May 12, 2014

Swans. I haven't listened to their new album yet (aside from the song I just linked to) but it got a really good review in Pitchfork.
posted by mcmile at 8:35 AM on May 12, 2014

Screamin' Jay Hawkins
posted by jander03 at 8:36 AM on May 12, 2014

Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha
Sufjan Stevens, Illinoise
Sun Ra, The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra
Yma Sumac
posted by Lardmitten at 8:42 AM on May 12, 2014

Also check out this recent mefi post about the Rock*A*Teens.
posted by mcmile at 8:44 AM on May 12, 2014

My first thought after reading your question was The Fall, which someone else mentioned.
posted by Leontine at 8:47 AM on May 12, 2014

Doesn't quite fit with some of your preferences and previously liked artists, perhaps, but I think you should check out the work of Moondog.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:15 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Around the time I was listening to a lot of Pixies, Talking Heads, and Soul Coughing, I was listening to a lot of these bands, too:

Screaming Headless Torsos
Jim White
posted by elmer benson at 9:15 AM on May 12, 2014

Maybe the Magnetic Fields or the Decemberists?
posted by ootandaboot at 9:23 AM on May 12, 2014

These are all amazing, genius musicians:

Robert Wyatt
Togawa Jun
posted by rogerbraun at 9:25 AM on May 12, 2014

seconding Os Mutantes and Saul Williams. Adding both The Starlight Mints and The Bees (aka A Band of Bees)

Also any and all Ry Cooder. Like this album with Ali Farka Toure

Roy Ayers

Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminals Starvation League

and any Lee "Scratch" Perry
posted by GrapeApiary at 9:25 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sigur Ros.
posted by LaBellaStella at 9:30 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sia. First made her name with the singer-songwriter sound, then got kind of dance-y (in my opinion, should have gotten the acclaim that somehow all went to Robyn), then paired up with some big-name DJs and got really dance-y, but never stopped being weird and loveable.
posted by psoas at 9:36 AM on May 12, 2014

Hector Zazou
Roots Manuva
posted by perhapses at 9:53 AM on May 12, 2014

The Soft Boys and Robyn Hitchcock. I Often Dream of Trains is my favorite Hitchcock solo album.
posted by jabes at 9:56 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:28 AM on May 12, 2014

For the Talking Heads/Tracy + Plastics side of things, try Ut and Kleenex/LiLiPuT

Fiona Apple's last album might fit your Joanna Newsom leanings.
posted by rhizome at 10:49 AM on May 12, 2014

Slapp Happy (Who are new to me. I'm finding I like about half of their stuff, but when it's good it can be great.)
Daniel Johnston
Brian Eno's rock albums from the 70s
Roxy Music's first two albums (with Eno)
Sun City Girls
Butthole Surfers
Eugene Chadbourne. Look for his collaborations with Camper Van Beethoven. Side two of this album, the Tim Buckley covers, is some of my favorite music ever.
Camper Van Beethoven
Roky Erickson / 13th Floor Elevators
Bobby Conn
Quintron & Miss Pussycat
posted by hydrophonic at 10:49 AM on May 12, 2014

posted by j03 at 10:54 AM on May 12, 2014

My suggestion might seem so close to mainstream that you'll think I didn't even read the question.

Moby. He has such an eclectic mix of stuff that some of it is bound to be exactly what you want. Specifically Play and 18, and his latest Innocents. (I was not as big on Destroyed, but maybe you will be.) Although he has an occasional "top 40" sounding sound (Extreme Ways, South Side, We Are All Made of Stars), the majority of his catalog is much more off-kilter, yet with a beat and melody. I find that careful, active listening (like, headphone-on-leave-me-alone) is rewarded greatly. Specific tracks to check out: Machete, Run On, Find My baby, Great Escape, Harbour, A Case for Shame, The Perfect Life, The Last Day (one of my current favorite songs ever).
posted by The Deej at 10:56 AM on May 12, 2014

Oh, I have to pop back in to nominate Moby's Almost Home in the "unusual vocal" category.
posted by The Deej at 11:09 AM on May 12, 2014

Response by poster: Wow, well...this is definitely a start! Lots of awesome recommendations from what I've checked out so far (including some artists that I already love but neglected to mention) and I will mark some best answers later. I'm tempted to blow an entire paycheck on new music now.

Thanks for sharing, yo!
posted by cosmicbeast at 12:33 PM on May 12, 2014

Serafina Steer.
50 Foot Wave.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:57 PM on May 12, 2014

Chris Knox and the Tall Dwarfs.
Half Japanese
posted by Chenko at 4:09 PM on May 12, 2014

The Builders and the Butchers are way out there. Sorta like a psychedelic old timey gospel revival with more devil. Intense roots.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 4:37 PM on May 12, 2014

Best answer: Tricky
posted by _DB_ at 5:29 PM on May 12, 2014

Daily Alice has some good advice about stretching the time frame enough to let that Belew/Fripp/Eno axis of conceptual weird genius in. If you like unusual and fascinating lyrics, then early Eno is quite exquisite.

King Crimson, Discipline
Robert Fripp, Exposure
Brian Eno, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy

Other artists mentioned above that I have loved include Sigur Ros, Robert Wyatt, and Wire. Not mentioned, perhaps because they're too obvious, is Radiohead. They are fans of a band called Magazine.

Lyrics aside, if you ever feel like some seriously compelling instrumental stuff, then Astor Piazzolla is a real kick. I listen to this in my car.
posted by ovvl at 6:04 PM on May 12, 2014

The Incredible String Band
posted by moons in june at 6:48 PM on May 12, 2014

Now I want to go listen to Sheila Chandra who I haven't listened to in years.

She has an incredible voice, sings or chants in hindi or sanskrit, I don't know. It's both intense and relaxing.
posted by mearls at 7:29 PM on May 12, 2014

Gogol Bordello might qualify. Ween, tune yards, Death Grips.
posted by cnc at 9:08 PM on May 12, 2014

des ark
pygmy lush
zola jesus
posted by anoirmarie at 9:36 PM on May 12, 2014

Manu Chao, multiple languages, fun instruments.
posted by benbenson at 4:39 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might like Nina Nastasia's The Blackened Air or Run to Ruin.
posted by batscam at 5:25 AM on May 13, 2014

Came in to add Die Antwoord. (You asked for weird!)
posted by cnc at 1:15 PM on May 13, 2014

posted by sebastienbailard at 9:18 PM on May 13, 2014

I like alot of the same music you do, for mostly the same reasons. While it doesn't necessarily fit your question at first blush, I am drawn to James Blake's debut album, and How to Destroy Angels as examples on the darker side of life.
posted by grateful at 7:36 AM on May 14, 2014

I can't believe no one has suggested Shpongle!
posted by spindrifter at 12:35 PM on May 14, 2014

You might also like the angular approach and downright heaviness of grunge deconstructionists Naomi Punk, who take something that sounds a bit Pixies/TM and rips it up into little pieces until it's just about unrecognisable.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:26 AM on May 16, 2014

Based on your four bullet points, I recommend this: Lotion by Greenskeepers

posted by fiTs at 9:21 PM on July 8, 2014

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