Who sounds like a recent Tom Waits?
January 5, 2008 11:16 PM   Subscribe

All right, so, I love Tom Waits. A lot. Like most people love their grandmothers, I guess, except I've never made a turkey out of my handprint in some finger paint for Tom. What are some bands/artists who sound like that? Particularly latter-day Waits: Bone Machine, Mule Variations, Real Gone, etc. I've never been that big on the ballads, I confess (there goes my hipster cred).
posted by katillathehun to Media & Arts (54 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Nobody I ever heard sounds like Tom Waits. Though, the first thing that comes to mind is Leonard Cohen.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:22 PM on January 5, 2008

Sites like pandora.com and lastfm.com can find bands that sound similar to others. I've found a few great bands this way.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:26 PM on January 5, 2008

As jeffamaphone said, pretty much nobody sounds exactly like Tom Waits. If any band did, they would probably immediately be accused of being a "Tom Waits ripoff".

The only album I can think of that both sounds similar to Tom Waits and is decent is Ugly Casanova - Sharpen Your Teeth, especially on tracks like Spilled Milk Factory and Pacifico.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:34 PM on January 5, 2008

As jeffamaphone said, pretty much nobody sounds exactly like Tom Waits. If any band did, they would probably immediately be accused of being a "Tom Waits ripoff".
Ha! My mentor would never listen to Tom Waits because he was a "Captain Beefheart ripoff".. I guess it all depends on the angle you're looking at things from right? Katiallathehun.. I'm not nearly as big on the ballads either! I can't really think of who sounds like Waits (now).. that is a doomed endeavor.. I was just look for adventurous production or enlightened soungwriting.. it is hard to find both (as distinctly articulated) as in Waits' best work.
posted by serial_consign at 11:47 PM on January 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding jeffamaphone's suggestions that A: nobody sounds like Tom Waits, but, B: Leonard Cohen might fit the bill.

And adding that you might want to check out Nick Cave, as well. In many ways he's absolutely nothing like Tom Waits at all. On the other hand, in my head they're coming from similar places.
posted by dersins at 11:48 PM on January 5, 2008

Tom Waits late stuff is heavily influenced by Captain Beefheart, which he openly admits; Kathleen Brennan introduced him to Beefheart, and he never looked back. There's also a sizable chunk of Brecht/Weill in there.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:51 PM on January 5, 2008

Tom Waits has chunks of guys like Brecht in his stool.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:59 PM on January 5, 2008

Believe me, I'm an equally embarrassingly huge fan of Cave as I am of Waits. I love Cohen too. Beefheart's hit-and-miss for me. Sometimes he's just a little too much like Zappa for my liking, though so many of my favorite artists really owe their career to CB. I guess I'm primarily looking for acts that are similar in style. It's nice if they have that kind of voice, too (I recently discovered Jason Webley, for example), but it's that general style that works for me.
posted by katillathehun at 11:59 PM on January 5, 2008

Heh, I was just going to recommend Jason Webley. Nuts.
posted by hades at 12:03 AM on January 6, 2008

Nthing Cave, Beefheart, Cohen, and has anyone mentioned Serge Gainsbourg yet? But really, there probably aren't any sound-alikes. On the weird noises front you might try No Neck Blues Band; they're pretty hit-or-miss for me. On the cabaret/Weill side, check out The Tiger Lillies, Shannon Wright (esp. Dyed in the Wool and Over the Sun), and maybe Marianne Faithfull. (My way-out-there suggestion: The Oblivians Play 9 Songs With Mr. Quintron)
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 12:51 AM on January 6, 2008

Oh! And Harry Partch!
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 12:53 AM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Gunshy. See if you can track down "Your Favorite Dylan Song" from the album No Man's Blues. It's one of my favorite songs of all time. If I remember correctly this guy's in his twenties, but I can't find any other point of comparison for his voice but Waits.
posted by Muffpub at 12:54 AM on January 6, 2008

May be hard to find, but you could try the norwegian band Kaizers Orchestra (if the thought of norwegian lyrics do not offend).
posted by The Carolingian at 1:22 AM on January 6, 2008

I honestly put the right address in! Try this: http://www.kaizers.no/
posted by The Carolingian at 1:23 AM on January 6, 2008

Man Man, which, yes, actually do sound like Tom Waits.
posted by lunalaguna at 1:25 AM on January 6, 2008

In a Venn diagram of A) the people I know who really love Tom Waits and B) the people I know who really love Califone, the two circles overlap almost completely. Califone doesn't sound "like" Waits -- nthing the sentiment that no one does -- but they certainly have taken lessons in that banging-on-the-radiator-with-a-banjo school of Americana that runs through much of the Waits material you say you like. They're like rustic electronica (occasionally descending into bluesy chaos), if that makes any sense; you might also like the band that was the forerunner to Califone, Red Red Meat (composed of the same core musicians who now make up Califone, back when they were on SubPop). There's MP3's of a few Califone/RRM songs available on their discography here (of the ones available, maybe check out "Trout Silk," "Electric Fence," and "Horoscopic.Amputation.Honey" by Califone, and "Stained and Lit" and "Sulfur" by Red Red Meat to see if you like them).
posted by scody at 1:56 AM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding Jason Webley. He's local to the NW, & an all around cool guy. Have a listen of 'Against the Night' & 'Millennium Bug' for the slower, softer ones, & 'Dance while the sky crashes down' and maybe 'Icarus' for louder/faster ones. Against the Night & Only Just Beginning are his better albums imo.
posted by devilsbrigade at 2:06 AM on January 6, 2008

Definitely check out Frog Eyes. They've got that whole carny sound down.
posted by pilibeen at 2:30 AM on January 6, 2008

Not sound-a-likes, but if you like Tom Waits/Leonard Cohen/Nick Cave, I'd suggest Johnny Cash's American albums, Laurie Anderson (try The Ugly One With The Jewels), Tricky (try Pre-Millennium Tension) and maybe Lou Reed or BB King.

The theme is that they're all artists who are about the performance at least as much as the music - the artist's personality shines through the music really really strongly. Especially with the Johnny Cash stuff - his basic Johnny Cash-ness really steamrollers over any intentions the original artists had.

Country Teasers might be worth a listen too, and you should probably skim the top of the whole alt.country/americana genre.

(Oh, and I just pulled Califone's Roomsound off the shelf, and I can totally see what scody's saying).
posted by Leon at 2:50 AM on January 6, 2008

agreeing with man man and califone recommendations.

also try san francisco's rube waddell and yard dog road show (warning: YDRS is totally annoying but exactly what you seem to be looking for)
posted by Hat Maui at 3:06 AM on January 6, 2008

Yay! Ear-food!

A couple more speculative offerings for you in the "don't really sound that much like Waits, but bound to appeal to a Waits fan, right?" category... Pretty much toward the "growly blues" end of the spectrum.

Hazmat Modine
The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir
Chicken-legs Weaver (honestly, more Beefheart than Waits, but...)
posted by kxr at 3:25 AM on January 6, 2008

Check out Screaming Jay Hawkins
posted by cotterpin at 3:31 AM on January 6, 2008

Nobody sounds like Waits. Give up, kittykat. Rent his movies next if you're strapped. Fishing With John! Dracula! omg. etc, etc. Then rent Ron Perlman's, and squint! ...The Adventures of Huck Finn, The City of Lost Children.

However, I swear as a deep, deep Waits fan, that the following acts offer something distrinctly Waitsian to me. (Besides Cohen, Cave [who really should have bothered to learn to sing], Costello [there's punk in Waits I tell you] and Beefheart)

The Billy Nayer Show (like the Reverend Horton Heat of not-Reverend bands)
Joanna Newsom (his feminine opposite? seriously?)
Ween (let's say Tom Waitsish plus either N2O or horns on any given track)
Adam Green (especially Jacket Full of Danger)
The Mountain Goats

When I got into Tom Waits I was also into Fiona Apple, Loudon Wainwright III, Randy Newman, Hammell on Trial, Poe, Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen and The Bloodhound Gang. (?!) Not that that could possibly help. I was also passing Logic with the help of my stalker and sleeping with the wrong people. Oh Waits, you cad.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:49 AM on January 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeard Dogs Road Show were a great show, reminded me to say Circus Contraption.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:54 AM on January 6, 2008

posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 4:35 AM on January 6, 2008

A lot of what I would suggest has already been mentioned but Sparklehorse also popped into my head when I was thinking recent-years' Tom Waits.
posted by aught at 5:17 AM on January 6, 2008

Chuck E Weiss is a collaborator and friend of Tom Waits, cast from a similar mould, but with a more bluesy/rock 'n' roll feel to his music.
posted by tallus at 6:29 AM on January 6, 2008

Preacher Boy. Walk, do not run. He has several albums out that a re very Waitsian.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:01 AM on January 6, 2008

For your consideration
Gavin Friday
Baby Gramps

and you should listen to this English production of The Threepenny Opera to hear the Kurt Weil and tinpan alley influence in Tom.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:27 AM on January 6, 2008

Royal Fingerbowl, from New Orleans, sounds like Tom Waits to me.
posted by Camofrog at 8:10 AM on January 6, 2008

The Handsome Family
Eleni Mandell, although maybe she's closer to his ballad-y side.

Guitarist Marc Ribot has played on a few of Waits' albums. There's a lot of his stuff to explore, but you could start with his fake-Latin band Los Cubanos Postizos.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:44 AM on January 6, 2008

I often hear Beefheart/Waits comparisons. I don't get it. And yes, I'm aware Waits says he was influenced by Beefheart, and no, I don't doubt him. But to me, at least, Beefheart is more "Zappa minus musical talent".

Anyway, I'm here to nth "nobody's like Waits", but also nth suggesting Leonard Cohen and Chuck E. Weiss.
posted by Flunkie at 8:52 AM on January 6, 2008

In the same vein as the Sparklehorse, Califone and Nick Cave recommendations, you might find it viable to give a listen to Giant Sand and to Howe Gelb's solo work. And see if you can find The Kill Devil Hills, while you're at it.
posted by kowalski at 9:04 AM on January 6, 2008

Seconding everything scody said about Califone. (And wow, what an awesome description.)
posted by desuetude at 9:09 AM on January 6, 2008

except I've never made a turkey out of my handprint in some finger paint for Tom.

Oh man, why not? Give it a try and let us know what happens.

posted by winston at 9:18 AM on January 6, 2008

Oh, yeah, and my puppet, Sailor Martin, sounds a lot like Tom Waits, even though my primary vocal influence is Jimmy Durante. Apparently, when I sing like Jimmy Durante, the results are Tom Waits.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:27 AM on January 6, 2008

You might like Scott Walker.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:35 AM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

First thing that came to mind was Morphine. Mark Sandman's voice was, if I may be so bold, even more dark and sultry than Tom Waits. Sample: Buena (youtube).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:34 AM on January 6, 2008

You might like M. Ward.
posted by thisjax at 10:36 AM on January 6, 2008

Another Morphine song: In Spite of Me (youtube again).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:39 AM on January 6, 2008

No one's mentioned Mark Lanegan?

(apologies for linking to myspace)
posted by hobbes at 11:08 AM on January 6, 2008

I was going to suggest Mark Lanegan too, particularly Bubblegum (possibly only bubblegum given your dislike of ballads).

You might like some Queens of the Stone Age too, songs like "Burn The Witch" "In the Fade" have a heavy dose of weird.
posted by fshgrl at 11:31 AM on January 6, 2008

As someone stated previously, the Gunshy, here is their MySpace. With songs.

They sound really similar to Tom Waits, thus I don't like it.
posted by cloeburner at 11:38 AM on January 6, 2008

Definitely do check out Man Man. They're pretty close to the spirit of recent Waits: seedy characters from a nearby alternate universe, with rough-edged voices and a lurching, chaotic sense of rhythm. But enough of the details are different to keep it interesting. They've got less blues and more circus, less tragedy and more black comedy, and all the musicians sing. (Imagine five of Tom Waits. In harmony. With a falsetto voice on the top line like a drunken Diana Ross muppet.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:43 AM on January 6, 2008

Thirding Sparklehorse. You may know this already, but Tom Waits contributed vocals to Dog Door, a song off Sparlklehorse's 3rd album, It's A Wonderful Life.
posted by afx237vi at 1:27 PM on January 6, 2008

For spiritual brethren of Tom Waits, check out [FYI, these are all YouTube links] Gogol Bordello and Tindersticks. If you do the aural version of squinting, Crime and the City Solution might do it for you, too.

I'd also like to hijack this thread a tiny bit to recommend a book about Swordfishtrombones coming out any minute now, written by a good friend of mine, for the 33 1/3 series. I was lucky enough to read the manuscript before publication, and it's incredible. I think Waits fans will enjoy it.
posted by jesourie at 2:57 PM on January 6, 2008

Another vote for Man Man, especially their lovely first album.

Honus Honus once played my head in concert. *sigh*
posted by dobbs at 3:13 PM on January 6, 2008

Second M. Ward - try Transfiguration of Vincent.
posted by nanojath at 3:22 PM on January 6, 2008

I'm a huge Tom Waits fan. The only other stuff that comes close, IMHO, are the more recent discs from Joe Henry (Wikipedia), going back as far as Fuse. His latest, Civilians is very Waits-ish, though not in a bad way. So is the disc before that, Scar. Earlier Joe Henry is also good, but it's pretty much straight country (he starts there and gets weirder, just as Waits stated with piano ballads and got weirder).
posted by wheat at 3:59 PM on January 6, 2008

Whoa! So much awesomeness in this thread. I have lot to check into, I see. My Zune thanks you all (that's right. I said the z-word. Although I find myself saying other four-letter words while attempting to use it, but that's another topic entirely).

Jesourie - your friend's book sounds seriously cool. I love this line from the description: "There aren't many love stories where the happy ending sounds like a paint can tumbling in an empty cement mixer."
posted by katillathehun at 7:28 PM on January 6, 2008

I found several artists I like on the Anti label (Tom Waits' current label) once I exhausted Tom Waits. Tim Fite has some of the feel and has a lot of mp3s to try out.
posted by ejaned8 at 7:42 PM on January 6, 2008

William Elliot Whitmore. So so very very good. (Sorry, I still don't know how to link.) I first saw him open for The Pogues last year. Alone on stage with a banjo he managed to completely rock the house.
posted by metasav at 9:57 PM on January 6, 2008

If you don't mind French lyrics, how about Arthur H? Sample. Though perhaps more in the vein of Rain Dogs and not so much Tom's more recent works.
posted by misozaki at 3:34 AM on January 7, 2008

i'm a little late to the party, but a friend of mine who's a Waits fan recommends David Ford.
posted by kidsleepy at 7:50 PM on January 8, 2008

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