Psychedelic Artists Essential To My Being
When people think of psychedelic overtones in music, they usually jump to psychedelic rock (which truth be told is one of the best genres). However, there's so much more to dive into. From pop, to hip-hop (or trip-hop) and jam bands to classic rock, psychedelic music is everywhere and it's allowed for some of the best music ever to exist.
Here are psychedelic artists that I can't live without:
The OG's. You love 'em or hate 'em (I love 'em). Psychedelic rock existed before Dead started playing, but they completely took their own route not fitting into any specific genre and the long, long improvisations in their live shows. They changed music as we know it. You can hear their influence over fifty years later and not just in jam or rock. I'll never forget hearing an electronic cover of "Fire on the Mountain." (Yes this exists, and it's actually better than you think). Dead is still incomparable in terms of technicality and lyricism.
Dr. Dog is one of those indie bands who has aged incredibly well and hasn't really missed. Being heavily inspired by the psychedelic sounds of The Beatles and The Beach Boys, they shifted their sound from a lo-fi focus to more of a new-age psychedelic take on folk and it just hits the spot. The band recently had a resurgence thanks to "Where'd All The Time Go" blowing up on TikTok (which you can knock TikTok all you want, but good music gets great exposure out of it). The band recently announced their final tour (and tickets flew QUICK), but has reassured fans they are not disbanding.
Empire of the Sun
Legendary electro-pop duo Empire of the Sun incorporates psychedelic elements not only into their music, but into pretty much everything about them. I mean, look at these people. Most of their music is dance-y as hell, but with songs alike "Awakening" and "Two Vines" we get more of that slow new wave that they do so well too. With only three albums released since 2008, the future is even a bit doubtful for them as the two of them don't get a long too well even to the point where Nick Littlemore (Right) doesn't join when they tour. However, if you are lucky enough to catch them live, it is one of the most insane performance you will ever see. Top three live shows for me all time, no exaggeration.
Foster the People
Foster the People are so much more than the smash radio hit they had ten years ago ("Pumped Up Kicks"). They are actually indie and psychedelic pop icons. Not only is their debut album Torches one of the most criminally underrated albums of all time, but they lean way more into the psychedelic realm than anyone gives them credit for. They started exploring this more on their second album Supermodel with tracks like "Pseudologica Fantastica" and continues to expand on it in their most recent album, 2017's Sacred Hearts Club featuring one of my favorite tracks, "Static Space Lover." Both tracks are featured in my playlist below so go see for yourself!
The Flaming Lips
Releasing music consistently since the mid 1980's The Flaming Lips is one of the first artists outside of the classic rock era that has thoroughly influenced modern day psychedelic rock. They manage to keep pushing the envelope even during COVID by performing shows in their home town of Oklahoma City in which each member of the band and audience is in a plastic bubble. Other recent endeavors include going on tour with Miley Cyrus and breaking the world record for most live concerts performed in 24 hours. Their 2020 album American Head was also released to critical acclaim showing that they've still got it.
Kid Cudi is the most accessible artist in the world of psychedelic hip-hop (trip-hop) and it's safe to say he's the poster child. He walked so Travis Scott's Astroworld could run. He was a part of every millennial's teenage years with his debut album Man on the Moon: The End of the Day featuring one of the best tracks EVER "Pursuit of Happiness" featuring MGMT (yes, they will be in here too). Cudi did see a bit of a slump in his personal and professional life after his first two albums due to declining mental health, but had a massive comeback at the end of 2020 with the release of "Man on the Moon III: The Chosen." We love a good career comeback, but even more so, we love to see someone coming back happier, healthier, and better.
Khruangbin is what the inside of my head sounds like all the time. Releasing music since 2014, the band hit it big with their EP Texas Sun in 2019, a collaboration with soul singer, Leon Bridges. They do an amazing job of not boxing themselves into one genre and mostly rely on being instrumental, but have some soothing vocals to showcase too. The band members themselves have rejected the notion of labeling themselves with a specific genre. It's safe to say they are one of a kind. The music is beautiful and peaceful and feels like summer time. There's a reason they are popping up in the top few lines on festival lineups.
MGMT hit it BIG with their debut album, Oracular Spectacular, which made way for their biggest hits "Kids," "Electric Feel," and "Time to Pretend." They were the face of indie royalty of 2007 and for good reason, that album was fire. They were a tastemaker for a lot of teenagers (including myself at the time). The next album, Congratulations, is still one of the most polarizing albums among their fans as it completely shifted from the synth-pop sound that faired them well for something more raw-psychedelic and progressive rock. As I've gotten older, I've learned to appreciate it, but 16 year old me didn't understand it. I like to say their newest album, 2017's Little Dark Age was a return to form and highly recommend if you were once a fan and they fell off your radar.
My Morning Jacket
I'm just gonna change the title of this article to Indie Legends because I'm sensing a theme here. My Morning Jacket has been the brain child of lead singer and voice of an angel, Jim James, for the past 20 years. Primarily the band finds its home in rock and country, but incorporate psychedelic and jam into their music and the results are nothing short of incredible thanks to all five of the members being insanely talented. They have gathered a very large and somewhat niche following due to their live performances that I FINALLY get to experience this fall (potentially twice).
If you know me in any capacity, you knew this one was coming. Queue the jokes about "Did you know it's actually just one guy?" Now that we've gotten that out of the way, Tame Impala is the psychedelic rock/pop brain child of Kevin Parker and my favorite artist of all time. Parker has described his music of a hybrid of excessively poppy music a la Britney Spears combined with "fucked up explosive cosmic music" of The Flaming Lips. They are the face of modern psychedelic music and no one really comes close to their level of popularity. I saw them for the first time at Firefly 2016 not knowing their music and I still talk about it all the time. If you are able to see just one concert in 2021, make it this band. You will not be disappointed.
Another Kevin Parker band? DUH. Kevin Parker was the drummer for this band from 2009-2011, but stayed heavily involved since his departure. Three of the members are a part of Tame Impala's touring band and you can definitely hear it in their music. The main difference here is that Pond flies a little bit more under the radar and has more of a glam rock influence. It's not as easy on the ears, but if you are a fan of psychedelic rock or even if you are just dabbling, this is one you can appreciate. They are wildly underrated.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Continuing my affinity of psychedelic music from the continent of Australia (this is the third and no, it's not the last one), comes Unknown Mortal Orchestra. This one is a bit more digestible than Pond and more small-scale than Tame Impala, but belong in the same grouping. They've got more of a lo-fi style that you can see on their two biggest hits "Hunnybee" and "So Good at Being in Trouble." They are catching a lot of attention from other artists the past couple years too, collaborating with the likes of The Free Nationals and Gorillaz.
You can't talk about psychedelic music without mentioning Pink Floyd. Name a more iconic psychedelic rock album than Dark Side of the Moon? There isn't one. It deserves every bit of acclaim it has gotten and was incredibly progressive for its time using sound engineering techniques that weren't widely used (loops, analog synths) and explored themes like greed, mental illness, and death. You for sure know this album and I encourage you to listen to it if you haven't in a while.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Alright, round four for Australia. This band is probably the most versatile on here. Since 2012, the band has released 18 studio albums including two this year so far. Each release has a unique genre to it, most notably going a metal route for 2019's Infest the Rat's Nest which also deals with themes of climate change with songs like "Planet B" and "Mars for the Rich." If you're looking for something lighter, their newest album Butterfly 3000 has more of a dream pop focus and is their most critically lauded album to date.
Check out this playlist with all of these artist and drop me a follow on Insatagram: williamnesbitweise