We all have one—a song that it feels like only we know. Maybe it slipped through the cracks. Maybe it had a moment, but never really took off. For the next three months, we’re on the hunt for these hidden gems—underrated jams that never broke into the public consciousness. We asked some of our favorite people in music for their hidden gem—how they found it and why they think everyone should listen. Bookmark this page because we'll be adding to this list over the next few months.
Standard Sounds Goes Searching for Hidden Gems
“Don’t” by Bryson Tiller
"I love his take on trap and R&B. He's a cat that holds close to where he's from. He's going to go far."
"Playboy Of The Western World" by Connie Converse
"I first heard the Connie Converse album because my friend Emma brought it over and made me sit and listen to the whole thing. It was amazing. I like everything about the song. I like that it's beautiful and poetic, and at the same it could totally be a punk or metal song. Everyone should listen to Connie Converse because it will make you feel a lot of things, and that's good for you."
"I Am Decided" by The Amps
"The Amps were a band that Kim Deal formed briefly in the mid-nineties while the Breeders were on hiatus. They only put out one album, Pacer, and 'I Am Decided' is far and away its best song. It's raw and really catchy, with some very idiosyncratic turns. Just a great pop song that not enough people know about."
"Rude Boy" by Mr. Twin Sister
"I heard this song for the first time live, which is the best way to experience Mr. Twin Sister. They're my favorite live band in NYC and definitely not to be missed. They're incredible producers, too. Their more recent recordings have that classic late '80s studio sheen, while also being alien and dreamlike. It's exactly what you want to listen to when the sun is coming up at the end of a summer party."
"He Don't Love You" by Levon and The Hawks
"This song is Levon Helm with the Hawks, before they were known as The Band. I found a 45 of this at a little record swap meet and instantly fell in love with the song. It hits you in a way that makes you feel like you've known it for your whole life." –Elliot Bergman
"Mudzimu Ndiringe" by The Hallelujah Chicken Run Band
"The Hallelujah Chicken Run Band from Zimbabwe has some of the most incredible guitar playing we've ever heard. I first heard them while living in Boston and was blown away by the interlocking guitar patterns that mimic traditional shona mbira music. The horns really bring a joyous party vibe. Put this on and dance!" –Natalie Bergman
"White Turns To Grey" by Bilal
"I was one of the biggest Bilal trolls during my teenage years. It was rare to find new music from him, but I searched regardless. And then one day it just popped up. Bilal had a whole album called Love for Sale. I don't know why it wasn't pushed by the label, but it was shelved. The album had leaked, so I downloaded it. "White Turns to Grey" was my favorite song off the album. The whole album is phenomenal, but this song is so epic. It didn't sound like anything that was out. It's like tribal jungle love slowed down, like a "Women's Work" jungle love tribal edition. It's just one of those records that you put on if you're with a joint that really appreciates good music. It will be a good look for you. It's a definite mood setter."
"Heart Beat" by Chris Cohen
"[His album Overgrown Path] must be my most-played album of the past couple of years. A friend showed me this record when it came out and said it was his favorite record of the year. It took me a minute, but it quickly became mine.
Cohen is a well of inspiration for me. His guitar playing sounds like the first time you picked up a guitar, plugged it right into your little practice amp, and started to carve out your own unique chords. His voice on the instrument is so recognizable and can sound both fragile and ferocious. Whenever people say there is no new music out there, no new chord progressions, everything has been done blah blah blah...I just have to put on any random song of his from any one of his great bands and bam—fresh, new, brain-expanding musical ideas. On top of everything, he's a wonderful songwriter and recorded a very sonically interesting record with Overgrown Path. Every idea is so well thought out both with the composition as well as the way it was recorded. It's the work of a great composer, and for some reason, this song "Heart Beat" has become one that I have put on endless playlists. It's incredibly beautiful and ends with this tender question:
'And I wonder
Can I hear the heart beat?
Tell me if the heart beats
If the heart beats'"
"American Tune (Unfinished Demo)" by Paul Simon
“I found this unfinished demo of "American Tune" by Paul Simon a few years back and tried to play it to as many people as possible. I love it! I love getting to listen to what a song sounded like before it was recorded with bulletproof lyrics and a string section and all of the trappings. And Paul Simon’s voice is always perfect, one of the most soothing and true in my opinion, so when he's just sort of humming along, I lose my mind completely."
“No More My Lord” by Pentangle
"A musician friend of mine, Barry Reynolds, gave me a Pentangle record called 'Sweet Child' a few years ago because he thought I should cover one of their songs. 'No More My Lord' is the song I fell in love with. It was originally a slave song, and was collected and released by Alan Lomax in 1947. Pentangle's live recording is a beautiful rendition of the song. The arrangement is sparse yet dramatic. I think people should check it out because it's a song layered with history and this '60s version feels updated for the contemporary listener."
(Sofi Tukker Photo by Shervin Lainez)
“Batuque (Jeremy Sole and Atropolis Remix)” by Dom La Nena
"We found this song somewhere in the depths of Spotify. Since we speak primarily in superlatives, we will just go ahead and say that it's the greatest song of all time! We were recently playing a concert in LA for KCRW, and it turns out that the producer who made the remix, Jeremy Sole, is a KCRW DJ and he had been playing our song! So it made us like it even more. [Laughs.]"
“Better” by vōx
"The artist, whom I didn’t know at the time, cold-tweeted at me and I actually clicked on the Soundcloud link. I instantly fell in love with her voice. She has all the elements of Lorde, Feist, Kimbra, and Anohni that I love. Her haunting vocals compliment the minimal production. She has this really subtle vibrato that fills the space in between the notes. It’s magical, really, what she does with it."
Learn more about Valida here.
(Beau Photo by Matthew Pandolfe and NEW/AGE)
"Hospital" by Jonathan Richman
"'Hospital' by Jonathan Richman is one of our favorite songs. Emma's older brother used to play this song all the time. We must have been about 13 years old when we first heard Jonathan Richman playing on our speakers. This song is so beautifully simple and romantically laughable. Jonathan is a huge influence. We have yet to see him live. We can hardly wait!"
"Caroline" by Concrete Blonde
"We found a dirty CD jewel case of Concrete Blonde’s album Bloodletting in our friend’s minivan, and we listened to it over a winter evening drive from Hudson, NY back to Brooklyn. We probably listened to 'Caroline' 5 times in a row. We love Johnette Napolitano’s vocal range, the super expansive '80s guitars, and the touches of shimmering percussion. That expansive-yet-driving atmosphere evokes the story of a woman on the edge of perception, wandering through life and “only passing through,” a nice fit for a road trip after playing a show in an unfamiliar place. And to boot, a flashy but playful guitar solo really takes it into a “David Lynch hair metal” zone!"
“Don’t Take it” by Armando
"One of my favorite hidden gems is Armando's 'Don't Take it.' I learned of it from my friend and fellow DJ/musician, Natacha Le Jeune. We were DJing together at Le Baron Paris, and when she dropped it my mind was blown! Wow-o0wow—what an incredible song! It's dark, sexy, techno-punk, feminist—an acid house anthem! Armando was a brilliant producer and DJ, and this record stands out as one of my most worshiped dance tracks of all time."
Check out Musa's photography here, and don't miss her at Le Bain Sunday, April 10th.
"Cursum Perficio" by Enya
"Most people know Enya for her track 'Orinoco Flow (Sail Away),' but my favorite Enya piece is a lesser-known, more ominous song called 'Cursum Perficio.' When I was little, I would put on headphones and imagine being in a blue-lit cathedral at night, the nave filled with fog, conducting a choir singing this song. The song is in Latin. The lyrics translate to: 'A word to the wise / the more [people] have, the more they want / After the clouds, Phoebus.'"
(Photo by Matt Licari)
"Whatever You Want" by Cold Showers
"Right now I am obsessed with the song 'Whatever You Want' by Cold Showers. It's from their record Matter of Choice that came out on Dais last year, and I think it's criminally underrated, because it's one of the sexiest crooner goth songs I've heard in many years. The chorus is immaculately simple and romantic, which is a harder thing to accomplish than you might imagine."
"What’s A Girl To Do" by Fatima Yamaha
"I found it the same way I find 90% of my music—lurking around on the Internet. It wasn't something someone showed me. It was one of those special encounters where you stumble upon something yourself and realize that it's a very special tune. The first time I heard it was when my friend Natty played it at a daytime set at Diversity Music Festival. I was really blown away. I didn't know that anyone else would play that song, and I didn't think it would work well on the dance floor. Little did I know that the track was about to reach the mainstream again! It’s getting a lot of love recently, but it’s the Cinderella story of a hidden gem being re-discovered. I've heard a few great remixes lately, and I think Dekmantel re-issued the track on vinyl, but its an early 2000s club classic from Glasgow."
"I Must Be In a Good Place Now" by Bobby Charles
"This track is a staple among heads, especially for those with The Band/Dylan proclivities. However, it managed to escape me for 29 years, until my friend Kevin played it for me on a porch in Texas a few weeks ago. One evening while basking in the rich breeze and humidity of an Austin evening, my friend Kevin pulled out his phone and started playing some tracks, the first of which was “I Must Be in a Good Place Now” by Bobby Charles. The opening line, “Wild apple trees blooming all around, I must be in a good place now” fit the mood in a such a cinematic way that I started to laugh. However, by the end of the track I had tears in my eyes.
The song came into my life in a respite from a turbulent emotional time. Being in good company in a beautiful place, with the prospect of better days ahead was an ideal context for me to absorb this tune. The bittersweet words and melody really resonated with me and connected me to the moment. Being able to have the experience I had with this song really made me feel as though I was “in a good place now.” I am grateful to my friend Kevin for hipping me to this and grateful to Bobby for this gem of all gems."
“Whatever Possessed You" by Care
"One of the groups to which I guide new friends who share my taste for elegant guitars and romantic lyrics is Care. They were formed in 1982 by Paul Simpson (The Teardrop Explodes) and Ian Broudie (The Lightening Seeds, Big in Japan). Paul had another incredible project at the time called The Wild Swans and I believe this track 'Whatever Possessed You' was originally written by him for that project. Paul is a true unsung hero, a heartbreaking poet with a voice that could rival any of the greats, especially his Liverpudlian and Mancunian counterpoints. These bands came a year or two before the first Smiths record with which you will undoubtedly notice some similarities."
“Joke" by Chastity Belt
"I was billed on a show with them in Seattle where they're from and their music overtook me. It’s a relentless assault of dreamy jangle. I love the combination of guitar work and lyrics."
"Candy Clock" by Thee Oh Sees
"Thee Oh Sees put out this EP called Moonsick for record store day a few years ago, and while that 'holiday' is usually reserved for a Britney Spears gatefold LP or some similarly useless album, this slab definitely delivers, especially the track 'Candy Clock.' It's mellow and mysterious, kind of in the vein of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. A lot of people probably missed out on this song because it's the last track on a limited release, but it's honestly my favorite slow song that Dwyer has cranked out. The line 'no one really finds their way back home' puts the creepy factor over the edge for this otherwise soothing song, and who doesn't like to be creeped out by surprise?"
"Allison Road" by White Fence
"One day a few years ago I proudly posted a photo on Instagram of my latest vinyl acquisition: a green square UK-only Gin Blossoms 'Hey Jealousy' 7-inch. Tim Presley of White Fence immediately emailed me and said that if I actually like Gin Blossoms (and I wasn’t being ironic) then he had something for me to check out, and included a link to a YouTube video. It was White Fence’s cover of 'Allison Road,' and it’s now probably my favorite cover of all time (narrowly edging out Aimee Mann’s cover of Coldplay’s 'The Scientist,' which is also incredible).
More importantly, it's also my go-to document of evidence to defend my complex intellectual thesis that a good pop song is a good pop song, and even if you don’t like the special style of '90s twangy alt rock that is the GBs, you can recognize that they wrote some incredible songs. Also if you don’t tear up listening to Tim’s version, you’re a sociopath. End of story."
"All I Wanna Do" by The Beach Boys
"Recently, we were listening to the Beach Boy’s album Sunflower. It’s not our favorite Beach Boys album, but one of our favorite tracks (at the moment) is on it. The song is called 'All I Wanna Do.' It sounds mind-blowingly current and in vogue despite the fact that it was released in 1970. (Kevin Parker of Tame Impala has definitely heard this track). There’s something about this song that is slightly reminiscent of 'God Only Knows.' If you love the Beach Boys and you don't know this song, or if you like a steady beat, tasty countermelody, and all around lush-ness, this one is for you. This song deserves to be adored."
"Come Round Here" by Ballin' Jack
"This tune comes from a heavy soul horn band formed in Seattle in 1969, who also toured with Jimi Hendrix during his 1970 tour. Ten years ago, I was in a secondhand store, and I found myself face-to-face with this big vulture on the cover, and I didn't hesitate to buy it even if this wasn't the exact album I was looking for. Skipping track by track, the needle fell down on that horn fanfare at the beginning. Since then, I regularly listen to it, and I never get tired of it. I'm into unclassifiable music and this is a perfect example. It's cinematic, dramatic, funky, highly melodic, and I assure you that you won't be able to resist."
Check out our interview with Jolly Mare here.
"Time" by Tom Waits
"This is, hands down, one of my favorite songs. 'Time' is off of Tom Waits’ record Raindogs. My dad played this record on vinyl when I was a little girl so I’ve been absorbing this song in different ways throughout the years This song is a reminder of the passing days, the people, your surroundings, and happenings within them. It’s a picturesque heartbreaker and the lyrics are pure poetry. These words bring me to my knees every time it floats through my ears and into my head. Tom Waits has a reputation for being an epic lyricist and this particular song is a masterpiece. It’s rare these days to happen upon a song that takes you to an unknown destination but the sentiment is familiar."
"The Towns We Love Is Our Town" by Bing & Ruth
"This piece is an undeniable highlight of Bing & Ruth's formidable 2014 album/suite Tomorrow Was The Golden Age. The ensemble, spearheaded by composer and pianist David Moore, draws on minimalism as a base structure, but imbues it with a meditative lyricism that gathers an evocative, quietly intense quality of emotionalism that gradually drapes over the listener in the way a fine fog rolls in. The melodic sensibility of Philip Glass' piano compositions may be a loose reference point, but the liquidity of Moore's cascading runs are less rigorous and more diaphanous—if they could be said to possess, or even evoke, a sense of structure. Subtle layers of tape-loop delay manipulations add a poetic sense of time's slippages, as well as gorgeous drone-tones to the more traditional palette of piano, strings, and woodwinds. This is functional music. A machine for dreaming."
Come to Le Bain for Prince Language’s next party: The No Comprendo | Saturday, April 9th
“J.L.T.” by T2
"A few years back I was at a BBQ with label mates BADBADNOTGOOD, and we went down a very typical rare break beat record K-hole. They ended up playing me one of their favorite songs, which heavily featured a drummer/singer, and it was pretty mind melting. There’s not much information about the band or recorded music out there. In fact, this record is next to impossible to find an original copy of. That plus the added folklore that T2 was one of Jimi Hendrix’s favorite unknown bands to watch makes for a very special piece of music everyone should check out."
“The Day is Past and Gone” by Johnny “Hurricane” Jones
"I first heard Rev. Johnny L. Jones when my friend Bradford Cox found one of the Atlanta preachers' records at a thrift store. The record was filled with soulful moaning, hollering, and screaming. I used to play a dub cassette of the record as I washed dishes at a diner. The boss would always make me turn it down because it scared the customers out front. One day I drove by a Christian radio station WYZE AM Atlanta. On a whim, I walked in and asked if they knew of this preacher, and to my surprise they said he worked there on Saturdays. I came back that Saturday, and he gave me a personal dub copy cassette of this track from a sermon at his church. The lovely Dust to Digital records ended up excavating hundreds of hours of his cassettes and making two amazing release collections of his work."
“Prize” by Kitchens of Distinction
"If you know this band, then you certainly know this song, however I rarely see them name-checked. I can’t remember specifically how I found this song, but as soon as I heard it, it resonated with me. What I like about it, and this is a common theme in a lot of the music I love, is the juxtaposition of soft and pretty music with angry, petty, and ultimately self-pitying lyrics. It really pinpoints for me that childish feeling of feeling vindictive that we all think we’ll grow out of someday, but realize we won’t in our mid 20s. It’s also really catchy."
"Mean Mother Trucker" by Keith Roberts
"This song was written and recorded by Keith Roberts, father of Los Angeles DJ, artist, and good friend of mine, Harrison Roberts. Harris unearthed the track and put it online. A true LA country gem straight outta '73, this tune features "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow, who played with just about everyone (and I mean everyone), but is probably best known for his work on the pedal steel with The Flying Burrito Brothers."
"In the Morning (When I Rise)" by Elayne Starr
"My friend showed me this song recently—I immediately fell in love with it and am so shocked that it never got known. It’s one of those old Motown gems from an artist who slipped under the radar and got put out years later on one of Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Motown compilations. So full of soul, the production is perfect and I could listen to it for hours!"