Mid Century Modern enthusiasts are deeply invested and appreciative of the contributions of yesterday. We love the architecture, the fashion, the films, the food! (Okay maybe not the food—tuna jello molds were not the finest moment.) The mid century’s influence on music was perhaps the era’s most lasting contribution to modern culture. The 40s through 70s saw the invention of Swing, Rock, Blues and Funk—musical genres that endure to this day. While the era boasts a host of iconic artists, there are several contemporary artists that are worthy of a mid century enthusiast’s ear. Here are 7 retro-inspired modern bands and musicians who draw from the mid century’s sound and style.
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One of today’s most exciting indie pop bands is Saint Motel. Their sound is a blend of retro pop and rock while still saying fresh and exuberant. Lead singer A/J Jackson’s vocals have a classic crooner quality, and the overall effect plays like the coolest Bond theme you’ve ever heard. Interestingly, the band contains two film students turned musicians, and their admiration of the mid century era is evident not just in their musical stylings but their visually transportive music videos as well.
Lead vocalist, A/J Jackson, perfectly sums up the group’s appreciation for the period: “Our admiration of Mid Century design is perhaps rooted in our love of retro futurism. A feeling of looking through the past to see well into the future. This ethos makes its way into a lot of what we create here at Saint Motel.”
Stream Saint Motel on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and YouTube.
Purchase a copy of “Saint Motel Television” here.
Lake Street Dive
With a sound that pays homage to the soulful rock of the 1960s, Lake Street Dive is the easy listening band you never knew you needed. They combine the classic pop sound of the 50s and 60s with the smooth blues/jazz tones of Motown. Furthermore, lead singer Rachael Price’s deep and smooth vocals have to be heard to be believed.
Stream Lake Street Dive on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora and YouTube.
Purchase a copy of “Side Pony” here.
With a soulful sound straight out of the 50s and 60s, Leon Bridges exploded onto the music scene in 2015 and hasn’t stopped wowing audiences since. A talented guitarist and vocalist, he’s been compared to classical artists such as Otis Redding and has a devoted Gen Z fan base. Looks like the “kids these days” have excellent taste.
Stream Leon Bridges on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora and YouTube.
Purchase a copy of “Coming Home” here.
Originally from the Netherlands, Caro Emerald has a sound that blends together the jazz of the 40s and 50s with the big band sounds of orchestral Latin. She’s known for her fantastic live performances and has continued her show on Instagram Live amid the pandemic. If you’re a fan of swing music that’s as bold as it is stylish, you’ll enjoy “The Shocking Miss Emerald.”
Stream Caro Emerald on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora and YouTube.
Purchase a copy of “The Shocking Miss Emerald” here.
Often confused for being a band, Tame Impala is actually an instrumentalist extraordinaire, Kevin Parker. His sound is a modern expression of the experimental rock of the late 60s and 70s. There’s often a delicious baseline and light layered vocals that carry you back to the days when disco was introduced to electronic funk. He’s a musician’s musician and a true artist.
Stream Tame Impala on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora and YouTube.
Purchase a copy of “The Slow Rush” here.
I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out: Harry Styles may have gotten his start in a modern-pop boy band, but his solo career is an expression in classic rock. His latest album Fine Line, has influences of the bold male vocalists of the 1970s. Take a look at the exuberant video for “Treat People With Kindness” and enjoy the new era of Style’s retro-rock.
Stream Harry Styles on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora and YouTube.
Purchase a copy of “Fine Line” here.
Today’s hits reimagined in a retro style—how’s that for a twist? Founded by pianist Scott Bradlee in 2011, Postmodern Jukebox is a rotating collective of musical artists who take modern songs and rearrange them in styles ranging from 20s jazz to 60s rockabilly and everything in between. Their covers are absolutely amazing and completely addictive. They’re also known for incorporating vintage styles of dance into their videos and live performances.
Streaming on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music.
Purchase a copy of “The Essentials” here.
Want more? Take a look at our top 10 picks for MCM Movies and TV Shows and explore more Mid Century musical styles here.
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