Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guide

Popular Deals: Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guide

If you’re searching for the perfect gift for your music-loving friends and family members, we’ve compiled a quick list of the hottest deals for the holiday season. Scroll through top deals from Amazon, Target, Walmart, and record stores in our Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guide. Sales start now until the end of December, so stay tuned for price updates and new offers.

Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guide

Amazon Deals: Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guides*

Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guide
Music Lovers Holiday Gift

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Deals and prices are subject to change daily.

Target Deals: Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guide

Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guide

Decor

Headphones

Speakers & Audio Systems

Vinyl: Buy 2, get 1 free on books, movies, & music

Walmart Deals: Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guide

Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guide

Headphones & Speakers

Record Storage

Vinyl

Vinyl Record Deals: Record Store Day Black Friday (full list here)

Music Lovers Holiday Gift Guide

Comeback Vinyl

Drowned World Records

Hunky Dory: Local Raleigh and Durham, NC

Lunchbox Records: Charlotte, NC

Newbury Comics

The Pour House: Local Raleigh, NC

Rough Trade

Schoolkids Records: Local Raleigh and Chapel Hill, NC

Sorry State Records: Local Raleigh, NC

Urban Outfitters

Marcus Machado Blue Diamonds

Marcus Machado Talks Blue Diamonds, Vinyl, Prince, and More

Talking with NYC guitarist Marcus Machado is like catching up with someone you’ve known for ten years. Marcus Machado partnered with Soul Step Records this May to release his most recent album, Blue Diamonds, on vinyl. He first partnered with Soul Step for his debut album, Aquarius Purple, in 2021. Both albums have been an enormous success for vinyl sales and in the realm of guitar, R&B, funk, hip-hop, and jazz fans. This year, Marcus has played Jazz Fest, featured his music in an E! special, and collaborated with many artists in the industry. We sat down with Marcus Machado to discuss everything from his Prince influence, his vinyl collection, and his new album, Blue Diamonds.

Marcus Machado Blue Diamonds

Interview with Marcus Machado

PDLR: I love your debut Aquarius Purple and your recent release, Blue Diamonds, especially on vinyl. Can you talk about the backstory of those albums?

Marcus Machado: “The story with Aquarius Purple is that the album was eight years in the making because back in 2008-2009, I was living in Amsterdam for a couple of years. I had so many songs recorded for Aquarius Purple. Then around 2017, a friend of mine reached out to me about doing a score for a short film. I never had that opportunity before, so I recorded some songs for the film and had the idea to turn them into a soundtrack album. That’s where the concept of Blue Diamonds originated.

I brought in a lot of different musicians for Blue Diamonds. There’s a strings section, bass players, and drummers, and we recorded it all in one room. Once I recorded those songs, Blue Diamonds was finished in 2017. It was initially going to be my debut album. I hesitated when the pandemic happened because it was linked to the short film and a soundtrack album. Blue Diamonds was produced more, like the Super Fly soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield. It has a real 70s type of vibe. I realized I wanted to finish Aquarius Purple since it was more guitar-driven and felt like a debut album.”

Marcus Machado on Blue Diamonds

PDLR: What inspired the name of the new album, Blue Diamonds?

Marcus Machado: “It was just the name of the short film Blue Diamonds. I wondered if it should be called something else or if I should call it, ‘The Soundtrack to Blue Diamonds,’ but it just fit the whole approach.”

PDLR: You collaborated with many people on Blue Diamonds, like Brian Owens and Jermaine Holmes, and mentioned other instrumentalists and collaborators. Can you talk about that experience?

Marcus Machado:Jermaine Holmes was the background vocalist for D’Angelo and The Vanguard. Sandra St. Victor is like my second mom. She’s the legendary singer from The Family Stand. They had their hit song called “Ghetto Heaven.” She collaborated with Chaka Khan and worked with Prince on the Emancipation album. Sandra is the only person he credited in the album notes, “Beautiful lyric by Sandra. Speaking 2 the heart…reflections live 4ever in mirrors.” I also worked with Miguel Atwood Ferguson, an incredible conductor and orchestra player. He does all the work that you hear from Flying Lotus. There are so many incredible musicians on this album, James Biscuit Rouse (drummer), Lez Lemon (bassist), and songs featuring Brian Owens, Kennedy, Rojo Lavoe, and TFox.”

PDLR: So far, I’ve pulled out “I Can’t Lose” ft. Jermaine Holmes and “Stop” ft. Brian Owens as the songs that caught my ear. Did you have any favorite songs during the writing process?

Marcus Machado: “It’s funny that you mention “I Can’t Lose” because that was the first song I started for this project. The film has a part with a funeral scene, and they wanted something bluesy but soulful. Immediately those chords and that melody started coming to me, and “I Can’t Lose” was written to music. I wrote it in about ten minutes. I sent it to Jermaine, and he came up with its whole concept. He made it like an anthem. Whatever it is that you’re going through, you can’t lose.

One of my favorite songs is “Pass Me By” ft. TFox, which just came out. I love “Thinking” ft. Miguel Atwood Ferguson. “Dig” is another favorite because I was able to be in the studio and experiment with different guitars, which I wasn’t able to do with Aquarius Purple. At the end of “Dig,” the engineer accidentally hit a button on the console, and the track immediately slowed down. I wanted to keep it in because it was interesting at the end, even though it was an accident. This album has a wide range of experimentation I hadn’t done on the previous record.”

Marcus Chats About Vinyl & Soul Step Records

PDLR: Did you collect vinyl when you were younger, and do you have a current collection?

Marcus Machado: “I’ve always been a big vinyl collector, vinyl head, and being young, my mom had a crazy collection. She influenced me in all the different genres. In our house, it was Earth, Wind & Fire, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, and John Denver. As I got older and into my favorite music, collecting and listening to vinyl was natural. I’m an 80s baby, seeing music evolve from cassette, CD, to digital. I loved going to the store and purchasing music.

A lot of my collection is in Amsterdam. When I was there, I was able to go to London and Germany, and some of the records they have there, we can’t get here. Even my grandmother has a crazy vinyl collection. My collection is spread out, and it’s something that has always been in the family.”

“Sometimes your music can get lost if you don’t have the right people, but it’s a perfect match once you find the right ones.”

PDLR: When and how did you team up with Soul Step for your first release?

Marcus Machado: “Naturally, when it came time to make my records, I knew it would go on vinyl. When I put out new music, I want to be strategic and not have it become old in a week. I want to try to change the narrative and put out good music but put it out on vinyl.

Once I had my music recorded, before partnering with Soul Step, I wanted to find a good company that understands what I do and my overall vision. At Soul Step, with Melvin and everyone involved, it’s a perfect match. They cater to the artist and understand the vision. They know the way to put it out and make it unique. Melvin reached out to me, and I told him I already had two albums, but I wanted to get them on vinyl. We decided on Aquarius Purple, and I felt good about these projects. He introduced me to the whole world of Wax Mage (exclusive vinyl variants) and their psychedelic artwork, which is up my alley. Sometimes your music can get lost if you don’t have the right people, but it’s a perfect match once you find the right ones.

When Aquarius Purple came out, I worried people wouldn’t buy vinyl because of the pandemic. It actually worked as a domino effect because people were taking the time to sit down and listen to records. When we launched the vinyl, the Wax Mage sold out in about 50 seconds, which surprised me because it was my debut album and my first vinyl release.”

PDLR: I like the concept of releasing an album on vinyl first, like you recently did for Blue Diamonds. I think it’s interesting to forego listening to the digital album and instead purchase the record on vinyl like you would when you were younger. You’re going to get a better experience than on Spotify.

Marcus Machado: “If you’re a fan of a certain artist, getting their new record on vinyl is such a surprise. You have to listen to all the songs to find your favorites without skipping through. With streaming, it’s fast consuming and skipping through the songs. If I would release Blue Diamonds on digital tomorrow, I know most people will skip through without listening to it all the way through. I feel it’s better to listen to the whole thing, and then you can start dissecting the details and pick out your favorite songs. So, whenever I put out my music, it will always be the vinyl first. It’s the whole experience, seeing the cover, holding the album, etc. The more music I put out, the more intricate I want to get with the vinyl aspect.”

Marcus Machado Blue Diamonds
Marcus Machado Blue DiamondsBlue Ink Spot Vinyl by Soul Step Records

Marcus Machado on Prince Influence

PDLR: Today is Prince Day, 6/7/2023, so I wanted to ask you if you have a favorite moment, song, or memory of Prince, something that impacted you when you were younger.

Marcus Machado: “Yeah, of course! My major influences are Jimi, and then it’s Prince, then everybody else. Prince is by far a massive influence on everything that I do. I have two standout memories of Prince. As a kid, my mom had Purple Rain, Dirty Mind, and Sign “☮︎” the Times. My favorite Prince eras are Dirty Mind and Sign “☮︎” the Times. My mom would play that record like every day.

When I was younger, around 1992, I was maybe ten years old, and I got asked to play at his club Glam Slam. They wanted me to open up for Alexander O’Neal and said Prince would attend. I don’t know how my mom set this up, but there’s a contract somewhere for Glam Slam that says “Prince” and has me opening for Alexander O’Neal. I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t actually end up happening due to a schedule conflict, but I was so close.

The second memory was in 2014. Rolling Stone named me the next upcoming guitarist, the “Next Young Gun.” So in the interview, they asked me some of my favorite artists, and this was 2014; of course, Prince was #1 on the list. When the article came out, somehow, he got wind of it. One day in 2015, or the beginning of 2016, I got a notification from HIM on Twitter. The tweet said, “Meet Marcus,” and it had the link to my interview. I didn’t believe it then and thought Prince wasn’t on Twitter or social media. So I shrugged it off, thinking it was someone with a fake account. I took a screenshot and saved it.

Then in 2016, I felt like more of his people were coming around, and I thought maybe I’d get to meet him by the end of the year. I wanted to play him the song “Her” from Aquarius Purple because he inspired that song. Then, unfortunately, he passed, so I never had the chance to meet or see him in concert.

About two months after he passed, we got a random call to do a popup show in Minneapolis. It was me and Jamie Lidell, an incredible artist from the UK. During the show, I noticed someone in the audience who looked familiar; she had long hair on one side with it shaved on the other. I met her after and realized it was guitarist Donna Grantis from 3RDEYEGIRL, one of Prince’s last groups he played with. She set it up for me to go to Paisley Park to see what it looked like back then, the way Prince left it.”

Hot Events & News

PDLR: You recently played Jazz Fest in NOLA with Jon Batiste. What was that like?

Marcus Machado: “Jazz Fest was really special this year. It was the first time they had the festival since the pandemic. During the day, I rehearsed with Jon Batiste and then played at least two shows a night that week. It’s always fun being in NOLA and hearing all the great music.”

PDLR: Do you have any upcoming shows or festivals?

Marcus Machado: “Yeah! This summer is going to be busy with shows. I’m going to Europe in July, so I’m looking forward to that.”

PDLR: Anything else you are looking forward to in 2023?

Marcus Machado: “There are a lot of things coming soon that I’m excited about. One is a series called Black Pop. It’s a 4-part series that aired on E! June 19th & 20th. I had the honor of doing the music score for the series. Black Pop is about black culture, where they talk about everything from music, sports, film, and television. It’s executive produced by Stephen Curry.”

“The next album will be something else to contrast the first two. I try not to make the same type of music with each album. Making three different Aquarius Purple albums would be easy, but I want each album to stand for itself and evolve.”

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New Music Spring

New Music Emerging Now: Spring Fever

If you want to catch up on the best new music releases this spring, look no further than our New Music Emerging Now: Spring Fever playlists. As always, this past season has unlimited music to discover from your favorite indie, pop, singer-songwriter, and alternative artists. Strong album releases came this month from Ed Sheeran, The National, and Joy Oladokun. Hot new spring singles included drops from Babe Rainbow, The Japanese House, Anderson Hao, and Diving at Dawn. Take a deep dive into our New Music Spring playlists below as the holiday weekend kicks off into summer.

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new music emerging now spring

New Music Emerging Now // Spring Albums & EPs

Ed Sheeran--Subtract // Singer-songwriter

Ed Sheeran shares an emotional diary of personal turmoil in relationships and professional life on -Subtract. The preliminary concept of Subtract was always acoustic and stripped down, but recent events in his private life tragically lined up with the theme. Sheeran sought instrumentals from Aaron Dessner of The National to channel some of Subtract’s more profound, intimate moments. Sheeran processes the loss of best friend Jamal Edwards and touches on grief, depression, and uncertainty. He pens his deepest, darkest songs with “Salt Water,” “Sycamore,” and “Borderline.” “Life Goes On” relates to grieving the loss of his friend while the world spins on with the daily grind.

In contrast, “Dusty” is the perfect parent-child track about listening to records and being carefree in a moment of childhood innocence. The song is squeezed between heavier tracks, bringing sunshine as Sheeran recounts a shared morning ritual with his oldest daughter. Subtract lulls to a close with a Celtic-inspired tune, “The Hills of Aberfeldy,” written with Foy Vance, to give a solemn and yearning end to a primarily heartbreaking album.

Joy Oladokun-Proof of Life // Singer-songwriter/Folk

Joy Oladokun delivers Proof of Life, a stepping-out for the upcoming artist. The album sends an uplifting message to those going through “Changes,” trying to remain hopeful and working on self-improvement. Standout tracks that convey the message of the album include “Taking Things For Granted,” “Somebody Like Me,” and “Trying.” On these tracks, Oladokun longs for acceptance and understanding while challenging herself to be unbothered by opinions.

The range of artists on this album flaunts Oladokun’s genre-crossing flair. The Nashville-local singer is opening for Noah Kahan on his headlining tour, who is featured on “We’re All Gonna Die.” Other emotive collaborations on Proof of Life feature Mt. Joy, Chris Stapleton, Manchester Orchestra, and Maxo Kream. “Sweet Symphony” ft. Chris Stapleton accentuates the soulfulness of the two artists’ voices. Proof of Life is soul-searching, eloquent, and introspective, often sounding like pages of a musical diary.

The National-First Two Pages of Frankenstein // Alternative

Excerpt by Kate Freeman@what.kate.listens.to

The National’s most recent LP almost didn’t happen. Twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner crafted their signature undulating instrumental pieces, while lead singer Matt Berninger struggled to pen lyrics due to depression and writer’s block. Thankfully, two things helped spark Berninger’s return to form: his wife and lyric collaborator Carin Besser using the phrase “your mind is not your friend;” and picking up a copy of Frankenstein from the bookshelf. The lonely, desolate setting of the book’s opening felt relatable at the time. It was an appropriate starting point for the characteristically melancholy band’s ninth album. 

First Two Pages of Frankenstein sees The National shed their earlier angular guitar sounds and harshness in favor of more delicate tracks, perfect for their vulnerable yet wry lyrics. The album is arguably their heaviest emotionally, but to counteract this, it is also their shortest in over ten years. In the standout lead single, “Tropic Morning News,” Berninger proclaims, “There’s nothing stopping me now from saying all of the painful parts out loud.” 

The album features three collabs that are any indie fan’s dream – Sufjan Stevens, Phoebe Bridgers, and Taylor Swift. The most notable, “The Alcott” with Swift, earns her a writing credit and gives fans another heart-wrenching duet following “Coney Island” from evermore.

Frankenstein is relatable yet elusive, with glimpses of joy between waves of sorrow. Perhaps the exception is closer “Send For Me,” where Berninger stops looking inward and offers sincere kindness—a hopeful close to the album and the beginning of a new chapter for our favorite sad dad band.

New Music Emerging Now // Spring Discoveries

Anderson Hao “GET a GRIP” // Acoustic/Pop

Anderson Hao is gearing up to release her debut EP featuring recent singles “GET a GRIP” (ft. Lance Redeker) and “SECOND RATE.” The artist’s soft vocals and poignant lyrics are similar to the style of beabadoobee, Gracie Abrams, or Olivia Rodrigo. Hao’s simplistic tone on “GET a GRIP” instantly lures listeners with, “You’ve got your guard up, I’ve got this nagging feeling, so I hide my neck for two weeks. The track weaves in subtle elements as Lance’s voice accentuates but never overpowers Anderson’s. It culminates to a sonic height with the duality of vocals and instrumentation at the end. Anderson’s knack for candid and straightforward songwriting radiates in every song she has released. Be on the lookout for her EP, What a Hard Winter, on May 31st.

Babe Rainbow “Super Ego” // Psych-pop

Australian band Babe Rainbow recently took the stage at Shaky Knees Fest in Atlanta with their newest single, “Super Ego.” The four-piece band is known for their signature throwback sounds, which dominate “Super Ego” as the stellar production drifts listeners into a daze. “Super Ego” brings all the psychedelic vibes similar to a 60’s chill jam. One line even brings to mind Steve Miller Band’s iconic “Fly Like An Eagle” as the vocals soar over “and we were looking back through your computer.” Stay tuned for their upcoming EP, Fresh As A Head of Lettuce, set for release on June 16th.

Christian James, Laith, & Annalee Beck “Useless” // Alternative

Raleigh artist Christian James drops a collab track with Annalee Beck and local NC producer Laith. The upbeat style and carefree production are juxtaposed with the melancholy lyrics of being “Useless.” “Useless” embodies waves of ocean tides in the introduction, seemingly washing away spring and kicking off summer. “Nothing sounds right / I was slow dancing on the white rug, spillin’ wine / I love the fact that I am useless,” Christian repeats each word perfectly on the beat.

Diving at Dawn “Playing Your Records” // Alternative

Diving at Dawn, the solo project of Pete Hobbs from The Boy Least Likely To, goes on a sentimental flashback of experiencing music on vinyl for the first time. Hobbs paints a vivid image of exploring his father’s record collection as a kid and creating a core memory of spinning vinyl. This track is a must-hear for any record collector who loves the crackle of an old LP. “Playing Your Records” has similar vocals to Beck on “Stratosphere” and a melange of music Hobbs grew up listening to (Pink Floyd, George Harrison, Wings). Some songs were meant to be pressed on vinyl, and this one emulates that exact notion.

Dylan Kelley “Wherever You Are” // Country

Breakup songs have existed for ages but always seem vindictive, overly emotional, or often cliché. Dylan Kelley’s new single “Wherever You Are” is an ode to an ex, wishing them well in whatever journey they pursue after the relationship ends. Dylan’s storytelling on this track is spot on and sends the message softly but clearly in the most endearing way. Country music fans will want to put “Wherever You Are” on repeat and, for once, look back fondly on an old flame.

The Japanese House “Sad to Breathe” & “Sunshine Baby” // Pop

The Japanese House, solo artist Amber Bain of Dirty Hit, returns with sensational singles “Sad to Breathe” and “Sunshine Baby.” The debut single, “Boyhood,” from her upcoming album, In the End It Always Does, marked her first release since 2020. “Sad to Breathe” is an acoustic, more stripped-back style single that accentuates her pure vocals. The lyrics cut deep on processing the end of a relationship, “I go to bed, and I’m cryin, ’cause it’s sad to breathe the air when you’re not there.” George Daniel, drummer of The 1975, adds his magic to the production with the signature chimes of piano similar to The Birthday Party or The Man Who Married a Robot.

“Sunshine Baby” captures the bittersweet qualities of a relationship when you don’t want a good thing to end. “Putting off the end, ’cause in the end it always does,” is contrasted by “sitting in the backseat, driving with my sunshine baby.” Amber’s voice and diction on this track embody her feelings. Matty Healy’s backing vocals and a smooth sax solo brighten up the song like a warm spring day. In the End It Always Does is set for release on June 30th.

Lost Hearts “Night to Remember” // Rock

Lost Hearts brings pop-rock back to the forefront of the country-dominated city of Nashville. “Night to Remember” is a classic, catchy, live anthem. The lyrics on this single give listeners a glimpse of the mid-2000s. The simple concept of pining for someone that you can’t have rings out in a universal and memorable chorus. Lost Hearts have what it takes to command a stage and be the next big addition to rock tours around the US.


As May nears a close, we are still playing catch-up with new music this spring. Discover everything you see here and more on our New Music Emerging Now // Spring Fever playlists.

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February Albums

Alluring February Albums You Don’t Want to Miss

February albums bring on the heartbreak, angst, and vulnerability of 2023. SYML and Raye kicked off the month with The Day My Father Died and My 21st Century Blues, respectively. The long-awaited return of Paramore arrives with This Is Why. On-the-rise Dublin band Inhaler drops Cuts & Bruises, and Gorillaz raise the bar with Cracker Island at the end of the month. Listen to these February albums and more on our February Heartbreakers playlist.

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February Albums February Playlist

RayeMy 21st Century Blues // Stream & Shop February Albums

February Albums

Raye’s debut album, My 21st Century Blues, is a fusion of the British singer-songwriter’s work after her departure from Polydor Records. Raye kicked off this album with her first Number 1 single, “Escapism,” with 070 Shake. As an independent artist, Raye tackles her most personal inner struggles. Song titles like “Body Dysmorphia” and “Environmental Anxiety” speak for themselves as the album weaves through a diary-like journey. Raye intertwines genres of pop, R&B, gospel, funk, and soul on this candid composition of 15 tracks. Apart from “Escapism,” our favorites include “Oscar Winning Tears” and “The Thrill Is Gone.”

SYMLThe Day My Father Died // Stream & Shop February Albums

February Albums February Playlist

Singer-songwriter SYML (sim-ul) captivates fans with his sophomore album, The Day My Father Died. The album takes a sensitive topic to the forefront as the solo artist discusses the loss of his father. Several songs, including the title track, are surprisingly upbeat as the songsmith faces grief and pays homage to his father. Songs like “Sweet Home” and “Corduroy” call out feelings of Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver as they weep across the arrangement.

Highlights of the album include a Fleetwood Mac meets James Bay style track, “Laughing at the Storm,” and heart-pouring “Baby Don’t Lie.” The Day My Father Died is produced by Phil Ek, known for his work with Fleet Foxes, Vance Joy, and Band of Horses. If you are a fan of any artists above, you’ll quickly fall in love with this staggering record.

ParamoreThis Is Why // Stream & Shop February Albums

February Albums February Playlist

Your favorite early 2000s bands are back and delivering albums for fans to relive their black nail polish and Warped Tour days. The glorious concept about Paramore’s timing with This Is Why is that, along with their fanbase, the band has matured and blessed us with emo songs for adults in their twenties and thirties. If you weren’t sold on the sound from “This Is Why,” try “Running Out of Time” or “You First” for a guaranteed serotonin-boosting flashback. This Is Why chews over topics from depression and isolation to anxiety and uncertainty. Paramore combines post-punk, subtleties from Hayley’s solo work, and riveting lyrics at the right level to make the album shine.

InhalerCuts & Bruises // Stream & Shop February Albums

February Albums

Dublin band Inhaler releases their sophomore album, Cuts & Bruises, our favorite album from this list. Leading with three anthemic singles, Cuts & Bruises has countless alternative rock fans joining in on the listening party. The band’s third single, “If You’re Gonna Break My Heart,” is making headway worldwide on emerging artist playlists and top music magazines. Inspired by seeing different bands at festivals and touring America, Inhaler emulates Kings of Leon, Sam Fender, and The Strokes. Cuts & Bruises undoubtedly brings Inhaler to the forefront of the alt-rock scene.

GorillazCracker Island // Stream & Shop February Albums

February Albums

Gorillaz gear up for the festival season with their eighth studio album, Cracker Island. After hearing five released tracks from the star-studded record, fans revel in an innovative genre-shifting album. Noteworthy highs include “Silent Running,” a dreamlike electro-earworm, and “New Gold,” a smooth hip-hop-infused dance bop. Artists featured on Cracker Island include Thundercat, Stevie Nicks, Beck, Tame Impala and Bootie Brown, Adeleye Omotayo, and Bad Bunny.  Cracker Island rounds out a spectacular second month of 2023 new music releases. 


For more alluring February albums, including new releases from Pierce the Veil, Kelela, and Shania Twain, check out our February Heartbreakers playlists.

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Emerging Now 2023 Playlist: Kick Winter Blues

As music fans gathered their end-of-the-year lists for 2022, January came whirling in with several surprising announcements for 2023. Boygenius will release their debut full-length album on March 31st, the harmonizing sister trio, JOSEPH, returns, and The Murder Capital released a sophomore record already at the top of the charts. Luckily, we kept our eyes peeled for any goosebump-inducing tracks and compiled the antidote for the winter blues. Our Emerging Now 2023 Playlist: Kick Winter Blues has something for everyone this chilly season. Keep an eye out for album releases to follow some of these intriguing singles.

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Emerging Now 2023 Playlist

Album Releases from our Emerging Now 2023 Playlist:

// January //

Gabrielle Aplin-Phosphorescent: January 6th (available on vinyl HERE*)

Margo Price-Strays: January 13th (available on vinyl HERE)

The Murder Capital-Gigi’s Recovery: January 20th (available on vinyl HERE)

The Arcs-Electrophonic Chronic: January 27th (available on vinyl HERE)

Elle King-Come Get Your Wife: January 27th (available on vinyl HERE)

Samia-Honey: January 27th (available on vinyl HERE)

SG Lewis-AudioLust & Higher Love: January 27th (available on vinyl HERE)

Sam Smith-Gloria: January 27th (available on vinyl HERE)

*Indicates Amazon Associates affiliate link.

// February //

SYML-The Day My Father Died: February 3rd (available on vinyl HERE)

Paramore-This Is Why: February 10th (available on vinyl HERE)

Inhaler-Cuts & Bruises: February 17th (available on vinyl HERE)

Gorillaz-Cracker Island: February 24th (available on vinyl HERE*)

*Indicates Amazon Associates affiliate link.

// March //

Daisy Jones & The Six-Aurora: March 3rd (available on vinyl HERE)

Fall Out Boy-So Much (For) Stardust: March 24th (available on vinyl HERE)

Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness-Tilt At The Wind No More: March 31st (physical release not yet announced)

boygenius-the record: March 31st (available on vinyl HERE)

// April //

JOSEPH-The Sun: April 28th (available on vinyl HERE)

The National-First Two Pages of Frankenstein: April 28th (available on vinyl HERE)

// May //

Dave Matthews Band-Walk Around the Moon: May 19th (available on vinyl HERE)


*POETRY DANS LA RUE strives to promote new and upcoming artists in the music scene worldwide. Our goal is to provide a platform for ‘on the rise’ artists and encourage fans to discover new music.

Check out all of these artists and more on our Emerging Now 2023 Playlist: Kick Winter Blues

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Sterling Drake Highway 200

Now Spinning Sterling Drake ‘Highway 200’: Timeless Troubadour Tunes

Artist Q&A: Sterling Drake Highway 200 EP. Country crooner and Montana to Nashville artist Sterling Drake released his Highway 200 EP pressed on colored vinyl by Soul Step Records this month. Sterling, known for his deep country and western roots on his family’s ranch in Florida, connects his love of music to influences from his parents and grandparents. Drake grew up listening to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Roger Miller, all of whom played a formative role in his music career.

If you’re new to Sterling Drake’s music, travel back to the era of outlaw country with Highway 200. Today’s mainstream country music seldom hits the wistful longing of a genuine country and western troubadour. You’ll be head over boots with one listen of “In the Pines” or “Highway 200” from this noteworthy rugged EP. Today we chat with Sterling Drake about living between Montana ranches and Nashville and the background of Highway 200.

Shop the Sterling Drake Highway 200 on vinyl by Soul Step Records HERE.

Sterling Drake Highway 200

Q&A with Sterling Drake //

PDLR: How have you found being in Nashville beneficial to your career? Do you still go back and forth between Nashville and Montana? 

Sterling Drake: “I think most artists that have spent time in Music City realize that it’s a love-hate relationship. If you move to a large music community, keeping your goals in mind is important. It’s easy to lose yourself in all the happenings of a big city. At times I’ve put too much stock into that town, which has ultimately led to a bit of resentment.”

“I went back to Montana during Covid, and my time away helped restore my perspective on Nashville. There is nowhere else with the amount of concentrated talent and abundance of country music lovers in a several-mile radius. The biggest benefit is mingling and playing with pickers and songwriters on any night. Currently, I spend my year split between Montana and Tennessee. When I’m in Nashville, I’m on the road, co-writing or recording. My downtime is back in Montana.”

PDLR: I’m eager to know more about country music’s influence on your childhood.  Can you paint the picture of when you realized you wanted to pursue country music?

Sterling Drake: “My father and grandparents introduced me to country music as a kid. Papa was a big Willie, Waylon, and Roger Miller fan. It’s safe to say that it’s in our genetics. Admittedly, that wasn’t the music that piqued my interest in my teens. While I wrote country songs, most of my musical time involved playing drums or lead guitar in rock bands. I like to say that country is emo music for people with adult problems. It takes a little bit of living for it to grow on ya.”

“It’s a long Montana winter, and it’s likely to drive us both insane, and the livestock and the jukebox are the only thing to occupy my brain.”

PDLR: Did you have any specific influences for this EP?  Whether it be another artist’s music or personal experiences.

Sterling Drake: “I wanted to incorporate several different styles of music that I enjoy. Highway 200 includes western traditional, old-time, and outlaw country. As a fan of American roots music, I aspire to fuse its different features into something new yet familiar.”

PDLR: Do you work with other songwriters, musicians, etc.?  If so, who are some of your favorite collaborators? 

Sterling Drake: “I’ve been fortunate enough to call a lot of great musicians and songwriters close friends of mine. I particularly enjoy discussing music and playing with Ryan Stigmon, a gentleman I’ve spent the past few years with on the road. He’s a steel guitar player out of Asheville, NC. Nashville is my musical home base. In Music City, I enjoy my time away from the road playing music and spending time with folks like Timbo, Sierra Ferrell, Hannah Juanita, Mose Wilson, Brennen Leigh, and many others.”

PDLR: What song on Highway 200 has the most meaning for you and why?

Sterling Drake: “I’d say the title track. It’s a true story about one of my experiences ranching in western Montana. Admittedly, there’s a bit of self-inflicted romanticism about western culture and ranching as a whole that I prescribe to. “Highway 200″ attempts to paint a more accurate picture of the lifestyle.”

“And I rented out a motel room off of Highway 200 just to work a riding job to earn my pay. And they never say this cowboy life was a good place to bring a wife, and I ain’t got a dollar to my name.”

PDLR: If you could collaborate or tour with any country artist, who would it be?

Sterling Drake: “I’ve spent time on the road with many of my contemporary artists and idols! In a fantasy world, I’d love to work with George Strait. One can dream.”

PDLR: What future goals do you have for your music career?

Sterling Drake: “Keep making more music and playing more shows for the good people!”


*Soul Step Records upfronts the cost of vinyl production for new artists. For more information on Soul Step Records and their mission, visit their website or follow them on Instagram below.

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Top Albums of 2022

Ranking Our Top Albums of 2022

POETRY DANS LA RUE explored 50 of this year’s hottest albums (see AOTY Contenders Playlist) and narrowed them down to 15 Top Albums of 2022. Don’t pay TOO much attention to the order because this year was massive for music releases! One commonality between these albums is the impeccable songwriting from these artists across the board.

Did any of these albums make your list? Check out our Top 15 Albums of 2022 and Honorable Mentions in the full breakdown below.

// 15 Top Albums of 2022 //

// 10 Top Albums of 2022 //

// 10 // Beatopia by beabadoobee

Rounding out our top 10 Albums of 2022 is Beatopia, the sophomore album by London alternative singer-songwriter beabadoobee. Beatopia is a lighter, more serene album from her debut Fake It Flowers. Bea holds fast to her ’90s-Esque female pop rock style on the hit single “Talk” yet goes more coffeehouse acoustic for “The Perfect Pair.” Matty Healy also makes some guest appearances with songwriting credits on this album. “Pictures of Us” echoes a sonic background similar to the likes of The Cure; Matty pens one of his signature metaphors “She reminded me that God starts with a capital, but I don’t think I could do it all,” as Bea’s voice murmurs unwavering as the track comes to a height.

// 9 // MUNA by MUNA

Indie pop threesome MUNA is at an all-time high with the band’s third studio album. MUNA is soft and vulnerable yet airy and captivating. Opening track “Silk Chiffon” ft. Phoebe Bridgers became somewhat of a feminine anthem of 2022. Other songwriting peaks include the inner dialogue ballad “Kind of Girl,” synth-pop tune “Runner’s High,” and the sultry track “No Idea.”

// 8 // Surrender by Maggie Rogers

Maggie Rogers shakes things up on her second studio album, Surrender. The singer-songwriter brings a delightful contrast from her debut album and pushes her vocal limits with “Horses” and “Overdrive.” Surrender is the pivot in an artist’s career where you see them feel entirely in charge of their artistic decisions, breaking out of the box and letting loose.

Top Albums of 2022

//7 // Sonder by Dermot Kennedy

Irish singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy reaches massive heights with his sophomore album Sonder. Kennedy, who started his career while busking the streets of Dublin, brings the contrast of intimacy and mainstream pop on the 11-track LP. Longtime fans of Dermot bask in deeper emotional tracks like “Innocence and Sadness” and “Dreamer,” while newcomers may enjoy more pop-like tunes such as “Kiss Me” and “Something to Someone.”

// 6 // Multitude by Stromae

Belgian worldwide pop star Stromae FINALLY returned in 2022 with his third album, Multitude. After a long hiatus from the music industry, Stromae released “Santé,” a lead single with a TikTok trending dance to go with it. Stromae, inverse for “Maestro,” is a talented singer-songwriter and an all-around theatrical artist and producer. Stromae has a knack for taking a song such as “Enfers” and concealing a more profound message with the contrast of upbeat music. His music videos and stage performances take performative art to the next level. Multitude saw much success in North America this year at Coachella, and his headline shows.

Top Albums of 2022

// 5 Top Albums of 2022 //

// 5 // Midnights by Taylor Swift

After pouring out her most intimate diary entries on sister albums folklore and evermore, T. Swift is back with a stadium anthem-worthy album. Midnights is precisely the right direction Taylor needed to take for her return to the stage. Pop ballads like “Bejeweled,” “Karma,” and “Anti-Hero” bring back the reputation vibes that fans may have been missing. For the *always in your feels fans* there are a few tracks to get you down (see “You’re On Your Own Kid” and “Bigger Than the Whole Sky”). Taylor’s clever to-the-beat songwriting rings high on “Maroon,” “The burgundy on my T-shirt when you splashed your wine into me / And how the blood rushed into my cheeks, so scarlet, it was (maroon).”

// 4 // Leap by James Bay

James Bay’s third studio album, Leap, combines elements from his critically acclaimed debut album Chaos and the Calm and the more synth-pop sophomore album Electric Light. The British singer-songwriter tells stories of love, growth, and personal reflection with a voice full of emotion. Bay’s songwriting shines on the beautifully penned wedding song “One Life.” Other standout songs include “Nowhere Left to Go,” “Right Now,” “Brilliant Still,” and “Give Me the Reason.”

Top Albums of 2022

// 3 // Harry’s House by Harry Styles

Everyone lived in Harry’s House in 2022, including half of New York, Dallas, and L.A., for about fifteen nights a piece. Harry crafted the soundtrack of the year by debuting “As It Was” shortly before his Coachella headline set in April. Harry’s House hits hard with dance-pop on “Cinema,” empathy on “Matilda,” and funky soul on “Music for a Sushi Restaurant.” Harry is on top of the pop star world, and this album further solidified his spot for global stardom.

// 2 // Being Funny In A Foreign Language by The 1975

The 1975 stuns longtime and newbie fans in their 5th studio album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language. The Manchester band of 20 years has written their most cohesive CONCISE album, consolidating their musical artwork into eleven flawless and heartfelt tracks. The stripped-back production works wonders on audiences of all ages, especially on songs like “All I Need to Hear” and “When We Are Together.” Lyrically, 90% of the album takes a step back on some of Matty Healy’s most poetic monologues, making it easier to digest and sing along. If you’re looking for an overly indulgent and experimental track, that would be the lead single “Part of the Band.”

Top Albums of 2022

// 1 // Stick Season by Noah Kahan

Stick Season by Noah Kahan delivers lyrically, emotionally, and vocally track after track. Noah’s songwriting is at an all-time high as he paints pictures of melancholic dark winter nights in New England. This album will make listeners feel as though they are experiencing synesthesia in how Kahan weaves through the film-like images of his past and present. Top tracks include “Stick Season,” “All My Love,” “Come Over,” “Growing Sideways,” and “Everywhere, Everything.” Noah’s Stick Season tour is growing by the hour. He has upgraded several venues to accommodate more fans BEFORE the tickets even go on sale. “It’s the season of the sticks!”

// Honorable Mentions // Top Albums of 2022

Älskar by Nina Nesbitt, Autofiction by Suede, The Hum Goes On Forever by The Wonder Years, Lavender Days by Caamp, Tell Me That It’s Over by Wallows, and Bronco by Orville Peck

// AOTY SPOTIFY PLAYLIST // AOTY APPLE MUSIC PLAYLIST //

Matt Duncan

Now Spinning: Matt Duncan ‘Soft Times’

Soft Times, the 2013 debut soul-pop record from Matt Duncan, gets a third pressing from Soul Step Records this weekend. The ever-popular LP drops in time to make the perfect gift for music and vinyl lovers this holiday season.

Local Lexington, Kentucky singer-songwriter and soul artist Matt Duncan has a long resume of lofty accomplishments in the indie music scene over the past decade. You may recognize his captivating music featured on several hit TV series such as “Private Practice” and “Vampire Diaries.” Soft Times holds a library of eleven timeless tracks eluding to Motown, The Beach Boys, and blue-eyed-soul artists (i.e., Hall & Oates, Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse, etc.). Big horns, transcending vocals, and anecdotal songwriting round out the highs of this alluring record. We are thrilled to be introduced to this hidden gem via Soul Step Records.

Subscribe to Soul Step and get early access to the Soft Times Yellow Sun variant HERE!

Matt Duncan
Album artwork by Robert Beatty

// Favorite Tracks //

“The Keys” is a vacation getaway jam to start your soulful, poetic listening journey of Soft Times. Cure your winter blues and take a mental trip “down to the Keys.”

Soft Times” embraces big band-style brassy arrangements by Ryan Moore and Evan Belt. Smooth vocals and poignant lyrics from Duncan make for an ideal title track.

“The Horn of Plenty” is a stunner track reminiscent of “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters with its similar steady bass. A vast blend of piano, bass, horns, and guitar surrounds classic soul and profound vocals.

“Sparkle and Fall” has rock-esque guitars and vocals, leading to a jazzier outro of horns. “Sparkle and Fall” displays Duncan’s range of several genres on Soft Times.

“Summer Song” contains Beach Boys-like lyrics, arrangement, and a signature doo-wop feel. Pair this A-Side closer with “The Keys,” and you’ll have yourself celebrating Christmas in the tropics.

“Lost Boys” is a standout outro to Matt Duncan’s gorgeous collection of songs on Soft Times. The final track combines nostalgic elements of Motown and older pop vocal groups with a modern-day feel similar to MIKA or Allen Stone.  

*Soul Step Records upfronts the cost of vinyl production for new artists. For more information on Soul Step Records and their mission, visit their website or follow them on Instagram below.

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Creative Workspace

Now Spinning: Cara Louise ‘Wholesome Dread’

Check your list for Album of the Year and add Wholesome Dread by Cara Louise to the queue. Soul Step Records drops two exclusive vinyl variants of the folk-inspired indie rock LP this weekend. Subscribe now and don’t miss the chance to check out the Orange Sunburst vinyl, a sweet Wax Mage variant, and a free 45 of “Fragile Heart” by Cara Louise.

St. Louis to Nashville singer-songwriter Cara Louise is the missing piece to your emerging artist vinyl collection. Cara Louise’s vocal style often reminds music fans of Brandi Carlile or Sharon Van Etten. Her indie rock disposition blended with folk roots also draws parallels to folk sisters Joseph and Larkin Poe. Wholesome Dread, released September 30th, pivots on the themes of existential dread and self-discovery. Take a deep dive into the 9-track LP, and you’ll be captivated by Cara’s lyricism and affinity for a genre-bending album.

Subscribe and check out the Wholesome Dread Orange Sunburst variant HERE!

Cara Louise Soul Step Records

// Favorite Tracks //

“Wholesome Dread” encapsulates the ever-present theme of the album with relatable lyrics, “can’t deny we’re all the same, afraid of dying.” This intro track makes you feel like you are experiencing the live version in the same room with Cara Louise.

“Must Be Nice” is a lyrically relatable track for twenty and thirty-somethings trying to navigate adulthood and mental health struggles. Cara’s vocal range on the chorus quickly lands “Must Be Nice” as a standout track on the 9-song LP.

“Empty Me” has an upbeat dance-worthy backtrack yet is starkly contrasted by more profound lyrics of uncertainty. The single has the right amount of push and pull for a well-crafted melancholic hit.

“Julia” has more of a country folk feel with twangy guitars and vivid picturesque lyrics. Cara’s voice remains serene as the instrumentals amplify to a height.

*Soul Step Records upfronts the cost of vinyl production for new artists. For more information on Soul Step Records and their mission, visit their website or follow them on Instagram below.

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Parker Louis

Now Spinning: Parker Louis ‘All Good Things’

Soul Step Records brings the heat for the end of the year with a stunning repress of the 2019 LP All Good Things by Parker Louis. The independent record label in Nashville launches two hypnotizing vinyl variants, Jungle Swirl (pictured below) and a limited edition Wax Mage beauty.

Parker Louis, of Columbus, Ohio, can be compared to soulful songwriters Sam Cooke, Raphael Saadiq, Anderson East, and Allen Stone. Louis’s smooth, bluesy style ranks him high among R&B and neo-soul fans of today.

All Good Things is now restocked and available for excellent audiophile listening on wax. From “No Love, Lately” to “Waiting,” listeners absorb jazzy instrumentals and raspy alluring vocals. Not only does the album sound exquisite on vinyl, but Parker Louis has recently shown off his vocal range on the road, opening most recently for fellow Columbus, Ohio, band Caamp. All Good Things is a timeless R&B gem to add to any collection.

Pick up the Jungle Swirl variant HERE!

Parker Louis Soul Step Records

// Favorite Tracks //

“No Love, Lately” is a first-listen showstopper the minute the needle hits the groove. The overall bones of this track go deep in classic R&B with relaxed instrumentals, choir-like backing vocals, and a sweet-singing guitar.

“Vibe” is a smooth, sultry track to accompany your romantic dinner or evening party. One-thousand percent not lying when we say these songs sound superb on vinyl.

“Gemini” is our favorite of the 8-track LP. Louis’s vocals shine brighter than ever on this slowed-down confession of love. The guitar-driven outro calls for some wine and slow dancing in the dark.

“Lights” has a highly reminiscent vibe of Anderson East, which is a lofty compliment in our book. While listening to this side B opener, fans will quickly realize that Louis’s incredible songwriting talent is not letting up.

*Soul Step Records upfronts the cost of vinyl production for new artists. For more information on Soul Step Records and their mission, visit their website or follow them on Instagram below.

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