The new gatekeepers: 5 unconventional tastemakers who will instantly improve your playlists

Annie Clark

Annie Clark does a weekly show for Apple Music.

(Steve Appleford / For The Times)

Each listener’s search habits are as unique as fingerprints. Below, a few unconventional avenues that this full-time listener rides on the way to rhythmic discovery.

See more of Entertainment’s top stories on Facebook >>

Spotify Discover. As an active Spotify user, I receive a weekly playlist that knows more about my tastes than my wife does. Using an algorithm that suggests it may have infiltrated my house to gather recon, the list mixes artists it knows I like with related or kindred acts from its catalog. Hidden gems alternate with fresh music, revealing connections that seems intuitive and tasteful as a human.

Bandcamp Weekly. The digital engine of the musical underground is Bandcamp, an artist-to-fan site that’s a favorite among small-scale acts interested in more autonomy in setting prices. With an unwieldy selection of millions, it’s a great resource but one that can be daunting to explore. To offset this, Bandcamp Weekly delivers a 90-minute podcast that highlights music available inside the platform from acts across the globe.


“St. Vincent’s Mixtape Delivery Service.” Annie Clark makes innovative pop music under the pseudonym St. Vincent and in 2015 she joined Apple Music to deliver a weekly radio show on its Beats One radio station. With fellow artists-turned Apple Music DJs, including Run the Jewels, Soulection, Haim (the perfectly named “Haim Time” show) and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Clark programs a weekly specialty show of her favorite music. Each themed set is a wonder of thoughtful variety. After the Paris terrorist attacks Clark programmed a Franco-themed hour that included Erik Satie, Serge Gainsbourg and Stereolab.

Song Exploder. This revelatory podcast focuses on quality over quantity. Each week a different songwriter or composer discusses one of their songs with the show’s Hrishikesh Hirway. Over 10 or so minutes they explain sonic and lyrical components, stylistic decisions and creative impulses that led to a work’s creation. Recent episodes have included composer Dustin O’Halloran discussing his theme for the Amazon series “Transparent,” Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy speaking on a new track from the band’s album “Star Wars” and the Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt exploring the song “Andrew in Drag.”

Aquarius Records newsletter. It may seem unethical to use the resources of a brick-and-mortar store as a means to discover streamed music, but the weekly newsletter from San Francisco’s Aquarius Records is a phenomenal resource regardless the format. A well-written rundown of the store’s new arrivals section, it may be intended to generate physical sales, but a nice chunk of its offerings is also available via streaming services. Just don’t forget to order a few things from the shop along the way.

Get our daily Entertainment newsletter