The 6 Best Music YouTube Channels
As a kid growing up in the suburbs, I was always searching for new music as a way to expand my mind. Luckily for me, the internet was beginning to have its Golden Age of live sessions, and I (and every other kid like me) was reaping the benefits.
These channels—some of them session-oriented, some of them not—were my go-to resources for anything music. And while their popularities may have ebbed and flowed over the years (some channels I loved, such as Jam in the Van and Stumble On Tapes, are no longer as relevant as they used to be), there’s still a tangible value to having these channels around. There’s so much beautiful music out there in the world, and having resources to connect us to these artists is invaluable.
All that said, these are some of the best channels out there.
La Blogotheque might just be my favorite on this list, not just because I come from a family of francophiles (hence “Madeline”), but because they tap into the magic that comes from live performances. La Blogotheque specifically puts their bands in public scenarios, and with some creative freedom, these performances become spectacles that would entrance anyone.
For instance, I only discovered Okay Kaya because of this channel, and she’s now one of my favorite modern musicians. But this performance is still something I come back to because it has a certain feel to it that cannot be replicated.
One of their more popular formats, however, is having their musicians walk around the streets of Paris while playing their songs. Busking in motion. Lianne’s is only made more magical through the sounds of the city, but there are so many other performances worth checking out, too, such as: Sufjan Stevens on a roof, Mac Demarco and stoners in a public park, and so on.
Public radio stations host some of the best live sessions, and KEXP is definitely up there as one of the higher-quality channels to subscribe to. They’re constantly posting bands from all over the world, new and old, including Yann Tiersen above, a French composer with a considerable catalogue of experimental classical compositions.
My only complaint with KEXP is that they upload so many new musicians, it can be hard to keep up with them. But for those who don’t have access to alternative radio stations, and want to spend their work days listening to new things constantly, I highly recommend KEXP.
Audiotree is also a public radio station that uploads sessions, but where they differ is that Audiotree will also upload these sessions to Spotify for easy listening. Our Texas homeboy, Shakey Graves here, is one of their more popular examples (congrats on the fame, Shakey!).
But I’d also like to highlight Surf Curse here:
The neat thing about sessions is that they can highlight a different side to an artist, and allow for alternative recordings to occur, without needing to spend money on travel and concert tickets. Bands like Surf Curse really let loose when performing like this, and it’s incredibly cool to see. If you’re in a rush, skip to the 2-minute mark to see what I mean. Goosebumps.
I wanted to focus more on sessions for this article—because most artist interviewers don’t interview in a way that will make you want to check out a new artist. Nardwuar, however, has that talent in spades, and is always entertaining and enlightening to watch.
If you don’t know Nardwuar by now, then damn, where’ve you been? Nardy is the most badass undercover agent of the music world. Sometimes his style grates on his subjects, and it can be a little hard to watch, but that’s all part of the game with him. He’s ultimately able to coax an artist’s true background and intentions out quite easily, making him probably the best channel to watch if you’re into interviews. I’ve used Mac’s interview because it’s just hella cute.
That said, I’ve also just clued into Chicken Shop Date, and while its style is more along the lines of an Adult Swim show than anything, it’s still pretty cute.
NPR Tiny Desk
I mean, Tiny Desk is a classic, perhaps the foremost bastion of live sessions ’til kingdom come. This Mitski performance is just one of many that blew listeners away. I don’t know what it is about the format…it’s both intimate and public, in multiple ways, and that seems to bring out the best in every performer in their own unique ways. For instance, Mitski above is probably the best musician I’ve seen who puts on an emotive show, and this performance is completely that. Then there’s the more talkative type of musician, like this:
Some musicians are really good at interacting with their crowds, and that interaction only heightens the feelings of closeness and contentment during a session. Iron and Wine is one of my favorite examples of this, if only for sentimental reasons. But if folk ain’t your thing, Anderson .Paak’s performance is probably their most popular, you’ve likely heard it somewhere, and he’s absolutely dominating the room with his charisma.
Of course, we couldn’t talk about Tiny Desk without featuring a Tiny Desk winner. Smaller, local acts can participate in their yearly competition to be featured on the show, with the promise of their career really taking off afterward, thanks to NPR’s recognition. Such was the case with Tank and the Bangas, who continue to be my absolute favorite Tiny Desk winners.
I can’t watch this performance without grinning ear to ear and getting the jammies in my system. My old boss had to tell me to quit dancing, because it was scaring customers. Sorry not sorry, what am I supposed to do with vibes that go so astronomically hard?
Lastly, we have Sofar Sounds: a collective experience that you can sign up for in any participating city, but that doesn’t tell you who’s playing ahead of time. It’s always a mystery, which is part of the fun. The other part of the fun is getting to sit in a small room, and then serenaded by artists who are hopefully as sweet, and soulful, as Leon Bridges. I’ve never had the pleasure myself, but my friend who’s attended likened it to being a little kid again and having someone read to you during library hours.
Pure bliss. Enjoy your listening, friends.
(Featured Image: NPR)
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