Islands in the Stream: 3/7/24

Highlighting some of the less-heard artists in the streamosphere

Islands in the Stream: 3/7/24
Islands in a musical stream

Islands in the Stream is a periodic series that highlights songs I've liked by artists who have a relatively low number of monthly listeners. It's like a public service with a dash of the thrill of discovery. What else could you ask for?

"Waiting for Saturn," Eva Rose
I've seen Eva Rose billed as a "singer-songwriter-model-astrologer," and I'm not sure I've read a single interview with her that doesn't include a reference to her being a Virgo, so I'm going way the hell out on a limb and assuming that "Waiting for Saturn" has to do with holding out for the stars to align for something or other. Astrology is not my bag, but this song is an appealingly emotional mid-tempo charmer — listening to it makes me wonder how the hell she's only managed to accrue a little less than 7,000 monthly listeners. Pretty standard pop stuff, but put together quite well. There's a coming-of-age movie and/or TV show just waiting to put this on its soundtrack.

"Scorpions," Distance Sprinter
A one-man musical project led by Nashville musician Joel Borton, Distance Sprinter counts the War on Drugs, David Ramirez, and the Killers as its primary influences, which... totally tracks, although I would hasten to add that "Scorpions" sounds more like Killers frontman Brandon Flowers in pensively '80s mode (a la his somewhat slept-on Desired Effect solo LP). I can absolutely hear the Ramirez comparison, though — and if you aren't already a fan of that particular brilliant singer-songwriter, then friend, I recommend you repent in short order. Either way, "Scorpions" is a moody, addictively tuneful pop song, and I will be following Distance Sprinter from here on out.

"Living Right," Reid Jenkins
Many artists have absolutely no need for a label in 2024, which is not necessarily a bad thing, although it does sort of make me sad, if only because I fondly remember the days when I could pick up a record, glance at the label logo, and have a pretty good feel for whether what I was looking at was something I'd be interested in hearing. Toward the end of that era, I enjoyed a number of Nettwerk releases, and I mention this specifically because Reid Jenkins released his 2023 album Hall of Gems via Nettwerk, and he still only has a piddling 271 monthly listeners, which makes me wonder what the hell the chumps in the label's publicity department are even doing these days. I'm sure there are plenty of rank outsider artists who have more than 271 monthly listeners; with some spare time and a little elbow grease, I'm also willing to bet that you or I could get ol' Reid past 500.

Oh, right, the music. It's good! "Living Right" is a song that you can almost hear coming out of David Byrne, although it'd sound a lot more angular and weird if he'd made it; Jenkins covers the sharp edges in those foam bumpers that parents of toddlers put on their coffee tables, which dovetails nicely with his gently tuneful vocals. I don't know who produced this track, but they knew what they were doing — there's all kinds of stuff going on, including a presumably Pro Tools-derived orchestra, but none of it distracts from the song's rock-solid bones. Get your shit together, Nettwerk.

"Cold Love," Leni
There's a lot to unpack about Leni, and all of it makes me smile. They're of Mapuché Chilean/Australian descent, and they've allegedly opened for Santana and the Doobie Brothers with a sound they describe as "an infectious and dynamic mix of R&B meets folk-pop." Despite all that, they've got an anemic 95 monthly listeners, which strikes me as cosmically unfair after listening to "Cold Love." I don't know how much "folk-pop" I hear here, but this is an eminently repeatable slow jam whose spare arrangement proves a perfect fit for its silky, sensitive vocals. This could be a hit. It should be a hit. How is it not a hit?

"Lucky Me," Christo Graham
Graham has been compared to Townes Van Zandt, Alex Chilton, James Taylor, and Randy Newman, all of which strikes me as not only a massive stretch but also an invitation to place him in some tall and deeply unfair shadows. I would very much argue that Graham's nowhere near any of those artists in terms of songcraft or even his sound; that being said, he's already established himself as a reliable purveyor of singer-songwriter stuff that has its own unique perspective while remaining squarely a part of the tradition that the aforementioned artists also belong to. Doing this kind of thing is a lot harder than it might seem; I'm interested in hearing where Graham goes from here.