We all fall into the habit of listening the same dozen of our favorite songs on repeat at some point. It’s inevitable, but insulating, and summer is one of those times when musical discovery can slip into lethargy. Especially as the same group of familiar artists makes the festival rounds and releases slow down for a bit, summer often feels like the perfect time to rest on your musical laurels and overplay your favorite jams.
Don’t give in! Spotify is great at curating constantly updating sets of tracks in its often ridiculously named playlist section. We did the hard work for you, though, scrolling through more than 1,700 Spotify lists to highlight eight overlooked and obscure playlists that will help break your summer listening rut.
1. Soul Tropical
Taking the playlist’s caption at face value (“Brazilian soul/dance fusion”) feels like an incomplete descriptor for a treasure box of styles. Soul Tropical is a walk through the country’s soul history in all its dimensions, from swampy rock to laidback piano blues to squeaky-clean disco.
Not-to-miss tracks: “Réu Confesso” by Tim Maia, “Não existe amor em SP” by Criolo and “Manuel” by Ed Motta
2. Ambience Afrobeats
Ambience Afrobeats is not quite as advertised. Rather, the playlist features dance and trap music from artists around Africa and Europe that are far heavier on beats than ambiance. While there’s a distinct thread between authentic Afrobeat and its interpolation throughout American Top 40, artists like MHD on here are a reminder that the musical exchange is more than a one-way street.
Not-to-miss tracks: Kaïra” by Fababy, “Mustapha Jefferson” by Niska and “Afro Trap Pt. 8 (Never)” by MHD
Unfortunately, electronic music still has a reputation as a male-dominated genre. This playlist, which as of writing has followers in the single digits, is a glimpse of a wide spectrum of female-identifying experimental musicians, including volatile beatwork and galactic-sounding harpists.
Not-to-miss tracks: “First Flight” by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, “Liar” by Kelsey Lu and “The Quiet at Night” by Mary Lattimore
4. Evening K-Acoustics
Singer/songwriter music from Korean artists is a step apart from the sugar-rush melodies associated with the country’s crossover pop hits (but if that’s your jam, check out our list of 10 K-pop bands to listen to). While artists like Zion.T and BLACKPINK still have an unshakable crystalline purity in their voices, the acoustic crowd emits a serenity and earnestness.
Not-to-miss tracks: “Wi Ing” by Hyukoh, “Young” by Zion.T & Crush and “As Time Goes By” by Anoc
Experimental jazz is exceedingly easy to dismiss as cacophonic, but the canon runs deeper than all the tropes against it. This playlist serves as a strong introduction, peppering in eternal figures (Alice Coltrane) alongside overlooked players (Pharoah Sanders) and contemporary abstractions (Mats Gustafasson & Craig Taborn).
Not-to-miss tracks: “Listening Embrace” by Nicole Mitchell, “Cancellation” by Jackie McLean and “You’ve Got to Have Freedom” by Pharoah Sanders
6. Bleeps and Bloops
Computer music is a saturated field, so having a curated sampler of the most inventive IDM and glitch producers this side of the SoundCloud/Spotify divide can be a crucial navigational tool. Bleeps and Bloops is populated with ghostly synth patches and precise, popping rhythms manipulated at an atomic level.
Not-to-miss tracks: “DREAM STATE” by Cavalier, “Simple Instructions” by Sneek and “U Betta” by Machinedrum
7. Indian Chill
Despite its “chill” tag and bothersome, cliche photo, Indian Chill offers up a surprisingly educational experience upon close listening. The playlist sets the tone with several compositions showcasing the traditional melodic structure raga, then lets loose with India-based producers incorporating subtly-suited, slow-building trance rhythms into traditional musical forms like bhangra and qawwali.
Not-to-miss tracks: “Raja Vedalu” by Cheb i Sabbah, “Mereya” by Dangle and “Babar” by Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck
Taiwanese hip-hop basically proves that language is about the only barrier of entry for English-speaking audiences. While it still indulges in the high-drama ‘90s R&B homages found in much of the East Asian pop music that crosses the border, the sharp trap beats and MPC-sliced sampling will sit well with fans of Drake and Doom, alike.
*Not-to-miss tracks:** “You’ll never Know” by J.Sheon, “Dang Dang Dang” by Starr Chen & Soft Lipa and the track by Landy Wen