SOUNDS LIKE LATVIA. Your favourite shuffle of the best Latvian music this decade.

On our country's national celebration and as the end of this mesmerizing decade is past us, we collected over 500 tunes of Latvian contemporary music from 2011 - 2020. To make a point on both the mostly unheard musical qualities hidden in this land, the unfair over-distribution of the academia, or simply the lack of courage or nerve. This is your new favourite Spotify music shuffle.

© Reinis Pētersons

There is an assertion of Latvians being a singing nation. Starting from our song and dance festivals and ending with the Singing Revolution prior to the end of the collapse of USSR - it has proved itself true numerous times. However, what do you really know about Latvian music these days? Especially the one unrelated to the academic genres. Turns out, along with literature, we are still too shy, introvert, and inert to fame even in music. But not for long.



The Singing revolution just mentioned was mainly lead by hairy Latvian rockers, flamboyant pop singers, Depeche Mode-like electronic music pioneers, or punks. Unfortunately, for some recent decades there has been a wave of content praising Latvian academic composers, conductors, instrumentalists, or opera soloists instead. Did the popular contemporary just disappear?

When you look back at everything, from local movies produced lately to major events, there is indeed a strong, even overpowering presence of academic music still. No doubt - Latvia is one of the most known producers of such type of art, but it becomes increasingly unrelated to current times. It has also proven being the safest. For example, instead of following other usually Western countries where popular, experimental, underground, indie, jazz, or any other contemporary music style becomes an essential part of cinema, Latvia can't get their head out of the traditional academy.

Slowly, yet unstoppably - it changes. When talking about movies, Rihards Zaļupe was probably one of the first academic composers to create a very contemporary, Cliff Martinezque soundtrack to the movie "1906". Then, a complete different breakthrough was used by Alise Zariņa when her film "Blakus" only focused on the contemporary and praised the locally famous popfolk duo "Čipsis un Dullais".


If the first decade in Latvian music this millennia ended with indie rock, soft alternative, electronic dance music and many experimental genres, the finale of 2011 - 2020 has seen a surge of rap, global pop, and mixture of jazz related material.

Maybe the total liberty to create as well as an opportunity to freely and cheaply travel for full-time or exchange studies, concerts, or masterclasses is finally here. Riga has become more subcultural than ever, and the times have left the younger generation of Latvian musicians full with freely available impressions to be used. The iron curtain has finally fallen.

We believe an important turning point in the urban contemporary vibe was the formation of Dirty Deal Audio (DDA) crew. They began promoting beats-related music right after the economical crisis and brought many young or underground artists to fame and commercial success (both locally and also internationally within their genre). Around that moment, the work of producers increasingly became more visible and profitable. It has lead to some of the most popular tunes in the present day Latvia.

DDA were also important facilitators of the revival of rap culture that lacked some depth and trust, and new names. Along with the rise of popularity globally, rap, hip hop, beats, and other related styles have now overtrumped rock and its modifications in fame in Latvia too.

Another trait can be noticed in the academically trained popular performers. Usually led by males, there is a tendency to decipher or critique their own experience in classical training by leaning toward free-jazz or free-pop methods - broken rhythms, melodies hard to sing along with, no melodies at all, etc.

While men are fighting against the structure of music, women performers have emerged in front with their extraordinary voices, quality, catchiness, and originality.

It even seems that the most interesting bits of Latvian popular music now are lead by the presence of women. What's lacking now is the strong political, social, economical, or domestic message female performers seem to know very well about but have not yet shown their full teeth.

In the end, it's heart-warming to see that most of our recent bands have managed to blend together the excellence for musical understanding (typical to Latvians) with equal parts of originality and dare. There is no regret, shame, or forced introversy in venturing into popular styles for catchy tunes; that has been quite a hurdle to many musicians and bands, particularly those with previous academic training.


Therefore, a (subjective) playlist seemed more than vital to the sense of Latvian sound. It took us some 20 long evenings and afternoons within the previous month to run through the (presumably) whole catalogue of Latvian non-academic, but also non-super pop music from 2011 - 2020. We focused on exquisite and original rather than simply sugar-coated performances as well on something that sounds current and is not made to last a season.

In result, the CAPITAL R - SOUNDS LIKE LATVIA playlist consists of over 500 songs, including a plethora of styles and genres you can name - from pop, rap, indie, and house to DnB, grunge, ambient, or stoner rock.

To collect this, we faced up to listen thousands of songs from over 200 artists active within this winding-up decade. IF MORE THAN 3 of their tunes were chosen to appear on our Spotify collection, we added this artist on a shortlist. More than a half of our picks consists of roughly 70 names as arranged alphabetically below here:

  • 100 baltas dvēseles
  • Alejas
  • Alise Joste
  • Anneli Arro
  • ansis
  • Astro'n'out
  • The Bad Tones
  • Baložu Pilni Pagalmi
  • Bērnības Milicija
  • Brainstorm (Prāta Vētra)
  • Brimstone
  • Carnival Youth
  • Chris Noah
  • The Coco'nuts
  • Čipsis un Dullais
  • Dirty Deal Audio - Various Artist compilations
  • Domenique Dumont
  • Edavārdi
  • Elīna Silova
  • Gas of Latvia
  • Goran Gora
  • Imants Daksis
  • Inokentijs Mārpls
  • Instrumenti
  • Jānis Ruņģis
  • Juris Simanovičs
  • Kapelmeistars Group
  • Kasetes
  • Kashuks
  • Kārlis Auziņš
  • Kreisais Krasts
  • Laika Suns
  • Laime Pilnīga
  • Les Attitudes Spectrales
  • Lesfucc
  • LUPA
  • Manta
  • Martas Asinis
  • Melikols
  • Mona De Bo
  • New Wavy
  • NiklāvZ
  • Nova Koma
  • Oranžās Brīvdienas
  • Origo Boys
  • Oriole
  • Ozols
  • Plenērs
  • Polifauna
  • Prusax
  • Rīgas Modes
  • Rolands Če
  • Satellites LV
  • Selffish
  • Sign Libra
  • Sigma
  • Singapūras Satīns
  • Sniedze Prauliņa
  • Sonntags Legion
  • Spāre
  • Tehnikums
  • Tesa
  • Toms Rudzinskis Quartet
  • Tribes of the City
  • TV Maskava
  • Very Cool People
  • Vēstnieks
  • Židrūns 
  • etc.

    Apart from the given shortlist, there were also over 70 other artist appearances of whom we added just a few songs to our shuffle (hopefully, for now). There were also close to 50 names that simply did not live up to our expectations and more than a dozen that sadly cannot be found on Spotify at this time. Finally, there also were a handful of artists we did not add to our shuffle for one terminal reason - no way this music will ever be performed (mostly due to someone's death).

    When you really listen to it, some tunes might sound slightly outdated. However, in retrospective, they still mean a lot to the development of Latvian non-academic music of the past decade and subcultures very dear to us nowadays.

    Moreover, many tunes are added to the playlist not only due to melodic qualities but also because of representing a deep, crucial meaning weaved in lyrics. It's heart-warming that texts still mean a lot to Latvian music (although the weight of the words comes with age).

    SO, what are you waiting for, give the playlist a try!