10 independent artists who will change your life


When Natalie Portman’s character Sam delivered Zach Braff’s Andrew that memorable line to the Shins’ song “New Slang” in the 2004 film “Garden State,” she perfectly captured a powerful feeling all music lovers feel. at one time or another. (“You gotta hear this song – it’s gonna change your life, I swear,” was Sam’s instantly quotable dialogue, in case you somehow forgot.) Of course, all music lovers have their own particular tastes too, but it wouldn’t be at all a surprise if “Garden State” fans have a certain fondness for the amorphous genre known as indie rock; after all, the film’s soundtrack, which won Braff a Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for a Motion Picture, lived up to his indie ears. Countless indie bands have undoubtedly changed countless lives over the years, but we can’t name them all, so on the following list we recommend 10 of our all-time favourites. And yes, two of them just happen to appear on the soundtrack to Braff’s latest film, “Wish I Were Here,” which hits select theaters July 18.

  • Guided by voices

    Talk about life-changing indie rock: The life of 30-something English teacher Bob Pollard took a complete 180 in the early 90s when his band Guided By Voices, after years of working in obscurity in their hometown of Dayton, suddenly became anointed indie-rock royalty thanks to lo-fi classics like “Bee Thousand” and “Alien Lanes.” “I Am a Scientist” was probably the closest they’ve ever gotten to an alt-rock radio hit — and believe us, it wasn’t that close — but the band certainly won a devoted cult following that reveres GBV to date. .

  • lively youth

    After defining the sound of underground indie in the 80s with iconic records like “Sister” and “Daydream Nation”, Sonic Youth branched out in the 90s: signing to a major label, becoming mentors to an upcoming band called Nirvana, even headlining an indie-centric version of Lollapalooza in 1995. Their 15th and likely final album, 2009 presciently titled “The Eternal”, was followed two years later by the heartbreaking news that directors Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon were breaking up after nearly 30 years of marriage.

  • Neutral milk hotel

    It’s a story so bizarre we couldn’t make it up: A singer from Athens, Georgia, released a concept album about Anne Frank in Nazi Germany with his band Neutral Milk Hotel to mixed reviews, exhaustive tours for a year – and then basically disappears. Gradually, “In the Airplane Over the Sea” caught fire, and very quickly, it was hailed as a timeless staple. But despite calls to reform his band, Jeff Mangum became the JD Salinger of indie rock — until, that is, last year, when he finally (and triumphantly) shared NMH and his “Aeroplane” with the world on a final visit.

  • Elliot Smith

    Once in a while, a musician comes along with such a unique and masterful way of expressing themselves that they are labeled as the voice of a generation. It’s pure hyperbole – even Kurt Cobain scorned the idea – but Elliott Smith certainly had a knack for putting powerful feelings and emotions into words in a way that connected with his fans in the deepest way. . Smith has released seven stellar albums (including two posthumously), but it was the song ‘Miss Misery’, which he performed at the 1998 Oscars after receiving a Best Original Song nomination, that was his best known. .

  • Curb

    If a single image could accompany the “indie rock” entry on Wikipedia, a photo featuring Pavement’s preppy mugs would be as good a choice as any. Touching on influences that ran the gamut from obscure post-punk (the Fall, Swell Maps) to jangly “college rock” (the Replacements, REM) and many more, frontman/lead songwriter Stephen Malkmus and his band of pranksters churned out crazy stuff and catchy tunes at a prolific pace, but often hid their gems under slicks of inaudible noise (their first lo-fi stuff) or behind puzzles and puzzled lyrics (roughly whatever they come out). Never mind: Pavement’s music has truly changed lives.

  • The substitutes

    Sure, they were often dismissed as booze-drinking Midwestern malcontents known for their live performances that ranged from inconsequential and incoherent to downright chaotic, but few other bands could go wild as loud and lively as the Replacements when they really had their s- — together. Frontman Paul Westerberg was as wild as they come, but still managed to convey all the heartfelt passion in the world when he wanted it.

  • cat power

    Despite all the ups and downs of Chan Marshall’s personal life — or Cat Power, as the 42-year-old indie-folk singer goes on stage and on record — she’s put together a remarkably consistent output of work. From his days leading a dark and disturbing lo-fi trio in the early 90s and his work at the turn of the millennium with Australian instrumentalists The Dirty Three to his collaborations with alternative rock stars like Eddie Vedder and his flirting with Southern soul backed by Memphis session pros, Cat Power produced the occasional gem of a collaboration — not unlike her contribution to the title track of “Wish I Were Here” with Coldplay.

  • The Smiths

    Morrissey is a man of undeniable conviction – if you doubt us, familiarize yourself with the rumor that he once turned down $75 million to reunite the Smiths – and it’s that unyielding determination that has always made him such an intriguing and polarizing figure. His singing and lyric skills undoubtedly helped his cause along the way, of course, but it was the intersection of these traits with those of other Smiths members that fueled such a cathartic era for the band, easily one of Britain’s most provocative acts during its brief run in the 80s.

  • Husker Du

    The 80s were a different era for the genre now known as indie rock. Back then, when it was more commonly referred to as college rock or underground rock, and it lived up to its name – it was really been still underground. Take, for example, Husker Du, who were hugely influential and critically acclaimed in some circles, but virtually unknown in the music mainstream, despite releasing two classic albums on a major label late in their career.

  • The shins

    The Shins’ career didn’t begin when the song “New Slang,” from their debut album “Oh, Inverted World,” appeared on the soundtrack to the 2004 film “Garden State.” But the added exposure brought by his scene-stealing appearance certainly didn’t hurt the band’s rise. Several line-up changes altered the Shins’ personnel in the years that followed, with frontman James Mercer remaining one of the few constants and a writing force behind subsequent releases like their final feature, “Port of Morrow from 2012. The Shins also wrote and recorded a new song called “So Now What” for Braff’s final directorial performance and featured vehicle, “Wish I Was Here”.

Next: 10 Best Indie Rock Albums of the 90s

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