By Julien A. Luebbers
The Spokesperson’s Review
Independent music is diverse. It’s sort of a catch-all genre for artists that you wouldn’t define as classic rock, pop, or rap. For this reason, even for long-time independent listeners, there are always artists who go unheard.
Whether this is your entry into indie or you’re just looking to explore a new corner of the genre, this list is a great place to start. From indie pop to folk to rock, there’s variety.
Soccer Mom is one of the most prominent faces of emerging indie rock. Its often bright and catchy riffs and tunes are layered with honestly deep lyrics voiced with a certain ambivalent nonchalance. Her most recent album, “Color Theory,” is biographical, and her hit song, “Circle the Drain,” is a testament to her talent for songwriting.
Pine forest joined the indie rock scene in the early 2010s and quickly gained a fanatical following. Their sound is characterized by soft rock influences and a slight country twang. Songwriter Evan Hall’s lyrics are direct and heartfelt. Their latest album, “Marigold,” was released earlier in 2020. Set among a set of great tracks, “Hairpin” showcases their distinct brand of slow-tempo rock and poetic lyricism.
herd of horses evolves in the direction of folk-rock. Known for their 2005 hit ‘The Funeral’, the band have since released four full albums, the most successful of which is arguably ‘Infinite Arms’. Always focused on well-sustained acoustic energy, the band found success with rock-oriented ballads (“The Great Salt Lake”), smooth, atmospheric acoustics (“Detlef Shrempf”) and everything in between.
Phoebe Bridger has been a topic of conversation lately, with her second album, “Punisher,” set to drop in June. Its indie emo-rock vein is concerned with a Dylanesque discussion of an upsetting and banal experience. One of his most recent singles, “Tokyo,” deals with a troubled fatherly relationship in a candid tone all its own. Tracks like “Motion Sickness” and “Scott Street” are full of musical talent and lyrical genius, all underlined by deep anxiety. Be sure to check out “Boygenius,” his collaboration with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus.
J Braise is probably the least recognizable name on this list, and that may be because he has yet to release a full album. J Ember’s catchy and immersive tunes make you want to put on a wry smile and just enjoy his smooth, hypnotic sound. Her EP, “Green Eyes,” was released last month, and the title track is a catchy pop song about inexplicable attraction.
Eden is the epitome of indie pop. His songs are usually composed of tenor and falsetto voices over a complex electronic background, the effect of which is to claim the listeners’ experience and transport them to a world of yellow-lit tunnels and long camera exposures. From time to time, a delicate acoustic sound will break through and Eden’s emotional depth is on full display. His second album, “No Future”, was released in February.
Alt j has one of the most distinctive voices in indie. Their debut album, “An Awesome Wave,” sounds perfect when listened to as a whole, and lead singer Joe Newman’s almost whiny voice is hauntingly beautiful. Praised for the historicity and poetic qualities of their lyrics, their sound is a combination of enlightened vocals, original drum, guitar and bass tracks and a somewhat psychedelic overall atmosphere. See “Matilda” or the classic “Left Hand Free”.
Alvvays return to indie pop, their sound reminiscent of the British Shoegazing genre of the late 80s for inspiration. Their melodies are dripping with sweetness, and the backdrops are a full palette of sounds that make you want to close your eyes and just rock to the music, or stare absently at your shoes, as the subgenre name it. indicated. Their most recent album, “Antisocialites”, is hit after a stunning success.
Death Taxi for Cutie form a major cornerstone of the definition of indie rock, and they are probably the most recognized act on this list. The voice of singer Ben Gibbard exudes an unforgettable sincerity. Whether it’s their most heartbreaking acoustic track or an intensely immersive rock ballad, DCFC will find its way into your playlist with its steady basslines and sweet chords. Each album is distinctly distinct from the previous one, but “Kintsugi” and “Transatlanticism” are two recognizable highlights.
Sharon Von Etten has carved out a distinctive sound in indie rock and folk. His lyrics are emotional but not overtly sentimental. Her voice is a bit harsh but flows with rough beauty. Its musical backdrop is strongly harmonic and often a bit dissonant. Von Etten’s song “Seventeen” (there is also a version with Norah Jones) is a work of intergenerational insight and wonderful composition.