Phoebe Bridgers was nominated for a Grammy last year, even if a “true independent” keeper would despise recognition. Indie music hits mainstream: Artists like Bridgers and Big Thief receive award nominations and pop heavyweights like Taylor Swift collaborate with indie staples like the Dessner brothers of The National. Despite this pop recognition, the lesser-known side of indie music is experiencing a renaissance.
Fantastic releases abounded, with headlining an array of elite female independent artists taking to the forefront of the genre. In the United States and Australia in particular, a series of fantastic musicians have emerged in recent years, recently culminating in a group of excellent albums. Artists such as Squirrel Flower, Faye Webster, Maple Glider, Lucy Dacus, Julia Jacklin, Hand Habits and others have proven to be masters of a genre that has historically, and to this day, arguably dealt with issues of misogyny.
Independent music has, to put it bluntly, a checkered past when it comes to gender issues. Recent allegations against beloved artists such as Rhye, Sun Kil Moon and Ryan adams revealed an often overlooked dark side of independent music, obsessed with controlling young women. Getting away from the male spotlight of independent music, in light of these pervasive issues, has been necessary and refreshing.
While it seems independent music is on the verge of an explosion of incredible female artists, this is by no means a new development for the genre. Musicians such as Bjork, Angel Olsen and Fiona Apple have received critical acclaim since the 1990s. In recent years, the popularity of women such as St. Vincent and Phoebe Bridgers has flourished, taking over from aging artists.
The landscape of the music industry is constantly changing as artists vie for dominance over seasons, release dates, charts, and festivals, but through the noise of competition and collaboration, trends can be. identified. Even though a previous generation of independent artists have proven their endurance, it feels like we listeners have the privilege of experiencing a changing of the guard. Phoebe Bridgers, Squirrel Flower, Lucy Dacus and others have been on the scene for years but are now solidifying as heavyweights.
Examining the work of one of these artists, on ‘Thumbs’, the main single from her recent’ Home Video ‘release, Lucy Dacus sings:’ He’s offering us a trick / I say ‘No, it’s okay’ / And when we leave / You feel him staring / So we walk a mile in the wrong direction / I would kill him / If you would let me. Her portrayal of the tension felt when an oppressive male presence attempts to impose itself on her is an incredibly overwhelming, personal and beautiful piece of lyricism. that she first asked the audience not to record her performances.
This openness to issues of gendered oppression, inside and outside of music, is not new to the genre. However, this growing, if not growing, collection of female independent artists has harnessed their lyrical, vocal and musical talent to tackle it. This lyrical little preview of Dacus’ recent release shows part of what makes the genre so appealing – austere lyricism and completely exposed emotions.
On the opening track from her second album, “Planet (i)”, released on the same day as “Home Video”, Squirrel Flower sings: “I’m a space rock, burning fast / I’m a space rock, burning fast / I’m an oil tank, slowly burning / You haven’t listened long enough to know. Her description of herself sounds like an open window to her position on the dawn of independent stardom – an artist writing slow-burning bangers, proverbially taking off but still less heard than it deserves. This is the catch-22 of indie music: to be on the verge of “indie fame” is to be practically unknown, and to be famous indie is still being invisible to the vast majority of music listeners.
Despite the excellence of their music, many small independent artists are struggling to reach more listeners. However, a thorough web search for âartists you might likeâ pages, music reviews, subtitles, and forums can lead to the discovery of incredible songs by lesser-known artists. A quick peek into the Spotify rabbit hole helped me find songs like “The Right Reasons” by Carla Geneve, a surprisingly good, sad but springy bop. That spending 10 minutes delving into artist recommendations could lead to an astonishing discovery like this is indicative of where independent music stands right now.
The genre is exploding in pop culture. While this is in part linked to the co-signatures of pop stars and social media’s obsession with âthe independent aesthetic,â credit must be given to the talent of the dozens of burgeoning or accomplished independent stars whose voices make up the soundtracks of thousands of tiny stories played through the car’s speakers and headphones. Even artists who are on the fringes of popularity produce incredible music, and those who are more acclaimed, like Adrienne Lenker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, continue long hot stretches of several albums of deep and enjoyable listening.
For a fan of independent music – in my case, initially, male-led artists like Car Seat Headrest, Vampire Weekend, Sufjan Stevens and Radiohead – the meteoric rise of female independent artists at all levels has been a musical revelation. . As a listener, I just hope this is not a peak in the dominance of female independent artists, but a step towards a new wave of groundbreaking musical works. Looking ahead, dozens of artists have proven capable of becoming enduring staples and independent names in the house, and I look forward to quick and slow successes to come.