Indie music has grown to include so much. It’s not just music that is released on independent labels but speaks to an aesthetic that deviates from the norm and follows its own weirdo heart. It can come in the form of rock music, pop, or folk. In a sense, it says as much about the people that are drawn to it as it does about the people that make it.
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Soft Kill — Canary Yellow
Soft Kill are known for haunting, atmospheric songs that are layered with synths and deep vocals. Their new album Canary Yellow watches them completely change directions; they’ve picked up an acoustic guitar and are trading darkness for color. It suits them well — especially when their lyrics are as poignant as they are, and now they can be heard with clarity.
Turnover — Myself In The Way
Speaking of changing directions — Virginia’s Turnover notoriously do that with every record they put out. Myself In The Way goes deep into their groovy instincts. Unlike Soft Kill, they’re turning toward synths as something new to experiment with, and it works. They also took a more collaborative route as well, inviting Turnstile’s Brendan Yates and Temple of Angels’ Bre Morell onto some songs.
Special Interest — Endure
Off the bat, Special Interest’s new album Endure abides by no rules: “Enigmatic super psycho / I can be whoever you want / Just for the night though / Yeah, what’s your damage?” The energy is unrelenting and inspiring throughout the 11 tracks, as the songs get even weirder and more enticing.
Phoenix — Alpha Zulu
It’s the perfect time for a new Phoenix album. Alpha Zulu provides the end-of-the-year groove that everyone needs right now; from the ebullient texture of the title track to the pulsating feeling of “Season 2,” the record is packed with moments that make the listener want to dance.
Cheekface — Don’t Ask (b-sides)
Cheekface’s Too Much To Ask was one of the most compelling records of the year. Even if you’re a skeptical listener, there will come a line that will almost immediately sell you (for me it was: “I’m at the Jamba Juice / I’m at the therapist / I’m at the combination Jamba Juice and therapist,” on “I Feel So Weird!). The B-sides from that album, fitting collected under the name Don’t Ask, retain that same irresistible charm off the bat: “I need an empath, is that too much to ask? / I’m still holding my breath, can I stop holding my breath now?”
Squint — “Pig Pen”
At fewer than two minutes, “Pig Pen” by Squint shreds with hypnotizing abandon. The screamed vocals are against a prominent bassline and catchy, sharp riffs make for the perfect punk anthem. The Missouri-based supergroup doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as hardcore or post-hardcore — and they shouldn’t, because this song could resonate with any music lover.
Dumb — “Civic Duty”
Another band with infectious riffs: Dumb, especially on this buoyant new track, “Civic Duty.” The mumbled vocals and perky instrumentation lend a surfy texture to the two-and-a-half-minute song, and it’s a great, brief respite.
Yves Tumor — “God Is A Circle”
Yves Tumor’s new song “God Is A Circle” is nothing short of atmospheric. The pulsating rhythm is haunting underneath Sean Bowie’s sly vocals as he gets existential: “Sometimes It feels like there’s places in my mind that I can’t go / There’s people in my life I still don’t know, yeah / Wander ’round I just feel like a ghost in a well.”
Steady Holiday — “Can’t Find A Way”
Steady Holiday just announced her forthcoming album Newfound Oxygen, and “Can’t Find A Way” is a beautiful, heartbreaking taste. While the verses are speckled with sharp details and imagery, the chorus finds her repeating the same simple line: “Can’t find a way to fall in love with you / You worship everything I do / But I know I can’t find a way to fall in love.”
Samia, Papa MBye — “Mad At Me”
Samia’s 2020 album The Baby was a pleasant gift for the indie world, and she’s set to release her sophomore record Honey next year. About “Mad At Me,” she explained, “The lyrics for ‘Mad At Me’ came from a poem I’d written about imagining what it’d be like to stop caring about what anyone was thinking.” That carefree feeling is palpable and contagious; it makes the listener feel liberated and excited.