Getty Image/Merle Cooper
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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Brittany Howard – What Now
The Alabama Shakes front-woman is back with her sophomore solo record, and it’s an utter marvel. Like 2019’s Jaime before it, Howard’s latest is a thrilling blend of funk, indie rock, blues, and even house, all of which display the Nashville-based songwriter’s penchant for versatility. Now, she has the same amount of solo albums as her full band, so it’s only natural to wonder what the state of the Shakes currently is. But Howard’s solo work is so riveting that you can’t be disappointed. What Now is proof that she’s following the creative spark wherever it may lead her.
Helado Negro – Phasor
Listening to Roberto Carlos Lange’s strain of indie rock is like stumbling upon a gorgeous painting at a museum. You want to stop for a moment and take all of it in: the brush strokes, the textures, the colors. Phasor, Lange’s latest as Helado Negro, recreates that sense of artistic, awestruck wonder. On songs like “Colores Del Mar,” “Es Una Fantasia,” and “Best For You And Me,” Helado Negro crafts a world of his own.
Pouty – Forgot About Me
Rachel Gagliardi used to write one song a day. Alongside Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner, Gagliardi would keep her creativity consistent by penning a new tune every 24 hours, and that officially marks the beginning of Pouty. Following up a series of EPs dating back to 2016, Pouty’s debut album, Forgot About Me, delivers on the hooky, snotty breed of power-pop and tender-punk associated with groups like Charly Bliss and Illuminati Hotties. As songs like the ’90s alt-rock-infused “Denial Is A Heavy Drug” and the fuzzy opener “Salty” demonstrate, Galigardi’s song-a-day practice paid off. It would be difficult to forget about Pouty anytime soon.
Rosali – “On Tonight”
Next month, singer-songwriter Rosali will release Bite Down, her first album for Merge Records. To bide the time, she has shared another excellent single, the driving yet gentle “On Tonight.” Rosali’s bucolic musings draw inspiration from the classic tale of Adam and Eve, as she sings from Eve’s perspective. This time, though, Eve seduces the serpent, representing a “lust for life,” as Rosali herself describes in a press release. It slowly picks up steam as it goes, adding subtle embellishments and layers along the way, like brushed snare drums and arpeggiated guitars. It’s akin to watching flowers bloom in real time.
Amen Dunes – “Purple Land”
It has been six years since Freedom, the last record from Damon McMahon’s project Amen Dunes. That long waiting period has come to an end; Death Jokes, the forthcoming album from Amen Dunes, is out this May. Newly signed to indie kingpin Sub Pop, McMahon’s latest single, “Purple Land,” is a slow build with a wonderful payoff. It opens with a smattering of delay-soaked synths and his spectral voice. In the second half, it transforms into a laid-back new-wave jam with a punchy drum beat and auxiliary percussion. Throughout it all, though, McMahon weighs it down with his unmistakable voice. “I’ll be holding you every day / But I can’t make it go away for you, dear,” he sings near the song’s final moments, speaking to the comforts our loved ones bring even in times of pure anguish.
The Decemberists – “Burial Ground”
It’s 2024, and The Decemberists have released a new single featuring vocals from The Shins’ James Mercer, and the cover art uses the Band Of Horses font. An early-aughts’ twee resurgence is likely imminent if this is anything to go by. Fortunately, “Burial Ground” is a solid new track from the Portland, Oregon, quintet. Frontman Colin Meloy’s warm vocals mix wonderfully with Mercer’s melodic timbre, and the interspersed horn riffs add a tuneful touch.
Beth Gibbons – “Floating On A Moment”
Portishead was one of the groups at the vanguard of trip-hop, a uniquely British amalgamation of genres like hip-hop, electronic, and dub popularized in the ‘90s. Beth Gibbons’ dulcet voice lent a dreamlike quality to records like 1994’s Dummy and 1997’s Portishead. Until now, she has never made a solo record. Lives Outgrown, out this May, has been in the works for a whole decade, and its lead single showcases an intriguing new direction for the influential songwriter. “Floating On A Moment” is littered with baroque harpsichord, ambling basslines, and otherworldly backing vocals, sauntering along until you notice it evaporate like a ghost in the night. “All we have is here and now,” Gibbons sings in the denouement, signifying the importance of living before we disappear like ghosts ourselves.
I. Jordan – “Real Hot N Naughty”
I. Jordan broke through in 2020 when dancing felt like a bygone relic of better days. Their music, especially their For You EP, is so profoundly euphoric and groovy that it transports you straight to the club. The English producer and DJ has released EPs and one-off singles in the years since, but May 10 marks their full-length debut, the semi-self-titled I Am Jordan. “Real Hot N Naughty,” featuring their friend and actor Felix Mufti, is another excellent addition to an already swelling catalog of catchy house cuts. Mufti’s nonchalant, unbothered talk-cadences fit naturally into the sonic scenery that defines much of Jordan’s work: trance synths, persistent drum machines, and a joyous disregard for others’ judgments.
Restorations – “Cured”
When Jon Loudon’s vocals enter on “Cured,” they ring with the verve of a Bruce Springsteen anthem. “God only answers to say no,” he shout-sings, playing like the cynic’s version of the Boss’ songs of unwavering optimism. The Philly post-hardcore-meets-heartland-rock band doesn’t sound like a group of apathetic nihilists, though. As the guitars and drums come crashing in, they sound uplifting, casting Loudon’s fit of despair into oblivion itself. On “Cured,” the lead single for their forthcoming self-titled record, Restorations find joy in the chaos and catharsis in the unknown.
Faye Webster – “Feeling Good Today”
Ice Cube would argue that the joy of a good day should never be taken for granted. So would Faye Webster, as the Atlanta songwriter makes clear on her latest single, the brief and endearing “Feeling Good Today.” It marks Webster’s first vocoder-heavy track, and her vocals are robotic yet no less delighted: “I might open my doors / I got an exterminator / So it doesn’t matter if bugs come in.”