Discovering new independent artists that blow your mind but still fly under most people’s radars is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you are left with that giddy new-sonic-experience feeling; on the other hand, you’re frustrated that the world remains blind to such talent while they bemoan the bands on the radio.
The variety of indie music means that even the staunchest of fans who proclaim to know EVERY band worth knowing won’t get to explore every corner. We’ve rounded up five of the best independent artists who have left an ever-lasting impression on us at the outset of their careers, during a pandemic, nonetheless. We waited for the great art that would follow times of great suffering; the five artists listed below delivered.
1. Emma Hunter
The ineffably sensational Oxford, UK-based alternative artist Emma Hunter appeared on our radar with her conceptually compassionate music video for her single, Here I Go, in January 2021.
Her debut single explores domestic violence with profound grace by creating a protagonist gripped with indecision on when to leave an abusive relationship; the sense of trepidation creeps right through the smoky art noir release. Through her 50s flamenco and surf rock influences, she allowed the past to draw parallels against very contemporary problems, alluding to the lack of novelty in domestic violence.
We were left mesmerised by her shimmering guitars, Tom Bruce’s unique percussive flair and her vocals which could turn any soundscape cinematic. Her ability to touch upon subjects so sore with unflinching passion without rubbing salt in the wound is phenomenal, to say the least. Any time spent listening to Emma Hunter’s expressive conceptuality affirms that she has exactly what it takes to become the next Anna Calvi, St Vincent or Nadine Shah.
Here I Go is the title track from the Here I Go EP, released on August 14th, 2021. The 4-track EP is now available to stream and purchase via Bandcamp.
2. Joe Astley
With his infectious persona and singles which vary in the way that they hit hard, there was no forgetting Joe Astley after being introduced via his haunting indie folk-rock single, Revolution Postponed, in February 2020.
His seminal release with the Wallgate Band, Television Fantasy, is a vibrant indie-rock extension of what John Carpenter warned us about in They Live with plenty of sticky-sweet raucous punched pulled for good measure. There are just enough rock n roll stripes to take the guilt out of the equation when enjoying this endlessly energetic track. If you can imagine what it would sound like if Def Leppard poured some sugar on Bruce Springsteen, you will get an idea of the all-consumingly sweet sound Astley offers.
Now a resident artist at Liverpool’s iconic Cavern Club and with the backing of the likes of Clint Boon, Robert Carlyle and the BBC, it is only a matter of time before Joe Astley sheds his status as an independent artist.
3. Damn Jackals
The proto-punk artists responsible for the stickiest earworm of the year easily earned a spot on our top 5 indie artists list. If any track is going to leave you disco dancing in your bedroom, it is the raucously romantic indie garage rock hit, Lovely Nuthin’ by Damn Jackals, which was released this summer.
From the indie punk-rock hit, expect swoon-worthy vocals with reminiscence to the Strokes, vintage guitars and plenty of doo-wop nostalgia from the slicker than slick Brooklyn, New York-based 5-piece. Since making their debut, Damn Jackals have garnered plenty of attention for their tendency to explore between genres instead of within them. How they haven’t already reached the same heights as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Black Keys is beyond us.
Lovely Nuthin’ is now available to stream and purchase on Bandcamp.
4. The Maitlands
The Manchester-based indie post-punk outfit The Maitlands have plenty in their aural arsenal to easily distinguish themselves from the stiff geological competition.
They released the timeliest single of 2020 with their seminal release, Where Did it All Go Wrong, which offers a far more vocally vulnerable swagger to most post-punk crooners paired that certain brand of euphoria that can only spill from thrashing angular indie guitars.
Where Did it All Go Wrong was subsequently followed by the stormer of a single, When it Rains, it Pours; the vocals act an anchor in the tumultuous chaos brewing between the grungy basslines, scorching hot guitars and frenetic percussion. Rarely can I say that an emerging artist is as good live as they are on record, but their enigmatic energy is a refreshing exception.
5. Yellow Brain
The ensnaring atmosphere of Yellow Brain’s indie electronica sound first gripped me when I caught them live at the O2 Ritz in Manchester when some of Manchester’s finest artists came out in support of John Hall’s new charity for grassroots music on August 1st, 2021.
The Mossley, UK-based duo’s standout single, Fast Talk, is as dreamy as any Suicide single and as moody as any Echo and the Bunnymen release. While other releases, such as Glistener, douse you in solemnly dark tones that spill from the guitars while the solid danceable beats encase the shoegazey discord. Within the vocals, you’ll find the same provocative appeal as offered by artists such as Alex Cameron and She Wants Revenge, yet, there’s almost a Lynchian feel to Yellow Brain adding yet another facet to their enticingly dynamic sound.
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