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Emma Hunter

5 Of the Best New Indie Music Bands to Look Out For

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.

Social Media Links: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

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.

Grab yourself a limited-edition vinyl copy of his 4-track debut EP here. Or check out the EP on Spotify.

Social Media Links: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

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.

Social Media Links: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

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.

Check out The Maitlands on Spotify, Bandcamp and YouTube.

Social Media Links: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

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.

Catch them at one of their upcoming tour dates; until then, get acquainted on Spotify and Bandcamp.

Social Media Links: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

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Emma Hunter – Nightingale: A Lynchian Exploration of Desire.

Oxford-based alternative singer-songwriter and instrumentalist Emma Hunter has followed on from her sobering single, Here I Go, with her nefariously indulgent single, Nightingale; it’s a stunning Lynchian exploration of desire.

The multifaceted account of passion captures the highs, lows and intensities of chasing love, showcasing the strength needed to take a chance. It is singles like Nightingale which put the archetypal love song to shame. Because underneath the ‘look at me, I’m so happy, I wish this would last forever’ choruses is the pain that resides beneath the façade; that’s exactly what resonates here.

By capturing the creeping tones of the Cramps, Empress of Furs and Lydia Lunch and contorting them in loops and layers that will pull your rhythmic pulses with them and complimenting the eerie textures with ethereal classical strings, Emma Hunter’s vocals that carry the class of a 1930’s Parisian chanteuse have the perfect  atmosphere to fall into.

Emma Hunter is undoubtedly one of the most mesmerising rising artists around in 2021. When venues are open, you’ll want to be present when she takes to the stage with her elegantly haunting presence.

Nightingale officially released on April 16th; you can watch the official video on YouTube. For more info and other ways to listen, head over to Emma Hunter’s official website or Facebook.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Emma Hunter formidably extended the conversation around domestic violence with ‘Here I Go’

Singer-songwriter, Emma Hunter, has been the voice of popular Oxford-based bands such as AmberState and the Halycons, and since 2019, she’s worked alongside drummer, Tom Bruce, putting her own formidable spin on alt-indie-pop.

With vocals which pull you in with the same strength as Florence Welch’s or Marina and the Diamonds’ coalescing with instrumentals which veer from mainstream archetypes while retaining all of the commercial potential, it’s impossible not to become consumed by her viscerally poignant releases. The single which caught our attention and refused to let go was her latest single, ‘Here I Go’, which demonstrates how seriously Emma Hunter takes her responsibility of creating light from the dark.

Here I Go artfully extended the conversation around domestic violence by a perspective-shifting length. It exhibited the weakness of perpetrators compared to that of survivors who have been psychologically crushed or physically abused by ‘romantic’ partners. For the first time as I watched the nuanced video unfold, I contemplated the unlikelihood of abusers being able to endure what a victim does, concluding that intimidation through power is the ultimate form of weakness.

With lead guitar tones which insidiously creep throughout the soundscape, the trepidation leaves you transfixed from start to finish, it’s a track which keeps your breath bated until long after the prelude. I honestly couldn’t have more respect or admiration for Emma Hunter and her classy controversial sound.

The official video to Here I Go is available to stream via YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast