January 16, 2014 via Pepsi
The Ten Best Indie Albums Out Right Now
The past few months have been kind to music fans, maybe most kind to indie-music lovers. While “indie” may be harder to define today than ever, there’s a certain alternative spirit still thriving in the music of many artists around the world. Recently we’ve seen stellar releases from indie royalty Arcade Fire, blog crushes Haim and Sky Ferriera, and up-and-coming artists like Kwes and Willis Earl Beal. These artists are from everywhere: Montreal, LA, the UK, Chicago, Argentina. The one thing that unites this disparate bunch is their unrelentingly creative pursuit of making awesome music. Here are the 10 best indie albums out right now.
Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr - The Speed of Things
Detroit’s Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr return with a sophomore release that expanding upon their already open-ended sound that seems to effortlessly mix and match sounds and influences into a modern blended electro-pop. Their vocals have the bubblegum pop straightforwardness of Michael Angelakos from Passion Pit without any of the yelping desperation. It’s impossible to escape their sense of harmony and constant search of feeling good. Watch Baeble's amazing private session with Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr performing "A Haunting" above and pick up a copy of The Speed of Things on iTunes.
Arcade Fire - Reflektor
There's no questioning the immense and mysterious PR hype in anticipation of Arcade Fire’s latest album. And fortunately for us, the album’s as good as everyone expected. Influenced by Haitian rhythms and filtered through James Murphy’s taught vintage disco production, the Arcade Fire are still stupendous songwriters easily tackling themes of love, afterlife, and the subjectivity of reality. But don’t worry, because this is also their most danceable record yet. Watch the video for Reflektor above and pick up a copy of the album on iTunes here.
Darkside - Psychic
Nicholas Jaar, electronic music’s homecoming king, may not be the first to come to mind when thinking of indie music. But, as he is want to do, Jaar has once again smashed expectations harder than a broken minidisc by releasing a hard-to-pin-down, thoroughly entertaining album with his friend and guitarist, Dave Harrington under the name Darkside. Their debut album, Psychic, references 70’s dark jam blues and ambient electronic noise, grazing any touching point in between. The vibe is solidly nocturnal, and retrospective in a way that feels tongue-in-cheek but remains surprising and always fun. Watch the video for "Golden Arrow," above and pick up a copy of Psychic on iTunes here.
Kwes - ilp.
Kwes demands a certain amount of patience at first listen, but rewards it by inviting you into his humble, warm, swirling world situated at the intersection of lo-fi songwriting and warped UK pop production. His experience working with people like The xx, Damon Albarn, and Bobby Womack among others shows in his latest project that dropped in October, ilp. His arrangements are unique and his honest, almost timid manner of singing all work towards creating a window into this fascinating artist’s world. Check out "36" above and pick up a copy of ilp. on iTunes here.
Haim - Days Are Gone
Haim has been a staff favorite at Pepsi Pulse since they started dropping their energizing singles last year. Now that their much hyped album is out, we’re glad they didn’t fuss too much with a good thing. Their singles we adore so much are still perfectly tailored for a sunny LA cruise around town, and the previously unreleased tracks help to expand Haim’s sonic palate further into compact and agile pop. Check out "The Wire" music video above for a good laugh and get your copy of Days Are Gone on iTunes here.
Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time
Sky Ferreira is no stranger to aspirations of music stardom, and the argument could be made that she’s not technically an indie artist, being groomed for her current breakthrough for years. But while her major label handlers never successfully pushed her into the mainstream limelight, she’s had resounding successes in the indie world, teaming up with '80s-synth-funk gleamer Dev Hynes on a single last year, and just recently releasing the surprisingly good album, Night Time, My Time. It’s refreshing to see an artist at this level of curated talent flex some emotional vulnerability, and do it in a way that is both relatable and charming. Watch the blue-lit video for "You're Not The One," above and cop Night Time, My Time on iTunes here.
Bill Callahan - Dream River
Bill Callahan is not a newcomer to the indie world. He’s been recording music, first under the alias Smog, and now his birth name, since the at least 1993. His music is slower and meditative, but always literate, engaging, and intelligent. There are plenty of Americana and even Latin influences here, but you can also sometimes hear the far off abrasion of his earlier experimental work. Some say Callahan’s lyrics are inspired by Walt Whitman, and it’s easy to see why, his words are both insightful and funny, and music supports his stories and musings with a knowing wink. Watch the music video for "Small Plane" above and download Dream River on iTunes here.
King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath The Moon
Archy Marshall of King Krule’s grimy and curt baritone croon belies his 19-years of age. There’s no attempt to hide behind elaborate instrumentation, and there’s no need either. Marshall's band is, from a technical standpoint, watertight, relying on a loose jazzy splash often missing in today's sound. Perhaps it's his youth that allows him to fearlessly experiment, excitedly testing boundaries and worrying little about what anyone has to say. The album sounds like a sketchbook, produced but not polished, which leaves the listener excited to see what else Marshall has in store. Watch the brand new video for "A Lizard State" above and pick up a copy of 6 Feet Beneath The Moon on iTunes.
Willis Earl Beal - Nobody knows
Willis Earl Beal sprung out of seemingly nowhere, suddenly delivering one of the most captivating live shows of last year. He stood in a t-shirt he illustrated himself, bedecked in sunglasses and leather gloves, toothpick hanging out the side of his mouth, as he sang, narrated, really sang, and mesmerized, his music pouring out of a vintage tape machine behind him on stage. On his latest endeavor, it still feels hard to pin him down: Beal wanders through devastating gospel, sunny Detroit soul, and observational spoken word. We're still not really sure who this guy is, or what he’s trying to say, but we can’t stop listening and trying to figure it out. Check out "Coming Through" featuring Cat Power above and pick up a copy of Nobody Knows on iTunes.
Glasser - Interiors
Those hoping for a pop crossover album from Cameron Mezirow AKA Glasser will be disappointed. But those expecting a sleek, conceptually fascinating album will not be. In 2013, it’s hard to call something art-pop, but if anyone is trying to bridge the gap in the conversation between pop music and other media, it’s Glasser, who took much of her inspiration for her sophomore album from the architecture world. In interviews Glasser describes her creative process as endeavoring to reflect the imposition of the physical world on her creativity, and that anxious sheen is felt throughout the album. Watch the sharp video for "Design" above and get Interiors on iTunes here.