It is now a couple of years since I have started to explore more regularly and with greater attention the world of Indie Pop, and I have to say that typically the frequency with which I find interesting records is not high as what I measure for other musical genres. This probably happens because the “popular” aspect of this genre of music often leads the artists to trade off the profundity and the originality of their songs with immediacy and accessibility. However, there are still some albums that periodically stand out from the others, and these are the records that I’m going to select and mention in this new series of columns dedicated to Indie Pop.
This first edition of the Indie Pop radar features the most relevant albums that were relesed in the first two months of 2019. I’ve selected four LPs and one EP, which cover different interpretation of this style of music.
As far as geography is concerned, we have that four of the five albums are coming from the United States of America (from Juliana Hatfield, Mree, Buke & Gase and Adia Victoria). The last one is from Germany (Wooden Peak).
Let’s see the which were the best Indie Pop albums in January and February of 2019, and stay tuned for updates of the radar!
“Weird”, by Juliana Hatfield
One of the most important events in indie pop which occurred in the first part of the year has been the release of the new LP by American singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield. Weird is the seventeenth studio album of her intense career (only counting her solo works), which means that we’re talking of an artist that has gained extreme confidence in writing and playing music.
The songs of Weird are mostly built upon the basic combination of a clean electric guitar and Hatfield’s voice, with the rhythmic section that has the only role of keeping the pace of the song. The result is a sequence of melodic, cheerful and absolutely engaging ballads, which still maintain however an “indie” feeling.
You can read here my review of the album.
“The Middle”, by Mree
American singer-songwriter Marie Hsiao, who’s best known with her stage name of Mree, has been gifted with one of the most beautiful and angelic voices in the indie music panorama. Fortunately for us, however, she has demonstrated through the last years to have achieved also a remarkable musical sensibility together with appreciable songwriting skills, so that in the end her beautiful voice is always supported by enjoyable and intriguing pieces of music. This is for sure the case of Mree’s new EP, called The Middle, which features a collection of four delicate and intimate pieces and one instrumental song.
The Middle arrives two years after her previous EP (Silver Gold), and four years after her last LP (Empty Nest). Surely this is a sign of the artist’s will to pursue only the highest musical quality, and it increases the expectations for her next full-length release.
From a musical point of view, the EP signs also a clear shift towards indie pop and dreamy atmospheres with respect to her previous records, which were definitely more oriented to indie folk. As a matter of fact, The Middle features a couple of very impressive songs (including the title track) and this should motivate her to keep exploring this style of music, where she effectively manages to infuse passion and poetry with her fantastic voice.
“Silences”, by Adia Victoria
It was not easy to choose whether to mention the new album by Adia Victoria album in this section, dedicated to indie pop or if I had to include it in the indie folk category. The American artist is, in fact, a singer-songwriter who likes to insert in her music interesting notes of gothic and blues, but, at the same time, all of her songs have a clear “popular” and catchy feeling, at least from a purely musical point of view. As far as the lyrics are concerned, the situation is different, as her songs tell of the difficulties she had to face before growing-up, and becoming an established artist.
Silences is the second LP from Adia Victoria, and it arrives three years after her impressive debut, Beyond the Bloodhounds. In such a timespan the artist from Nashville has evidently experimented with increasing the palette of sounds and instruments. The new album, in fact, is chromatically much richer than its debut LP, and it benefits from a truly exceptional production.
Silences is a record full of many things together: engaging music, but written with a pop sensibility, deep and thoughtful lyrics, and fantastic sounds.
“Scholars”, by Buke & Gase
Among the most interesting indie pop records of the first part of the year, there is for sure the new LP by Buke & Gase, named Scholars. This is actually more an experimental record than an indie pop one, and it’s in fact included in that category of records. Nevertheless, the musical material that is processed and manipulated by the American band is, in its essence, pop music, and so the LP may find its place also here on this page. Buke & Gase is the duo formed approximately ten years ago by Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez, two musicians with a declared passion for improvisation and sonic experimentation. As might be expected, their music cannot be defined as “easy listening”, nevertheless the output of their experiments in the studio remains quite catchy and accessible.
Buke & Gase’s new work oscillates between sections that are fairly conceptual (and not very communicative, to be honest) and other moments in which their bizarre combinations of sounds generate intriguing rhythms and melodies. However, I remain of the idea that the value of this music should not be sought in the ingenuity of the solutions that the two have developed for the album, but rather on the way they managed to restructure the building blocks of modern pop music. What other artists put together to create a song, they separate it. This process produces sometimes exquisite pieces of music, other times we have musical material that’s interesting to study, but relatively difficult to enjoy.
“Yellow Walls”, by Wooden Peak
The month of February gave us an interesting and intriguing album to enjoy, although very particular. It’s Yellow Walls, the new and fourth LP by German folktronic duo Wooden Peak.
Their music has always been reduced to the essential: a simple, almost fragile, electronic rhythmic baseline on which the artists record delicate melodies of guitar, gentle layers of synths and interesting lyrics. Everything is quiet, moderate, almost minimal. And for this reason, it may be challenging at first to feel involved by their songs, which could easily seem initial drafts of songs rather than complete and finished pieces. Many times, however, the most beautiful things are hidden in the details, and that’s what happens with the new intriguing collection of low-fi and delicate songs that the duo has prepared for us.
I’ve published a dedicated review of the album, you can read it from here.
I started collecting the best Indie Pop songs of 2019 in the Playlist called THE INDIE POP RADAR. Check it out and follow it, it’s going to grow with time.