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, of pop, or of 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.
Every week, Uproxx is rounding up the very best of the indie releases from the past seven days. This week offered up a new collaboration from Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner called Big Red Machine, a fiery debut from Tash Sultana, a record from Idles that will make you want to kick through a wall. It was a pretty great week for indie music.
Big Red Machine — Big Red Machine
Big Red Machine has been a long time coming, dating back to 2009’s Dark Was The Night compilation album when Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner first collaborated. Nearly ten years later, and the pair who are also behind the PEOPLE streaming service have unveiled their first album for this long-gestating collaborative project. The good news is that it sounds like a happy medium between the two musicians’ main projects, The National and Bon Iver. As our own Steven Hyden writes, “Big Red Machine seems expressly designed to be heard as a sustained mood piece, like the second half of Sleep Well Beast with rougher, jammier edges.”
Idles — Joy As An Act of Resistance
Post-punk is a genre that always seems to have something a little fresh to offer, a slight spin on what has been done before with new vitality and urgency. Bristol’s Idles certainly fits under this umbrella, evoking recent runs from Savages and Protomartyr for an album that sounds definitively British, reeking of a spilled car beer that’s been left in the sun for a day to dry. Somewhere, there are young people hearing these sounds for the first time and feeling their world turn upside down. But even if there is familiarity here, Idles still has a certain immediacy in their music that virtually forces the listener to turn up the volume and get thrashed.
Tash Sultana — Flow State
There must be something in the water in Australia, because in addition to Troye Sivan, Tash Sultana is another artist from Down Under that is making huge waves this week. Tash’s debut album, Flow State, finds the multi-instrumentalist recording with remarkable maturity and playing many different instruments on the collection. In her interview with Tash on the record, Uproxx’s Chloe Gilke calls the album “bold, innovative, and masterful, much like the artist who created it.”
Daniel Davies — Events Score
Daniel Davies is not a household name, and if you do happen to know who he is, it is likely from his collaborative work with John Carpenter. But on his debut solo album, Davies takes the vintage synthesizer and creepy-crawly aesthetic to its next logical conclusion, with an album that moves comfortably from the darkness to the light and then back again. It’s out on the same label, Lakeshore Records, that also put out the Stranger Things soundtrack, and if you use that as a jumping off point for what to expect, the atmospheric record will not disappoint.
Saintseneca — Pillar Of Na
In the crowded world of indie folk, it’s hard to stand out. But Saintseneca are doing just that on the quite good new album, Pillar Of Na. The work of mastermind Zac Little, the album marks what he considers the project’s most ambitious album to date. “I wanted to use the idiom of folk-rock, or whatever you want to call it, and to try to do something that had never been done before,” he said in a statement. “To reach way back, echoing ancient folk melodies, tie that into punk rock, and then push it into the future.”
Iron & Wine — Weed Garden EP
Last year, Sam Beam returned to Sub Pop and offered up the best Iron & Wine album in more than a decade with Beast Epic. Just about a year later, and Beam is back with more songs from that session, proving that we are indeed in an Iron & Wine renaissance. It’s great to hear one of this century’s most distinct voices sounding comfortable without feeling stagnant.
Anna Calvi — Hunter
Anna Calvi is a guitar virtuoso who has been redefining her musical role throughout her career. She’s many years removed from her NPR success of “Desire,” but in the time since, Calvi has been pushing herself as a musician to often exciting and always interesting new places. The new record promises a more raw version of herself, where everything from her voice to her musicianship is pushed father than it ever has been before. Anything close to that would be a massive success.
Hovvdy — “Easy”
The gentle atmospheric indie of Hovvdy feels like it could have been made in any of the last few decades. Their latest, recorded for Saddle Creek’s Document Series, finds the Austin band sounding sepia-toned as ever, creating a warm, refreshing few minutes that is as comforting as anything the project has ever made.
Oceanator – “Inhuman”
A lot of times, a solo or acoustic reimagining of a song isn’t a major leap at all. But on “Inhuman,” stripping the full arrangement away from Elise Okusami’s tense song puts the focus directly on the song’s bones, revealing a tightly constructed and effective number that doesn’t rely on smoke or mirrors. As the drummer for Vegabon, Okusami shows a comfort in the shadows, but once her voice reaches for the rafters in the conclusion of “Inhuman,” she reveals herself to be equally confident in the spotlight.
Yowler — “Angel”
The solo project of Philidelphia’s Maryn Jones, known for her role in Saintseneca and All Dogs, Yowler is ready to offer up the second album under that moniker. On “Angel,” her voice is fragile and bruised, like Waxahatchee if you stripped away the Southern affectations. But when the band kicks in, Jones’ voice holds up firmly to the full-band arrangement, creating a more ambitious and complete version of Yowler than has ever been presented.