Many people of taste disdain mainstream, Top 40 pop music in favor of equally talented but less famous independent musicians. If that describes you, you may already know about the artists I’ll share here. But if you are like me, you may be delighted to discover them and their music – and hopefully it will open our horizons to seeking out other lesser-known artists. There’s no shame in enjoying top 40 hits, of course, but smaller creators deserve love too, especially (as you’ll read below) when their work plumbs a deep well of meaning.
Back in 2016, most everyone heard the song “HandClap” by Fitz and the Tantrums, and it may have been the first and last time they thought about the indie pop / neo soul band. It wasn’t the band’s first release, coming on their self-titled album after three previous albums (Songs for a Breakup vol. 1, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, and More Than Just A Dream). It was, however, their most notable hit. Me personally, I remember that song and “The Walker”, as well as “I Just Wanna Shine” from their next album All The Feels (this last because it was also on the soundtrack for delightful Netflix movie Yes Day). I confess I haven’t thought of them much, but I can now, because their latest release, Let Yourself Free, is out now. By all accounts it showcases what the band does best: upbeat tracks with strong hooks. If this is your thing (it definitely is mine) you’ll probably enjoy it, even though the content is strictly surface-level sentiments.
Obviously, the field of indie pop today is pretty wide and filled with talented performers, especially lately as TikTok helps with publicity. Through social media I’ve discovered talents like Gayle, Wet Leg, Against Me!, Brockhampton, and many more. One such talent is NoSo, whose debut release, Stay Proud of Me, is now on library shelves for your perusal. Interesting performer name, right? Well, apparently “NoSo is shorthand for North/South: A nod to their Korean heritage, and the inane origin question (“Which Korea are you from?”) that so many Korean Americans inevitably face at some point in their lives.” The same source also names the artist as LA-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Baek Hwong (pronouns he/they). “Their music grapples with the search for a sense of identity, overcoming imposter syndrome, and repressed memory” reports their record label – and NPR agrees, summing up the debut record as a “care package for someone in need – their younger self.” Try this record if you want to support more queer artists, relate to the search for identity and acceptance, or enjoy “virtuosic, memorable guitar playing… cinematic synths and lush pop sounds…packaging heavy subject matter as a catchy hook or chorus without cheapening its sentiment” (NPR).
Share YOUR favorite indie musicians below!