Category: Indie

KIWANUKA by Michael Kiwanuka

Artist: Michael Kiwanuka


Record Label: Polydor 

Recommended Tracks: Track 9 –  “Hero” , Track 10 – “Hard To Say Goodbye”

British artist Michael Kiwanuka released a new soulful album titled KIWANUKA. It has fourteen-tracks and infuses soul and psychedelic rock influences. It focuses on topics that are personal to Michael, such as his own mental health and political issues. Sonically, it’s an impressive album that definitely shows that Michael isn’t afraid to be experimental with his sound. A lot of the songs on this record are longer than 3 minutes, making it a duration of 51 minutes. There are a lot of instrumental breaks in the songs, giving each song a feeling of variety and not as though you are listening to the same song each time. He does a nice job at allowing his music to settle and simmer rather than rushing, which gives a sense of payoff when you finish listening. I rate it a four out of five. 

The first recommended track, “Hero” starts off with a soft and echoing strum of guitar strings before it’s met with drums. One nice detail that’s implemented in this song is the use of violins behind the guitar during the chorus. Toward the end of the song, the strings become fuzzy and distorted giving it a psychedelic flair to the overall sound. Personally, I think this song is the best off of the album because of its intricate layering of different instruments at the halfway point of the song. Lyrically, it seems that Michael is singing about the pressing issue of police brutality and gun violence in our society. He sings, “please don’t shoot me down…it’s on the news again…I guess they killed another.” 

The second recommended song, “Hard To Say Goodbye” begins with almost two minutes of instrumentals before shifting. There’s a slight pause before Michael begins to sing over the subtle guitar strums. At times, his vocals are echoed by what sounds like a choir behind him. In this song, his voice is very calming and doesn’t change in pitch very much. Overall, it’s a nice song to listen to, especially because of the instrumentation. The guitars buzz during the chorus and add a layer of richness to the sound. 

KIWANUKA is a good album and I think that Michael Kiwanuka will continue to grow in popularity, especially because of this body of work that shows his talent. It’s a cohesive collection of songs and really showcases his focus on production-value. 

Dream Girl by Anna of the North

Album: Dream Girl
Artist: Anna of the North
Genre: Alternative/Indie pop
Record labels: Different Recordings, Atlantic Records, 300 Entertainment Recommend Tracks: Track 1-Dream Girl, Track 4-My Love

Anna Lotterud goes by the stage name Anna of the North. She is a singer songwriter from Norway. Manny people describe her music as soul bearing electro pop. I agree with this statement. While listening to the album you can hear the emotions. The album seems to be themed around moving on. In Anna’s case it’s moving on from someone who broke her heart, but it can be applied to any situation. This album is relatable;That’s why I like it. It makes me feel good about getting over a troubling problem. While listening to her album you feel chill, because her voice is soothing. I would rate this album a 4⁄5. Compared to her first album, ​Dream Girl​ is less electro pop and more pop.

The album starts off with a bang. Her first track “Dream Girl” is a great introduction to the contents of the album. My favorite line is, “I kind of like the girl I’ve become, when I’m alone”. It was a moment of self realization. Even though she was reflective, she goes back to him when she says, “I’m still your Dream Girl”. I like this song because it displays her vocal range. Her voice isn’t washed away by the music. Instead it accompanied her soft voice.

The fourth song on the album “My Love”is my favorite out of all the songs because it is upbeat. It makes you feel like dancing. The lyrics are relatable to everyone. My favorite line is

the hook, “wherever you go you got my love”. This song is for when your feeling happy and want your spirits to stay lifted.

Dream Girl ​is an album for someone who enjoys listening to songs that make them relax. Anna of the North is an artist whose passions can be felt through her singing. The way she sings lyrics like “you got my love”, you feel her old feelings. This album would get a 5/5 if it was less about losing yourself in someone and more about finding yourself. Even though a lot of the songs are about self reflection, it always relates back to an ex lover. Listen to this album if you want more something refreshing.

Bad Ideas by Tessa Violet

Album: Bad Ideas

Artist: Tessa Violet

Genre: Indie Pop

Record label(s): TAG MUSIC

Recommended Tracks: Track 1- Prelude Track 6- Feelin

Tessa Violet is a vlogger and an Indie Pop singer-songwriter from the United States.  Tessa started to be known in the public eye through her Youtube video vlogs and then moved on to direct music videos and finally started to record and release her own music in 2013. “Maybe Trapped Mostly Troubled” was her first album released in 2014, two more including her most recent album “Bad Ideas” on October 25, 2019. This album diverges a bit from her previous album. This album follows the themes of crushes, relationships, and boredom. These themes seem sweet and relatable but they never feel monotonous. Violet’s smooth and soft voice, accompanied by her guitar, gives the album a raw feel. The album also has a combination of electronic music and contemporary pop, this along with the rawness gives the album an interesting take on anti-pop. “Bad Ideas” is an enjoyable art piece that listeners will gravitate to it and be stuck on Violet’s own thoughts presented in the album. If I were to rate this album I would give it a 5 out of 5 because the music feels like it’s been thought of carefully and meaningfully, 

“Prelude” is the first song on the album and is one of the two rawest songs on the album. The song only consists of Violet’s rich voice and her guitar, once again, this gives the song a raw feel. The same musical choice is done once more for the ending song on the album. The lyrics to the song feel relatable in the sense that we all feel insecure and bad if someone we love leaves us, then we think it’s our fault but it really is not. “Prelude” is a very soothing, soft, relaxing, and relatable song that feels like a summer day is an old retro vintage style with the wind blowing through your hair while you reflect on your relationship

“Feelin” starts right away with kind of a repeating beat drop in the first verse. This song is what most of the songs on the album feel like, electronic music with the lyrics of the song gives it an anti-pop vibe. The song also has very unique sounds that make up the instrumentals of the song. The song has many more instrumentals in it as well as a more dubstep feel from the music, but it still sticks with the theme of the album and goes into depth about keeping your feelings inside. 

Tessa Violet is a very contemporary and anti-pop artist that is not afraid to show the negatives in everyday things. She is a very aesthetic person, style-wise, and her appearances fit perfectly with her style of music and her themes of anti-pop and indie pop. The album has a very different feel, separate from the sweet girl image that most female artists have. This style of music allows listeners to have their true feelings represented in the media, this has listeners drawn to Violet’s music. If you liked Tessa Violet, then I recommend listening to Billie Eilish and Conan Gray. Overall, if you enjoy anti-pop and indie pop music, then you have to give Tessa Violet a listen, especially her most recent album “Bad Ideas”.

All Mirrors by Angel Olsen

Artist: Angel Olsen

Album: All Mirrors

Genre: Indie 

Release date: 10/4/2019

Record Label: Jagjaguwar

Recommend Songs: All Mirrors and New Love Cassette

Angel Olsen’s new album is a beautiful listen. The utilization of synth and string instruments makes this an album that’s dreamy to listen to. In this album I hear influences from early Madonna, Lana Del Rey, and Marina (and the diamonds). The thing I love the most about this album is the feeling it gives- it makes me feel like I’m walking into and through Wonderland. 

Angel Olsen herself has a wonderful singing voice- high pitched but with range, kinda reminds me of Billie Eilish. The lyrics in this album are simple but meaningful, true poetry that is simply accompanied by music. When I listen to this album, it feels dreamy; as if I’m walking into another dimension. My favorite song on the album is probably the one that titles the album. The lyrics are poetic and the musical accompaniment reminds me of something that would come from the movie Labyrinth. 

The entire album is wonderful, and I highly recommend. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t heard of her before, as this is such beautiful music more people should be talking about.

Wasteland, Baby! by Hozier

Artist: Hozier

Album: Wasteland, Baby!

Genre: Indie Rock, Soul

Record Label(s): Rubyworks, Island

Recommended Tracks: Track 6- To Noise Making (Sing) and Track 14- Wasteland Baby!

Hozier, or Andrew Hozier-Byrne, is a 29 year old singer songwriter from Ireland who is best known for the success of his first album “Hozier” featuring the hit song “Take me to Church” from 2014. Following the success of this album fans long awaited new music, but Hozier went MIA for four years staying almost completely out of the spotlight leaving everyone confused and desperately wanting more. In late 2018 Hozier broke his four year silence releasing a four song EP “Nina Cried Power” and fans lost their minds hoping for an album in the near future. On March 1st of this year Hozier released the full album “Wasteland, baby!” after teasing his followers on social media for the month prior. This album is is comprised on 14 songs in its original form and 16 songs on the deluxe version. Overall I think this album is well executed and due its long awaited release it definitely lives up to the last album and therefore I would rate this album a 5 out 5.

The song “To Noise Making (Sing)” is one of the most upbeat songs on the able since his style is typically slow and folky. The song is motivational and spreads good vibes. The message behind it is how therapeutic singing can be and it doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad, but that it is a release. The song is very soulful with tambourines, drums, guitar and piano and a choir singing  and clapping the chorus with him. The song is an instant mood changer that can put anyone in a good mood reminding us that there is good in the world and singing out can help bring you joy.

Wasteland, Baby! Is the last track on the non deluxe version of the album and earned its place as the title of the album. The song is a ballad about being in love and the up and down feelings that go along with that. Hozier uses lyrics that compare love to natural disasters or end of the world events, but in regards to how strong love can be. The song is almost entirely acoustic guitar based and is filled with raw emotions. He goes on to say that all good things end, but this isn’t necessarily an end but maybe a new beginning.

Wasteland, Baby! Is everything a Hozier fan would expect and hope for from a follow up album to his self titled 2014 success. People have been looking forward to this album for years now and I think it is safe to say that it does not disappoint. The album is powerful and emotional and most songs will put you in your feelings so be prepared for an emotional but wonderful experience. If you were a fan of Hozier’s first album you should give this one a listen as well as listen to artists such as Vance Joy, James Bay, The Lumineers and James Ezra.  

Helium by Homeshake

Album: Helium

Artist: Homeshake

Record Label: Sinderlyn

Recommended Tracks: 7- “Just Like My” Track 8- “Nothing Could Do Better”

Rating: 3/5

Solo singer and song write, Peter Sagar released his fourth full length album, Helium. Sagar insisted he record this album within his own house rather than in a studio like most albums. That stipulation paired with the removal of guitar and R&B from this album makes this album feel as an assertion of identity. There are 13 tracks on this album, four of them are instrumental, and one is just a series of eerie voices.

“Just Like My” is the perfect pairing between lightweight lofi beats and symphonic brass. This song knows how to capitalize off of lofi beats paired with some romantic lyrics, and does it very well. The lyrics are simple, “Guess it’s been a few days now/ Since I left the house/ Should be out about/ Quiet as a mouse”. This song is about solitude, the struggle between leaving the house or staying in- and to an extent feels like a look inside Sagar’s brain.

Track 8, “Nothing Could Be Better” begins with a slow beat series and then continues with lightweight vocals. This song is not complex, which is a double edged sword. The songs drum machine beats are repetitive and lack density, but when paired with the simple, lightweight vocals make the song cohesive. The lyrics follow suit with the simplicity and solitude of the album, “Mentioned that she’s headed out/ To meet people that we know/ Maybe I should come along/ Maybe I should stay”. This song is the perfect song to do nothing to, it is simple but vibe-y.

If there was one criticism of this album it would be the lack of density. The album is a series of lightweight beats and softened coo’s seeming as though the artist could only commit to one sound; however this simplicity seems intentional. The whole album feels as though you’re in a dream or other dimension, as the beats are experimental and lightweight. I give this album a rank of ⅗, it is a decent album but the simplicity disallows it to pique my interest. If you’re looking for a soundtrack for you midnight contemplation hour, this is it.

Berkley’s On Fire by Swmrs

Artist: Swmrs

Album: Berkley’s On Fire

Genre: Punk Rock/Pop Punk

Record label(s):

Recommended Tracks: Track 5- April in Houston and Track 10- Steve Got Robbed

In true Bay Area fashion, the band Swmrs has released a brand new punk rock album called fittingly titles “Berkley’s On Fire”. The Oakland based band may not be one of the biggest names out there, but you definitely know one of the dad’s of the drummer from a little band called Green Day. Billie Joe Armstrong’s son is one of the original band members of Swmrs, so clearly punk rock runs in his blood. Berkley’s on fire is the band’s fourth full length album following their most recent album Driving North from 2016. The album features 10 songs and runs at around 33 minutes long. The album is a distinct style that I happen to like a lot so I would rate it a 4 out of 5, but will warn people it isn’t everyone’s style.

April in Houston is a fan favorite off the album. The song is references a real experience of the band. The song starts with the line “My train just caught on fire and I’m stuck here at the station” referring to a show of theirs in Houston when they saw smoke in the distance and felt the explosion from a distance away while prepping for the show. The song starts with a guitar solo and other instruments come in as the song progresses. The song is about distractions and getting caught up with life suddenly realizing how fast time is flying. They use the fire as a metaphor throughout the song saying things like “your brain just caught on fire”. The song is basically talking about their fear of growing up and how quickly time flies. The chorus talks about how people will always be there when you’re at your high, but where does everyone go when you need them most.

Steve Got Robbed is definitely one of the most punk rock sounding songs on the album.  The song is about “Steve” who gets robbed twice in one night. They explain how we’ve all been robbed of something but how Steve has truly had it the worst. The song goes in detail of how and where Steve was robbed. The chorus goes “Steve got robbed, it was a San Fran shit-show. Steve got robbed walking home from West Oakland Bart station with a pistol” using their signature bay area references. The song is upbeat and an overall fun ending to the pop punk album.

SWMRS are growing constantly in their genre, but still aren’t widely known. Similar artists worth checking out if you enjoy them would be bands like Remo Drive, The Regrettes, or The Frights. Punk rock still has its following despite not being everyone’s go to anymore and I would definitely recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of pop punk, punk rock, or early 2000s alternative rock. This album may not be for everyone but it is well made with a fun sound that takes me back to early 2000s pop punk.

What Chaos Is Imaginary by Girlpool

Artist: Girlpool

Album: What Chaos Is Imaginary

Record Label: Anti  

Recommended tracks: Track 4, “Hire,” Track 14, “Roses”

Girlpool’s newest album, released Feb. 1, 2019, dives into themes of entering adulthood and navigates a journey inward. Each song feels like being immersed in a different world rather than a continuous narrative weaved throughout. It’s like listening to fragments of distant memories or stories that the two members of Girlpool audibly shape into a 14-track album. Both of the lead vocalists contrast and compliment each other with one singing in their lower vocal range and the other with a higher vocal range. What Chaos Is Imaginary is a colorful project that pulls from synth-rock to indie rock influences. The vocals, which are at the focus, are layered over drum machines and synthesizers, but maintains guitar lines that remain true to the indie rock genre.

Girlpool holds their rock sound and more melancholic tones by alternating each of these approaches in the album. “Hire” enhances more of their rock side with its distorted guitars and vocals that build up and create tension. Cleo Tucker’s baritone voice is rich and powerful as they sing in a steady tone until a shift occurs right before the two minute mark. Tucker’s voice rises to an intense crescendo. The layered guitars add to the rich texture of “Hire” during the last few seconds, creating a triumphant ending. This song is placed at the beginning of the album, while the song, “Roses” is the last track.

When “Roses” closes the album, it creates a more soft and ethereal atmosphere. This track’s lyrics keep it very simple with nature imagery and only has a few words during the three minute and thirty three second duration. Tucker’s voice drags out each word in a dreamy haze that makes the entire song feel like a daydream. The lyrics are abstract and seem to be personal, making it difficult to depict a straightforward meaning. Nevertheless it’s one of the best tracks off the record and solidly marks the end of the new album. It’s very serene with Tucker’s husky vocals and the slow drumbeat underneath the growling tones coming from the guitar. When “Roses” fades out, it leaves you wanting to listen to it all over again.

Girlpool’s What Chaos Is Imaginary delivers an impressive release that encompasses a variety of tones and artistic experimentation. Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad’s honesty pierces through the album’s overall production. This album is a solid collection of songs, earning it a 4/5 rating.

Don’t Feed the Pop Monster by Broods

Album: Don’t Feed the Pop Monster

Artist: Broods

Record Label: Polydor Records, Neon Gold Records

Recommended Tracks: 3- “Life After”, 12- “Life After”

The brother and sister duo, Georgia Josiena Nott and Caleb Allan Joseph Nott, from Nelson, New Zealand recently released their third album, “Don’t Feed the Pop Monster” on February 1, 2019 with a total of 12 tracks. With the genres of music they specialize in being Indie pop, electronica, electropop, and trip pop, it will be interesting to see what other elements they incorporate into their album. Personally, there is more of an Alternative and Indie pop feel mixed into this most recent album.

In the third track, “Peach”, what caught my attention was the chorus that they decided to incorporate into this song, along with the beat which is a major factor when it comes to enjoying the song as a whole. The chorus proceeds to say, “I’m high and im low, no control, but everything’s looking peach now” which ultimately can interpret to although an individual mentally and emotionally has no control over the feelings that they are experiencing, it does not matter because they are living in the moment and feeling “peach”, which can translate into ultimately just feeling happy. The song also says that “I don’t need it all when it feels like old” which may also mean that however there are things that may be presenting itself currently from the past, this specific individual does not need that encounter because it is old news and she doesn’t care about it.

Track 12, “Life After”, has the most unique beat in this album by far and intrigued me the most. With this song kind of sounding like a lullaby, it makes sense as to why the title of the song is “Life After”. It is as if it is a lullaby that is about people or one specific person, being permanently asleep. As the song starts off, it is describing the most peaceful setting which is where the sun always sits low, tide always high, the stars with the moon, and down the road is all the people that you have ever loved. With the title being named “Life After”, you can only infer that is about an “after life”, perhaps heaven? As the song says “I’ve been waiting for you, since the day you were born, thousands of years ago, hope it makes you feel at home”, this can interpret to someone entering the afterlife, which explains why there is such a peaceful setting.

Ultimately, this album as a whole was very enjoyable. I admired all of the different beats they incorporated within each of their songs to make each one have their own personality. With this album being labeled under the Alternative genre, if you enjoy listening to Alternative music or just enjoy Broods as a whole, I believe you will enjoy this album as much as I did. This album would also be good to jam out to on a road trip with your friends.

A Real Good Kid by Mike Posner

Artist: Mike Posner

Album: A Real Good Kid

Record Label(s): RCA

Recommended Tracks: Track 2- January 11th, 2017 and Track 7- Staring at the Fire

Mike Posner isn’t a name you hear around often, but you know him from his hit singles “Cooler Than Me”(2010), “Please don’t go” (2010), or “I took a Pill in Ibiza”(2016) which was remixed for the radio hit we all know so well. Some also may know Mike Posner unintentionally from his duo group of him and Blackbear collabing for one album called Mansionz. Mike Posner has released a good amount of music over the past decade, but remains fairly under the radar with exception of these few singles that have blown up. His one hit songs are something he is familiar with as he often references being a has been or having “a pop song that people forgot” despite his frequent release of new music and upcoming projects. On January 18th Posner released his 8th full length album called “A Real Good Kid” and it features 12 songs.

January 11th, 2017 is the most emotional song on this album hands down. The song is about the day his father died and how that has affected his everyday life. He goes into full detail of all the emotions he was feeling in this time of his life. He explains that this was the day he became a man as he saw his world changing. The song is slow paced and captured every ounce of Posner’s raw emotions as he fights back the tears explaining this ever so sensitive moment. The song ends with a clip of him and his dad talking saying how much they love each other and his dad teaching him how to be independent. They get on the topic of letting people go and that turns to Mike being reminded he will be letting his dad go making the song even heavier than it already was; hearing the voice behind the song. The last line of the song is the dad saying to him “You’re gonna put that into a song?” just reminding the listener of the reality of it all.

On a lighter note, the song “Staring at the Fire” is still a sad song in some regards, but in a much less direct way than January 11th, 2017. This song is about having your eye on the prize no matter what obstacles stand in the way and how toxic or bad for you they may be. The song revolves around the bridge of him saying some variation of not being able to look away from the fire because it is addicting. The song connects to both his experiences in the media and then also advocacy in America today. This song can resonate for many as it can be about whatever you want any distraction or addiction that sets you off the original path.

Mike Posner is a talented musician and songwriter that stays very lowkey. He is constantly putting out new non top 40 pop music with emotion and feeling throughout the entire album and that can be seen very clearly on this newest album of his. The songs are almost all on the slower side, none of which sound like they will be big radio hits, but are good for their heartfelt lyrics and relatability. If you like this album be sure to check out his older work and Mansionz. Some artists you could also check out are people like Sammy Adams, Nico and Vinz or Skizzy mars.