Indie musicians often fly under the radar compared to more mainstream acts. However, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t equally as talented as their peers. Here are the 5 most inspirational indie acts of all time, and why you should start listening to them ASAP.
Australian musician Kevin Parker is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant figures in music right now. Tame Impala, Parker’s brainchild, made waves in 2010 with the release of their debut album, Innerspeaker, and their 2012 sophomore effort, Lonerism. Tame Impala reached a more mainstream audience in 2015 following the release of Currents, the band’s most popular album yet. Tame Impala’s sound can best be described as fuzzy psychedelic rock, with elements of The Bee Gees and MGMT laced throughout. Since the release of Currents, Tame Impala has been a staple of the festival circuit, with Coachella, Governors Ball, and Pitchfork Fest under their belt, just to name a few.
Thom Yorke is one of the most famous faces of the 90s. Radiohead, fronted by Yorke, was one of the most influential bands of that decade, and still draws enormous crowds at any show they play. With the 1993 release of their debut album Pablo Honey, Radiohead started to gain recognition from critics, who had mixed feelings about the band. Their sophomore effort, 1995’s The Bends, showcased the band’s evolving sound, and continues to be one of Radiohead’s most popular albums to this day. The band put out seven more albums after The Bends, with 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool being the most recent. Radiohead is one of those rare bands that has withstood the test of time and remains a favorite of music lovers around the world.
Lana Del Rey
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, you’ve probably heard of Lana Del Rey. The indie songstress burst onto the scene in 2012 with the release of her second studio album, Born to Die. Del Rey’s slow, velvety vocals and classic style play a big part in her mass appeal, with fans trying to emulate her look with flower crowns, winged eyeliner and long, flowing hair. Much of her songs’ subject matter is centered around themes of love, lust, and heartbreak, making her strangely relatable but also sort of untouchable. Another thing that makes Del Rey so unique is the air of mystery that seems to surround her, a far cry from today’s culture of celebrity oversharing and accessibility. She keeps much of her private life, well, private, and her lyrics invite listeners to guess who they’re about. Lana Del Rey is truly one of the most unique artists of our generation and has paved the way for many up-and-coming female vocalists.
To be a part of even one successful band is an impressive feat, let alone TWO successful bands. With Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service under his belt, Ben Gibbard has one of the most impressive resumes in the music industry. Death Cab achieved mainstream success with the release of their 2003 album Transatlanticism, and went on to release five other albums since then. Gibbard was also a founding member of The Postal Service, a band that received recognition for their debut album Give Up, and it’s hit single “Such Great Heights.” In fact, the song became so popular that it was featured in numerous commercials and TV shows and covered by bands like Iron and Wine and Streetlight Manifesto. The success of these two bands has solidified Gibbard’s spot as one of the most significant indie musicians of our time, and it will be interesting to see what he does next.
Grimes’s name has been in the media a lot lately, partly due to her recent coupling- and then uncoupling- with Elon Musk. However, the frenzy surrounding Grimes (her real name is Claire Boucher) is well-deserved. Grimes began her music career in 2007, but it wasn’t until her 2012 album, Visions, that she started gaining worldwide recognition. The album debuted at number 98 on the Billboard 200 chart during its first week and received rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Grimes’s musical style is a mix of electronic music, dream pop and synth pop, with other elements mixed in as well. Following the release of Visions, Grimes released another album, Art Angels, in 2015, which was met with critical acclaim as well. Grimes is a truly innovative artist who continues to produce unique music and test the boundaries of pop music.
Although these artists have achieved worldwide success and recognition, they all started out in their hometowns, playing for small, intimate crowds. A simple Google search like “live music near me” can introduce you to cool new artists you’ve never heard of. Who knows, you may just get to witness the next up-and-coming indie star!