There are some of us out there who just don't care for the mega-selling songs that mainstream radio and the giant record companies try to convince us that we should be listening to. So we seek out independent music. It's much more of a challenge, but so much more rewarding when we find something that really works for us.
Following is a list of 10 great indie musicians who, for one reason or another, caught the attention of one of us at nonhollywood and made us feel enough of something to go to iTunes, pay a buck, and download a song to the ipod. We hope you like at least of few of them and are inspired to do the same...
Can you remember the last time that automatons were mentioned in a song? Bern & the Brights dig into their subject with the kind of fascinating wordplay that is not often seen in today's music. On Thieves, Creeps and Automatons they offer a rallying cry for individualism and just how darned hard it is to achieve in the world we live in. Musically, this is a fantastic toe-tapping tune and it is always great when an artist takes a fun melody and instead of simply plugging in the same old vapid "funtime" lyrics, they instead use the space to actually say something. It works.
Great, full production on this track, hitting all of the spots that a big-name producer would hit, but with a depth not generally seen in pop music. Reminiscent of the best work of Sarah McLachlan, this tune rolls through the uglier parts of relationships while keeping a hummable melody. With the song Addiction, Chandani achieves a deep, dark brooding well beyond someone of her years.
Flat-out love this song. Funky guitar and great lyrics. Dana Marie creates a fantastic, driving guitar melody but doesn't stop there--she uses her great feel for melody and accompanies it with meaningful lyrics. Face of Society is an intelligent (and biting) commentary on modern society's fascination with beauty and beautiful people. Dana Marie delivers music with a great message... and she rocks!
A sound designer and a writer for the movies prove that the same skills which add depth to films are also great skills for creating great depth of emotion in a song. Frayed Wires is the sort of tune that, if you sit and listen alone in a quiet room, really churns up the emotions. It's the kind of song that makes you feeeeeel... and you feel it more and more with each listen.
From Austin, definitely one of the hubs of indie music, comes a band with not just a great sense of song, but lyrics which, even when read without music, come across as great poetry. Saints is a beautiful song of childhood, but the kind of childhood of the special sort of individual who experiences depth early. "A boy that runs is twice as wise" -- what a great little phrase.
A bouncy little bass part keeps this song moving along in a nice, hummable way. Signed to a major label for a time but departed from them before any real action happened, the members of Fictionist make their way back into the indie fold with an ecclectic blend of styles which showcases a dedication to what indie is all about -- doing it your own way.
Big. Anthemic. And bold. With Voices Filmspeed has crafted that kind of music that makes you feel that you can do anything -- the great big chorus is both inspirational and fun (and also great for singing along to in the car on a road trip).
John Masters, under the moniker Harness Flux creates a lush soundscape out of a noisy guitar part. If you are a fan of the dark and echoey, good news: Harness Flux takes the dark echos and wraps them in a fantastic melody, then just lets it soak into you. This music will stick with you for days after only one listening. Really. I promise.
I love the great harmonies on this one (really wonderful how the voices blend together on sporadic lines in the verses). Sisters Vic and Gab work really well together, creating music that has both a pop sort of feel while keeping a sparse indie vibe. In a word: fantastic.
These guys are going for power-pop... and they are achieving it. Amazing soaring vocals are at the highlight for this band. Takes me back to some of those powerful female pop-rock singers of old, such as Pat Benetar, who could really, really belt out a tune. And not only a great singer, a great band and great production behind her. These guys kick some!
Song previews provided courtesy of iTunes.
Don't know if this band's lyrics are quirky because the songwriters come from 2 different countries with 2 different native languages, but whatever the reason, that quirkiness really works. Freakin' Love is a terrific example of great wordplay atop classic folk riffs and harmonies. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
I've always been drawn to introspective music. This band definitely fits the introspective mold, with a dreamy guitar-based sound that reminds me of the great indie band Trespassers William. I could listen to this sort of thing all day. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
The little piano riff at the start of this tune by Park City's A Gang of Poets is one of those that just creeps into your bones and stays there. The song perfectly captures the mood evoked by the title--one of loneliness and longing in the middle of the night. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
The opening reverberating "woo"s of this song by Denver's The Bell Hours grabbed me right off the bat on the first listen. Something haunting there that really, really works. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Never in a million years would I have guessed that fantastic voice was coming from a teenager. The Snaz harkens back to the early days of New Wave (you know, the good kind of New Wave). You could almost hear them opening for The Knack somewhere on The Sunset Strip in 1979. Anna is a punchy little tune highlighted by crunchy guitars and those great vocals of Dharma Ramirez. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Simple arrangements that highlight what's really important in a song: the songwritng. "When I look at you, I see a future, but all I can do is walk away" How great a lyric is that? Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
I love the bright, echoey guitar atop somber piano in this song. Another independent music act that I would describe as introspective ("save me from my own head"--what a great line) and I love every second of this song. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Songs with lyrics like "between life and the unthinkable" always grab my attention, as does the slow, trippy feel of this tune... which then turns gigantic and epic. Plus I like the video. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
An appropriate name for this band as it is classic American indie guitar rock of the finest tradition. Floodgates goes through a few different sections, each more interesting than the last. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
I had never heard the term "chamber pop" before, so I have no idea if that's a real genre or something Nilu made up, but it certainly is an apt descriptor. Pianos and string arrangements highlight this Fiona Apple-esque somber tune. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Ordinarily, I don't really go in for happy, bouncy sorts of tunes, but something about this ode to a great day in, of all places, Columbus, Ohio actually makes me smile. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Great dual lead vocals atop a driving kick drum and acoustic guitar part on this song. My Name is You is one of those indie bands scoring lots of placements on big TV shows and it's easy to see why. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
This band has the whole "powerpop" thing down with driving guitars and a wailing banshee lead vocalist. This song starts off in a mellower mood which really draws you in--and then the power chords punch you in the gut (in a good way). Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
A nice juxtaposition of driving and mellow on this tune from Tampa's Mortimer Nova (you'll just have to listen to it to see what I mean). "The piper of rats has come to burn your apartment down." Indeed. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
I'm a sucker for a great cello part, I admit it. And this tune has a fantastic cello part going on. And some other stuff. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Some great big, feedbacky guitars are what you expect when you hear the term "indie alternative," and The Belle Weather delivers in spades on this tune. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
What first caught my attention was this band's description as "light, alternative, ska." I just had to hear what that sounded like. And guess what? It's a perfect description of this song that makes you want to bob your head along to the beat. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
I'll be honest, I've always been leery of any band hailing from Nashville, but I've come to find out that there are several great non-country bands located in the land of the Grand Ole Opry. A fine example is You Knew Me When, which has a dark and haunted indie vibe in the best sense of the tradition on this tune. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
"Lazarus, what you gonna do with your life?" -- a great little lyrical turn and I love the sparse arrangement of this tune which really highlights the emotional vocals. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Not the type of song I would expect from a title like Give Me Your Heart. Obviously, a title like that is going to be something pop-y...well, yes and no. Certainly there is a pop catchiness to it, but it sounds different and cool enough that I was pleasantly surprised. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
A songwriter in the tradition of those trailblazing female singer songwriters of the 70s like Joni Mitchell and Carole King brings us a great piano-driven song. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Something about the way that this song shifts gears grabbed me. The beginning sounds a bit too happy for my tastes, but just as I'm starting to lose interest, it all twists, then twists again, and then... it twists again. Very cool. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Kinda happy, kinda jazzy, kinda acoustic-y. Another of those songs that has some mysterious thing that I can't explain and am surprised that I like. But I like it. So, there it is. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
I can't help but listen to a song that has a title like This is Not a Love Song (it's just my nature). Luckily I was not disappointed in what I heard. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Ambient outfit Blow Up Hollywood is an independent musician's independent musician (if that makes sense). They've been around for a while and each time out is a little different. Buy it on iTunes (or hear a longer preview)
Song previews provided courtesy of iTunes.