Short for “independent music,” indie music is a term that was coined in the ’80s to describe music outside of the mainstream and artists not signed to one of the “Big Four” labels—EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner.
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However, since its inception, a second definition of “indie” has emerged, thanks to shifting trends and the rise of online internet culture. Now, indie can refer to a certain style and sound of music that combines alt-pop, rock and folk influences.
From the smooth beats of MUNA to the comforting feel of Dayglow, here are 14 artists across the indie pop, rock and folk spectrums that you need to check out today.
COIN were formed in 2012 and currently consist of vocalist Chase Lawrence, drummer Ryan Winnen and guitarist Joe Memmel. You may recognize this trio from their 2016 single “Talk Too Much” or their stint supporting Young The Giant and Fitz And The Tantrums on tour. Masters of mesmerizing synths and catchy hooks, COIN are a must-listen for any fan of indie pop/rock.
Filipino-British singer-songwriter beabadoobee has been making waves in the scene since her very first song “Coffee,” which garnered her the attention of the 1975 and Dirty Hit Records. The song also went on to be remixed by Powfu in “Death Bed (Coffee For Your Head),” which itself became a viral TikTok hit. Now a frequent collaborator with labelmate Matty Healy, beabadoobee just shared her latest EP, Our Extended Play, at the end of June.
Wallows are a powerhouse indie-rock band fronted by singer/actor Dylan Minnette, who you may know as Clay Jensen from the Netflix TV show 13 Reasons Why. After forming in 2011 and playing on Warped Tour under the name Feaver, Minnette, Cole Preston and Braeden Lemasters officially became Wallows in 2017. Amid their stunning current discography sits the Clairo collab “Are You Bored Yet?,” a song that has become synonymous with modern indie culture.
Though they’re still a teenager, chloe moriondo is proving that age doesn’t determine talent. Starting their career posting ukulele covers to YouTube, they are now the lesbian representation they wish they had as a kid. moriondo was Alternative Press’ Pride cover star earlier this year and discussed their coming out journey and their musical identity as an alternative artist.
Getting his start auditioning for American Idol in 2013, Briston Maroney now boasts multiple EPs with an unforgettable indie-folk sound. With roots in bluegrass and busking, Maroney’s song “Fool’s Gold” was also notably hand-selected and featured on Taylor Swift’s Apple Music “Playlist by ME!”
Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson make up the band MUNA. After meeting in college at USC, the trio began collaborating and experimenting with their sound before self-releasing their debut EP, More Perfect, in 2014. MUNA use their platform to address topics such as gender and sexuality and continuously advocate for LGBTQIA+ communities, hoping to inspire young people to be authentically themselves. They have toured in support of Harry Styles and recently collabed with Phoebe Bridgers on “Silk Chiffon.”
Sam Fender began playing the guitar and writing songs before he even turned 15. One of his first musical endeavors included his band entering and winning a competition judged by Healy. After health scares changed his perspective of life and what kind of music he wanted to make, Fender began independently releasing music and touring in support of artists such as Bob Dylan and Liam Gallagher.
You may recognize Declan McKenna from his self-released debut single “Brazil,” which addressed the problematic actions of FIFA when they gave the FIFA World Cup to Brazil in 2014 while ignoring the political and societal issues plaguing the country. Since that track catapulted to success, McKenna has continued using his platform to advocate for various social causes while also experimenting with his sound and artistic identity.
Even though Irish indie-rock band Inhaler only released their first full-length, It Won’t Always Be Like This, earlier this year, the group are well on their way to success. They seamlessly combine synths and rock-influenced riffs to create a perfectly unique indie sound.
girl in red
Spoken of by some as a queer icon for modern youth culture, girl in red is one of the most influential leaders of the indie bedroom-pop genre. Her first single “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend,” along with her subsequent releases “Summer Depression” and “Girls” proved to the world that girl in red is an indie music staple.
Indie rockers the Hunna take inspiration from artists such as Kings Of Leon and the 1975 but have formed their own signature indie-rock sound. “Hunna” is derived from the slang word for 100, and there’s no doubt that this group put 100% into their craft.
Influenced by artists such as the Cure and Elvis Costello, Bad Suns formed in 2012 and have been making a name for themselves ever since. For indie dream pop, vocalist Christo Bowman, guitarist Ray Libby, bassist Gavin Bennett and drummer Miles Morris are the surefire way to go.
Dayglow, the musical project from singer-songwriter and producer Sloan Struble, blend indie-pop and alternative stylings into warm and comforting songs. Much like the title of their debut album, Fuzzybrain, Dayglow’s music scratches your brain in just the right place, no matter what mood you’re in.
Indie-pop perfection comes in the form of Smallpools. Lead vocalist Sean Scanlon, guitarist Mike Kamerman and drummer Beau Kuther make up the group. With a dozen or so singles to their name, there’s truly a Smallpools song for every mood you could imagine.