The Guardian Indie

Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice
The Guardian
  1. (4AD)
    Digital meets analogue on the American musician’s short but sweet latest

    American sound artist Helado Negro (born Roberto Carlos Lange) is a songwriter, beatmaker and producer whose work quivers with the giddy joy of invention. His best work is 2019’s This Is How You Smile, an astonishing, inimitable collection of indie folk, horizontal dance and chillwave with a Latinx edge, wandering free of structure and genre. Endlessly slippery but always engaging, like hearing Arthur Russell play a MacBook instead of a cello.

    Lange’s Phasor era began with a visit to a synthesiser in Illinois that generates its own music,but thankfully he hasn’t surrendered his creativity to the machines. Phasor is delicately human, mingling digital and analogue imperceptibly under plaintive vocals, coaxing effects and loops to create undimmable warmth.

    Continue reading...
  2. (City Slang)
    The singer-songwriter’s smoky vocals, downbeat wit and polished Nashville sound all make for a nicely doomy set of folk songs

    Vera Sola’s second album might have taken four years to make, but that’s nothing for an artist whose storytelling appears to span the centuries. The descendant of “gunslingers” and “spiritualists” (and actor Dan Aykroyd, her dad), she grew up between New York and rural Canada, taking its vast landscape as source material for her troubled gothic folk songs. Just as her debut, Shades (2018), made instruments of bones and broken glass, Peacemaker balances its polished Nashville musicianship with uncanny textures, resulting in a record so atmospheric you’d swear you could hear the rustle of her white prairie dress in the breeze.

    While the smokiness of Sola’s voice draws parallels with Nancy Sinatra, the sense of doomed femininity evokes Lana Del Rey, particularly in Bird House (“Lady took the silence to mean nobody loved her”). However, Peacemaker could be filed just as easily alongside Tom Waits, with its downbeat wit telling of bad decisions and tales of starting forest fires, stakeouts and revenge plots, all recounted over twanging, fingerpicked guitar. Sola’s lyrics feel bookish, but not diaristic; she cuts a solitary, enigmatic figure, particularly on I’m Lying, which alternates breathless “I love you”s with claims she’s faking it. That poker face stays intact for the entire record.

    Continue reading...
  3. The Canadian singer-songwriter has become a voice of his generation with his taut, melodic indie pop fuelled by a turbulent youth

    Be it Joy Division, Nirvana or Phoebe Bridgers, there are certain artists who have captured adolescent melancholy for their generation. Twenty-one-year-old singer-songwriter Ekkstacy (real name Khyree Zienty; known as Stacy) makes that music for his own cohort, offering up sweet, engaging vocals and guitars drenched in heady melodrama and deep feeling.

    As a kid in Vancouver, Zienty grew up on SoundCloud rappers and 2008-era surfer indie (think the Drums, Wavves, Girls etc). In high school, after his parents’ divorce, his first experimentation with drugs led to a psychotic breakdown and a fall from a second-floor window. The subsequent hospitalisation and aftermath left him depressed and anxious, so he began to channel the feelings into his music: woozy, rap-adjacent tracks, dour emo and plush indie pop.

    Continue reading...
  4. The revered – and loud – shredder may be four decades in, but with a new album and everyone from Fred Armisen to Kevin Shields singing his praises, he’s not ready for the potting shed just yet

    I haven’t thought about it,” says J Mascis, when being asked about his band, the alt-rock pioneers Dinosaur Jr, turning 40 this year. “I just put one foot in front of the other.” The response is akin to a verbal shrug, which is a common reply for Mascis. A lot has been written about his communicative reticence over the years and I can confirm every adjective used about him – laconic, phlegmatic, apathetic, listless – is accurate. Still, in between the monosyllabic answers, he is also quietly funny. And if you lean into these moments, rather than allow yourself to be choked by the suffocating silences that fill so many parts of the conversation, Mascis can actually be a hoot. Relatively speaking.

    Just take his concept of having fun. “People always ask me after a show: ‘Did you have fun?’ and that drives me crazy,” he says. “I mean, maybe, but probably not. Fun seems to be the driving force for a lot of people but I’m not bothered about it.” Or his response to being asked how his hearing is after decades of noise being spewed into his ears. “I dunno,” he says. No tinnitus? “Oh yeah, I have that.” Is it manageable? “It is if you don’t listen to it.”

    Continue reading...
  5. (Fair Youth/Atlantic)
    From Pixies to Garbage, New Order to Wolf Alice, you can clearly detect the Galway four-piece’s influences – but lyrics about shame and self-doubt make this an affecting album

    NewDad singer Julia Dawson seems to be at the point in a young musician’s life where songs are written without filter, without the fear of whether it’s OK to broadcast innermost thoughts to a wider world.

    The line “I wish I hadn’t been so open” in Where I Go certainly rings true to lyrics which are deep, dark and very personal. With themes from shame and self-doubt through bullying, mental-health issues, self-harm and general dysfunction, Dawson’s dreamlike ghostly vocals sweeten the anguish in lines such as Angel’s “You’re sweet, I’m sick / I hurt myself for kicks” or In My Head’s bleakly frank “I’m buried under blankets, descending into madness”.

    Continue reading...