Indie Music: the wild west of sounds, style, and genre. There is so much going on, you can often get lost in the tremendous output of music worthy of your time and dollars. Never fear, Rawckus is here to guide you. This month, we are rocking out to these top five indie tracks — and so should you.
“Birds” by JonoJosh
Reason. Identity. Meaning: those are pursuits for which we search endlessly, often in frustration, like great whites. Jonojosh is quite a bit more soulful about it, to all of our benefits. The single “Birds” is a mixture of uplifting soul and existential terror, in the best way. Starting with a just audible deep bass as the theme is announced, the song rolls effortlessly on a dynamic wave, with an ever increasing swell of sounds and feelings. Sparse funk-guitar, lush bass, clever piano samples move at a smooth clip, building walls when the lyrics wants them taken down.
Of particular note, however, are the vocals themselves: With an interesting central metaphor, the lyrics manage to soar with that updraft that great soul music inhabits, taking you far past the struggle and fear, up into the stars.
“Gold” by Maggie Szabo
There is something to be said for a rock-solid hook, and Maggie Szabo announcing, “Gimme Some of that” in “Gold” is straight bedrock.
Featuring an infectious piano line, a martial, bone-deep rhythm section, and most of all Szabo’s voice, which has the gin-soaked rasp of swing jazz, this track is the definition of an anthem. The sounds are thick, juicy, and filled with that swagger. You can feel the strut in Szabo’s voice, which moves staccato, and ever forward; running parallel to the drums that keep pulling after the hook has grabbed you. The chorus will not leave your head anytime soon. Now why don’t you give me some of that gold, while you’re at it?
“Palms” by Native Other
I feel like this track is the Talking Heads trying smooth-jazz and indie rock, to see whether it would make any sense. I’m happy with the result.
Native Other has a genuinely unique sound on full display in “Palms”. The rhythmic flourishes – where everything is slightly disconnected and moving at oblique angles—the bass against the drums in alternation, the guitars in sweet harmony, the drums in almost poly-rhythmic, jazzy contortions. It’s pure ‘80s underground in the best sense. This style can–and does–fall apart without intense synergy. Fortunately, these guys have that flow, which allows the track to move in 15 directions, without ever feeling like it is.
“Strip n’ Roll” by Secrets of Happiness
I’m all about a good dose of heady progressive rock; but man, nothing gets my motor running like the garage variety. When I heard the first volley of chords, I got that visceral thrill instantly.
Short but Sweet, “Secrets of Happiness” is garage rock at its best. With give-no-fuck guitar lines, ear bursting drums, and vocals that spiral off the road with the beautiful abandon, this is a satisfying minute and thirty seconds in your face. The added bonus of using “She Loves You, yeah yeah yeah” as a closer is gleefully bird flipping. That tantalizing shortness makes the moments of fist pounding adrenaline sweet as sin, and just the right amount of dirty.
“Sunshine & Lucy” by Sunshine & the Blue Moon
After hard rockers, it’s good to relax with a nice, languid track. “Sunshine & Lucy” does just that.
Moving with the relaxing languor of an island vacation, sweet twang-tastic guitars, liquid vocal tracks, and a general serenity, this track is meant for sunny days and manic-pixie dream girls. The lyrics have a beautiful ambivalence, at once extolling the beauty of relationships, but also relishing isolation, like a small cloud on the distance. With a nice even vocal split and a novel conversation on love midway through to keep things interesting, the track has my mind going to the beach, sitting in the sand and letting the music wash over me like a wave; letting the sun set in the distance on the horizon, toes in the sand, and low-tide washing over me.