The greatest strength of independent artists is their ability to disperse from the mainstream and incorporate influences from any space or time they may please. Consequently, indie groups often get pushed into niche corners of the Internet—luckily, we at Rawckus are here to sniff out and showcase some of the most interesting indie talent of the month. Here are five tracks now spinning on our turntable:
“Dictator” by Andrew Johnston
Though the track’s title may conjure up images of recent politics, “Dictator” is an honest and introspective song backed by folk-rock sonics made all the more pleasant by pop conventions. Lyrically, Montreal resident Andrew Johnston acknowledges himself, with his inability to look his reflection in the eye, as a self-punishing dictator. Despite the heavy subjects of the lyrics, the song is kept afloat by a chipper, up-tempo mixture of folky acoustics and indie electrics, which are reminiscent of Dallas Green (aka City and Colour) in his happiest moments. Who knew therapy could be so fun?
“To The Top” by Moonhead
Moonhead is a seven-piece group from Toronto whose synthpop sound lifts proudly and skillfully from the 1980s. The neo-funk vocals, driving keys, and tom drums give the song a confident momentum that channels Prince and Michael Jackson. Little touches like the triangle on the hushed bridge and the goofy backing / call-and-response vocal flairs give “To The Top” an irresistible charm and nostalgia not unlike the feeling one gets watching a John Hughes movie. Even if you’ve never lived through the ‘80s, this song will take you there.
“Don’t Yah Feel Better?” by The Velveteins
The beachy guitar melodies and smoked out vocals from Edmonton trio, The Velveteins, recall the carefree musings of Mac DeMarco, though there’s a little more pep in the percussion here. Clocking in at just two and a half-minutes, “Don’t Yah Feel Better” is filled with effortlessly catchy segments (strong enough to hold their own track), which flow cleverly into each other. There’s a bit of a lazy, punky attitude behind the aesthetics, but it doesn’t show in the talented songwriting, which lands the track somewhere in the emerging lo-fi, psychedelic alt-rock which lacks a genre title. Slacker wave, perhaps?
“Family Mattress III” by Doby Watson
For this track, Kansas City-based singer-songwriter Doby Watson takes simple folk and country elements, like a repeating acoustic melody with steel guitar flourishes, and uses them to spin a darkly engrossing tale about self-immobility. Layers of increasingly distorted instrumentation are piled on top of each other, effectively making the listener feel as trapped in Watson’s mind as he is. Crucially emotional elements like a squeaky string section and a low-volume screaming of the chorus are masked beneath a cool exterior, giving the song a subtle yet dense lasting impression.
“Old Souls, Young Bodies” by Whissell
Hailing from Nashville, Whissell brings a pop/R&B sound that’s as grand and surrounding as Leona Lewis’ work at the height of her popularity. Layers of complex production and heavy beats flood around Whissell, whose voice is both husky, commanding, and ever in control. “Old Souls, Young Bodies” focuses on an anthemic chorus, immediately gripping with a strength that often gets lost in the R&B scene’s attention to vulnerability. Despite her seemingly elevated status, Whissell sings about yearning for a more tender, traditional, “old school love,” which she both laments the loss of and romanticizes the few, like her, who feel displaced in time.