While bad for the world, 2020 has been very good for indie music! We’ve had major releases from Sufjan Stevens, Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, IDLES, Of Montreal, Tame Impala, The Strokes, Grouplove, Car Seat Headrest and many more. With so many “big” indie releases (I recognize the irony), I decided — in the last issue of The Olaf Messenger this calendar year — to highlight some fantastic projects you may have missed.
1: “Lovecore” by Orchards
The Brighton indie-pop math group Orchards really ought to be more popular. With catchy pop choruses, bouncy vocals and unmatched excitement, they make music that would be easy to imagine playing on the radio or accompanying Coca-Cola commercials. Orchards’s new album “Lovecore” delivers more of their high-octane pop sound while also including some emotionally resonant moments on tracks like “History” and the spoken word adventure of “Social Sobriety.” If you like catchy pop tunes or are a fan of math rock, I highly recommend “Lovecore.”
2: “Transgender Street Legend Volume 2” by Left at London
“Transgender Street Legend Volume 2” (TSLV2) is a phenomenal EP by Seattle rising star Nat Puff, who turns her life experiences into deeply raw pop-hip hop. TSLV2 really leans into current events by condemning the oppressive social conditions in America. It helps that Puff has one of the best voices in the game — both lyrically and sound-wise. At a breezy 19 minutes, TSLV2 is an easy and worthwhile listen.
3: “Have We Met” by Destroyer
“Have We Met” is the newest feature album from Vancouver indie legend Dan Bejar, whose stage name is Destroyer. Bejar’s music has a dreamlike quality to it, with droning instrumentation and cryptic vocals compelling you to dissolve into the sound. In “Have We Met,” Bejar takes his iconic style to its conclusion by implementing all sorts of electric beats that give the album a more tactile feel. If you want to hear something truly different, check it out.
4: “Haunted Painting” by Sad13
Sad13 is the solo project of Speedy Ortiz frontwoman Sadie Dupois, whose new album “Haunted Painting” captures all of the musical themes in her previous work. “Haunted Painting” is maximalistic, using bright electronics, intense guitar riffs and an eight-piece orchestra to deliver enough unique sounds to inspire a dozen albums.
5: “The Normal Album” by Will Wood
In “The Normal Album,” indie eccentric Will Wood argues that our self is actually a narrative that we construct and over which we have power. This idea emerges through a beautifully strange album that makes the concept of genre itself seem ridiculous. With satirical doo-wop, a showtune-style overture, Tom Waits -style grit and much more, the frenetic intensity that is “The Normal Album” must be heard firsthand. If I had to choose right now, in November, I’d dub “The Normal Album” my album of the year.