Hop Along – Prior Things
Philadelphia’s Frances Quinlan began Hop Along as a solo “freak folk” project in 2005 during her senior year of high school. Since then, the project has evolved into a full folk band, rich with orchestral instruments and raw vocals. The new “Bark Your Head Off, Dog” LP pays homage to early 2000s folk’s naturalistic lyrics and fiddle-filled sound, while experimenting with more complex melodies.
Kacey Musgraves – Velvet Elvis
Move over, T Swift – Kacey Musgraves has won the country-pop crossover game. With the release of her 2018 LP “Golden Hour,” Musgraves caught the attention of nearly everyone: her loyal fans, pop trendsetters and indie-blog elitists. It helps that the album is excellently produced – her clear voice cuts through a subtle background of baroque pop, electronica and country twang.
Animal Flag – Fair
Matthew Politoski has been releasing music under the name Animal Flag since 2009 and has stayed true to his emotive hardcore roots. “Fair” plays more like a revival of early Taking Back Sunday or Brand New rather than chart-topping emo-pop crossover bands of the late noughties, though. With mournful verses and explosive, synth-laden choruses, Politoski proves the staying power of the genre is in its earlier, emotionally dynamic background.
Haux – Heartbeat
London-based singer-producer Woodson Black is the man behind the dream-pop project Haux. Boasting soulful vocals and a sparse sonic landscape, “Heartbeat” draws listeners in with its simplicity.
Hinds – Finally Floating
Spanish girl-band Hinds, once known as Deers, represents a seemingly oxymoronic genre: garage pop. With catchy melodies and playful choruses, Hinds members could form something along the lines of female-fronted Haim or Marina and the Diamonds, but the group stays committed to an unrefined, lo-fi sound that proudly asserts its difference.
DJDS – No Pain (Feat. Khalid, Charlie Wilson, Charlotte Day Wilson)
DJ-producer duo Jerome Potter and Sam Griesemer has worked with R&B phenom Khalid before – in 2017, they collaborated on the single “Why Don’t You Come On.” “No Pain,” which also features legendary soul singer Charlie Wilson, underlays a soft organ melody with a catchy, trap-inspired drum track.
Bloodboy – Is Now a Good Time to Ruin Your Life?
LA’s Lexie Papillion writes bold, gritty indie-pop songs under the moniker Bloodboy. Echoing Saint Vincent, the Beach Boys and Patti Smith, the surfer-turned-singer proves that pop can be dynamic and heavy.
The Voidz – ALieNatioN
The Voidz is Strokes singer Julian Casablancas’ art pop project, bearing little similarity to the garage rock revival group to which he owes his fame, save for Casablancas’ unmistakeable throaty timbre. “ALieNatioN” sounds a bit like the electro-rock crossover groups of the 2000s often contrasted with The Strokes – Phoenix, MGMT and Miike Snow. Other tracks on the new “Virtue” LP breech the experimental surface much more, playing with discordant sounds and atypical structures, but “ALieNatioN” is more accessible to the casual listener.
Fantastic Negrito – Plastic Hamburgers
Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz is the voice of blues band Fantastic Negrito. With funk-inspired organ solos, gospel backup vocals and an absolutely ripping rock guitar, Fantastic Negrito is everything later indie outfits such as The Black Keys and Hozier attempt to emulate.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – The Awakening
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, a Florida hardcore band best known for the 2006 single, “Face Down,” has been inactive for several years – fittingly, its comeback album bears the name “The Awakening.” Unlike other rock outfits which venture into overproduced pop (looking at you, Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco), The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus has committed to an even heavier, metal-inspired aesthetic with the new release.