1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra (UMO)
Latest Record: II (2013)
Genre: lo-fi, psychedelic rock
UMO rose to fame after lead singer and founder Ruban Nielson posted a track to the music-sharing website, Bandcamp. Bloggers began to re-share the track, and in typical Internet fashion, it quickly went viral — capitulating Nielson and his band to fame within indie music circles. Since then, UMO has signed with Jagjaguwar (the same Indiana-based label that launched Bon Iver into the limelight) and has appeared on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show. Nielson sounds like early David Bowie, pre cocaine blitz. Consequently, UMO brings psychedelic rock into the 21st century.
“Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)”
2. Father John Misty
Label: Sub Pop
Latest Record: Fear Fun (2012)
Genre: post-rock, folk, experimental rock
Joshua Tillman only just adopted the moniker Father John Misty for his latest record, but the name fits — listening to Fear Fun is a spiritual experience. The lyrics are witty — at times hilarious or heartbreaking. Tillman has collaborated with artists like Kid Cudi and Fleet Foxes (for whom he used to drum), but Fear Fun is his baby and his alone. There is no way to listen to the entire record without falling in love with him (and he’s a looker, too — Google Image search him!). Check out the video for one of the best songs on the record, which features a performance from Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation.
“Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”
3. Damien Jurado
Label: Secretly Canadian
Latest Record: Maraqopa (2012)
Genre: folk, Americana
I first heard of Damien Jurado, the Seattle-based singer-songwriter, when I went to New York City during the summer. A boy I liked played Jurado’s record, Maraqopa, for me. Subway fumes and the unbearable heat must have gone to my head because Jurado’s music will always be associated with a certain sense of romanticism for me. However, that’s not far from the truth. The tracks on Maraqopa talk about a man (a musician, I assume) who leaves home, lovers, and familiarity to explore the vast, American landscape. Listening to the record will make you experience a whole slew of feelings you’ve probably learned how to repress.
“Museum of Flight”
4. Fuck It Dog, Life’s a Risk (FIDLAR)
Label: Mom and Pop
Latest Record: FIDLAR (2013)
Genre: surf punk, garage rock, skate punk
In case you couldn’t tell from their name, FIDLAR does not care what anyone thinks, and their music makes that much clear (in the best possible way). Their eponymous debut album discusses serious topics like drinking cheap beer, dealing with “cokeheads,” and wake ‘n baking — with a sweaty grunge that is reminiscent of Kurt Cobain’s musical styling…that is, minus the angst. Although their music isn’t for everyone, it is certainly fun, and it will make you feel slightly rebellious — as if, by listening, you too are helping to fight The Man.
Latest Record: Static (2013)
Genre: indie pop
Technically, Cults does not fall within the “indie” category, given that they’re signed to Columbia Records — the same label that manages little-known acts like, uh, Beyoncé. However, most of their fans are a part of the set that compulsively reads Pitchfork and brags about it. Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin, the duo behind Cults, began dating and making music together when they met as students at NYU. They made their first record Cults while together but recently released their second Static after breaking up. While the tracks on Static are as bubbly and dreamy as the ones on Cults, the lyrics and subject matter contain a darker subtext that their first record lacks. I just wonder what it’s like to spend hours sitting in a tour van with your ex.
6. Diane Coffee
Label: Western Vinyl
Latest Record: My Friend Fish (2013)
Genre: psychedelic rock, glam rock
Diane Coffee is the brainchild of Shaun Fleming, the drummer for Foxygen — an indie rock outfit that rose to prominence last year. You might also know Fleming from his Disney Channel days, during which he voiced characters on shows like Kim Possible and starred in a few original movies for the network. With a tender falsetto and intricately layered instrumentals, My Friend Fish hits close to the heart with tracks on young love, Sriracha, and girls who go running in booty shorts during the dead of winter. Diane Coffee sounds like the latter-stage Beatles, and this debut album will have you yearning with soft nostalgia for the 60s, the better times.
7. Yip Deceiver
Label: New West
Latest Record: Medallius (2013)
Genre: indie pop, electronic pop
Yip Deceiver is sexy. If listening to their debut album, Medallius, does not make you want to grab someone and grind all up on him or her like you’re at a middle-school dance, you are not doing it correctly. The Athens, Ga. duo makes light-hearted, bubblegum-fun dance music that instantly improves your mood upon listening. The lyrics are like a series of pick-up lines, delivered with vocals so smooth that they could serve as an aphrodisiac. You’ll wonder why all guys can’t or don’t sing this way.
“Get Strict (ft. Reggie Watts)”
8. The Dodos
Label: Polyvinyl Record Co.
Latest Record: Carrier (2013)
Genre: psychedelic rock, Baroque pop
I saw The Dodos perform at a venue in Atlanta this past October, and I understood why an older (and much wiser) cousin once cautioned me against getting involved with a musician. It is impossible to watch The Dodos perform without fantasizing about quitting school, snagging up a cute guitarist, and spending the rest of your days as a roadie or “Band-Aid” à la some Almost Famous character. The Dodos care about artistry as much as anything else, and their music is rife with complex, interesting, and innovative instrumentals. Watching them is a blast (in the pants…ha…ha) but listening to their music will make you want to pick up an instrument and jam out.
Label: Roll Call
Latest Record: White Lighter (2013)
The songs on White Lighter — the second album from Portland-based Typhoon — describe a traumatic event during the childhood of front man Kyle Morton. Morton contracted Lyme disease, which caused several of his organs to shut down and nearly killed him. White Lighter is a heartbreaking account of his brush with death, but most of the songs are so cheery and happily rendered that you almost forget their subject matter.
10. Sky Ferreira
Latest Record: Night Time, My Time (2013)
Genre: dance pop, synth pop
Like Cults, Sky Ferreira isn’t exactly underground. But, most people don’t give her as much credit as she deserves for already being a boss bitch at 21 years old. In interviews, Ferreira has described how record executives early in her career wanted to make her into a sex symbol — a Britney or a Christina for the younger set. Homegirl was not having it, so she chose to delay the onset of her career in order to maintain artistic integrity. This year, she finally released her debut album, which is perfect for anyone going through a rough break-up and who needs the motivation to give fewer shits. Ferreira gives zero shits (earlier this year, she was busted for possession of ecstasy and will soon release a song about…molly!), and she just wants the rest of us to feel equally as liberated.
“You’re Not the One”