A List Of Today’s Best Indie Pop Artists
If I’m being honest, the pop music landscape is pretty stale these days. While popular artists often arrive on the scene fully formed and polished, there’s also another strain of indie pop — one that welcomes experimentation and non-conformity. Much of today’s most cutting-edge pop music is being crafted in this corner of the indie pop world, by a new wave of artists who are bringing with them a fresh perspective that represents the forward-thinking ideals of the times. Some also come from communities underrepresented in the mainstream: queer, biracial, and other marginalized groups.
Today we take a look at indie pop musicians who are pushing musical boundaries and leading the charge. Each of these talented artists make art that challenges popular conventions and pushes the boundaries of what pop music can be.
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To hear serpentwithfeet is to be in a moment, but also to enter into an infinite. There’s a delicate touch on his sound that evades expectation and convention, so it’s easy to feel as if he’s leading you off the beaten path, singing with a tenderness that you feel deep down in your core. Serpentwithfeet is also not your stereotypical idea of a mainstream indie pop artist, an openly gay Black man who uses his experimental ballads to explore identity and sexuality. His music is profoundly beautiful and fragile art that’s layered and complex — eerie, luminous, and vivid in the best kind of way. He doesn’t write lyrics so much as he paints an evocative picture with his voice and his musical soundscapes are as mesmerizing as his voice itself, incorporating influences ranging from R&B to gospel.
Nick Hakim has a penchant for genre-blending. His musical style is an eclectic mix that can be difficult to label. Despite this, his music offer something for all fans of contemporary music—soft, sprawling indie pop that’s both familiar and exotic, nostalgic and futuristic at once. His recordings demonstrate his ability to deftly blend R&B, soul and psychedelic sounds with a variety of other styles. And while he willfully embraces genre hopping, it feels less like a calculated move to please labels or aggrandize his resume and more like a genuine expression of artistic freedom.
Tirzah is not your typical British singer songwriter, nor is she typical of anything. In fact, one of the most powerful things about her music is her lack of pretension to fall into any particular genre of sound. Her music dips in and out of focus, turning serene songs into wistful, hypnotic soundscapes and her personal lyrics, hushed vocals, and unconventional chord progressions possess an allure that curls around your heart and sticks to your ribs. Each subsequent Tirzah release is a mesmerizing musical voyage by a singer who has honed in on her own unique expression. Tirzah has all the trappings of a pop star, but it’s her restraint that makes her all the more captivating. At times, the songs seem on the verge of exploding but she tempers those peaks with subtlety and grace, finding ways to make big open spaces that encourage you to fill in your own blanks.
Multi-instrumentalist and singer Sudan Archives mixes beats with violin and experimental electronic sounds to create a fascinating hybrid of genres. She draws inspiration from Sudanese fiddlers (she taught herself to play the violin), and her music combines elements of R&B, experimental electronic music, and beat-making. Since leaving her hometown of Cincinnati for the bright lights of Los Angeles, Sudan Archives has released some striking music —including her incredible 2022 full length, Natural Brown Prom Queen — alongside creative visuals which have helped her stand out in an already busy indie pop scene.
Toro y Moi
In an age of on-demand access to almost every single imaginable form of recorded music from any corner of the globe, Toro y Moi possesses a rare sense of both mystery and wide-ranging taste. His music embraces a kind of easygoing cool that’s infectious. And he’s also one of the most eclectic indie pop artists around, creating a catalog of songs that recall many eras worth of pop music. Each successive release finds Toro y Moi reimagining himself to craft music that’s completely different from but every bit as uplifting and infectious as what’s come before. His early work was an offbeat brand of hazy synth-pop R&B while later albums have showcased his penchant for house music (akin to the type of productions released under his Les Sins alias) and pop experimentation. Toro y Moi’s 2023 record, MAHAL, is one of his strongest releases yet, falling into a savory middle ground between easygoing pop psychedelia and pensive, self-reflective R&B.
L’Rain is a beautiful musical mess that doesn’t fit neatly into any given genre. In the hands of singer/songwriter Taja Cheek, L’Rain’s music is like an ambitious new hybrid genre that blends post-punk, avant-garde rock and R&B so naturally it leaves listeners wondering how this art project could be so well-executed. Cheek’s unfiltered approach to music allows her to navigate uncharted territory, unearthing rare and exhilarating gems along the way. L’Rain’s songs are confounding but curious entities you can’t help but fall in love with. And while she’s just as elegant and powerful as her contemporaries, L’Rain’s brilliance lies in the way she structures her material, rather than offering up a facsimile of contemporary sounds.
The narrative arc of Dijon’s career is of a singer who mines myriad musical styles for influence, delightfully eschewing any sense of genre purity in the process. The result is a sound which is peculiarly organic, yet firmly entrenched in futuristic indie pop. His relentless genre experimentation led to his brilliant solo debut album, 2021’s Absolutely – a culmination of his alternative indie pop experiments recorded and arranged in such a way that it includes rock, gospel singing, and a whole lot more. The album is a joy ride from start to finish—a masterpiece that embodies all the beauty of alternative indie pop.
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Nilüfer Yanya is a force to be reckoned with. With a voice that shifts between nervy and playful, the London artist has broken the mould of what we expect from young British pop stars. She knows what she wants from her music. First and foremost, she’s looking for honesty: a truthful rendition of her own thoughts and experiences. Her lyrics are laid atop an interweaving style of music that combines influences ranging from indie rock to soul, jazz, and trip hop, blending blithe folk tones with sun-burnt chords. Yanya’s 2023 album, PAINLESS, is a record that examines her Turkish lineage through a punchy brand of power pop that often heads in unexpected directions. There is a directness and minimalism to Yanya’s music on this album that makes it feel as though nothing is being wasted. It’s clear that she has refined her sound and honed in on what truly matters, which makes the listening experience all the more enjoyable.
Packed with punchy horns, swirling sound effects, and layered vocals Japanese Breakfast creates a beautiful indie pop soundscape that feels both nostalgic and fresh. Her vocal work is powerful — she has proven herself to be one of the most talented songwriters in indie pop in recent years — but it’s her understanding of classic elements of pop music that allows her music to hit as hard as it does. She’s also a different kind of indie pop artist; her tracks might sound sweet and tame on first listen, but there’s a hint of something darker lurking beneath the surface that slowly reveals itself upon repeat listens. Her album Jubilee was one of the best of 2021, a project that showcases her talent as a wordsmith and songwriter. It’s a record that demands your attention — an album full of hope, love, and intrigue that constantly twists and turns like a storyboard musical.
Music has always been an important part of everyday life for Ringgo Ancheta aka Mndsgn. The youngest in a family of Filipino descent, Ancheta grew up in a household where music was omni-present and it helped formulate his life path as one of today’s most exciting indie pop artists. Drawing influence from the music that surrounded him as a child, Mdnsgn weaves a masterful combination of uniquely offbeat and vulnerable neo-soul, catchy indie pop tracks for passengers on intergalactic flights. In his 2021 record, Rare Pleasure, Mndsgn throws together the music that’s inspired him over the years, carrying listeners through jazzy vibes and soulful production.
Exemplifying the very best in contemporary music, Wu-Lu’s sound is all his own. Part rapper, part singer and songwriter, Wu-Lu’s music connects with the listener by via a slightly skewed pop sensibility. His sonic world has a familiar feel but with an uncanny sense of disorientation that keeps you guessing. Wu-Lu’s soncially-wired pop project and Warp Records debut, LOGGERHEAD, is a fitting introduction to his unusual approach: a delirious mix of drum’n’bass breaks, grunge guitars and brutally honest lyrics slapped together in sound collages that cover a breathtakingly wide range of genres and styles.