A guide to 2023's best indie folk artists.
Photo Credit: June McDoom

Indie Folk Artists You Should Know

A Guide To The Best Indie Folk Acts of 2023

As a sub-genre, indie folk emerged in the 1990s as an alternative to what some viewed as the over-produced mainstream folk music scene. In contrast with other folk genres, the indie folk style often blends multiple genres, from American acoustic (blues and bluegrass), to psychedelic, progressive and alternative rock, to world music genres like Irish Celtic or Spanish Flamenco. The indie folk sound is also often characterized by dreamy imagery, with vocals and melodies performed in unique tones and styles.

Today’s indie folk resurgence has unleashed a new class of artists who showcase an alternative sensibility and are unafraid of experimenting with sounds to create a unique sonic aesthetic of their own.

In this article, EC introduces some favorite indie folk acts of today. If you’re looking for new modern folk to listen to, look no further than the artists below, each of whom is releasing some of the most exciting music out right now in any genre.

June McDoom

June McDoom’s music ranges in mood from the tender to the eerie. As an indie folk singer and composer, she creates captivating soundscapes through her transcendent vocal talent, dynamic instrumental arrangements and inventive harmonies. Her sound is unique and evocative, blending folk rock, psychedelia, and soul. Her self-titled debut EP is folk music at its most ethereal, marking the arrival of an indie artist who’s equally comfortable curling over a spare guitar or taking things into stranger territory. Each of the album’s five songs are haunting in their own way, conjuring a mood that’s at once intimate, exhilarating and at times unsettling. A sharp left turn from the stark folk sound she had originally intended, the music takes many of its cues from dreamy psych-pop, but is anchored by McDoom’s voice — an instrument in itself that can flit between whispers and aching cries.

Related: June McDoom – June McDoom Album Review

Aldous Harding

Aldous Harding’s brand of eccentric indie folk feels like it’s been taking root over the last few years, as she gradually became more comfortable with her own place in the music world. Her music feels very sparse and minimal at first, with just a voice and a guitar. Sometimes something else mixes in, but it’s never anything complicated. But there’s something compelling about her sound; it’s not just beautiful because of how she sings or how the melody is written, but also because of how much personality shines through in an otherwise restrained style.

Harding’s first three albums all had their own distinct personalities that were part of an overall picture — they were united by consistent quality and craftsmanship, but also distinctive from each other. With her fourth (and newest) album, Warm Chris, Harding has peeled back some of the layers of quirk that grew more prevalent as she committed to her art. Far from abandoning her eccentricities however, we see them at their most concentrated and refined. This is an album that sees her shift attention to the relationship between love, darkness and madness that permeates so much of what she writes about. A record that can be equally disturbing at times as it is mesmerizing.

Jake Xerxes Fussell

Jake Xerxes Fussell is an indie folk artist and one of the most promising new musicians out there. In the spirit of the old-timey folk revival, Fussell’s music harks back to a time when you could sing a tune from your own porch instead of sharing it on social media. Best known for his raw and soulful approach to music, Fussell’s musical journey started as a way to tell stories through song and in the process he developed a unique sound that draws from folk, Americana and blues influences. The music of Jake Xerxes Fussell whispers with a raw, captivating truth; his songs are often simple, yet heavy with meaning and interpretation. His unpretentious folk music evokes a sense of the artist’s life, the whimsical, and the universal in an honest and emotional way.

Rozi Plain

Indie folk musician Rozi Plain has a subtle way of putting together strong, powerful songs. An unassuming guitar and vocals, a rhythm section that moves like water, and harmonies that drift like an ambient breeze are key to Rozi Plain’s minimalistic approach to folk. She has an understated style that makes every sound count, which is why her voice speaks volumes when combined with her subtly powerful minimalist arrangements. The result is songs that feels instantly familiar yet fresh somehow.

On her latest album, Prize, the British songwriter sifts through the familiar: a gentle acoustic guitar, prominent yet hushed vocals, and an understated rhythm section. But there’s still something quietly cathartic about the album’s ten tracks. Like a stream of consciousness, Plain’s songs flow with a calm that feels as much like a discovery as it does a destination. Her voice is melodious and soft, her harmonies layered over one another in subtle ways. Working with minimalist instrumentation, Plain has crafted an immersive soundtrack for lazy summer nights.

Aoife Nessa Frances

Irish indie folk artist Aoife Nessa Frances’s music is a balanced blend of her soulful, tender vocals and a complex yet dreamy sound that she creates with the help of complex and compelling musical arrangements. She’s also a formidable singer-songwriter, a lyrical chameleon and an artist who can distill the essence of an emotion so simply that it cuts right through you. Her soft vocals and haunting melodies are imbued with a distinctive air of mystery that makes you want to listen again and again.

With her 2022 album Protector, Frances explores new territories and dynamic sonic colors with her distinct style. Protector is the sound of an artists hitting their stride—it’s a truly individual and beautiful record, one that brings together Fiona Apple’s tenderness and Joni Mitchell’s earthy rootedness. Loaded with euphoric brass and ambient sounds, Frances brings listeners to a mythical place far away from our modern times.

Marisa Anderson

There is simply no other artist who sounds like Marisa Anderson. The Portland, Oregon-based guitarist and composer is a modern day musical wanderer, composing songs that are cinematic in their scope and evocative in their emotional depth. On the surface, it’s easy to hear echoes of Americana and country-folk in her playing. But as you listen more deeply, it becomes clear that she’s an innovative artist with a distinctive voice. Her fingerpicking style is fluid but also percussive; she finds flashes of beauty at the heart of each instrumental tale and her use of space within these pieces allows the listener time to savor their grace rather than rush by in a blur. Her music swells with layers of electric, acoustic and pedal steel guitars; it takes detours through galvanizing rhythms before reaching cathartic crescendos; sometimes light as a feather, sometimes heavy as stone but always with purposeful motion. Her ability to pull down our attention from the sky and focus on what’s happening at ground level makes her work seem both richly imaginative and thoroughly relatable.

Cate Le Bon

Cate Le Bon is one of the most distinctive voices in modern music. An artist known for her multidirectional approach, her music is a one-of-a-kind amalgam of psychedelic folk, rock and pop—a swirling dance of haunted melodies and tight grooves. At a time when the music industry seems mostly interested in preserving the status quo, Cate Le Bon is constantly expanding her identity as an artist and exploring unique sonic spaces.

The Welsh art-pop iconoclast’s latest album, Pompeii, is a collage of psychedelic melodies, incisive lyricism and heady sonic textures. Multidirectional by nature, Le Bon’s inquisitive songs feel both pitch-perfect and fully unfinished, like a dream where the details are still coming into focus. Showcasing one of the most distinctive voices in indie folk, Pompeii, is an artistically adventurous and delightfully surreal adventure that stood out as one of the year’s best.

Arooj Aftab

It’s difficult to describe the music of Arooj Aftab, an indie folk musician from Pakistan who now lives in Brooklyn. Her songs contain elements of folk, Hindustani classical, and jazz (among other genres) but also have a vague, dreamy quality. In Arooj Aftab’s music, the soulful voice of a master musician is pulled apart, torn apart and put back together again to create a sound that comes from deep within her soul. Many of her songs are bereft of percussion, propelled by soft strings and sounds that add texture to Aftab’s elegiac voice. Throughout her music, Aftab’s voice soars from hushed whispers to soaring highs as she sings about life events that have at times left her broken and alone. And yet, more times than not toward the end of each track there is a glimmer of hope and truth. It feels like music for the soul: it’s both wistful yet uplifting at the same time.

Yasmin Williams

Yasmin Williams is a young musician who’s made an art form out of exploring the possibilities of a single guitar. After mastering the video game Guitar Hero 2, she set a goal for herself: learn to the real instrument like a pro, or replicate other styles entirely. After a stint trying to play like her favorite virtuosos, she realized it wasn’t for her. But then something clicked: try playing it like a keyboardist. She laid her acoustic on her lap, tuned all six fret strings in parallel harmony and played it like a piano.

Never content to stay within the confines of any style, Yasmin Williams creates a tranquil, meditative ambience from her unique style of acoustic guitar, an approach which has yielded some truly beautiful and inventive music. Blending a hip-hop producer’s sensibility for repetition with folk strums and a kalimba thumb piano under her right hand, Yasmin explores a vast musical landscape of rhythm and texture. No place else in folk music will you find such an original combination of sounds.

Adeline Hotel

Calling himself Adeline Hotel, New York musician Dan Knishkowy uses his guitar playing to create hazy, slow-moving compositions that are built to be heard with headphones. Sonically, the songs are gentle and acoustic-led—more reverie than rock-out. The result is delicate melodies that create a soft-focus effect in the listener’s mind. His compositions are often built around single chords and repeated melodies that dissipate just as quickly as they appear, giving his songs an almost meditative quality. But more than anything, it’s his music’s relaxed feel that sets it apart from other similar acoustic guitar albums. No matter how carefully planned or how well executed his songs are, there’s something effortless about them that draws you in.