Indie rock is such a precious term. Don’t you hate it? It’s annoying, isn’t it? Alas, that’s what we’ve been stuck with, but if it means we get to bundle artists as great and as eccentric as the ones you’re about to read ahead, then we’re good.
Over the years, indie rock has been completely marginalized by the industry, sent off to the fringe as fans and publications and marketers capitalize on more blockbuster genres like hop-hop and pop. But … that’s a good thing.
That’s kind of the point. Indie rock by its very name alone stresses that kind of marginalization. It belongs in the corner, it thrives in that space, and right now being the underdog makes these artists all the more intriguing.
Based on the slate for 2019, these underdogs are downright rabid, like little Cujos, running around and ready to take all the right kind of risks. We’ve only heard a few, admittedly, but what we’re hearing is very, very promising.
Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?
Release Date: 1/18 via 4AD
Why We’re Excited: Well, technically, we’ve been excited for nearly a year. Because if you recall, Deerhunter teased Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? way, way back in April, only to delay the thing until this month. Whatever! That’s fine! After all, they spent all summer testing the new material, and really there’s no such thing as too much hype, especially for an album of this magnitude. Spanning 10 tracks and produced by the band’s own Ben Etter, their first album in four years features an assist behind the boards by Grammy-winner Ben H. Allen III and the production talents of both Cate Le Bon and White Fence‘s Tim Presley. Having heard the album, we can confirm it’s a vivid and lush affair that was well worth the wait. –Michael Roffman
Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
Release Date: 1/18 via Jagjaguwar
Why We’re Excited: Sharon Van Etten’s been around these past few years, be it Twin Peaks or in headlines announcing her new child, but her absence has been felt musically. What’s extraordinary about Remind Me Tomorrow, then, is that these songs capture that “lost” time. “I wrote this record while going to school, pregnant, after taking The OA audition,” she says. “This record is about pursuing your passions.” Those passions have since lead to a complete departure for Etten, who initially gave producer John Congleton music by Suicide, Portishead, and Nick Cave as reference points. All three factor heavily into the album, which, no lie, sounds like her own OK Computer. It’s new territory for Van Etten, and she doesn’t sound lost in the slightest. –Michael Roffman
Maggie Rogers – Heard It in a Past Life
Release Date: 1/18 via Capitol Records
Why We’re Excited: The start to Maggie Rogers’ career, as we know it, has a fairy tale quality to it. The singer-songwriter attended a masterclass with special guest Pharrell Williams at NYU a few years ago, and the video of the artist/producer-extraordinaire gushing over “Alaska” went viral. An EP, several charting singles, a few major late-night gigs (including SNL) later, and Rogers is one of the biggest pop stars in the world without a proper full-length. That all changes in a couple weeks when Heard It in a Past Life — which features a couple old hits mixed with a collection of new songs — gets into our hands. Rogers has made an early name for herself by finding a unique mix of folk, dance, and the great outdoors in her sound. Now, we find out if the magic of her singles can translate across an entire record. –Matt Melis
Panda Bear – Buoys
Release Date: 2/8 via Domino
Why We’re Excited: There’s a lot to celebrate in early 2019 if you’re Panda Bear aka Noah Lennox. Both Lennox’s solo debut as Panda Bear and Animal Collective’s landmark Merriweather Post Pavilion celebrate birthdays that are big, round numbers divisible by ten. But no doubt more important to Lennox — and more exciting to his fans — is the celebration of his first LP since 2015’s memorable Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. Buoys will be out in early February, features both Chilean and Portuguese guests, and, according to Lennox, “feels like something new” rather than a continuation of his last few records. While we wait impatiently, at least we can check out the experimental lead single, “Dolphin”. –Matt Melis
Release Date: TBD
Why We’re Excited: There are a few reasons why we’re champing at the bit to hear the fourth album from Vampire Weekend. For starters, the band hasn’t released a new record since 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City, which was a lifetime ago, but more importantly, they haven’t dropped any new music since the departure of founding member Rostam Batmanglij in 2016. That’s a big deal, but we’re not sweating. Ezra Koenig is a smart guy, and he’s certainly experienced life over the last half-decade, from welcoming his first child with actress Rashida Jones to rallying on behalf of Bernie Sanders to hitting the stacks for grad school. There are plenty of stories for him to tell, and we just can’t wait to hear ’em. –Michael Roffman
Release Date: TBD
Why We’re Excited: After bringing elegance to last year’s unnerving Suspiria, Thom Yorke will return with some more original music, only he has his eyes on the world rather than, say, a European ballerina school from the ’70s. “I didn’t have the wish to make politically charged music, but everything I do goes that way anyways,” Yorke explained to El Mondo back in October. “I’m trying to finish a record with Nigel [Godrich], and it’s going that way. It’s something that’s always there.” Although he says the album’s “very electronic,” he contends that the approach “has been the opposite of depending on computers,” leaning more on reconstructing the deconstructed. Over the past year, Yorke has debuted several new songs in solo concerts, which will presumably find their way onto the forthcoming album. Or not. Who knows until we know with this guy. –Michael Roffman
Release Date: 1/25 via Universal Music
Why We’re Excited: It’s not like James Blake ever really goes away. You just need to know where to look for him. For instance, while Blake didn’t release his full-length follow-up to 2016’s The Colour in Anything in 2018, he did produce, write, or feature on records by no less than Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Travis Scott, and Oneohtrix Point Never, all of which can be counted among last year’s best. But, yeah, we get it. It’s not quite the same as a new Blake LP, so, yes, we’re also damn excited to see what journey his new album, Assumed Form, will take us on later this month. In the meantime, revisit the first single below, and whatever you do, don’t call it “sad boy” music. –Matt Melis
Jenny Lewis – On the Line
Release Date: TBD
Why We’re Excited: Besides bringing big sunglasses and more fringe than that western shop at the nearly abandoned mall that only sells cowboy attire (you know the one), Jenny Lewis always brings large expectations when she announces a new record. The former child star has become that songwriter who can meet at the confluence of indie rock, alt country, and pop and hold her own in whichever genre(s) she decides to put her boot down in. What do we know so far about Lewis’ first full-length in five years? Not a lot, but more than enough to start getting excited. The 11-track record, On the Line should be in our hands this spring, and features assists from no less than Ryan Adams, Beck, and Ringo Starr. Like I said, enough to start getting excited! –Matt Melis
Release Date: TBD
Why We’re Excited: Out of every act on this list, The Raconteurs have certainly been out of the spotlight the longest. In fact, the last time these guys released an album — 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely — this very site wasn’t even a year old yet. How about them apples? Rotten, indeed. Well, kudos on them because they’re back — specifically, Brendan Benson, Jack White, Jack Lawrence, and Patrick Keeler — with their highly anticipated follow-up. Granted, we still have no clue when the goddamn thing will drop, but it’ll certainly be this year, and we know this because they’ve already dropped two new singles and have plans to tour. Eleven years, man. Christ, where does time go? –Michael Roffman
Release Date: TBD
Why We’re Excited: Tame Impala has no doubt been trending on search engines recently like the band hasn’t in a few years. And all we can say is, isn’t it nice to have more Kevin Parker to talk about? As much as we love Justin Timberlake (best friends forever, Justin!), tapping Parker as his last-minute replacement to headline Coachella feels more like a landslide victory than a bailout — one that proves the festival in the desert still cares about its rocking roots. And then to learn that Parker plans to bring Tame’s first record since the remarkable Currents to fans this year — and probably before Coachella — well, it’s Christmas come late or, um, early, or, um, does it even matter? Thanks, Santa! –Matt Melis