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  • Maggie Woods

The Rise of Indie Folk Music

What to look out for in the new upcoming genre of pop music.

Cover Art: Alex Chen

Where raw, intimate songwriting meets dark beautiful melodies to create a unique storytelling, yet catchy sound. Want to get into indie folk, but don’t know where to start? Let me introduce you to the upcoming artists of this genre.

For decades, artists such as Sara Bareilles have combined the art of musical theatre, with aspects such as conversational tone, with meaningful and often simple guitar melodies to create a fork in the middle of pop, folk, indie and musical theatre music. We see these traits in her 2013 album, The Blessed Unrest, where songs such as “Manhattan” and “December” bring a slow, sad, melody similar to Phoebe Bridgers or Taylor Swift. But she balances out the sorrow with catchy, pop, upbeat songs such as “Little Black Dress” and “Chasing the Sun.” Although this millennial musical theatre icon introduced many fans, including myself, into the genre of indie folk, Gen Z is ready to take over this upcoming industry.

The next Sara Bareilles: Lizzy McAlpine

The 21 year old Philly-based singer-songwriter studied at Berklee College of Music before catching fame on TikTok. She released her first indie folk album in August of 2020, entitled Give Me a Minute. She has hits on Spotify, Soundcloud, and TikTok, and she is now working with Boston-based producer Philip Therington on her second studio album.

Lizzy’s lyrics embody the storytelling and uniqueness of artists like Taylor Swift, with creative and hauntingly beautiful minor melodies similar to Phoebe Bridgers, and an often theatrical conversational tone mimicking Bareilles.

Lizzy has 1,329,537 monthly listeners on Spotify. Similar to Bareilles, she releases upbeat, indie songs such as “7PM” or “Over-the-Ocean-Call” (the long distance break up song we didn’t know we needed), and balances with acoustic, sad pieces such as “Where Do I Go?” (my most listened to song of 2020), “I Knew,” and “Andrew.” She releases voice memos and demos on her SoundCloud, the most popular being “angelina” and “30 days.”

My top 5 Lizzy recommendations would be “Nothing / Sad N Stuff” and “Apple Pie” on Spotify to get a taste of her lyrical genius and melody, and on SoundCloud, “haven’t stopped yet,” “okay again,” and “physics or fate.”

Her SoundCloud pieces have more of a raw, acoustic sound, my latest favorite being “physics or fate,” where she says “I always come back to this, and maybe I’m stupid for thinking the world might end. And maybe I’m stupid for thinking you’d be with me when it did, and maybe you’d be better off if you never saw me again.”

Her clear, breathy tone, and raw emotion conveys one of the most beautiful sounds in the music industry today. Give Lizzy a chance, and you won’t regret it.

The next Lorde: ella jane

Oh, so you don’t want to cry yourself to sleep every time you listen to indie folk? I get it. Here is why TikTok sensation ella jane should be your next listen.

The Boston-based social media star is just 19 and already has 4 hit singles on Spotify. She is a freshman at Tufts University, studying English literature. With over 722,000 monthly listeners, Ella is redefining the indie pop world. Ella’s creative hooks and beats mimic artists such as Lorde, but what sets her apart from all the other pop singers are her unique storylines and analogies. One of her most popular songs, “nothing else i could do,” came out in July of 2020, inspired by her English assignment on The Great Gatsby. Her TikTok video explaining the parallels between her song and the iconic novel racked in over 2 million views, boosting her to stardom. Now, she is working on new music, having just released a music video for her single “bored&blind.”

ella jane is often inspired by literature for her lyrics, saying she derives much inspiration from movies and books, listing The Virgin Suicides (1993) by Jeffrey Eugenides, The White Album (1979) by Joan Didion, and of course, the novel that made her TikTok famous, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. “I’m such a nerd for words and imagery, and I just really latch onto things that are put in an interesting way or are really, really vivid,” Ella said in an interview with Tufts Daily.

So is the literature-based, unique storyline what sets ella jane apart? Or is it her breathy, pop tone that keeps listeners wanting more? Maybe it’s her catchy hooks that remain stuck in your head. It’s probably all three, but regardless, ella jane is one of the artists to keep an eye out for, for I have a feeling she will be charting like Lorde over the next year. You can find her music on any streaming platform.

Give indie folk pop a try, and explore all there is to offer. Don’t know where to go next? Check out my Spotify maggiewoods00 for some more recommendations!

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