Anticipating 2019’s indie-rock scene

Looking to the hottest albums on this year's slate

Recent indie releases include songs by Vampire Weekend and Local Natives.
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Following a strong year for great alternative music—with new albums from James Blake, Mumford & Sons, and Beck—the stakes for 2019 are high. However, indie-rock’s future seems awfully bright after a week of releases from several major artists.

With various bands beginning to put out singles and album release dates in the next few months, here are some of the most anticipated indie-rock project slated for this year.

Vampire Weekend

When you hear the words “indie-rock,” Vampire Weekend should be one of the first names that come to mind.

After forming in 2006, the band has released three studio albums, the latest of which won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2014.

Now, the band has announced their fourth studio album, set to release on May 3.

So far, Vampire Weekend has released four tracks ahead of the album’s release: “2021,” “Harmony Hall,” “Sunflower,” and “Big Blue.” To put it plainly, they’re kind of boring. The songs are easy to miss in a playlist and end before you even notice you’ve been listening to it.

These latest releases are very orthodox for Vampire Weekend, complete with crooning and upbeat sounds of tinkling piano keys and tambourine. In “Harmony Hall,” lead singer Ezra Koenig repeatedly sings, “I don’t want to live like this / But I don’t want to die,” contrasting the positive  sound with gloomy lyrics.

Similarly, “2021” is a slower repetition of the band’s classic sound. “Big Blue” boasts an impressive emotional vulnerability, but the band really steps out of the box with “Sunflower.” The song invokes a Beatles vibe, making you feel like you should be listening to it stoned in your basement.

It’s hard to tell if the band’s going to produce an album similar to those they’ve already released, or go completely off the rails. Either way, we’ll soon find out if they’re capable of being original without offending long-time fans—or boring them.

The Black Keys

Leaning heavily on the rock side of the genre, many don’t realize that The Black Keys have released eight full-length albums over their career.

Though the band formed in 2001, they didn’t gain real traction until their fourth album, Brothers, exploded in 2010. Now, they’ve released their first new song in five years after remaining quiet after their last album Turn Blue came outin 2014.

Their new track, titled “Lo/Hi,” was released on Mar. 7 and is equal parts sleek and edgy, with raw electric guitar on top of a heavy drum beat. In classic fashion, The Black Keys have written another song that begs to be played on vinyl while maintaining the reverb and electricity of their previous hits.

There’s no sign of a full album from the band yet, but based on this exciting track, it’s coming.

The National

The award for most-changed band goes to The National, who stepped away from their characteristic melancholy for a radically upbeat song earlier this month.

Having already released seven full-length albums, the band has a distinct sound: slow but grand, full-bodied tracks, and almost always gloomy. Their lyrics are usually simple but beautiful and, like Vampire Weekend, you can listen to their tracks without realizing any time has passed. Whereas Vampire Weekend’s new songs suffer from a lack of excitement, The National’s sound is purely soothing.

With their Mar. 5 single “You Had Your Soul With You,” the band’s taken their sound and thrown it to the other end of the spectrum.

The song makes your heart pump, as it pulls you into a frenzy from the very beginning. With an anxious, siren-like opening, the song demands your attention from start to finish.

Their next album, I Am Easy to Find, is scheduled to release on May 17. This time around, it might be a joyful revolution for The National’s sound.

Local Natives

Local Natives released a pair of tracks on Mar. 8 and are scheduled to release their fourth LP, Violet Street, on Apr. 26. Like Vampire Weekend, the band keeps with a familiar sound while offering something new.

“When Am I Gonna Lose You” opens with soft piano notes  to set the tone, matching the hopelessness of its lyrics. The baseline throbs like a heartbeat, carrying through the harmonies as the singer repeatedly pleads on the track title, “When am I going to lose you?”

The song saves itself from being too heart-wrenching with its relentless drumming, keeping the energy high.

Attached to this song was “Café Amarillo,” which tends towards melancholy with the squealing of an electric guitar as the singer says, “I don’t want to die before I learn to live / Looking for my exit.”

These new releases show that something existential is in the indie-rock water this year—but so far, it’s working.

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