Updated: Oct 7, 2020
From The Strokes to Fontaines D.C. to Future Islands, a list of the top 10 Indie songs that have soundtracked the lockdown summer of 2020.
Listen to the Indie songs of summer 2020 playlist on Spotify.
The Pitchfork Review podcast of 21st August featured a discussion about Songs of our Summer of Discontent. It was prompted following the release of 'WAP' by Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion which, a month after release, has been the most talked about song of the summer for it’s, err, open subject matter.
All this talk of songs of the summer got me thinking. What is the Indie/Alternative song of the summer be? Such a title might rail against what the genre stands for, but with so much great music out there, it’s definitely a worthy discussion.
For this, some loose criteria was set out. The song had to have been released over the summer (with a cut off date of 1st April) and had to be at least, in some way, upbeat. Catchy choruses (but not too catchy...) and groove encouraged. With careful consideration, the below list was drawn up.
The top 10
10. Phoebe Bridgers - Kyoto (9 April)
Punisher is one of the best indie rock albums released this year, spawning many heart-filled, intimate Indie-folk songs. Released on 22 June to critical acclaim, it would be criminal to not include at least one of her songs on this list.
The most upbeat on the album is ‘Kyoto’, a song which differs from the slower ballads she’s known for. The song describes Phoebe Bridgers’ first trip to Japan in 2019 also covering her complex relationship with her father. It’s a great song from one of the best albums of 2020.
9. Sea Girls - Do You Really Wanna Know? (26 May)
An indie-pop highlight this summer has come from the London-based band Sea Girls and their single ‘Do You Really Wanna Know?’. It’s a fun-filled, energetic song with a pop melody dealing with mental health.
Danceable beats and catchy lyrics, it’s been one of the best indie-pop songs of summer 2020.
8. Bright Eyes - Mariana Trench (22 June)
One of the biggest comebacks in 2020 has been the return - after almost a decade away - of American indie rock band Bright Eyes, a group led by singer-songwriter Conor Oberst. The highlight of new album With Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, which was released on 21st August, was the hook-infused single ‘Mariana Trench’.
With Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea on Bass and Queens of the Stone Age’s Jon Theodore on drums, it’s an upbeat track about corruption and the difficulties of modern life. Once the chorus tune gets stuck in your head, it's staying there.
7. Camelphat, Yannis, Foals - Hypercolour (26 June)
The world of dance and indie rock collided earlier in the summer when Yannis Phallippakis, the frontman of Indie rock legends Foals, joined forces with Liverpudlian DJ duo CamelPhat to produce ‘Hypercolour’.
CamelPhat are no strangers to the British indie scene having also worked with Jake Bugg on ‘Be Someone’ in 2019 and this was a match made in heaven again. ‘Hypercolour’ is a hypnotic House banger, providing a perfect summer dance chill anthem for 2020.
6. Washed Out - Time To Walk Away (30 June)
In August, the master of Chillwave Ernest Green returned with his fourth studio album Purple Noon, a collection of sun-kissed, seductive songs that screamed dreamy sunsets and Balearic yacht sunbathing.
The highlight of the album was ‘Time to Walk Away’, a sad and uplifting tale of a man questioning whether to continue on in a toxic relationship. Released on the Seattle independent Sub Pop label, it quickly became an indie favourite, a unique and very much welcomed melancholic summer sound.
5. The Strokes - Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus (6 April)
Just making the time cut into the list is The Strokes’ third single from their sixth album, The New Abnormal. It’s an upbeat song in a more traditional style for the New York band, with a heavy guitar chorus and catchy lyrics (‘I want new friends, but they don’t want me / they’re making plans while I watch TV’).
Julian Casablancas is in full reflective mode, looking back at his old drinking habits and irresponsible behaviour, looking for new friends to help him move on with his life. It’s perfect nostalgic summer lockdown listening.
4. DMA’s - Never Before (10 July)
THE GLOW, the third studio album from Australian indie trio DMA’s, caused quite the stir upon release for it’s confident Britpop inspired anthems and infectious hooks that brought praise from the unlikeliest of places (One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson tweeted his support for the band shortly after the album’s release).
Any number of songs from this album could’ve made the list but it was album opener ‘Never Before’ that left the biggest impression; a ‘baggy’ Manchester sound and anthemic chorus designed for jumping about the (now empty) indie disco dancefloor.
3. Doves - Carousels (18 June)
Returning with their first new music in 11 years, the Manchester indie band surprised many with the release of ‘Carousels’, a psychedelic rock song that sounds fresh for a trio 20 years after their debut Lost Souls.
It’s beautifully crafted, experimental, featuring a soulful groove and looped drums over a melancholic sound. It’s designed to be played live and LOUD.
2. Future Islands - ‘For Sure’ (8 July)
The Baltimore indie-pop band returned in July with their newest single ‘For Sure’. They're in traditional territory with their funky yet melancholic synth-pop sound and Sam Herring’s overdramatic vocals come to the fore through an explosive chorus (‘I will never keep you from an open door’).
It’s about love and trust, a heartwarming song with a beautifully shot post-apocalyptic video directed by Sam Mason. It’s one of the most addictive of the year so far.
1. Fontaines D.C. - Televised Mind (30 June)
In top place is Fontaines D.C., a band who released one of the album’s of the year - A Hero’s Death - back in July. A month before release, they whetted the appetite of their growing fanbase with the release of the darkly hypnotic post-punk sounds of ‘Televised Mind’.
Inspired by both The Prodigy and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, it’s new territory for the Dublin band. It’s moody, droning rock n’ roll. Simply sublime summer listening.
Frontman Grian Ghatten has described the song as being about ‘the echo chamber’, about how people shape their opinions just to gain approval from their peers rather than thinking independently. It's a fantastic listen.
Honourable mentions (but just miss out)
- Tame Impala - Is It True?
- Gerry Cinnamon - Where We're Going
- DMA's - Life Is A Game Of Changing
- Sports Team - Camel Crew
- Martha Hill - Grilled Cheese
- IDLES - Grounds
What's your favourite indie song of 2020? Let us know @BFloodlights.