To celebrate the uniqueness of indie rock, we’re taking a look back at some of the genre’s most iconic voices. For any aspiring singers out there, don’t ever sell yourself short because you don’t sound like someone else. If these singers can prove anything, it’s that wyou should celebrate that makes you unique.
We’d be hardpressed to put together of indie rock’s most iconic voices without mentioning the legendary lungs of Radiohead singer Thom Yorke. Yorke doesn’t have a conventional singing voice, or even really a beautiful one — but is still able to pull off some of the most emotive vocals of any singer living or dear. Sonically, Yorke’s voice is often described as falsetto, though he rarely actually delves into such territory. Rather, Thom Yorke uses his voice as an instrument, relying on his trembling, high range and signature vibrato like a guitar.
Aside from being named one of Rolling Stones'”20 New Guitar Gods”, Jim James has been labelled as defining sound of his band My Morning Jacket, in part to his signature voice. In part James’ uniqueness comes from his high vocal range mixed with a country twang and booming voice.
The easiest comaprison to Chad VanGaalen’s voice is to Neil Young because of the similarity in the way they use vocal shivers. But this technique isn’t the only mark of VanGaalen’s uniqueness. Although he doesn’t have a classically beautiful voice and at times can sound quite ordinary, but it’s his delivery in combination with lush harmonies underneath his quirky vocals that make him stand out.
At the age of 24 the Hayden Desser sparked a bidding war between labels to produce his debut album Everything I Long For. The reclusive artist was seen as one of Canada’s next big things, as his ability to weave elements of country and grunge into folk though his voice and instrumentation was something that hadn’t been done bfore.
Relentless touring and sold-out shows helped coin The Rural Alberta as Canada’s “best unsigned band” in their early days. Now, a a decade later, four albums and tons of critical acclaim under their belt, The Rural Alberta Advantage have no doubt solidified themselves as one of the country’s best exports. Unconventional in style, The Rural Alberta Advantage have captured the love of audiences for their percussive folk songs with singer Nils Edenloff’s unique voice.
Calgary, Alberta-born singer-songwriter Feist possesses the type of voice that can lead a song to massive mainstream success like “1234” and “Mushaboom,” while also being able to churn out hauntingly beautiful sad numbers like “Let It Die.” Whether it’s her work as a solo artist or as a vocalist with Broken Social Scene, Feist remains one of the most instantly recognizable singers going.
Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock has shown he has the range to go from a quiet whispering vocal to full-on melodic screaming, apparent lisp and all. Legend has it that Brock had his jaw broken by a gang of teenagers while the band was recording their 2000 breakthrough record The Moon & Antarctica, and it changed how the band recorded the album. There’s no mistaking Brock’s vocals, they’re as unique as they come in the realm of indie rock.
Violent Femmes established themselves as one of the premiere indie acts of the 1980s, thanks largely to the uniquely fractured vocal stylings of Gordon Gano.
Multi-talented indie darling Joanna Newsom found some mainstream success following the release of her 2004 debut full-length, The Milk-Eyed Mender. The harpist blends her psychedelic folk compositions with her almost baby-like vocals to craft one of the most distinct sounds of the last 15 years.
Arcade Fire have firmly established themselves as one of the biggest bands in the world. There’s so much at work in their massive sound that it’s difficult to pinpoint one element that enables them to stand out. One thing that is not lost on anyone, especially those who have had the privilege of taking in their live show, is that Régine Chassagne is a weapon.
Few embody the slacker-rock style of the 90s indie scene quite like Courtney Barnett. It’s as though she’s just talking over the music but, oh, does it ever work. Barnett’s deadpan delivery has helped her to near-stardom, and she’s only getting started.