Playlist

About this playlist

All those bushy beards in your local coffee shop must have prepped you to the unassailable fact: indie is having a folk moment. It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, you’d know your indie rocker by his leather jacket, bowl-cut and armory of effects pedals. Nowadays, they’re more likely to be sporting the facial growth of a 19th-century sharecropper, shouldering a banjo, and keeping time by pounding their right foot on any bare floorboard they can find.

If you wanted to dig back to the roots of indie-folk, you might trace it back to the 1990s, when the likes of Cat Power, Will Oldham – AKA Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – and Jeff Mangum’s Neutral Milk Hotel reached for acoustic guitars and banjos as a reaction against the feedback-soaked grunge of the era. Following in their wake came a variety of characters blending the rustic sounds of olde tyme music with a modern DIY sensibility – see the brilliant harpist Joanna Newsom, the quaver-voiced man-child Devendra Banhart, or the prodigiously talented Sufjan Stevens (whose track John Wayne Gacy, Jr is taken from his 2005 LP Illinois – the second in a projected series of 50 albums named after American States).

It’s not hard to see why people adore indie-folk. In the hands of Brooklyn experimentalists Grizzly Bear, or Zach Condon’s Balkan-inspired outfit Beirut, it’s a sound of deep musical complexity, open to strange textures and far-flung influences. In the hands of Lucy Rose or Kings Of Convenience, it’s great chill-out music. But it’s also a natural home for powerful, moving wordsmiths, like Conor Oberst, whose early work as Bright Eyes saw him compared to a young Dylan. And while this playlist certainly wouldn’t be complete without a few weirdos and misfits – see the brilliant Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon, or freak-folk sisters Cocorosie – it would be remiss not to point out that at its biggest, this music can fill arenas: step forward Mumford And Sons, represented here by their lovelorn Babel cut Lover’s Eyes.

There’s all that and more in our exclusive 50-track playlist – time to dig in.

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