Ever wanted to impress someone with your astounding knowledge of indie and electronic music? Like maybe that boy in your philosophy class who always wears skinny jeans and a plaid shirt, or that girl you always see at Hotbox with the beret and pink streaks in her hair. Well, consider this your education: here are Perdeby’s five favourite obscure(-ish) bands.

The National

Huh? These guys are actually kind of famous. Just not in South Africa. Yet. But if you’re in the habit of keeping your ear to the ground when it comes to indie music, you’ve probably at least heard of them. If not, your life is about to be changed forever.  The National is a five-piece band from Cincinnati, Ohio. Their earlier work – with a few exceptions – isn’t that great, but their three latest albums (Alligator, Boxer and High Violet) are pretty much amazing.

Guess what? If their music sounds a little familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard it on one of your favourite TV shows. Their songs have been featured on House, Chuck, One Tree Hill, and Brothers and Sisters, among others.

Sounds like: Early Coldplay, but less whiny. The National’s signature is their haunting melodies and vocals. And their lyrics are kind of strange, but in the best sense of the word.

Perdeby recommends: “Baby, We’ll Be Fine”, “Fake Empire”, “Squalor Victoria”, “Green Gloves”, “Brainy”, “Anyone’s Ghost”,  “Afraid of Everyone” … This list could go on forever.

Lykke Li

Huh? She’s Swedish. And a little weird. But also very cool. Her full name is Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson, which we won’t even try to pronounce, so it’s probably a good thing she just uses Lykke Li as her stage name. Apart from Sweden, she’s also lived in Portugal, Morocco, India, and New York, which might go some way to explain her quirky style.

Guess what? Back in 2009, she was approached by Kings of Leon who asked her to cover one of their songs. She chose “Knocked Up”. She’s also collaborated with hip hop legend Kanye West, and wrote a song (“Possibility”) exclusively for the soundtrack of New Moon.

Sounds like: If Santigold, The Knife and Bat For Lashes had a music-baby who took some sedatives, it’d probably be Lykke Li. Her music is best described as a kind of subdued electro-pop.

Perdeby recommends: “Little Bit”, “I’m Good, I’m Gone”, “Complaint Department”, “Possibility”, and “Get Some”.

Right Away, Great Captain!

Huh? Right Away, Great Captain! is the solo side-project of Andy Hull, better known as the frontman of alternative rock band Manchester Orchestra.

Guess what? This music is much more than meets the eye (or ear, as the case may be). The band has released two albums, and both are concept albums following the story of a seventeenth century sailor whose wife has an affair with his brother while he’s away at sea. The songs tell the story of the sailor’s intense journey through betrayal, anguish, and eventually a desire for revenge. The third and final album is due to be released later this year

Sounds like: The songs are focused on melody, and the sound is very stripped down – mostly just consisting of Hull’s vocals and acoustic guitar, sometimes with a bit of piano – in the tradition of Bon Iver and Damien Rice.

Perdeby recommends: “Right Ahead, Young Sailor!”, “Memories on  a Deck Part II”, “Like Lions Do”, “Down to Your Soul”, “Devil Dressed in Blue”,  “Memories From a Shore” and “Oh No, I Tried”.


Huh? Ratatat is an electronic duo, consisting of members known only as Taj and Gaz. Taj does bass and synth, Gaz does guitars. That’s about all we know.

Guess what? Earlier this year, a song of theirs was featured in Prada’s Spring/Summer Collection campaign. Here’s a full description of what happens in the one minute and thirteen seconds of the video: there are models. And they dance, “twitchily”, as the New York Times put it. Basically, the only thing vaguely inspiring about it is the music.

Sounds like: The grooviest thing your ears have ever heard. You can’t sit still while listening to this music.

Perdeby recommends: The whole of their 2006 album, Classics. We just can’t narrow it down. Sorry.

Freelance Whales

Huh? This five-piece band from Queens, New York, is basically a bunch of multi-instrumentalists putting together their genius to make amazing music. Chuck Criss is the member who plays the most instruments: banjo, bass, synthesiser, glockenspiel, acoustic and electric guitar, and harmonium. Phew. Oh, and each member of the band can sing too. Is there anyone else who thinks this band has an unfair ratio of talent?

Guess what? Their debut album, Weathervanes, was based mainly on childhood memories and dream journals of lead singer Judah Dadone. Also, this band started their career busking in New York subways. Pretty humble beginnings. But then their music was used on a couple of advertisements, as well as popular TV shows Chuck and Skins, and things took off.

Sounds like: A ton of instruments making sweet, sweet love. No, seriously. Freelance Whales use their talents wisely, and their music has an especially unique sound because of it. Their music has a sort of “cute” quality to it, as do the lyrics, and will definitely put you in a good mood if you’re feeling down.

Perdeby recommends: “Generator ^ First Floor”, “Hannah”,  “Starring”, “Ghosting”, “We Could Be Friends”, and “Generator ^  Second Floor”.


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