The following list is a mix of new independent bands and recent bands releasing music in the past year. Unlike other “lists” in Christian Music that wallow through the sea of sameness, this list embarks on a journey to share good music that doesn’t suck. Read below for MY list of the 30 greatest indie bands of 2020. Leave your cynicism and snobby pseudo journalistic opinions at the door. This isn’t a definitive list and is simply some of my current faves and recommendations. Drop your current faves in the comments below.
30. Benjamin Daniel
Benjamin writes somber and introspective music with eyes clearly directed heaven bound. These are songs to get you motivated and singing along with a pounding in your chest, tears falling from your eyes. These are the kind of songs that have an emotional, heart tugging connection. Beautiful music through and through. Benjamin Daniel dropped the “Good Fear EP” a few months ago and it’s already connecting with listeners. For fans of Bright Eyes, Dashboard Confessional, Dustin Kensrue, Manchester Orchestra, and Copeland.
Barehart is the project of longtime Least of These member, Tyler Collins. Bareheart creates the kind of music perfect for those fireside chats with gazing out into the night sky with stars blinking above. His voice is clearly the focal point and guitar the back up member, together the two leading you a journey of emotion and connection. Check out the new Bareheart EP “In the Mo(u)rning” that released back in July.
This metal band dropped their latest single “Forever New” a little over a month ago and it’s already shaping up to be a real winner in 2020. It’s heavy and laden with guitar solos, thundering drums, on fire lyrics, and singing vocals that offer solace from the storms of 2020. Check out the music video for this new song below and make sure to look them up on social media.
27. The Frozen Ocean
Dave Swanson has been creating beautiful music for over a decade now as solo artist. He also plays in Life In Your Way when that band plays a show or releases new music. I love both projects equally and this new track “Not Like I Used To” is a gem waiting to be found by the masses. It’s honest, truthful, and a passionate take on a life’s journey. The Frozen Ocean just dropped the new single recently and I highly recommend it.
26. As We Are
Okay, so this band started out independent, signed with IVM briefly for like a second, then found a home on Raven Faith Records. Their sound was along the lines of heavy pop punk but on this latest single “Paralyzed” the band took a turn for more hard rock/metal territory. It’s not bad but it’s quite different from the past. Keep your eyes on this band because they are sure to blow up in the next year or so.
25. Winona Avenue
This band featured a couple former members of pop-punk act, Blank Pages. When they ventured out with a new name and sound, some of the pop-punk was left in the dust and in place more of a “Pop-Rock” sound. That isn’t a bad thing at all because the band more than makes up for their shiny, pop exterior with enough swagger and melodies to make you singing for days. Songs like “Masterpiece”, “Move This Town”, “Paradise” and “Future Me” all take on a certain pop sensibility, crank it up through the radio and create something truly remarkable. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I assure you that you’ll be a fan soon.
This is a relatively new band on the scene. Their music is infectious, smooth, and laden with melodies that will stick with you. The band recently released “Neapolitan” 3 song EP and if it’s a taste of music to come in the future, you’re in for a real treat.
23. Keith Settles
Keith Settles is a one man hit song writing machine. He was formerly in a local So Cal band called The Parousia and now flies solo with songs that derived more from handwritten notes to a loved one than straight up heavy rock n’ roll. These songs are introspective, a little too honest at times, but altogether pleasing to the ears. Keith wrote for IVM for a number of years and produced some truly exceptional behind the scenes video interviews for us back in the day (see youtube 2010/2011). He is a lifetime Phinehas and Dustin Kensrue/Thrice fan and some of that is clearly evident on his new Ep that released earlier this year. New song “The Letter” just dropped and it is something you’ll love.
22. What’s Your Damage? / The Prettybads
The two bands just released a “split” so I am certainly not going to split them up by numbers. What’s Your Damage? play a more post-punk, 80’s new wave driven by the lush female vocals of lead singer, Quinn. Their songs are politically motivated and fun for the masses.
The Prettybads play a certain smash combo of bands like Ramones, Screeching Weasel, Bad Cop Bad Cop, and Joan Jett all wrapped up in a tidy punk rock package sure to please fans across the globe. Their music is unique, cutting edge, and ahead of the times. Plus Jordan Campos is an amazing graphic artist and his wife Kayla makes the catchiest lead female vocals i’ve heard in a long time.
21. Heart Like War
Los Angeles, CA. based melodic pop-punk. Led by superstar in the making, David Camarena, who is also a big YouTube content creator now (Look up the channel “TodayIGrewUp”). The band recently regrouped with some new members and released the hit EP “Thoughts On This” in December of 2019. The band is currently working on a follow up record and chances are they’re gonna blow up huge in the years to come. Fans of Simple Plan, MXPX, Mest, Blink-182, New Found Glory, Yellowcard, Hawk Nelson, etc. will greatly appreciate this band’s amazing music.
The only reason this falls down into the 20th position is because they are relatively new, like 2020 new. I was so impressed with this duo’s new tunes that I knew I had to work with them ASAP. One of the best heavy pop-punk bands that have burst on the scene this past year. I absolutely adore their new EP “Derby City” and think these guys are going to be the best thing in the scene in the years to come. I am a lucky guy to be able to work with bands like this and to have had the opportunity to release this amazing, awe inspiring EP.
19. False Idle
False Idle have been churning out punk rock music for the better part of a decade now. Sef Idle is also an accomplished producer and studio whiz, working out of Simpul Studio in his home state of Idaho. The band has a new Skate focused song out and it’s just as impressive as their previous material. False Idle is highly recommended by IVM not only for their music and passion, but also their drive and songwriting. High energy punk rock you may have never heard of.
18. Brave Days
This band exploded on the scene with a single song a few years back and I’ve been drawn to their music ever since. They draw upon pop-punk, emo, post-hardcore, and other indie sounds to create music all their own. The band just dropped their “Work in Progress” EP a few months back via Honey Gold Records and it showcases a young band with loads of potential. For fans of bands like The Story So Far, The Dangerous Summer, State Champs, Neck Deep, Dogwood, and At The Wayside.
This insanely talented artist and his band is nothing short of extraordinary. There is so much variety found on these latest “singles” that new fans will be drawn to their music much the same way you are drawn to those catchy songs playing on the radio. Collington has released 4 incredible singles in 2020 with the hopes of finishing out the year with several more. Any label or artist representation company that doesn’t pick up Collington is doing everyone a huge disservice. This is the kind of music that belongs at the top of charts. For fans of Switchfoot, Dustin Kensrue, Band of Horses, Dashboard Confessional, Kings of Leon, Need to Breathe, and Neon Trees.
16. Saint Didacus
Well what can be said about Josh Kemble and Danny Montoya’s contributions to underground punk music that hasn’t been said before. Josh Kemble led the So Cal. punk rock band Dogwood since 1994. When the band dropped into hiatus, he picked up the mic one more time to join guitarist Danny Montoya (Dogwood/Logos) and his brother on Drums to create the music of Saint Didacus. They have much of the same energy and urgency of the prior band (Dogwood) but with even more socially conscious lyrics and real life influence. The band’s new song “The Constant War” is everything you wished Dogwood would have written toward the end and then some. If this is a hint of what is to come further down the line then we are in for a total reawakening. I can’t wait to see what comes next. For fans of Dogwood, Good Riddance, Strung Out, Authority Zero, Much The Same, Craig’s Brother.
15. Teddy at Night
This artist holds a special place in my heart. I knew him and his family when he a younger kid and they came to all my concerts I held locally. His Dad was a upstanding fellow and the passion for music and life was clearly evident in that family. Fast forward a few years and I caught wind of Teddy joining Wavorly as drummer, then Family Force 5 as drummer, more recently as drummer for For King & Country, and now as front man and solo artist. His music takes a definite 80’s new wave pop style and mixes it up. It’s like Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Phil Collins in a blender with Queen, and more modern pop tunes from artists like The Weeknd, Walk the Moon, etc. It’s completely unique and totally unpredictable. This is highly infectious music and if radio is listening, these songs will find their way on a several different formats in the future. Teddy has released his debut 5 song EP a few months ago (under the name ‘Teddy at Night’) and I already am a huge fan. PS, I saw Teddy drumming with For King & Country on the latest “A Rush of Hope” harvest crusade film 😉
Does this count? Two industry veterans together as a indie-pop rock duo. Copperlilly is Tim Skipper (House of Heroes) and his very talented wife, Stephanie. They make music to be enjoyed by the masses. The group just dropped their new ep “Songs From The Bottom” last week and it’s sure to gain some new fans.
Does this count? A former big band with a nationally released full length and EP under their belts, the band marked a return of sorts in 2020 with their fiery cover of U2’s song, “Like a Song”. This incredibly well produced and executed “cover” was one of the best i’d heard in years. Thick low end sounds production wise amplified the guitars and vocals. The screamed lines by Joe are bar none, the best thing i’ve heard in years. If you don’t know who Beloved are, this song should be the perfect introduction.
This mysterious “group” first caught my ears a few years back after Noah from The Offshore Accounts (look them up) first shared his music with me. His band of truth seekers first began in a foreign country under close watch. Some members escaped tyrannical rule and sought refuge here back in the states while a few others are still over there. The music is hopeful, it’s fun, its punk, and it’s just plain different from everything else soaking in sameness here in the new decade. If you heard “Burn The Boats” and “Ties That Bind” you might ask yourself, what am I listening to? Is this “punk”? Is this “rock”? Is it something else entirely? Listen for yourself with an open mind, soak up the lyrics, and lay down amongst a wall of sound, immersing yourself in the sounds of Mainframe.
11. No Lost Cause
Rob Jensen has been a writer at IVM, a friend of myself, and a creator of spirited ska/punk since day one. His music goes often unnoticed but when it is noticed, people are floored that it’s created by just one guy (with the exception of the drumming which is done by Dango of Amber Pacific on some songs). He released “P.S.” through IVM and Thumper Punk back in December of 2019 and it has tons of catchy, fun, with overtly Christian lyrics meant to inspire, leading one to change. If you’re a fan of Goldfinger, The Interrupters, Sum 41, Rancid, Authority Zero, and False Idle, you’ll love this.
10. Medical Morning
Medical Morning is a somber project. Songs that fill you with hope, peace, and put you in a dream like state. Ethereal vocals and a certain spiritual urgency. Is it dream pop, is it indie pop, is it shoegaze? Or is it just great music period? He/They just released a new single back in September titled “The Truth is Hard to Hear” and an album last year. Listen to some songs below.
9. Seeker and Servant
I’ve been following this praise centered indie rock group for many years now. They’ve remained independent almost this entire time. Their music is truthful, it is passionate, and it is filled with an urgency, to be heard by the masses during this terrible year we’ve all experienced. The group just released a single back in March titled “Bring Your Praise” and hopefully it’s not the last we hear from them.
8. The Recovery System
This hardcore/rock/poppunk project known as The Recovery System pretty much dropped in 2020. They have 3 singles out so far and a new album dropping next week. Their sound can best be described as rock meets pop punk and hardcore. It’s like Anberlin crossed with A Day to Remember, Search The City, The Classic Crime, Beloved and Boysetsfire. Check out two of their songs below and get ready for the debut next week.
7. Poetic Descent
This band is quickly rising to the ranks of one of the best new rock acts to grace our scene in quite a while. They are authentic, honest, and their music is shattering charts across the nation. The band has released several new songs over the past year with the latest being, “Shallow Graves”, a few months ago. They are a full on rock/numetal band with unforgettable melodies, smashing, in your face heaviness, and unmatched potential. If you aren’t a fan after first listen, then please check yourself, are you ok?
6. Nate Parrish
Nate is fairly new artist. He has been a part of Kutless for a number of years and last year ventured out into solo territory, releasing a few singles which showed a certain vulnerability and punk rock spirit. In 2020, he released his absolutely fantastic full length record called “I’m A Wreck”. It is without a doubt one of the best records to release in this insane year we’ve had. I haven’t heard another album of this caliber and music style this year that touched me like this record has. Because I was such a (super) fan of Nate’s work, I knew I had to connect and work with him on a new EP/Song. Well the EP won’t work out because IVM label is calling it quits BUT, I did get the chance to release his banger of a new song (that’s a thing right?) titled “Bullets and Blades”, which coincidentally dropped today via all digital networks. This is not only the last IVM label release before the indefinite hiatus but also one of my favorites. If you don’t know who Nate is, just head over to NateParrish.com and give his music a listen. All songs are currently on digital networks, now. This story with Nate Parrish and IVM shows that you can never judge a book by it’s cover. Had Nate not been persistent in emailing me to check out his tunes, I may never have heard “I’m a Wreck” or given these songs a chance. I heard Kutless and thought that was what this was going to be (laughing, winking emojiis). This is just great music, period.
5. At The Wayside
At The Wayside has seen so many ups and downs in their career that Phil Carper is probably ready to snap 😉 A few members came from a band called Alakrity when they were super young. They released a full length on a label that now holds that music hostage. Oh yeah, they recorded a cover of The Mighty Morphin Rangers theme song that you can hear on digital networks. So fast fwd a bit and At The Wayside launches. They release some early tunes and ep then go full on pop-punk superstars, releasing a fabulous full length in 2012 through now defunct label, Red Cord. The band released some singles through IVM, sort of as promotion and mainly through bandcamp for free then they signed with another now defunct label, IVM, in 2017 and released “The Breakdown and the Fall”. This album had heavy traction and tons of people seemed to have loved it, connecting with a diverse set of songs and radio friendly melodic music. It was like Relient K, State Champs, New Found Glory, Neck Deep, Blink -182, and Mae all joined forces to create some of the best music possible. If you don’t know who this band is, check out their album on digital networks now or buy the CD from IVM while supplies last.
4. Orion Walsh / Slow Coming Day
For this listing I am joining together Orion’s two passion projects into one chart position. Orion Walsh has not only been a prolific solo artist but he also has a band called Slow Coming Day. SCD released a debut ep back in 2001/2002 that was independent. Tooth & Nail picked them up based upon that EP and their Biggest Fan 2 spot. The band released “Farewell to the Familiar” in 2003 then some parting demo tracks in 2006 before calling it quits. The band regrouped a few years ago for a performance or two and released “1000 Years (Like a Day)” in February of 2019. This has to be some of my favorite Slow Coming Day songs and Orion Walsh’s strongest “band” work by far. I also released a new “solo” ep a few months later in 2019 that was built around acoustic guitar. This year saw the release a special collection of Slow Coming day songs done both acoustically and with band. The “Quarantine Sessions” release featured new songs and old tracks reworked for the Quarantine era we are in. Orion Walsh is one of those once in a lifetime, special songwriters that not only connects with a listener on a deeper level, but also just makes incredible music for a group of fans that span all music styles and tastes. He has been on a rollercoaster of a journey these past 2 decades and still remains an avid independent songwriter. Check out his brand new song titled “House Arrest” that is available now on all digital networks. This is the best Orion Walsh song heard in years since maybe the “Tornado Lullabies” album!
3. Names Without Numbers
What can be said of this band that hasn’t been said before? These well seasoned champions of catchy, emo, indie rock have been kicking it for 20 years, on and off. The band first burst on to the scene in year 2000 with their debut EP (re-released by IVM this past July). The band came out with their major label worthy full length record titled “Silos & Smokestacks” last December and blew the socks off everyone who gave them a listen. This is catchy music period. The kind of music you root for and deep down desire to hear on the radio/tv. The band came out strong with a Taylor Swift cover (Style) and doesn’t let up for all 9 tracks on the album. These are seriously some of my favorite songs by an indie rock artist and one of the reasons they rank so high on this list. I’m a music fan first and foremost and I know deep down that these gentlemen create music to be enjoyed and consumed by the masses. If you haven’t heard their last full length, then head over to digital networks and give them a listen. Jimmy Eat World, Anberlin, Acceptance, Mae, The Killers, and Further Seems Forever fans take note.
2. Light The Way
I have a special, sentimental connection to this band. They are the number one reason I relaunched the IVM label back in 2017. I heard their debut EP, “Grace”, and knew I had to work with them. I knew of the guys through their drummer Christian Appel who is also an awesome, stand up guy with heart and passion for what he does. I shed a tear thinking about not being able to muscle behind the scenes for them any longer but knowing I can be an outsider with an “in”, listening as a FAN, gives me a much needed dose of hope. We were lucky enough to get a few singles charting on Christian Rock Charts and featured across a few Radio dials. “BRKN”, “Holy Ghost”, and “Hope” all seemed to have traction and people really were beginning to get into this mostly unheard band. Their sound was pop-punk, melodic punk, and the lighter side of hardcore all rolled into one. The band has released 3 EPs, and 1 full length in their short time together. I am hopeful they will stick around much longer and release that much anticipated follow up full length to “False Memory Syndrome” soon. Thank you Light The Way and thank you friends for checking out all the bands I worked with in the past. Please consider supporting these bands independently by visiting their respective social media pages, websites, and buying merch direct from each of them.
1. Grandpa Loves Rhinos
This band made it’s way into my heart and gave me nothing but pure joy in listening to their songs. They started off several years ago with a collection of “Demos”, some of which ended up on different IVM compilations. When I relaunched the label, I was eager to work with them in some capacity. The moment I heard their new songs in 2018, I was floored. “What We Used To Do” is one of those special songs that connects with a listener in the most nostalgic, youthful yearning way. The song went on to be an enormous hit for little IVM. The single has garnered almost 100k listens which for an unknown duo and indie diy label, is unheard of. It’s all thanks to some special underground hustling and the inclusion of a fairly large Spotify Christian Rock playlist. The song shot up in chart positions thanks to that playlist. “Better Eat Your Wheaties” is the finest 5 song debut EP that I’d heard in recent memory and filled nothing but pure diversely placed instrumentation. Songs that get stuck in your heard for days and lyrics that expand upon a youthful exuberance and longing for the days of old. With this year’s release of “Searching in the Sarchasm” the brotherly duo kicked it up a whole other notch and made something that I consider to be major label quality and songs that touch upon all major senses. These are culturally relevant, relationship driven, spiritually motivated, romance influenced, and all intertwined by that same nostalgic undercurrent. If you haven’t heard of this band’s music and you’re still unsure whether to support them, jump off the fence now and dive in deep. You will find something unmatched in today’s modern rock world and songs that will motivate you long after 2020 becomes but a whisper of a year long past. Grandpa Loves Rhinos are the best independent band of 2020 and for good reason. Rock on Dudes!
Honorable Independent Artist Mentions:
How unique is this eclectic group? Songs entirely in Hebrew and praise the only way a band from Israel could do. The group has released two fantastic full lengths. Did I mention that lead vocalist Jamie Hilsden was actually the singer/guitarist in Man Alive? Oh yeah!
Most people known him and know his music. He is that eternal indie artist, making music his own way.
Only Reason not on this list is because the focus is on newer independent acts. I’m one with the bro and forever a fan. The band is currently working a full length follow up to their 2019 EP, “Devils in the Details”. The band had their first radio single in years, “Follow Your Heart” chart on Christian Radio which seemed like an awesome fete.
Only reason not on this list is because they too are a classic, legendary band but certainly not ‘new’. I’m a Blamed fan first and foremost. I will fight you if you cast doubt on my likeness for this band. The band’s early work has influenced countless music fans and punk rockers across the globe and last year’s full length “The Church is Hurting People” brought all fans back into the Blamed fold. What the band does next is anyone’s guess but I will wait patiently as a fan, drooling for future music.
A true independent artist that has been around more than a decade now, crafting talented songs that inspire and lead one to worship in the most independent, truest, sense.
Another band that was on Victory Records and is now independent. Yes they should be on this main list but I am holding out till I hear new music.
These too are former hard rockers off the T&N roster. They just released a new numetalish type song and are sure to blow fans away with new music in 2021.
Another independent “Band” featuring Matt Baird and making songs that’ll have you singing for the rest of your life. The group has dropped several new singles in 2020 and are about to release a new album next year.
Five Iron Frenzy
Independent and proud. The band just dropped “So We Sing”, an anthem sure to fire up the base and tick off old timers. The band is releasing a new album soon and if their second song is any indication of what’s to come, then we know they are certainly not going to chart on Christian radio any time soon. Gasp.
The Classic Crime
Independent now for several albums. They are currently crowd funding their latest to be released next year. The band writes charming, singable, indie-pop-rock that is geared more toward radio and fans that appreciate the works of Jimmy Eat World, Anberlin, Switchfoot, non-screaming Saosin. Good stuff but not everyone is a fan.
Fast and furious So. Cal. hardcore punk rock. The band released “Overwhelming Odds” in 2019 on Thumper Punk Records and it was a heart attack in music form, leading the listener on a hardcore, rock n’ roll, punk journey through 5 original songs and 5 “demos”. It’s short, fast, and sweet. Sure to bring a smile to the purists and fist pumping by fans of any genre of punk rock music. I’m seriously looking forward to what the future holds for this punk band.
Not sure where MXPX fits on a list like this especially after over 25 years as a band and multiple label contracts. They are independent now but the focus from “Christian” punk rock to where they are at today, is quite clear. Still, a positive and uplifting song like “Worries” dominated my playlists in 2020 and made me a fan once again (duh, like I ever stopped being one). Some of the Deluxe Edition tracks off “Self Titled” dropped this year as well and are some of the best songs the band has ever written. “Let’s Ride” and “Moments Like This” are some of my faves off their last full length.