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It was May 2012 when local girl Indiana recorded her balladic cover of the track “Gabriel” for BBC Radio Nottingham, unbeknown to her that this would cause a doppler effect still resonating to this day. The track was spotted on YouTube by the song’s original writer John Beck, who originally clicked on it expecting a laugh. Instead, he was blown away by her stunning vocal range, and decided to make contact. Their co-writing partnership resulted in four stunning singles throughout 2013 and a million-plus YouTube views. It actively forced her obsession with ‘Gabriel’ full circle. Now, it is Joe Goddard remixed Indiana’s 2014 single, ‘Solo Dancing’.
Teaching herself piano at home, the 24-year-old mother of two began writing songs in 2011. Her singing voice possesses the restraint and technique of someone classically trained, without ever having the lessons to show for it. She recalls the moment she made the vocal breakthrough: “When I first started singing, I could only hold a note, and I would get so lost. Eventually, I started to hear more tone coming out. The more I took myself away from everything going on and got lost in the music, these things started happening: the vibrato, the tone, the breathiness. It started once I’d found a connection with the music I was singing.” These home-grown vocals are emotionally charged, and play off fragility and power in a tonal tussle.
Her voice might grasp ears, but it’s her story-telling lyrics that are truly carving her niche. Indiana doesn’t write formulaic love songs. She writes compelling narrative journeys into a repertoire of different psyches. In ‘Animal’ - her darkest song to date - she explores the psychological fallout of sexual assault. September single ‘Mess Around’ is a sequel, a manic revenge track told from the perspective of the victim in ‘Animal’. This fresh drama is framed in a haunting electronic soundscape, with stacked vocals and a stirring chorus. ‘Smoking Gun’ is a more fiery affair; finger-picked guitars that wouldn’t seem lost on The xx’s ‘Coexist’ and an undulating bass line twin to soundtrack a sadistic tale of a lover’s secrecy.
Recorded in LA and Leeds, Indiana’s sound has fleshed out even further. ‘Solo Dancing’ blends dark disco and Italo synths to create a John Carpenter-meets-Robyn paracusia. ‘Never Born’, meanwhile, utilises the capabilities of her range, layering then isolating vocals in a gradual build, which culminates in an explosive guitar-led finale.
Her music is testament to a flourishing new front for pop music. There is a growing rejection of the excessive electro hooks, novelty gimmicks and hyper-sexualisation that have become the pillars of mainstream pop. This rebuff favours a more minimal and musical approach. Indiana follows in the fresh footsteps of Lorde, London Grammar and John Newman, in removing the over-synthesised fanfare of commercial pop, and reducing it to the most subtle and precious elements. This is pure and intellectual pop music, with a clear aim and a deft execution.