Who Were the Most Popular Folk Artists of the 2010s?


Folk music saw a resurgence in the 2010s, with a new generation of musicians bringing fresh sounds to the genre. The Lumineers emerged as one of the most prominent folk-rock bands during this period, captivating audiences with their heartfelt lyrics and acoustic melodies. Their popularity skyrocketed with hits like “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love,” making them household names.

Other notable artists included Mumford & Sons, whose energetic performances and banjo-driven songs like “I Will Wait” became anthems for folk fans. These bands, among others, played a significant role in shaping the folk music landscape of the decade.

Artists like Joanna Newsom and Dawes also gained acclaim for their unique contributions to folk music. Their albums were celebrated for their lyrical depth and musical artistry, earning spots on lists of the best folk albums of the decade. Together, these musicians defined the sound of folk in the 2010s, blending traditional elements with modern influences.

Evolution of Folk Music in the 2010s

Folk music in the 2010s saw a significant transformation. Blending with other genres and making its way into the mainstream, it created a unique soundscape that appealed to diverse audiences.

Rise to Mainstream

The early 2010s witnessed the emergence of folk bands like Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, and Of Monsters and Men. These bands brought folk music into the limelight, making it accessible to wider audiences. Their popularity skyrocketed due to catchy songs and relatable lyrics.

Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music played a crucial role in this rise. These platforms allowed folk artists to reach listeners globally, breaking barriers that once limited their exposure. As a result, folk music saw a resurgence in popularity, blending tradition with modernity.

Influence of Genres

Folk music in the 2010s was heavily influenced by various other genres. Artists started integrating elements of rock, indie, and pop into their works. For instance, The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons combined elements of rock and Americana, creating a more dynamic sound.

The use of electronic instruments and advanced production techniques also became common. This added a new layer to folk music, making songs more intricate and appealing to younger audiences. The fusion of styles not only kept the genre fresh but also helped it evolve.

Defining Characteristics of 2010s Folk

Folk music in the 2010s had several defining characteristics. Acoustic instruments, such as guitars and banjos, remained central. Lyrics often focused on personal and emotional themes, resonating with listeners on a deeper level.

There’s also a notable emphasis on harmonies and group singing. Bands like The Avett Brothers and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros exemplified this trend. Additionally, the DIY ethic and authenticity were prominent, with many artists self-producing albums and maintaining a close connection with their fans.

These elements combined to create a distinctive sound that defined the decade.

Iconic Folk Artists of the 2010s

The 2010s saw a resurgence of folk music, with numerous artists redefining the genre. These musicians brought folk music to mainstream popularity, combining traditional sounds with modern influences.

Fleet Foxes and their Ethereal Sound

Fleet Foxes and their Ethereal Sound

Fleet Foxes emerged as a leading folk band with their lush harmonies and intricate arrangements. Known for their 2008 self-titled debut, their 2011 album Helplessness Blues cemented their status. The band’s music often features rich, multi-layered vocals and a blend of acoustic instruments. This combination creates a dreamy, almost otherworldly sound. Their influence on the folk genre in the 2010s is significant, inspiring many contemporary artists to explore similar sonic landscapes.

Bon Iver’s Introspective Music

Bon Iver, led by Justin Vernon, gained acclaim with their debut album For Emma, Forever Ago in 2007. The 2011 follow-up, Bon Iver, Bon Iver, showcased a more expansive sound, blending folk with electronic elements. Vernon’s introspective lyrics and distinctive falsetto voice struck a chord with many listeners. Songs like “Holocene” and “Perth” highlighted his ability to convey deep emotion, making Bon Iver a standout name in the 2010s folk scene.

The Global Impact of Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons burst onto the scene with their debut album Sigh No More in 2009. Their energetic performances and use of traditional folk instruments like the banjo helped them gain international fame. The 2012 album Babel, which won the Grammy for Album of the Year, solidified their global presence. The band’s blend of folk and rock elements captivated audiences worldwide, and they became one of the most commercially successful folk bands of the decade.

Sufjan Stevens’ Artistic Evolution

Sufjan Stevens is known for his genre-defying music and ambitious projects. The 2010s saw him releasing the acclaimed album Carrie & Lowell in 2015. This album, marked by its hauntingly personal lyrics and minimalist folk sound, was a critical success. Stevens’ ability to weave intricate stories and emotions into his music has made him a revered figure in the folk community. His work continues to influence a new generation of folk artists.

The Lumineers: A Tale of Rustic Charm

The Lumineers rose to prominence with their self-titled debut album in 2012, featuring the hit single “Ho Hey”. Their music is characterized by its rustic charm and simple, yet effective, instrumentation. The band’s ability to craft catchy, heartfelt songs resonated with a broad audience. Their blend of folk, rock, and Americana elements helped them stand out in the crowded folk scene of the 2010s. The Lumineers’ success paved the way for other bands in the genre, highlighting the enduring appeal of folk music.

Key Albums and Songs

In the 2010s, several folk music albums and singles stood out due to their unique sound and widespread popularity. These key albums and songs shaped the decade and left a lasting impact on the genre.

Revolutionary Albums

“Have One on Me” by Joanna Newsom is considered a milestone in contemporary folk music. Released in 2010, this album features complex harp arrangements and poetic lyrics. It has been praised for its emotional depth and storytelling.

“Nothing Is Wrong” by Dawes, released in 2011, offers a blend of warm harmonies and heartfelt lyrics. It became a favorite for those who love classic folk with a modern touch. The album beautifully captures themes of love and heartbreak.

Patty Griffin

“American Kid” by Patty Griffin reflects on personal and national history. This 2013 album stands out for its rich vocal performances and poignant songwriting. Griffin’s music here touches on themes like joy, sorrow, and familial love.

Chart-Topping Singles

“Ho Hey” by The Lumineers became an anthem for folk music lovers. Released in 2012, this single soared to the top of the charts with its catchy chorus and simple acoustic arrangement. It became synonymous with the indie folk movement of the decade.

“Lost in My Mind” by The Head and the Heart is another iconic track of the 2010s. Released in 2011, this song captures the bittersweet feeling of wandering and searching for meaning. Its infectious melody and relatable lyrics made it a standout.

“Skinny Love” by Bon Iver, although originally released in 2007, gained renewed popularity in the 2010s. Its raw, emotional delivery and minimalistic instrumentation resonated with a wide audience. The song’s success helped cement Bon Iver’s place in modern folk music.

Exploring these albums and singles provides insight into the folk scene of the 2010s, highlighting how artists used their music to express a range of emotions from joy to sorrow.

Musical Style and Lyrics

Folk music of the 2010s often combined traditional elements with fresh, modern twists. Musicians used varied instruments and themes to create unique sounds that resonated with listeners.

Instrumentation and Sound

Instrumentation and Sound

Instrumentation in 2010s folk music embraced both traditional and modern approaches. Acoustic guitars remained a staple, providing a soft, melodic foundation. Artists like Dawes and Patty Griffin utilized lush, complex arrangements that often included calm, soothing string sections, piano, and harmonica.

Some artists opted for a raw, minimalistic sound. For instance, Lori McKenna’s music often featured sparse instrumentation, highlighting her soothing voice. Joanna Newsom, on the other hand, incorporated the harp, adding a unique, authentic texture to her songs.

This decade also saw a blend of folk with other genres. Indie folk often merged with bedroom pop and lo-fi, creating a warm, playful atmosphere. Bands and solo artists experimented with these sounds to craft melodic and mellow music.

Lyricism and Themes

Lyrics in 2010s folk music often explored personal and social themes. Authentic, heartfelt storytelling was common, with artists delving into their own experiences and emotions. Patty Griffin’s “American Kid” reflected on family, loss, and resilience with detailed, emotional narratives.

Many songs addressed broader social issues. Musicians used their complex and melodic lyrics to comment on topics like love, struggle, and identity. Their words often had a soothing yet powerful impact, resonating with a wide audience.

Artists like Alex G employed bittersweet and melancholic themes, touching on loneliness and introspection. This approach, coupled with his raw lyrical style, created a connection with listeners seeking depth and sincerity in music.

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