1. “Trouble” – Joseph Decosimo. Decosimo’s voice is the perfect fit for this hope-in-distress tune: earnest, soft, sturdy, and beautiful. The banjo and fiddle accompaniment are perfect foils to Decosimo’s flooring vocal performance. I’m trying to hold myself back from hyperbole here on how much this performance struck me. Amazing. Highly recommended.
2. “Year of the Dragon” – Blue Water Highway. No can fully pick up the mantle of Bruce Springsteen, but Blue Water Highway continues to carry the torch of The Boss’s road-tested rock-folk about blue collar people in hard situations. This one’s a brilliant set of lyrics set to ringing snare, chiming guitar, and yearning vocals. Highly recommended.
3. “The Life of Trees” – Matthew Squires & The Learning Disorders. A jaunty, quirky love song that speaks to the power of romance to (temporarily?) override cynicism. (Shoutout to Paul Simon.)
4. “Symposium” – Beatenberg. A smooth, well-turned indie-pop jam reminiscent of Vampire Weekend’s quietest moments.
5. “Take on Me” – Joe Policastro Trio. A fun jazz rendition of the classic A-HA jam. The drumming is particularly tasty.
6. “Kutamba” – Junior Simba. Thumping rhythms, moody atmosphere, indelible vocal contributions, found sound, and old-school jazz riffs make this an unusual and impressive dance track.
7. “CCCP” – Blue Nectarine. Blue Nectarine’s late single celebrates the band’s first release after joining Wolf Entertainment. The US band twists a rap in rock vibes. “СССР” (spelled in Russian letters) is USSR in English. Sisters Evelyn & Dina Simonian (choreography/dance) create an avant-garde punk/rap weirdness in this video that feels like a mix of the Little Rascals and The Clash in its aesthetic. Filled with paradox, its unique, raw, homegrown feel draws audiences into this trip-rock world of sonic genre-bending. Incredible! —Lisa Whealy
8.”The Dream” – Gold Panda. A lightly glitchy, hustle-bustle electro cut that displays easy warmth (harp!) and frenetic skittering beats with equal aplomb.