1. “Hall of Death” – Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Sweeney and Billy get a big assist from Mdou Moctar’s guitar outfit here, as what may have been a charmingly folky tune is massively elevated into an enervating, energetic, gleeful West African guitar race. The video is a declaration of chaotic freedom, sort of O Brother Where Art Thou meets Moonrise Kingdom starring the protagonists of The Mountain Goats’ “Psalm 40:2.” Highly recommended.
2. “Leave Someday” – Kevo Muney (feat. Lil Durk). Kevo Muney’s single rips, displaying the connection hip-hop has with gospel music. Muney shows music’s power to lead the transition from racial injustice protests to lasting policy change. –Lisa Whealy
3. “Djourou” – Ballaké Sissoko, Sona Jobarteh. Two incredible kora players create a mesmerizing, lithe duet. Peaceful and powerful, this piece is a true wonder.
4. “Blinding Lights (The Weeknd Cover)” – X Ambassadors. Covers The Weeknd’s hit with stunning acoustic simplicity. For those unfamiliar with the band’s story, keyboardist Casey Harris’ blindness has led them to support Two Blind Brothers. –Lisa Whealy
6. “Ouroboros” – Brooklyn’s Charming Disaster takes goth-folk to dark depths of brilliance with the Ouroboros available to-save. Named for the mythical beast known to swallow its tail and thus its own finality, the musical descent drifts towards each potential hell or metamorphosis. Striking instrumentation evokes an otherwordly space, much like that created for the band’s weekly livestream danse macabre, transforming the global fanbase into a true community. –Lisa Whealy
7. “The Green Thing” – l’Orchidée Cosmique. Some songs land on the right day to be appreciated. I’m not having a great day, and a stomping, grumbling, menacing slice of guitar-driven post-rock angst is exactly what I want today.
8. “Tuck the Long Tail Under” – Nonagon. Nonagon is one of the few post-hardcore bands that I keep up with, as they strike the perfect balance of tight musicianship (check the bass work), expert mood control, and angry hollering. A blast, in so many ways.
9. “Aquarian Age (Instrumental)” – Lexxi Vonne. Splits the difference between chipper tropical house and gloomy Tron:Legacy-esque techno for a unique, compelling vibe.
10. “Pikakelauksella maailmanloppuun” – Kadonnut Manner. This acoustic guitar cut is a wild and woolly romp that indulges in reverb, fingerpicking, and enthusiastic melodic runs. It’s a joyous, ambitious, compelling track that stands a cut above most solo acoustic guitar work.
11. “La Rêveuse” – Sweet Crude. This smooth, inspired indie-pop cut is given an almost awe-inspiringly wacky music video that calls to mind Napoleon Dynamite dropped into the absurdities of 2020–in Louisiana French. If you’re not intrigued, I’m not sure this blog can help you. Their video for the equally-inspired “Sun Sept” is almost as madcap; they make up for the slight (slight) downtick in gleeful absurdity with a brilliant chorus and lovely breakdown.
12. “Your Secret Place” – LIGHTS A.M. Throw the grandeur of goth, the icyness of dark techno, and the scope of classical composition into a blender and the results are this beautiful piece.
13. “Horizons (feat. Daru Jones)” – Hedge Hop, Takahiro Izumikawa. Elegant instrumental hip-hop with low pretensions and high levels of chill. This is jazzy cool.