1. “Torque” – Spencer Elliott (SE3). What a wild group this is: it’s a prog/post-rock trio built around an acoustic guitar with effects on, a distorted bass tone, and right-on-the-money drumming. I haven’t heard anything like this in a long time, maybe ever. Wow. Highly recommended.
2. “Happier Things” – Studio Electrophonique. Fans of The Kinks, Serge Gainsbourg, or Wes Anderson will love this piece of delicate, despondent formal pop. It’s so sad and spartan that it barely stays together (the laconic tambourine does a lot of work here), but boy, the payoff is grand. Highly recommended.
3. “Adar Newlan” – IMARHAN. A gentle, even contemplative, take on Tuareg guitar wizardry with Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals. Beautiful and compelling. Highly recommended.
4. “Down and Out” – Thirsty Curses. Always have some love in my heart for a piano-driven alt-country song about feeling like crap. Alt-country forever.
5. “Ride or Die” – Hippo Campus. This is the best song that Vampire Weekend never wrote: chipper, affected vocal; a tension between dreamy synths and bouncy rhythms; sudden switches in tone and pace. They nail every part.
6. “Cheyenne Mountain Complex” – Violetera. Tense, spacious, ominous, grumbling, and yet inviting, this post-rock piece relates to post-rock the same way post-punk relates to punk: it exists in the same sphere and employs the features of the genre, but it’s doing something else. A fascinating bit of songwriting here.
7. “47” – J. Blofeld. A wavering, quavering synth and ghostly background sounds get a four-on-the-floor traveling companion. The results are a dense techno piece that yet never feels claustrophobic.
8. “Deserve” – Animalweapon. I lived in Raleigh, NC, for four years, and I love it there. Protip: Anyone whose music video is “we wandered around downtown Raleigh” is gonna get covered. The video for this track is just that: wandering various corners of Moore Square and then ending at (what looks like) Boylan Bridge Brewpub. The “ooo I’ve been there!” game was in full effect for me in this video. The song itself is a whooshy fusion of breathy soul vocals, ambient synths, and romantic gloom.
9. “Taurus” – Jacques Greene. Punchy kit drumming, breathy sighs, and synths that sound like deep pools of water create some wild fusion of Frou Frou trip-hop and ambient.
10. “Évaporations” – Charbonneau / Amato. I don’t quite know the history of how a particularly type of bleep bloop cam to signify “outer space” sonically, other than guessing it has something to do with the sonic soundscapes of recordings from the Apollo missions. Whatever it was, there’s a way to make things sound like outer space, and Charbonneau / Amato have nailed it here. This is an elegant, mellifluous version of the outer space sound: all charming bloops, tiny beeps, and clicking percussion.