1. “Wishing Well” – Rainy. In celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his 85th year in this life, British folk artist Rainy blessed us with his video for “Wishing Well” from his latest release FELL FOR THE WORLD. The third in a series of visual creations from the record, the song’s lyrical substance grounds us in reality without denying our dreams. Lush instrumentation wraps through imagery from sunrise over vast seas to snow-frosted forest.
Brazillian maestro and multi-instrumentalist Marcelo Andrade adds depth with backing vocals as well as the traditional rebecha, a cousin of the violin. Rainy’s vocal tone echoes a blend of Yusuf/Cat Stevens and Dave Matthews. Gritty urgency shines through a marriage of banjo, violin, and percussion. It focuses on the visual depiction of water’s movement as the giver of life. It’s a perfect artistic expression of the journey we all make to find our soul.–Lisa Whealy
2. “le merveilleux résumé” – _by.ALEXANDER. _by.ALEXANDER offers a piano/standup bass/drums jazz trio with accompanying flute and electronic wobbles. The ostinato left hand of the piano and the bass match the helter-skelter drum feel; the flute later contributes to the frantic forward motion. Everyone playing here is in a very big hurry, and this makes for compelling listening.
3. “Bruises on Your Shoulders” – Thirsty Curses. The punchy piano pop gets an ambitious, fun single-shot video that depicts the lyrics of the “how did my life end up here” tune perfectly. Pulls the neat trick of being fun to watch while still being mostly tragic. The denouement is a lovely turn, very earned. Mad props to Clayton Herring, who directs and thereby coordinates the whole single-shot concept perfectly.
4. “i am thoughts” – Ghost Liotta. Imagine an Odesza song with a quirky/catchy synth lead. Cut it to half-speed. Replace the beat with live kit drums. Add jazzy piano. Turn the lights from full to one quarter. Sit in a comfy chair. Close your eyes halfway. Lean back. Enjoy.
5. “Still Life” – Orgonon Sound Machine. Slow-paced, hypnotic, crescendoing left-field techno. It’s got too much percussion and forward motion for ambient and not enough thump for a full-on techno blaster; instead, it lives in a slow-motion world all its own, like an electronic version of an acoustic slowcore song (e.g. Songs: Ohia) or a soundtrack to a gloomy, scary film (see the album art and record title–Happy Doomsday–for more on that latter concept). The ten-minute run-time is appropriate, as the song slowly morphs and changes throughout.
6. “Letting Go” – Box of Beats. I’m not covering a ton of indie-pop these days and even less straight-ahead pop, but this beatboxing master got my attention quick and kept it throughout this nearly six-minute pop ballad. This dude can really make it happen, from mouth percussion to bass to tenor sung vocals and more. Shoutout to the mouth brass at the end; that’s incredibly convincing.
7. “Lightning Bug” – William Cashion. When people make 56-second songs, they are incredibly bold. They either know the song isn’t worth more than 56 seconds but love it for sometimes-unclear reasons, or just want the listener to push repeat over and over again on a song that is worth far more than the 56 seconds the creator deigned to give it. This is the latter. So. Much. The. Latter. Slight, lovely, bouncy burbles float up to the surface like bubbles, swoop down, and then restart. It’s delicate, gentle, and beautiful. I want it to be the foundation of so much more expansion, but it stays what it is: light and lovely and gone.
8. “Brothers” – The Lighthouse and the Whaler. Dramatic, expansive indie-pop/indie-rock that goes for all the big moves. It nails a lot of the flourishes, creating a satisfying minor-key song that will appeal to fans of Manchester Orchestra.
9. “Diss Track Omega” – Thomas. Mid-fi bedroom indie-pop that whirrs and clatters its way through ’80s tones and ’90s angles in a charming, slackery way. Thomas is from Raleigh (I’ll always represent Raleigh) but the video was shot in Atlanta (MARTA, Aisle 5, etc.)–but a lot of the shots could be any urban downtown in a top-50 American city. Young urban malaise characterizes the video and the song; they complement each other well.
10. “Serenade – Instrumental” – Lightphaser. I love outer space, and this instrumental track has all the traditional trappings of spacey electronic music: wiry, theremin-esque synthesizers; gritty digital arpeggiatos; space zaps; big swoosh washes; an overall feel of cold expanse. I love it.
11. “Gazing Star” – grizzly milk. Speaking of theremin-esque instruments, this instrumental is heavy on singing saw. It gives this otherwise grounded, humble, lo-fi acoustic guitar rumination a much bigger scope than it otherwise would have. Only 83 seconds, but earns all of the 83 seconds.