1. “All Will Be Well” – Blue Water Highway. I’m entranced by this song because I myself wrote a song that had Julian of Norwich’s famous words as the chorus. It is a statement of great, almost untenably great, hope: all will be well. As America goes through another round of turmoil on account of police killing another innocent person of color, it is important to cling to this great hope: there is a peace coming. For Julian (and I), it is a religious, eschatological hope in its totality; in its partial, unfinished, earthly form, it is a hope that we can keep making progress toward the justice and equality that were promised for all but that have not yet arrived for all. Whether or not Blue Water Highways holds to the eschatological version, the reverence that this track holds within it point longingly toward better while sitting in the midst of evil. The track itself is a beautiful fusion of highway-weathered folk-rock, Springsteen-ian anthem, and subtle synthesizer touches. It’s layered and lovely, bearing the weight of hope lightly. Highly recommended.
2. “Birds and Daisies” – Racoon Racoon. Not quite sure why the name Racoon Racoon isn’t on everyone’s lips yet, as their continued run of brilliant singles is a marvel to behold. Dancing between acoustic folk, formal pop, and indie-pop, the delightful vocal melodies, delicate vocal tone, and excellent song development all come together into yet another fantastic track. Seriously: if you like any sort of guitar-based pop music at all, you need to listen to Racoon Racoon.
3. “Missing Piece” – Marika Takeuchi. This piano-led composition starts off delicate with careful piano and subtle strings, then swells to a big conclusion with electronics, a swooping string soloist, and a dense arrangement. It’s a lovely, melancholy piece that yet looks toward hope.
4. “Spiralling (Max Cooper remix)” – Alex Banks. More than seven minutes of swirling, arpeggiator-heavy techno goodness. The chronological scope is met by a sense of cinematic scope, as the remix pulls back on the freight-train techno cut this could have been, minimizing (but not eliminating) the snare and the kick in favor of texture and body.
5. “Alpha Orionis” – Juffbass. Juffbass took his bass-and-drums post-rock tune “Mountain Highs, Salty Eyes” from his most recent release and collaborated with Marton Gyorog to add electric guitar and synths to it. The result is a fuller, more spacey version of the tune that has enough of its own direction with the new additions to have a new title to the song.
6. “Crow” – Sam Carand. Organ drone morphs into a beat-heavy, piano-led instrumental track that evokes the jazz / post-rock of GoGoPenguin. It’s got groove and punch.
7. “Don’t Go” – GoGoPenguin. Speaking of GoGoPenguin, they’re still spinning singles out into the world, and they’re all still amazing. This one puts the spotlight on the bassist, giving him full room to experiment and deliver melodies over an ostinato piano line on prepared piano. As a bassist, this is just the best. GoGoPenguin continue to push the bounds of post-rock and jazz in delightful and luminous ways.
8. “Orbital” – Crowd Company (feat. Ryan Zoidis & Eric Bloom). This funk cut is a punchy, confident strut that draws in old-school spy vibes, big band jazz bravado, and moody/spacey sections. It conveys the mystery and allure of space very well. Also it’s funky as all get-out.
9. “The Romance” – Winterwood. Slowcore electric guitar paints a wind-scraped landscape, while a solo violin makes its way carefully but gracefully across that barren earth. Gentle percussion provides accents to the work. It’s like if Balmorhea got very, very sad.
10. “Finish It” – Align in Time. This is a post-rock tune with more than a little punk in its blood, from the chord-mashing guitar intro to the straightforward drums to the punk rock bass rhythms. It stops and suddenly opens up into sections of expansive post-rock to counterbalance the punk ideals, but this one’s for the people who like the “rock” part of post-rock.
11. “Amber Eyes” – Juan Torregoza. A lightly psychedelic instrumental post-rock (post-indie-pop?) track that puts a lot of space between each of the instruments, giving a woozy, expansive feel to the work.