1. “Monolith 1” – The Kompressor Experiment. Here’s 15 minutes and 43 seconds of gloriously thunderous post-rock/post-metal that draws its inspiration from Kubrick’s 2001. Need I say more?
2. “Ocean in a Drop” – GoGo Penguin. This churning, dense piece resists classification. Is it a post-rock piece being played by a jazz trio? Is it experimental jazz? Is it something entirely different? Whatever it is, it is wildly engrossing and deeply interesting. The bass gets a lot to do, which I very much enjoy.
3. “White” – Liam Pitcher. This is the first track of the first album of an eleven-album synchronous release. Ambition much? The solo piano work is delicate and lovely; it’s very sweet but with notes of dissonance throughout. It is evocative of the Japanese video game soundtracks (FFVIII in particular) that Pitcher grew up on. (Full Disclosure: IC writer Lisa Whealy is doing the PR for this.)
4. “Blackberry Wine” – Jon Bennett. If you think that they don’t make folk singers like they used to, then you’ll love the early ’60s finger-pickin’ folk of Jon Bennett. It’s evocative of a singer whose name rhymes with Rob Millen.
5. “His Name Was the Color That I Loved” – the Good Graces. A sentimental, touching ode to a male family figure (grandfather? father?) in the tried-and-true alt-country vein: train-track drums, crunchy lead guitar, and acoustic guitar. The Good Graces are always a safe bet, and this one pays off in spades.
6. “Rush to Spark” – Foxes in Fiction. The former chillwaver has settled neatly into a dream-pop vein, taking some (some) of the big synth washes away in lieu of more intricate, delicate arrangements here. The feathery vocals are a great touch over the keys and gently insistent percussion beat.
7. “Bruises on Your Shoulders” – Thirsty Curses. A piano-driven folk-pop jam that’s a cross between the Lumineers’s pop chops and The (old-school) Avett Brothers’ vocal enthusiasms. The tune is about suddenly realizing you’ve become an adult out of nowhere, which I certainly have experienced more than once.
8. “Holding On” – Tracy Shedd. Shedd is moving in the opposite direction from Foxes in Fiction, going from an introspective singer-songwriter space into a dancy, electro-pop-inspired vein. It’s not quite the big dance-pop of her other project The Band and the Beat, but it’s got stacked big synths and a lot of forward motion accompanying Shedd’s intimate vocals and lyrics. It’s a head-bobber.
9. “At Night They Race Through the Stars” – Clara Engel. If you’re down for some vocal-centric slowcore acoustic work, Clara Engel has you covered. The slow-paced, slow-motion-fingerpicking tune has atmosphere to spare from solid supporting cello work.
10. “Johnny Went Off to War” – The Long Farewells. Here’s a historically-inspired (although it could be about any war at any time, the mark of a true folk song) folk song with a tragic ending. The arrangement is spartan but effective, and the female vocals are strong.
11. “Something in the Background” – Samuel. Funky, soulful, downtempo instrumental work with a sax as the lead voice. I’m sure someone somewhere is claiming this as some variant of jazz, too. Whatever you call it, it’s chill and would work great in the chill-out section of your next party playlist.
12. “O World! I Remain No Longer Here” – Glacier. I’m far from the first person to note this, but the fact that crushing post-rock band Glacier named their latest release No Light Ever is basically all you need to know about this release. There’s so much heavy guitar distortion here on this track that you’d be forgiven for thinking Glacier is a metal or doom band. This stuff is sludged-out to the max–until it goes almost silent. This is quiet/loud/quiet taken to its utter extreme. Oh, and it’s 14 minutes long.