I’ve been buried under work for my day job recently and dealing with a whole lot outside work too. But all difficult seasons pass! Spring comes after winter. And lo, I’m trying to get the IC backlog back down. Here are some singles from … uh … July onward that are good and that you should listen to. These are in chronological order from when they arrived in my inbox.
1. “Howl at the Moon” – The Rough & Tumble. This engaging track has the dignity and maturity of grown-up folk while maintaining the enthusiasm and powerful melodies of folk-pop. The us-against-the-world, we’ll-go-it-alone mentality only adds to the great vibe. The arrangement is perfect, too; it perfectly enhances the mood created by the vocals and lyrics.
2. “Remote” – Tyler Berd. Berd’s latest anti-folk track consists of hyper-specific, stream-of-consciousness lyrics unspooling against a delightfully unstructured acoustic backdrop. It’s like a cross between The Mountain Goats, Daniel Johnston (RIP), and old-school Joe Pug. It’s pretty short, but it rewards multiple listens.
3. “Discover” – Kazyak. This is a get-high-and-listen-to-Kazyak major-key psychedelic jam straight out of the ’70s. It is six minutes long and I’d be disappointed if it isn’t twice that live. The vocal performance here is particularly inspired, which is not something that you get with jammy psych; this has all the best aspects of classic psych rock with few of the downsides. And I thought Kazyak was a folk outfit! Imagine.
4. “Crooked Games” – Moon Under Water. Here’s an impressive, moody indie-rock track that features an exultant chorus and outro tempered by an unusually calm vocal delivery. It makes me think back when indie rock meant “weird types of rock that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else,” because this is certainly atypical to big, bombastic rock. A very compelling track for fans of Manchester Orchestra, et al.
5. “American Fever Dream” – Matthew Squires. There’s a moment that people who stick around with an artist long enough get sometimes get to experience: the moment where you realize that the talent has become fully realized and everything from here on out is on a different plane. The moment for Matthew Squires is teased at about 20 seconds into this song, but the real moment is at 1:04. I won’t spoil it for you, but I got shivers and goosebumps on the first listen and again on the second listen. Squires’ squirrelly slacker-rock compositions are leveled up here, and his propensity for cryptic and religious lyrics is streamlined into zinging satire/commentary using the same themes. This is a winner, and if the rest of the album is like this, we’re gonna have a whole lot of album on our hands very soon.
6. “Visions of America” – Matthew Squires. PREVIOUS ANALYSIS CONFIRMED. We have quite an album on our hands here. Go get this album immediately.
7. “Showoff” – Black Violin. If you need some pump-up music today, here’s Black Violin mashing up classical composition and sick beats the way only they know how. This is awesome. The video is great too.
8. “Really Deep Snow” – Lindstrøm. Was I looking for nine minutes of pulsing, icy, ominous techno this morning? No. Am I thrilled to receive it? You bet I am.
9. “mind” – Mouse on the Keys. If you want adventurous composition, you can always count on Mouse on the Keys, who take jazz, post-rock, math-rock, and synth-rock and just ruthlessly mash them together. There is no one quite like Mouse on the Keys, and we are all better for it. This one has guitars that sound like Anamanaguchi’s, which is just the sweet, sweet icing on the cake.
10. “Ubuntu” – Desingly. My love of ’90s Beck makes me a big fan of this chill-beats-and-acoustic-instruments jam. It’s good-natured, good songwriting, and just good.
11. “Stack the Miles” – Gabriel Birnbaum. The ghost of Elliot Smith hangs over this one in the songwriting and production choices, and that’s a good thing. The melodies are haunting and lovely.
12. “Dawn Chorus” – Racoon Racoon. The male and female voices blend together here perfectly, creating a lilting, sun-dappled, charming folk tune.
13. “Best” – Young Mister. The world can always use more romantic, gentle pop love songs that talk about taking care of each other. Take care of each other out there.