1. “Mission Plan” – Matthew Shaw. Shaw’s electro-pop is in fine form here, relying on distorted bleeps and bloops to convey his evocative, emotive vocals. There’s a new sense of forward motion in this track, despite lyrics as frustrated with modern life as ever. There’s even a “doo-doo-dooooo” outro vocal line. Getting positively thrilled there, Matt! Highly recommended.
(Ed. note: I can think of few ways to better celebrate the 17th birthday of this humble little blog than to feature an artist that I first covered in 2004, only 18 months into the life of Independent Clauses. Thank you to everyone for the last 17 years.)
2. “Blown Up” – tg. When I learned that tg was in Harlem Shakes and helped create one of my favorite indie-rock songs of 2009, I was intrigued. When I found that tg (aka Todd Goldstein) is now purveying Steve Reich-ian electronic dance music (which is now pretty much what I want to listen to all the time), I was absolutely thrilled. “Blown Up” is a mesmerizing track full of round sounds and pitter-patter arpeggios. The bass is low in the mix, almost hidden, as the hypnotic treble lines take full focus. It’s a brilliant, immediately-charming first impression from Goldstein. I’m in love. Highly recommended.
3. “All Power for Women” – ^L_. The title is affirming and supportive. Everything else about this heavy, harsh techno cut is not. This falls in the vein of Adam X’s work with Traversable Wormhole: thumping bass hits, lots of forward motion, very little melody, very little atmosphere, lots and lots of attitude. It rips.
4. “A Sunset But Farther Away” – Yesterday and the Undoing. An acoustic guitar and wordless vocals form the entirety of this piece; the wordless vocals accentuate the yearning feel of the chord-based guitar work. In these times where so much is happening and yet I feel I have so little to helpfully say, a wordless piece expresses a great deal for me.
5. “I Drink Too Much Vermouth” – Chaperone Picks. If we’re going to be doing quarantine albums, of course there will be one from Chaperone Picks. The lo-fi wizard of Minnesota has 10 more lo-fi, four-track candies for fans of the form. The upbeat “I Drink Too Much Vermouth” opens up the record with a confident statement of CP’s style: an expert’s touch at off-the-cuff instrumental performances and tossed-off lyrics that stick, in and out of context.
6. “Distantimacy” – JPH. This 21-minute piece is somewhere between ambient, found-sound, and outsider composition. It relies heavily on loops of vocal, textural, and instrumental elements, creating a space that’s not quite as all-encompassing as a drone, more spiky and gappy than an ambient piece, and heavily ostinato (like Steve Reich, an influence of JPH’s). A true experience.
7. “Diamonds and Gold (Instrumental)” – The Gray Havens. Just like Josh Garrels went and released instrumental versions of all his records, TGH has given their catalogue the vocal-less treatment. This wordless version of my favorite TGH electro-pop jam accentuates aspects of the arrangement that are lost in the euphoric vocal performances: some intriguing guitar lines, lovely accent synth lines, and more. Way fun. Can’t wait to listen to the rest of their discography like this.
8. “Yugen” – Home Brewed Universe. Prolific musician Arka Sengupta (Home Brewed Universe, Mixtaped Monk) has made a giant leap on this track. His guitar-led post-rock meshes its many parts brilliantly here: lead guitar lines fit with drums, piano, and synths to create a dense track with a strong mood. Sengupta is growing into a strong, evocative songwriter right before our ears.
9. “Strength” – Dan Drohan. Zipping, zooming, booming, crashing sounds all merge into a semblance of a groove by the end of this experimental track from percussionist Drohan.
10. “Manhorse” – Husbands. The peppy, garage-y indie-rock here is great, but the video from Lamar+Nik is particularly cool and noteworthy. Using an old-school technique called “scanimation”, they put a unique twist on a video. It culminates in one of my favorite approaches/images: light/images being superimposed on people’s faces. Just a good all-around piece of work.