1. “Calliope” – Zorita. Sleek, thoughtful, emotional, carefully crafted–this is top shelf indie-pop. The horns that float effortlessly around the intricate guitar work are like the best icing you could imagine on an already-great cake. Highly recommended.
2. “Post-Youth Depression” – Joe Russell-Brown. Post-Pavement, post-Weezer slacker-rock that retains the slurry, easygoing nature of the vocals, the big guitars, and the youth-culture lyrics of both bands. The guitar melodies are great, but you already could have guessed that.
3. “Killing in the Name” – Brass against the Machine feat. Sophia Urista. A brass band takes the RATM standard-bearer and turns out their own huge, ferocious version. Sophia Urista is appropriately and excellently furious.
4. “Pistol Twisted Tongue” – Jack Ellis. Every time I think I’m done with guitar rock, a song comes out of nowhere and just knocks me flat. Ellis makes hard-charging guitar and frantic vocals sound like a revelation. This sounds way more like Clutch than it does the Vaccines, but hey, you never know when the song will move you.
5. “Blue Sun” – Hellens. Starts off with a full-on assault of shoegaze guitars, but mixes the male/female duo vocals up in the mix like an indie-rock song would in parts. (There are some distant/gauzy vocals as well.) It gives this quality tune some unique texture. The drums and bass also do a fantastic job of selling the song.
6. “Sometime” – Temples of Youth. Minimalist, deconstructed ’80s synth-pop that yet retains soul, emotion, and mood. The vocal performance breathes life into a well-crafted composition of skittering beats, icy synths and bonking synth noises.
7. “Say You Love Me Too” – Jonathan Bree. Is this cool or scary or both? There’s a great, loping bass line; ghostly synths; distant noises; rock-solid percussion; and oddly/perfectedly affected vocals that make “say you love me too” sound less like a come on and more like a threat. It’s definitely unique. The video, which uses morph suits to make all the performers seem like living mannequins, drives home the mood and the concept of the tune even more.
8. “The Fawn of Teal Deer” – Lucille Furs. Post-Beatles psych-pop that hits all the right notes vocally, lyrically, and in the strong guitar work.
9. “Brigands and Seafaring Landlubbers” – The Complete Set. Somewhere between ’70s psych, ’90s Brit-pop, and contemporary post-rock sits this intriguing instrumental track that features funky, roving bass.
10. “Archer Jane” – Nathan Felix. The orchestral composer takes a break from the ensemble to compose a synth-heavy soundtrack for a sci-fi movie. This opening track sounds like a cross between the eeriness of Tron and the sweeping adventurousness of a Star Trek theme.