1. “Jou-Tau” – Mong Tong 夢東. In what feels like several years ago but really was just in January and February of this year, I embarked on a project to listen to two songs from every country in the world. I learned a lot about music and the world, but I was particularly struck by the mysterious, funky, psychedelic energy of Southeastern Asian music of ’70s-’90s. It’s got a lot of vibes you would associate with American music of the same time, but featuring traditional East Asian tones, rhythms, and instruments thrown in. Taiwanese outfit Mong Tong 夢東 captures that energy brilliantly here, creating a sort of funk / soundtrack / East Asian jam. Highly recommended.
2. “Délicieux (live in Lille / tour video)” – Closet Disco Queen. I love unadorned metal/hardcore/post-hardcore guitar riffs. I trace this back to IC coverage of 2005’s “Good Business Moves” by the Felix Culpa, which has an absolutely monster riff that still blows the top off every time it thunders in. “Délicieux” is basically one long stream of riffs with acrobatic percussion running along right beside. If you need a shot of pure adrenaline, 1:14-2:44 of this track will absolutely provide that. I want to get into a mosh pit over this. I haven’t been in a mosh pit in almost 15 years. It’s that good. Highly recommended.
3. “Not Right Now” – Derrick Hodge. So far in my experiments in jazz, I’ve leaned toward the funky, the post-rock-oriented (GoGoPenguin), the conceptual (Chassol), and the electronic-crossover stuff (Jonah Parzen-Johnson, BEATMUSIC). I have not yet been yet enticed by soulful jazz work, but Hodge’s deeply emotive, evocative, squiggly work is indeed soulful. Your mileage may vary on if it works as an aphrodisiac, but I could imagine it would push some buttons for the right type of person.
4. “Praxis” – mouse on the keys. Speaking of post-rock-oriented jazz, mouse on the keys is serving up some great work in that vein. (As of this year, I’d pay a lot to see motk and GoGoPenguin on the same stage.) The piano/drums/upright bass format lends itself to intimate performances, but this tune gets expansive and exploratory in a hurry.
5. “Improvisation in D Minor (For the Right Hand Alone)” – Liam Pitcher. This piece isn’t just in D Minor, it’s in D Double Harmonic Minor. It’s technically brilliant, compositionally rewarding (especially for being an improvisation), and just wildly impressive (one hand!) I am not much for solo piano, but this jumps off the page. (Full disclosure: IC writer Lisa Whealy handles press for Liam.)
6. “楽園はない – No Paradise” – 17 Years Old and Berlin Wall. Japanese dream-pop with male/female vocals and shoegaze tendencies? Sign me up. This is impeccably written and produced. Also, that is an A+ band name right there.
7. “No Kings” – Worry Party. A hazy, windy ambient backdrop allows for sounds to meander across the stage before coalescing into a subtle formation, like Tycho at his most restrained. Beautiful.
8. “Sun Goes Down” – Joe Hawkes. I’ve listened to Paul Simon’s Graceland dozens and dozens of times in my life, and it sounds like Hawkes has as well. The perky yet subtle major-key arrangements rely more on vibe than on big moves to make their mark, although the vocal melody and percussion have plenty to commend on their own merits. It’s a worthy contribution to the Graceland vibe.
9. “Vodou Alé” by Chouk Bwa & The Ångstromers. This combines thumping electronic beats with traditional “Afro-Caribbean voodoo polyrhythms” and call-and-response vocals to create something I’ve never heard before.
10. “Always Around” – Westwego. A relaxed, back-porch folk rumination gets a hectic, manic video of puppets (or perhaps actors? or both?) that devolves into chaos in strict contradiction with the vibe of the music. Feels like quarantine: a lot of chaos but really everything is slow.
11. “Drawn” – Trevor Ransom. Starts off ambient before introducing Ransom’s gentle vocals; transitions from there to a sweeping, cinematic piece with lots of tension. A lovely composition.
12. “Save Me” – Xaatu. Xaatu provides some head-bobbing, satisfying ODESZA-style post-dub. The processed female vocals make me think of Pogo, as well.