1. “Eurasia” – TENGGER. I love long, repetition-heavy electronic work with subtle variations, particularly when it’s got bouncy arpeggiator work, major keys, and good moods for days. This one is a joy to listen to.
2. “Ursa Maior” -Amphères. The melancholy, jazzy, walking-speed closer of an album of post-rock/dream-pop, this track shows off Amphères’ range by being evocative outside of song structure and big songwriting moves. This is a little track that wanders in, tells its tale, and wanders out. Lovely.
3. “Night” – Kelly Lee Owens. A dreamy arpeggio plus a quick blip of an alarm make for a woozy sonic palette forming the basis of this techno jam. Breathy vocals and staccato, syncopated bass rhythms fill in the rest of the track, which zooms along for five minutes. It’s a compelling, club-ready work.
4. “F Maj Pixie” – GoGoPenguin. My wife is incredulous that I’ve started reviewing jazz. This is partly because she’s never heard me listen to jazz (I listen on headphones while working), but also because there is a pretty enormous impasse between folk-pop and jazz. She said that if I ever find a jazz album that explains why I’m into jazz, she’ll listen to it. After hearing the three singles of GoGoPenguin’s latest, I feel like this record might be the one that explains it. The trio here is just fully locked-in, creating whirling, expansive, intricately interlocking work that is as much post-rock in its fervor as it is jazz in its specific instrumentation. The sudden half-time breakdown that closes the piece is hilariously hardcore for a jazz/post-rock piece. I love it.
5. “tremendoce” – Otis Sandjsö. The sound of the flute has grown on me over the years, but it’s never been my go-to instrument. Sandjsö & co. built a fun, tropical, ’70s psychedelia jazz jam around an excellent flute sample; the flute gives the whole piece its throwback vibe, while the rest of the work flips back and forth between beats and jazz runs.
6. “Thirds (Seeing Clearly)” – Brendan Eder. Peppy, funky bass meshes with playful woodwinds to create a snappy, fun, and elegant jazz-inspired piece. Minus the lead sax runs, it could be a supremely lush hip-hop beat. With the sax, it’s a minor adventure: slaloming through bright, sun-dappled ideas one after another.
7. “January / Eden, Come Slowly” – The Duke of Norfolk. It’s hard classify the work of The Duke anymore, what with all the electronic bits swirling about the ostinato acoustic guitar, the swooping clarinet, the heraldic trumpet, the soaring vocals, and more. What I can say is that there’s not many folks making such sweeping, all-encompassing music that retains a full heart and a full throat. (Disclosure: I managed the Duke from 2009-2014.)
8. “Train-Train” – Koki Nanako. This frenetic, barely-controlled piece of piano fury is accompanied by a modern dance that is perfectly fit to the mood of the tune. A male dancer in an abandoned, derelict skyscraper seems to lose control of his body over the course of the tune. The vibe of the clip and the piece is very Fight Club (although the artist notes that the clip is more directly indebted to Kurosawa), which is not something you say about piano solo pieces that often. What a workout.
9. “Carousel” – L’Eclair. Retro synth sounds languor over a funky bass line, headbobbing percussion, staccato guitar stabs and flowing flute for a tune with a delectably ’70s vibe.
10. “(You Are) Encanto” – Zipten. The breathy, tropical vibe here is driven forward by the bass and the beat, creating a satisfying push and pull between tropical chill and electro punchiness.