1. “The Battle Is Over (But The War Goes On)” – Oliver Wood. This iconic song first captivated Wood through via Levon Helm’s cover. However, it was Brownie McGhee with Sonny Terry who redefined its meaning. McGhee and Terry’s grit resonated with Wood, inspiring Wood to further craft and shape the Americana anthem. As we march to the polls counting the days until our country counts the ballots cast, Wood’s musical throwback is available on Bandcamp. Proceeds from the protest song benefit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).–Lisa Whealy
2. “Already Am” – Will Samson & Message to Bears. Beautiful electro/acoustic composition, reminiscent of Balmorhea and the Album Leaf. Just peaceful and beautiful. Highly recommended.
3. “Libration” – DJ Mitsu the Beats. Low key instrumental hip-hop with some ambient pad synths, shuffling percussion, and subtle synth burbles for loungey atmosphere. Like Clams Casino meets space age bachelor pad.
4. “One Family” – The Brilliance. A delicate rumination on the title, including a ticking clock, a lovely piano, gentle pizzicato strings, whispered vocals, and a sense of awe. Pairs well with Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti.
5. “Woven Song” – Olafur Arnalds. The high-pitched, delicate, distant vocals pair beautifully with the flowing piano work and textural string work. This is deeply peaceful, soul-enlivening work.
6. “High Noon” – Jordan Reyes. A wobbly, woozy, weirdly elegant piece combining drone, chant, guitar, and lap-steel. It’s oddly meditative, despite the very unusual intro.
7. “Oag-ada” – Oaagaada. Pretty sure the title is a pronunciation explanation of their unusual-looking name. The track itself is a jazz effort anchored by strong percussion and bass interaction; it’s got a groove between those two players for almost a minute before legato, wheezy trumpet and come in to contrast the punchy backline. Things get wilder from there, as the trumpet and sax start blasting into the stratosphere. It’s a compelling, fascinating trip.
8. “On Top (Guitar and Flute)” – The Stance Brothers. Combines ’90s hip-hop vibes with ’70s flute-jazz vibes for a smooth, cool, headbobbing jazz track. I love it.
9. “You’re So Cool” – Grey Factor. This electro/krautrock jam was recorded in 1978 and does not for a second sound like it. The layers of analog synths and fractured vocal performances feel current and trusty–the ideas are bright and clear, and the overall product is impressive. Fans of Kraftwerk but also LCD Soundsystem will find much to love here.
10. “Book of Witches” – Jake Aaron. This incredibly spooky and very moody song title is attached to a pensive, warm acoustic guitar rumination. (Trick or treat, heavy on the trick!) Fans of Nick Drake should have their ears perk up pretty quick.
11. “Better” – WUDi. Recipe: Young the Giant’s vulnerable yelps, the bombastic pop force of Bastille, the messy relationships of Taylor Swift, and an Ed Sheeran-big chorus. Stir well. Serve warm. Ultimately, quite the pop song. Impressive.
12. “Smile at First Light” – Grey Goes Black. The cinematic scope of electronically sculpted landscapes (a la Ulrich Schnauss or Tycho) meets the intimate electro-pop of the gloomy side of The Postal Service in a compelling, engaging mix.
13. “Cum Sidera” – Andrée Burelli. Glossy, high-sheen synths cascade (occasionally uncomfortably!) in this ambient/other track. The textures are underpinned by a grumbling, even ominous bass line and completed by Burelli’s straightforward, careful vocals. This is ambient, but not the type that’s supposed to make you feel peaceful–a bit of an off-kilter vibe keeps the listener on her toes.