1. “Inana” – Camel Power Club. Crossing “Wraith Pinned to the Mist”-era Of Montreal bass lines, squiggly Vampire Weekend synth melodies, and old-school Lord Huron vocals, this tune creates one of the most sunny and infectious tunes I have heard in a long time.
2. “Blindfold” – Martha Hill. I love stacked vocals, and I love it when stacked vocals compose the majority of the track. Hill is a little more orthodox than Imogen Heap in her aesthetic tastes, but fans of Heap will find much to love in Hill’s all-vocals-everywhere approach to indie-pop. The first verse and chorus are just fantastic.
3. “Time Stamp” – A Starving Viking. A simple folk tune with an engaging vocal line, a subtle-yet-strong arrangement, and a travelin’ song mood. It takes a lot to get me hooked on a folk song these days, but A Starving Viking nailed it.
4. “Thirty Days” – We Are Strangers. Anyone who plays the lead melody of the track on a theremin is going to catch my attention. The world-weary track has the light touch of an early Josh Radin song but a much more concrete and earthy approach to the vocals. It’s a solid indie-folk/adult alternative track reminiscent of Peter Bradley Adams in some respects.
5. “We Stole Your Head” – Mountain Head. The low-key vibe of Spoon, the bluesy rock of the Black Keys, and the richly arch electro of Spiritualized all come together into a great slowburn rock track. The chorus is absolutely ace.
6. “Mystics” – Frank LoCrasto. If you told my 18-year-old self that 13 years later I’d be covering instrumental retro tropicalia for fun, my 18-year-old self would definitely not have believed you. But lo, here we are: LoCrasto’s command of the specific vibe of ’70s/’80s tropicalia is impressive–the synths touch the right feel, the hand percussion is spot-on (which is a big deal, coming from me), and the overall piece is just fun.
7. “Oussou I Need You” – Nate Kohrs. I’m on a big sci-fi kick these days, and boy, do sci-fi books love gritty urban settings (either on earth or in space somewhere). This instrumental piece could fit excellently into the soundtrack of a sci-fi novel, as tension, mystery, grit, electronics, and ghostly sounds combine to make a perfect build-to-big-event track. The layering here is excellent.
8. “Let It Go” – Kelly Lee Owens. I’m still real green when it comes to writing about electronic music, but man if this doesn’t sound to me like old-school, original-vibes techno from Detroit. It’s got that raw, I-don’t-care-this-will-take-as-long-as-it-takes vibe. Aggressive, minimal, impressive.
9. “Observable Future” – Carmen Villain. A subtle, simple beat and two intertwining flutes provide the majority of this 8-minute tune. It’s a mesmerizing bit of low-key flow.
10. “Sleeper” – Trentemøller. This is an impressive bit of downtempo electro magic that manages to be quiet but also intense: the build here is highly unusual, moving through thick synths and acoustic percussion into various moments. The sound is liquid, amorphous, but still focused–it’s both smooth and tough. It’s really, really cool.
11. “Stars” – Alex Tiuniaev. This is the first piece in a five-piece piano suite about outer space. How can I not be into that? The piece itself is an adagio walk, a elegant piece of sonorous magic that eschews harsh dissonance in favor of delicate resonances and harmonies. It’s a lovely bit of piano
12. “Solid Influence” – Go Gracious. A big, bold, charming, Bastille-esque pop anthem about a partner’s drinking problem. The video is an equally charming take on the “dancing in public places” genre.
13. “Feel Nuthin’” – Keon Masters. A solo album from a member of IC faves Brave Baby is on the way, and this is the excellent lead single. Pulling fragments of Generationals bass lines, Vampire Weekend Afro-blitz, ’90s kit beats, and ’80s soaring pop vocals, this is summery indie pop par excellence.
14. “Mary Always” – Khruangbin. Khruangbin’s unclassifiable instrumental work is always fascinating. Here we have hand percussion, ’70s-style guitar modifications (or maybe they’re keys?), easy-going bass, and a solid groove created by the whole arrangement. Very interesting.
15. “Jagged Mountain Melts at Dawn (part I)” – Prana Crafter. Who doesn’t want 9 and a half minutes of woolly, foresty, psych guitar unspooling at a patient pace? This gentle, exploratory, moody-yet-organic psych is really interesting to me; it defies the conventions of being multi-colored and flashy as well as being cold and slow, fitting nicely in between those two.