This set of MP3 drops aren’t arranged by any particular mood or sonic space, as I usually do. Here’s a grab bag! Enjoy the surprises!
1. “Sisters” – ELY. There’s more suspense and payoff than in most novels packed into this four-minute instrumental wonder. The trumpet leads the way throught the deconstructed verses, teasing the listener with what could be, until the rousing full-band jaunt that appears twice. Hooky, interesting, and really worth your time.
2. “Sail” – Seckar. This song has a lot going on: post-rock instrumentation, danceable vibes, electronic grooves, acoustic solemnity, ghostly vocals, and overall a giant sense of fun.
3. “Lips” – Oyster Kids. The tension between the light, Foster the People-like melodies and the slow-moving guitars gives this pop song a neat vibe.
4. “Orange + Blue” – Colored In. Chaotic, hyperactive, multi-colored indie-pop held together through sheer force of will. It’s like some alternate-universe of the Flaming Lips where they didn’t get all paranoid but continued getting weird after Yoshimi.
5. “Plastic” – Howard. The grandeur of trip-hop, the instrumentals of maximalist post-dub, and a clicky percussive sensibility lead this indie-rock track. Sounds like a version of OK Computer, 20 years later.
6. “Tin” – Nearly Oratorio. Weary, dreary, bleary, and yet capable of woozing its way to memorable melodies and comforting moods.
7. “The Mahogany Tower” – Pyramid//Indigo. Dark, brooding, and evocative, this instrumental post-rock piece includes found-sound clips of sermons for extra atmosphere.
8. “Cove” – Kerosene (UK). Vocal gravitas and spartan electric guitar levity combine neatly here to make a serious, mature indie-rock tune that doesn’t feel overburdened or maudlin.
9. “Don’t Waste Another Day” – The Moves Collective. There’s a subtly funky groove, charming melodies, a friendly vibe, and rhythms that make me want to dance. This is acoustic jam done right.
10. “My Situation” – Joseph Tonelli. This gently fingerpicked tune is already enticing before it brings in subtle percussion and beautiful strings–after that it’s impressive.
11. “I Called to Cry” – Nate Henry Baker. For those who’ve gone the Sturgill Simpson / Chris Stapleton route and decided that full-on country music is alright by you, add Nate Henry Baker to your list. This one’s a traditional tears-in-your-beer ballad that wouldn’t feel out of place with The Louvin Brothers or Roy Orbison.
12. “Maybe I Won’t Come Home Tonight” – Meredith Baker. There are millions of troubled-relationship tunes, but this one sticks out above the rest with a gentle guitar, an engaging voice, and that x factor called charm.
1. “Hero” – Starlight Girls. If you mashed up Tusk-era Fleetwood Mac with modern indie-pop sensibilities, you’d have this powerhouse of a pop song. This is the most infectious, irresistible groove of 2016 so far.
2. “Hang On To Yourself (David Bowie Cover)” – Ancient Cities. Bowie didn’t play much of a role in my personal musical development (I was introduced to him in my 20s), but his shadow looms large over many musicians. Ancient Cities drops a worthy tribute to Ziggy here.
3. “Boys That Sing” – Viola Beach. Sometimes the melody, the lyrics, and the vibe just come together for a great pop tune. Puts a smile on my face.
4. “Crazy Eyes” – Brother Moses. BroMo returns with a breezy, peppy tune that builds on their slacker-rock foundation with some scrambling drums, driving bass and twirling guitars. The compelling vocal tone and delivery are as powerful as ever.
5. “Youth Dies Young” – Til We Have Faces. Well here’s something interesting: A major key indie-rock song that thinks it’s an arpeggiator-heavy electro-jam which builds at the speed of a post-rock tune. By the end it’s almost a Here We Go Magic tune. Totally rad.
6. “Fundamental Ground” – TW Walsh. I don’t use the term “floating” that often, but this indie-pop tune has a lot of the elements that you might associate with floating: lazy rhythms, slightly washed-out vibe, hazy elements chilling out in the background of the tune, a vocal line that seems distant-yet-close. It’s beautiful, in a weird way.
7. “Sometimes (One Night)” – The Golden Peppers. Here’s a tight soul arrangement, blanketed with horns and infused with indie-pop vocal melodic flair. Just can’t get enough Nathaniel Rateliff?
8. “Lucky One” – Why We Love. It seems that the major-key, jangly pop-rock tune is not only immortal, but thriving. Everything about this is fun.
9. “Unicorns Get More Bacon” – Marc with a C. The giddy, funny, absurd, fourth-wall-destroying power-pop of Marc with a C is in fine, fine form in this 3-and-a-half minute jam.
10. “Glad to Be Alive” – Memoir. Draws from funk, reggae, and ’90s pop without camping in any of them, this grounded-yet-bouncy tune is led by neat vocal syncopation and and a mood that just brightens a room.
11. “Touch” – Guard. A hypnotic keys melody and a head-bobbing beat make this into the chillest of remix-ready club tunes. Ibiza beaches for this version, Ibiza clubs for the inevitable reworks.
12. “Still Life” – I.W.A. Blissful chillwave, the likes of which I don’t get to hear very often. Just gorgeous stuff here.
13. “Don’t Complain/Don’t Explain” – Bare Mattress. Like a more existential version of The Postal Service, this unassuming indie-pop-electro track sneaks its way into ears and heart.
14. “Glass” – Howard. This is like the indie-electro/post-dub version of a dystopian movie in which everything looks kind of right but is slowly revealed to actually be dystopian. In other words, the slow burn works great.
15. “I Don’t Want to Know Her Name” – Amber Quintero. Lilting, easygoing, spacious bedroom pop that finely balances lyrical intimacy and wide-open pad synth landscapes.