1. “Saturday” – SPORTS. This evanescent (1:13!), earnest, perky garage-rock track hits all the right notes and touches a chord in me. It’s the perfect mix of enthusiasm and grit. Father/Daughter Records is on a roll.
2. “Vultures” – Delta Mainline. Call it Spiritualized at its most arch or acoustic-based ’90s Britpop (Oasis, The Verve) at its most early-morning woozy–this track is a memorable one.
3. “Wall Ball” – Art Contest. Any band that can make math-rock accessible and hooky is greatly to be praised. Art Contest’s impressive technical chops are only overshadowed by their incredible songwriting ones. This song is an adventure.
4. “There’s No Love” – We Are Magnetic. It’s summer, so I need a continuous stream of brash, upbeat dance-rock tunes. This one plays out like a less yelpy Passion Pit, complete with a giant chorus anchored by a soaring melody and backed with a choir. Get your dance on.
5. “Pistoletta” – North by North. Imagine My Chemical Romance had a little more rock and a little less theatrics, or think of late ’60s/early ’70s rock, right as glam was breaking out and wasn’t really there yet. Soaring vocals, rock drama, and crunchy guitars sell it.
6. “Get on the Boat” – Little Red Lung. This female-fronted outfit calls up Florence and the Machine comparisons through its adventurous arrangements (check that booming cello), minor-key vibes, and front-and-center vocals.
7. “Then Comes the Wonder” – The Landing. An ecstatic mishmash of handclaps, burbling synths, piano, and falsetto vocals creates a song that makes me think of a half-dozen disparate sonic influences (Foals, Prince, Fleet Foxes, and the Flaming Lips among them).
8. “Dust Silhouettes” – CFIT. Glitchy electro-pop noises give way to psych-influenced guitar and vocals, all stacked on top of an indie-rock backline. It’s a head-spinner in the best sort of way.
9. “Take Me Away” – Late Nite Cable. The chorus in this song is the electro-pop equivalent of the sun coming out from behind clouds after two days of rain.
10. “ONE” – Moving Panoramas. Sometimes I wonder what people are listening to when they’re walking down the street with headphones in. This feels like it could be one of those things: a walking-speed indie-pop-rock song with excellent bass work, down-to-earth vocals, and a little sense of wonder.
11. “Alien Youth” – The Albino Eyes. Calls back to the time when synth-rock meant The Cars: the zinging, charming synths over slightly-smoothed out garage-rock is nostalgic in the best of ways.
12. “Strangers” – Balaclade. Balancing guitar crunch with feathery vocals makes this an engaging post-’90s-indie-rock track.
13. “Falling” – Here We Go Magic. This warm, swirly, electronics-laden pop-rock tune calls to mind School of Seven Bells, if their sound was a little more tethered to acoustic instrumentation.
Surreality and absurdity have specific meanings to me. Surreal is the type of weird that’s just left of normal; you can feel that it might be normal, but something is just off. It’s the creepy weird, the weird that everyone accepts as normal except you–and you don’t know why. Absurdity is when completely nonsensical things happen all at once and everyone realizes it’s bizarre. Creating absurdity is much easier than creating surreality. The Landing’s video for “We Are” is surreal, in the best way.
Springtime Carnivore’s video for “Name on a Matchbook” is the funniest video I’ve seen all year. Subverting gender stereotypes and tropes? Re-envisioning Springtime Carnivore as a girl-band Beatles? Be still, my fluttering heart.
Quiet Stories’ “When I Come Down” is not necessarily quiet in volume, but the story he tells in this video definitely is a quiet little tale.
Sometimes it’s a single image that gets me in a video. In Bobby Bare Jr.’s “North of Alabama By Morning,” it’s a two-second clip (0:37-38) of the keyboardist grooving so hard. Total dedication to the sound, right there. Also, this song rules.
I watched the whole 5:16 of Sharon Van Etten’s “Your Love is Killing Me” clip because I wanted to know what was happening. Let’s just call the end a baffling one. Van Etten is a towering presence on this track, so if you’re into huge, emotional songs, you can stay for that as well.
If you have dancing in your music video, I will like it a lot. If you have a ballet dancer, I will like it a whole lot. I can’t help it. (“Anxieties” – The Landing)
This one has dancers AND a nifty trick throughout. Muy bueno. (“Sleep” – Little India)
Even if you have only a little dancing, but still a ballet dancer, I’ll like the video. [“The Turnings of the Earth (and Other Observations)” – Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders.]
Seriously though. Any amount of tiny dancer. (Also, “Waiting for My Time to Come” by Colony House is a great use of found footage/public domain work.)
Sometimes you just want something that makes you want to glide. Here are six of those somethings.
1. “Supersonic” – Dynasty Electric. Pulse-pounding dance music with a rubbery, LCD Soundsystem-style bass (which means I’m all, all, all over this).
2. “Forever in Your Debt” – Slow Readers Club. Do you miss old-school Interpol? Apply within for bass lines, night-time vibes, and general cool.
3. “Anxieties” – The Landing. Funky, smooth, quirky, perky: The Landing does it all in five minutes. Props. Mad props.
4. “Your Majesty” – Slack Armada. Song and band name are excellent fits for this tune, which re-appropriates bits that you’d hear in clubby dance hits into something majestic, slow-moving, and chilled out. There are surprises in store, as well; come for the chill, stay for the … well, I’ll let you hear it.
5. “I Want to Tell You Something” – D’Opus. Because you need more sleek, sinuous, futurist instrumental hip-hop in your life.
6. “These Days” – Martha Marlow. Every now and then, I’m totally blown away by a tune. 19-year-old Marlow’s smooth, lithe singer/songwriter performance here is every bit as assertive, clear and interesting as artists 10 years older. Watch out for her in 2014.