Pop, Light and Dark
1. “Just What I Needed” – Wonderful Humans. Whatever the opposite of “reign of terror” is, WH is on that path. Their seemingly endless stream of high-energy, ’80s-inspired dance-pop singles continues with this tropical track.
2. “Summertime” – Ships Have Sailed. ShS are also on a hot streak: this latest tune is some combination of the Cars and All-American Rejects.
3. “Eternal Sunshine” – Memoryy. Yep, you can hook me with any invocation of steel drums. (They’re just so happy!) The rest of the track besides the chorus splits the difference between nu-disco and glitchy clicking–always fun.
4. “Too Damn Good” – JOA. The inimitable Jesse Owen Astin is back to making guitar-rock/electro-pop mini epics, and this one is a builder that grows to a huge apex and then fades away.
5. “She Speaks the Wave” – The Nursery. This song would have fit right in on radio when Interpol, The Killers, and The Bravery were all towering. Some real sleek, solid dance-rock here.
6. “Drive” – Ships Have Sailed. You know when Jimmy Eat World goes for a ballad but still gotta have the angsty energy? Ships Have Sailed power through this track with that same feel.
7. “Tears” – Prints. Dark, clubby electronic pop songs.are a dime a dozen, but Prints float above the pack by balancing your emotional needs with your club needs.
8. “Earth Not Above” – HÆLOS. Cinematic, evocative trip-hop mixed with some modern beats? Sign me up.
9. “Underlined Passages From Your Books” – Underlined Passages. Here’s some lush, walking-speed romance from members formerly of indie-rockers The Seldon Plan. Combining early ’00s indie-pop melodies with early ’00s emo guitar tone is a sweet spot these days.
1. “When You Think of Me” – Little Cinema. I was enjoying the Generationals-style pop AND THEN A WICKED SAX SOLO APPEARED OUT OF NOWHERE.
2. “Carriages” – Li Xi. Fuzzed-out riffs get shoved under perky vocals, triumphant synths, and a shuffling beat, creating a memorably odd, dreamy indie-pop tune.
3. “Give a Little Love” – Lunchbox. Quirky, cheery, eccentric Elephant 6-style pop somehow morphs into a Burt Bacharach string arrangement and lounge vibes, which is an impressive trick.
4. “Drench You in the Sun” – The Watanabes. Not as sunshiny as you might think; way smoother than you probably guessed. Some real nice indie-pop with horns here.
5. “Sleep” – Summer Heart. Was the phrase hypnagogic pop a non-starter? If so, then here’s some great, peppy chillwave. Great melodies and vibes throughout.
6. “Age of Isolation” – Mystery Pills. Twee meets chiptune. SIGN ME UP.
7. “Worth Your While” – Wonderful Humans. Somewhere, Vangelis is rejoicing that his style is alive and well. Vintage ’80s synth-pop matched up with modern indie vocal lines and melodies. Awesome.
8. “Jack and the Giant” – A Love Like Pi. You know that lovely feeling when you’re about to drift off to sleep in the arms of someone you love, and all seems right in the world even if just for a moment? This is what that sounds like.
8. “Safety” – Jasia. Starts out as not much: spare clicks and pops meeting some keening falsetto. But Jasia molds, shapes, and crafts the parts into a booming, M83-like track by the end. Whoa.
9. “Wyn” – Ashan. Do you need eight minutes of ethereal ahs over clicky chillwave-inspired electro? Of course you do. I can see myself both chilling out to this and getting my dance on in a real hip club.
Mid-year pt 2: Acoustic Happy / Acoustic Sad
1. “High Up” – Wonderful Humans. WH has it all together to make perfect indie-pop: energy, enthusiasm, twee instruments, percussive elements, and melodies galore. Wonderful Humans is really good.
2. “Big River” – Wonderful Humans. ANOTHER WH TUNE BECAUSE I DO WHAT I WANT AND IT’S GOOD FOR YOU. WHOA-OH-OH-OH, WHOA-OH-OH-OH.
3. “Clams” – Pepa Knight. Exuberant indie-pop filtered through a Hindi-pop lens. It’s enveloping and enthralling. I’ve been super pleased with both of Pepa Knight’s singles so far.
4. “Give Me a Drug that Works Forever” – One Finger Riot. Mid-tempo Brit-pop, burbling electro, and American indie-pop collide in an infectious, memorable tune.
5. “Girls” – Slow Magic. Chillwave meets The Album Leaf meets Pogo. I APPROVE.
6. “Run Run Run” – Jenny Scheinman. Scheinman has a strong voice and a deft Americana songwriting touch. You won’t be able to ignore Scheinman much longer.
7. “Black Crow” – Juliette Jules. A voice mature beyond her years, songwriting beautiful beyond expectations, and production of excellent quality: Jules has everything working for her on this gorgeous, tender track.
8. “Wedding Day” – Anand Wilder and Maxwell Kardon. The lyrics grabbed me by the throat, and the folky/celebratory arrangement kept me involved. This is an impressive tune.
9. “Green Eyes” – Cancellieri. Originally by Coldplay, Cancellieri strips some of the pop sheen from this and gives it a romantic intimacy befitting the gorgeous lyrics.
10. “Is What It Is” – She Keeps Bees. This female-fronted singer/songwriter track is stately, composed, and elegant without becoming icy or distant. SKB creates great atmosphere here.
11. “Confederate Burial” – Snowblind Traveler. Snowblind Traveler matches up the icy arrangements of For Emma and the traditional melodies of old-school Americana to great effect.
12. “Blue Valentine” – Bloom. If you’re a fan of the sad but not hopeless sound that Pedro the Lion made, Bloom will scratch your itch for it with this beautiful track.
13. “Hold on to Your Breath” – Sleepy Tea. These Aussies live up to their name with a relaxing, refreshing vibe reminiscent of a slightly more energetic Parachutes-era Coldplay. Just a beautiful track.
1. “Holy Ghost” – Michael Flynn. Flynn spent more time in the Radiohead school of electronica than in the club, it appears: Haunting, hooky, high falsetto.
2. “Time Between” – Bear in Heaven. I think we have reached the point where classic rock and indie rock are essentially the same. We could put Bear in Heaven on tour with like half the bands from the ’80s OR The Steve Miller Band and it would be totally cool. This song rules, by the way.
3. “Retro” – After Party. Autotune meets gospel towering meets pulsing electro. Get your slinky dance on.
4. “God’s Oscillator” – Vial of Sound. PROTIP: If you want to catch my attention, namedrop LCD Soundsystem in your press release. Vial of Sound’s new track features some ex-LCD musicians, even though it sounds more like Daft Punk.
5. “I Never Knew” – Wonderful Humans. Big synths, big melodies, airy harmonies: it’s the formula these days. And it still works.
6. “The Dancer” – Villiers. This dark synth-pop track rides the line between ominous and sultry.
7. “Fancy” – Starlight Girls. WHOA, THEY WENT DISCO. FULL DISCO.
8. “My Heart” – Werebearcat! It’s a ballad! It’s a slow jam! It’s an indie electro track! It’s Superman!
I’ve got a bunch of MP3s in queue, so here’s batch one! Batch two comes tomorrow.
1. “Ashes” – Island Boy. Filters ’80s vibes through an Instagram filter and comes out the other side with earnest post-dub beauty. Good math.
2. “I Need a Summer” – Pizza Friday. If Pavement had been interested in surf-rock, they may have come out like this. Way summer, y’all.
3. “Edge of the Night” – Wonderful Humans. Pop-rock guitars plus Chariots of Fire synths plus female vocals is also good math.
4. “Little Earthquakes” – Imperial Mammoth. It’s a bold move to throw #mariahcarey on your track, but this fuzzy, chillwave-inspired pop tune pulls it off with panache.
5. “Plastic Sun” – The Widest Smiling Faces. Chillwave meets lo-fi, and it’s a dreamy, blissful pairing.
6. “Harold Camping” – Le Rug. Because who doesn’t want a post-punk tune about a failed apocalypse predictor?
7. “Lend a Hand” – The Feel Bad Hit of the Winter. Reverb-friendly punk rock from a band with a great name.
8. “Feeling Good” – Vienna Ditto. Spaghetti Western drama infused with sci-fi sounds and Portishead’s sultry vocals. It’s like a Tarantino sci-fi (why has that not happened yet?).
9. “Lush” – The Tontons. Ever since SXSW 2012, this band’s soul/indie/rock has been blowin’ up. Catch it on the way up and be in the know.
10. “Look Like You’re Not Looking [Ex Reyes Remix]” – Jonah Parzen-Johnson. JPJ transforms the saxophone, that most stereotyped of instruments, into something mindbending. Ex Reyes mindbends that mindbending. Whoa now.
11. “Hummingbird” – Armand Margjeka. That tension between speedy delivery and chill instrumental performance is intriguing. Really interesting singer/songwriter work here.