1. “A Better Pet” – curtsy. Part of the weirdness that is music blogging (or writing about art in any way, really) is trying to capture something often ineffable in words. There are ways and means and tricks and common practices to try to do this, but sometimes there’s a truly ineffable one. I really like this song by curtsy, and yet it is the type of jangly guitar-rock that I often do not like. Why do I like this one when I don’t like other ones? I have no idea. I can list a few things that stick out, but none of them are the real X factor that makes me think yes: the vocal melodies are good, the recording style is bass-forward (which I love), and the chorus is big and satisfying. All of that together in the exact way they put it together makes it stellar. Here’s to mystery.
2. “Wasted Youth” – Blue Velvet. If you cross the powerhouse melodic punk of The Menzingers with the blitzing enthusiasm of The Vaccines at their most skittish, you’d have this great tune. As those two bands are two of my favorites when it comes to guitar-mashing enthusiasm, I’m basically unable to do anything but love this song.
3. “Old New” – Grandpa Jack. Grandpa Jack’s second single “Old New” from the debut release from the Brooklyn-based old-school rockers is sure to satisfy millennials raised on Led Zeppelin vinyls. Is there room for bands following in the footsteps of Greta Van Fleet? Definitely. In fact, Johnny Storm, Jared Schakper and Matt C. White would be a perfect fit for an “old-timer” throwback rock tour featuring young rock soul. Full of great guitar work and subtly shredding vocals, wrapped up with drums and bass that support the stellar musicianship from the bottom up.–Lisa Whealy
4. “Kyoto Blues” – Alex Tiunaev. This solo piano piece hovers around the edges of several different directions–there’s a strong romantic underpinning, some ambient-inspired sounds in the background, and some calming/new age approaches to the melodicism. It’s hard to find solo piano that espouses a particular vision without becoming mushy or maudlin, but Tiunaev does well to put out a distinctive idea and mood here.
5. “Just Saying” – Tiny Eyes. A lovely entry in the “delicate, formal, Beatles-esque piano ballad” category, this tune has a sleepy vocal performance; a distant, metronomic percussion performance; and lots of charm. Harry Nilsson came to mind, but you have to squint to catch it.
6. “The Road Reversed” – Nathan Bowles. There’s always some ambient, deconstructed folk kicking around in the background of the folk field, whether it’s slowcore people or tape deck experiments or glitchfolk or other things. This tune isn’t quite as deconstructed as some, but there’s a lot of subtlety and repetition in this ten-minute track. It’s a great example of instrumental folk that takes cues from tradition but isn’t slavishly beholden to the tradition, that experiments without losing its core, and that stays interesting even in its long runtime. Great work.
7. “New Ones” – Hollaphonic feat. Aaron Camper. The synth effects here are hugely summery and exciting, while the rhythms and arrangement are bright, fun, and compelling. The song is just over two minutes long–it disappears almost as soon as it arrives. It’s a good way to keep us wanting more/pressing repeat/hoping for remixes.
8. “Just Survive” – The Hope State. Sad songs are par for the course in pop music and especially in this blog, but man this one is a doozy. It’s similar to Strand of Oaks in that a wrenchingly sad story is couched in driving, melodic folk-rock–the sorrow is there, but it’s being strapped to a desire to keep moving. That’s what the title says, and that’s what the music tells–this is how you push through, even when it’s emotionally grueling. If you need some commiseration in deeply-trying-but-still-miserable situations, you’ll find it here: “I am trying my best to get better / my blood’s been clean since we lost our daughter / I’m a wreck / I’m a mess / I will never forgive myself … please don’t give up on me yet.”
9. “(Drinking Is Easy) Living Is Hard” – Mill’s End. Phoenix, Arizona-based country rock band Mill’s End drops “(Drinking Is Easy) Living Is Hard,” with lyrical subject matter that ranges from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to single parenthood to loss. This is a classic country-rock story song, welcoming Alan Clark to the band on guitar. The tune shifts stylistically from longtime lead guitarist Keith Perillo’s approach with a more bluesy vibe. Julissa Ruth adds the perfect touch to this barroom anthem.–Lisa Whealy