1. “maladaptive daydreams” – shn shn. I like ambient music that creates a meditative, calming state while still having more motion than is strictly necessary for an ambient piece. This calming word builds off floating pad synths but has percussion bopping around after 45 seconds of intro to keep things moving. shn shn’s vocals are beautiful and breathy, engaging the listener with a repeated question of “why don’t you stay here?” It’s a triumph. The visual is also amazing: harrybyharry creates a mashup of magazine collage, vaporwave visuals, and human poses to reflect busy, cluttered (maybe even maladaptive) daydreaming. It too is a triumph. Highly recommended.
2. “June” – Gerycz/Powers/Rolin. “What if bluegrass, but weird?” has a lot of answers. Balmorhea’s was “yea, post-rock!” Gercyz/Powers/Rolin’s answer is “post-bluegrass”; pastoral vibes still exist in spades, but the guitar tone has distinctly post-rock overtones. The feel is unique and interesting. Highly recommended.
3. “Skylarks” – Immersion with Ulrich Schnauss. I love Schnauss’s lush, wide-screen electronic landscapes. Paired up with Immersion here, you can feel Schnauss’s work pulling the precise, almost pointillist melodies into more open spaces. An excellent partnership. Highly recommended.
4. “Feted” – Falcon Arrow. Falcon Arrow’s distorted-bass-and-drums post-rock never fails to be acrobatic and impressive, but this time they add in an enormous amount of sludgy, doomy low-end to the mix. Falcon Arrow just always knows what’s up, and this time is no exception. Also, their album art is always fantastically evocative sci-fi stuff, and this piece of art is perfectly tuned to the sludgy musical content. Highly recommended.
5. “Planet B” – Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra. “Planet B” offers us a jazz cruise through NYC. Richly visual, Bernstein’s composition seems the perfect enticement to his album Tinctures In Time (Community Music, Vol. 1) dropping September 3. Kit Fitzgerald’s visuals capture the varied essence of this track, adding new textures to the slow jazz groove. As the first of four planned releases on Royal Potato Family, Bernstein soars with his first original compositions in twenty years. —Lisa Whealy
6. “Balafô Douma” – N’famady Kouyaté. Whoa. This is a invigorating, surprising blast of balafon (a traditional wooden African xylophone), horns, percussion, and soaring vocals. This is maximalist work in the best way.
7. “Always” – E.VAX and Ratatat. Evan Mast (E.Vax) gives collab credit to his old duo here, and it makes sense: this one is a little more beat-heavy (like Ratatat’s work) than opening E.VAX single “Karst.”
8. “Aliso” – FLDPLN. Somewhere between Teen Daze and M83, FLDPLN is making evocative, immersive pop that makes me want to write phrases like “Cruiserweight creamy wave” and “saxophone dream state.” No apologies, no regrets.
9. “Momento Presente” – Mas Aya. Stuttering, fluttering, and chirping, this amalgam of beats, flutes, and shakers is a gentle whirlwind, an enveloping cloud, a chaotic puff, a punchy softness.
10. “I pulled the sheet back over my head” – The Chairman Dances. If you fuse the lyrical sentiments of The Mountain Goats circa The Life of the World to Come with squiggly indie rock guitar lines and a rattling rhythm section, you’ll come out with this left-field pop gem.
11. “Spooky Action” – Charming Disaster. The Brooklyn-based Charming Disaster are the goth folk duo of Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris. Their latest single embodies the essence of pandemic, with desire for connection oozing through each lyric. Examining the role of connection in our lives, this sweetly simple acoustic beauty written during lockdown soars, vibrating with its embedded morse code. –Lisa Whealy
12. “Pretty” – Turn Zero. Turn Zero captures the essence of innocence in this 80/20 Records release featuring Nick Barker. This indie rock track connects grabbing the vibe of some of Warped Tour’s greatest such as Paramour’s Hayley Williams.–Lisa Whealy
13. “Hidden – Merimell Remix” – Matthew Creed. Sometimes you just need a big, stomping, industrial-tinged techno cut to get things going. This is that pounding, fun cut.