1. “Part 1” – Passepartout Duo. This reverent, enfolding ambient/drone piece is built on a homemade instrument called the Chromaplane: “With a pickup coil in each hand, we trace shapes above the instrument’s flat surface to unveil its hidden landscape of oscillators buzzing in the electromagnetic field.” I can’t see it happening, but the sonic presence of an unusual and beautiful instrument can be felt in the subtle ways it works: swooping sounds feel like distinctive, intentional approaches. Words struggle to describe it. Highly recommended.
2. “Before we can be together (ft. Synne Sanden)” – Wow Sailor. I’ve been getting heavily into atmospheric ambient sounds recently, and Wow Sailor ticks those boxes for me.
3. “Lemon Day” – Nils Frahm. An 18-minute ambient piece in the vein of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. It’s a lovely, breathy, gently swooping piece.
4. “Early” – Henning Schmiedt. An elegant, weighty, carefully developed piano piece that controls several different moods admirably.
5. “I’d Sell Out” – Thea Evans. A spartan yet sturdy singer/songwriter rumination with intensely immediate vocals.
6. “Monsters” – Driftwood Scarecrow. Low-key electronic indie-pop that sounds like a mashup of The Postal Service’s beats, Dashboard Confessional’s lyrics, and Sufjan Stevens’ emotional timbre. I loved it the first time I heard it.
7. “Animate” – Lore City. A ruminative, exploratory track that combines vocals so processed as to almost be abstracted over an Indian-inflected collection of percussion, staccato piano, and drone. Is “ominously meditative” a compliment? I hope so.
8. “Against Numbers ft. Katie Von Schleicher” – Wilder Maker. The pantheon of indie-rock songs about sports is not a large collection (although it does include the transcendent “All Kinds of Time” by Fountains of Wayne). Wilder Maker’s song about a basketball shot appeals to me via its topical concerns (I am a huge NBA fan) and its sonic excellence: this arrangement is spot-on, the fuzzed-out guitars land perfectly, and the tone is urgent in all the ways that a last second shot in a game is. It’s so good.
9. “Truce” – Vela Vada. I’d never stopped to ponder what a combination of Pogo’s chirpy burbles, ODESZA’s maximalist electronica, and a New Orleans Jazz combo might sound like, but now I know it would sound like this. A truly unique and interesting combo here. Highly recommended.
10. “Sunburn” – Sylvan Esso. Sylvan Esso’s latest electro clip is both weirder and more straightforward that their early work: the lyrics are peculiar but attractive, the structure of the song is fairly stream-of-consciousness, and the vocal melodies are delightfully off-kilter. At the same time, the beats and synths feel immediately accessible and enjoyable. Sylvan Esso never disappoints.