1. “Largo” – AKKU Quintet. Take the repetition of mid-century modern composition, the instruments of a jazz quintet, and the dark’n’moody aesthetics of a post-rock outfit, and you’ve got the general idea of the 14-minute “Largo.” Any piece of this length is de facto adventurous in scope, but this one is particularly fascinating.
2. “Rise” – William Steffey. The notes on this track state, “This piece features an 5-note scale constructed from the 1200 cent octave using the Golden Ratio.” Whoa. Even though this track is very high-concept, the implementation is approachable: a flute or flute-like synth, hand percussion, rain-stick, bass, and triangle (?) create a warm, evocative piece that carries overtones of indigenous music of various varieties. Ultimately, a very intriguing and interesting (short) piece.
3. “Capocollo” – fuzzy luv. Here, have 65 seconds of downtempo, funky, trip-hop-inspired, vaguely Beck-ian instrumental goodness. Shout-out to all the random sounds collaged on top of the main line tracks that give this great atmosphere.
4. “Castor MacDavid” – L’Eclair. At its core, this is a funky, instrumental neo-disco nugget. But there’s a significant, slow-burn lead-up to the moment that it reveals itself as a disco tune that makes this tune more than just a fun dance track; there’s some deep thought put into the ways of developing and manipulating the elements of the song for maximum dance effect.
5. “Alasya and the Train Tracks” – Nate Kohrs. Starts out as an expansive, pensive soundtrack piece, but snaps into focus with a punchy, staccato, airplane-propeller beat. The rest of the track reads like some weird combination of punk-rock drums and bass, ghostly atmospheric noises, and electro flourishes. A truly unique and fascinating instrumental composition that defies genres.
6. “Atlantic Oscillations” – Quantic. Dancy, funky, quirky, and tight, this dance track is full of surprises, layers, and moments that shine. Never loses the focus on being danceable, though. Very cool, smooth track.
7. “Hard Conversation” – Class Photo. It’s difficult to sell me on a novel lyrical concept, but Class Photo has found one: in talking about the death of a parent, Patrick Morris explains all of the different conversations and activities that occur as a result of a death. It’s unique and clever, making the ineffable abyss that is the loss of a parent both pedestrian and deeply affecting. Also, it’s a really fun indie-dance-pop track a la MGMT and STRFKR (of which Morris is a former member). So you can get happy without the lyrics or get dancing-sad with them. I’m in on either count. Good work, Class Photo.
8. “Periscope” – The Bergamot. A straight-up fusion of folk-pop and indie-rock whose Venn diagram overlaps at the points of “majorly anthemic melodies” and “builds to a giant conclusion.” The vocal performances and the instrumental arrangement are both stellar, making the most of their ideas. If you like Band of Horses or any folk-pop outfit, you’ll love this.
9. “Stampede” – Caustic Casanova. This is a power-trio instrumental rock track that delivers a convincing approximation of large animals all rushing violently in the same direction over some poor, now-destroyed piece of earth. If you’re into heavy rock but have been burned rock that’s overproduced, underdeveloped or just generally boring, this song will not disappoint: it avoids all the pitfalls of rock and just actually rocks.