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December Singles, 2020

I’ll probably find a few last tracks to feature before the year is out, but this is our last big drop of the year for singles. We’ll have our year-end lists out soon. Thanks to all for reading Independent Clauses in 2020!

1. “Cribbage Champs” – Jake McKelvie and the Countertops. The latest folk-punk/art-folk/wacky troubadour work from McKelvie and his crew is equal parts cracked Matt Squires sardonic vocals, witty and precise Mountain Goats lyrics, and Clem Snide arrangements. This particular track is the ballad form of the trio, which showcases the outfits’s melodic chops (that bass work!!) with McKelvie singing about the inevitable loss of download confirmation keys as a symbol of relational failure. Highly recommended.

2. “Foxglove” – Ryan Dugré. Dugré’s guitar musings get accompaniment in his latest tune, as he fills out his often-spartan approach with keys, light percussion, and strings. The centerpiece is still the atypically melodic fingerpicking patterns on a guitar, but there’s a whole sonic family around the piece. The song starts off walking-speed and ambiguously cheerful, before greatly picking up the pace halfway through to ultimately turn out a sort of Penguin Cafe Orchestra piece. It’s a big step forward in Dugré’s work, which makes me very much look forward to his new album in 2021, Three Rivers. Highly recommended.

3. “Blue Canyon – I” – Michael A. Muller. This piano piece from Muller (ex-Balmorhea) is a delicate, beautiful piece that uses all the sounds of the piano to create more than your average piano piece. The sweep and rush of the actual machinery of the piano creates a sense of movement like a river that might run through the titular canyon.

4. “L’assoluto Naturale” – Morricone90 (Adam Minkoff). In mid-March, right as everything was going nuts, Minkoff released a collection of 54 covers of Ennio Morricone work, celebrating the composer’s 90th birthday. Morricone is most well-known for his soundtracks to Spaghetti Westerns (see Western Suite I and II for the truly iconic stuff), but his other work is great as well. This warm, relaxed, instrumental ballad shows a different side of Morricone; given the tenderness and touch of irony, it sounds like a Clem Snide track without vocals.

5. “Saturday Night Sage” – Noah C. Lekas featuring Howlin’ Rain. Lekas joins forces with Howlin’ Rain for this meaty spoken-word tease. Piano Man Pictures turned the song’s storyline into stark comic book imagery for the video. Released on Blind Owl, this lead single foreshadows the worlds to come in the album and accompanying book, available for preorder.–Lisa Whealy

6. “San Francisco” – Racoon Racoon. This cover of the iconic tune is just absolutely gorgeous. Racoon Racoon really can do no wrong when it comes to delicate, intricate, deeply emotional acoustic work. I don’t mention covers that often, but this one jumps off the page. Wow.

7. “For Nick Drake” – Grace Gillespie. A big ‘ol love letter to poets and Nick Drake, the tragic British folk singer. It’s delivered in a warm, delicate form that would make Drake (or the Unthanks) very pleased. The vocals are lilting and lovely.

8. “You Make Me Feel Brand New” – Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger. This is technically a Stylistics cover, but once it’s been transferred to harp and double bass, it’s not that recognizable. That’s totally fine, because it’s a beautiful, compelling piece on its own–a transformation worth listening to.

9. “Cheb Mimoune (Dar Disku Edit)” – Abdel Kader. Imagine gated drums, ’80s techno-funk bass, and Egyptian keys working together, and you’re part of the way there to Dar Disku’s impressively out-there vision of dance music.

10. “See You Again // Autumn Sessions” – The Gray Havens. Always upvote The Gray Havens.

11. “India” – Kingdumb. This wubby, funky, march-beat electro cut has a sample from the film Bombay that provides the vocal life. This is a chipper, exciting, delightfully weird piece.

12. “Venus” – Bada-bada. I’m all about jazz/electronic crossovers. This piece has the dusky forward movement of an M83 jam plus jazz instrumentation taking the lead. This is the sort of piece that would work as a down moment in a club as well as in a jazz hall.