1. “C-Side” – Khruangbin & Leon Bridges. I love Khruangbin, and I love Leon Bridges, so there was basically no way this wasn’t going to go over well with me. But it goes even better than I had hoped when I first heard of the collaboration; Khruangbin hasn’t changed themselves one bit to fit with Leon, and neither has Leon compromised on his smooth, soulful performance. Instead, they’ve managed to fit into each others’ spaces, and the track feels very natural.
2. “Mountain Highs, Salty Eyes” – JuffBass. Two basses and a drum kit? Sing the song of my people, friend. This is low-key, relaxing post-rock with just enough pep to keep the song pushing forward. It’s smooth, round, and lovely. I’m a big fan.
3. “Elä – Be Alive” – Antti Paalanen. If you’ve never heard a mashup of accordion, Siberian throat-singing, and electronic dance music, fear not: I had never either. It’s surprisingly fascinating for being something I never knew I needed. It’s a weird, wild adventure that I can recommend for its sheer composition audacity. He’s definitely going to be one of the wilder experiences at Folk Alliance this year, so if you’re headed that way you should look him up.
4. “Wherever You Go, There You Are” – Qualia. Starts off as a drone with acoustic guitar accompaniment, then transitions into a slowcore acoustic piece that would make fans of Songs:Ohia proud. The slow-mo head-bob is not a common impulse in me, but the percussion here drew it out.
5. “Whisky Story Time” – Alabaster DePlume. A wistful, nostalgic duet between a saxophone(s?) and a languid, relaxed acoustic guitar that is feathery, delicate, and lovely. It’s like floating aimlessly on a sunny day in a small boat: warm, comforting, and low-key joyful.
6. “Savana, Céline, Aya, Pt.1 & 2” – Chassol. Experimental R&B based off a record of children playing a handclap pattern game? Why not? This concept is deeply intriguing, but the tight fusion of the funky instrumental meshed with the ongoing children’s chant is what makes this shine. This is a very rad jam.
7. “Mark Zuckerberg” – Nap Eyes. This song is actually about Mark Zuckerberg, and also about transcendence. It shows a newly muscly backdrop to Nap Eyes’ jangly, propulsive indie-rock–but not so much that it’s not recognizably Nap Eyes. A fun, interesting track to kick off a new cycle of tunes from Nap Eyes.
8. “Pool Party” – Nimrawd. Nimrawd’s instrumental work is so far very eclectic, and this track is no disappointment on that front: starts off with a thick bass groove amid some lo-fi textures, then goes into an organ riff, then punches the thing into overdrive with heavily-distorted beats. It’s an impressively genre-less track that grooves the whole way through.
9. “Fanfare for Effective Freedom” – Horse Lords. Radical politics meets highly atypical post-rock work. It is like Kraftwerk and a major-key post-rock band got thrown in a blender and someone set the blender to “pulse erratically.” You don’t need to know that this is coming from a stance of radical politics to appreciate it sonically, but if you’re into that sort of thing, you should check out the essay of the same name that talks about science, government, anti-technocratic moves, and more. [Side note: If you’re interested in anti-technocratic work, I co-host a podcast you may be interested in, as well.]
10. “Roger Ebert” – Clem Snide. I’m very sad to hear that Eef Barzelay (the driving force behind Clem Snide) has gone through a decade in the wilderness, according to the notes accompanying the single. I am glad to hear that this song and forthcoming album exist; this single shows Clem Snide working at its best. The lyrics are literally about the last days of Roger Ebert, as recalled in this article. They reach toward transcendence, and the hard-fought type of transcendence that Clem Snide has always been looking for and skeptical of and looking for anyway. The music is gentle, but still notably Clem Snide-ian; there’s dreamy textures floating above a concrete acoustic guitar strum, all guided by Barzelay’s initimable voice. Highly recommended.