1. “Nightlight” – Suss. A relaxing, pastoral piece from the ambient-country pioneers that truly floats somewhere between ambient and country. The pedal steel weeps, but quietly. The ambient melodies stretch, but not so far as to become shapeless. The acoustic guitar holds it all together. It’s a country version of an Album Leaf song, and I love it.
2. “Hard to Give Thanks” – Red Spot Rhythm. “Hard to give thanks when you’re feeling low” is the refrain on this chipper, plucky, trad-inflected, major key folk romp. The hectic piano solo matches the ever-forward rhythm-section and choppy acoustic guitar for a punchy, upbeat, infectious ode to sadness.
3. “Give Thanks” – Black Violin. A fitting follow-up to “Hard to Give Thanks,” this uplifting, peaceful arrangement of the theme from “Ode to Joy” captures the reverent, hushed vibe I get from the holidays perfectly. I love this jam, and I look forward to putting it on my Christmas rotation this year and every year.
4. “Mirror Image” – Nick Schofield. A fluttery, loopy, breathy piece of electronica that yet feels organic and rich. This is a beautiful collection of sounds, arranged in a compelling manner.
5. “The Creator Has a Master Plan” – Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger. This bass/harp jazz duo offers a delightfully refreshing, no-frills interpretation of a Pharoah Sanders & Leon Thomas tune. The work is light without losing vitality, and the performance has a perfect off-cuff feeling. People talking in the background and shout-outs from the performers at the end of the track contribute to the vibe. I absolutely love this. I miss live music so much, y’all.
6. “Involuntary Prophet” – Shanghai Restoration Project. This electronic cut has all the drive of a cyberpunk jam, but without the grit, grime, and urban decay of more Gibson-esque cuts. There’s a sense of drive and wonder, as sounds that approximate flute and piano give the piece lift. A highly compelling work.
7. “Hidden Depths” – Archie the Goldfish. This is maximum cool crammed into 3:55, with the bass/drums/guitar/trumpet combo sidling up with a truly laidback jam. The trumpet is smooth, the guitar is silky, the drums are tight, and the bass is grooving. Just the way I like it.
8. “Call Your Mom” – Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. Now here’s a funky, groovy, strutting slice of musical goodness. This organ/guitar/drums combo is just looking for a party to crash, keeping the vibe going without acting like anyone’s trying too hard (a little hard–the solos are very good; but not too hard). This is headbobbing bliss.
9. “Kelvin (7300)” – 808 DOT POP. This is fine, Kraftwerk-esque computer music. Lots of big bass notes, computery treble, and counter-point mids. Might be a little austere for some, but I like the charm of the aggressively old-school vibe.
10. “Ark of Horizon” – Collapse Under the Empire. I admire a good band name when I see one, and Collapse Under the Empire is vividly evocative of sci-fi epics, historical sweep, and sudden change. “Ark of Horizon” is even more evocative. Without me telling you anything more, you probably guessed this was a post-rock song with big crescendoes and lots of emotion. I will tell you that it is that (although it’s more electronic than most post-rock) and also there are some deep bwaaaa sounds because let’s go all in.