1. “Nu Erotic Ghost” – Stray Echo. Swinging sweetly high, then dipping into pools of sticky low, “Nu Erotic Ghost” is a bedroom track bound to set your Valentine’s night aflame in the most soulful way possible.
2. “Say A Prayer For Me” – RÜFÜS DU SOL. This reminds me of a track that would be played during a Bora Bora beach DJ set in Ibiza. With easygoing, chill-step soundscapes and relaxing vocals that simultaneously pump euphoria into the air, “Say A Prayer For Me” has positive vibes riding in each note.
3. “Perfect Ten” – NEWTIMERS. A minimal, seductive R&B/pop combo brought to you by a sizzling Swedish duo. With purposeful percussion and smooth vocals that take their time, NEWTIMERS spaces out each lovely element in this track so that listeners can appreciate every. single. detail.
4. “Midnight” – Lane 8. The next time you’re driving and feel the need to enter a trance of melody, calm, and pure spellbound stupification, pick this ambient electronic jam as your soundtrack. Hit play just as you’re rounding the corner and have a view of mountains, the ocean, or any vastness.
5. “Modern World” – Future Elevators. Whirling, trippy instrumentation and hollow vocals echoing fantasies of living in a modern world, this sexy track is distant, beautiful, at times sad, but mostly sounds like it was recorded in another galaxy.
6. “Needs ft. Andrew Ashong” – Submotion Orchestra. I always appreciate a song that is comfortable with its pacing and “Needs” is just that; it blossoms as you listen, from meditative guitar lines and stunning electronica into jazzy, festive piano and horn sections.
7. “Burn” – James Supercave. Walking a sharp line of psych pop and unmistakable groove, James Supercave has meticulously picked the ripest fruit from each genre, with Passion Pit-esque vocals, Cake funkiness, and a clean, light buzz.
8. “Harmony” – Joel Wells. Combining dizzying, 120-proof dancefloor rhythm with anise-flavored synth, “Harmony” is absinthe in song form.
10. “Run Like Hell” – Alex Bent + the Emptiness. Too spaced out to be a mash-up, but daring enough to combine Wu-Tang and Nine Inch Nails in a single track, “Run Like Hell” is dark, different, and captivating.
11. “Ratnapur” – At The Psychedelic Circus. “Ratnapur” sounds like the background music at an ayahuasca brewing ceremony.
12. “14” – Kilmanjaro. “14” flashes, shines, and sparkles like an astral lighthouse on a dark waterfront, if the lighthouse beamed streams of cobalt, lime-green, and purple; a lightshow on the ocean.
13. “Rayon” – Letherette. Crisp, chilled, classic house track that will hopefully be lobby music come 2020.
14. “Phone” – Tom Low. Fresh and bright, “Phone” merges modern-day electronic with vocals that sound like the Beatles are making an appearance on this Liverpool native’s title cut.
15. “Reminder” – Moderat. From Moderat’s upcoming EP Reminder, this title track is known to cause lucid dreaming, mysterious fires, sudden time lapses, and severe goosebumps. Proceed with caution.
16. “Maquinaria del Tiempo” – Whitney Winston. Labeled as LatinTronic, this track is experimental, ambient, and has enough Spanish vocals that “Maquinaria del Tiempo” is an example of how electronic can be manipulated and formed to meet any culture’s profile.
17. “Matadora” – Sofi Tukker. Tukker pushes the boundaries of electronic like she’s the Hierophant of the whole genre, slipping us tracks of pure mystic gold and letting her wise artistry show the world how magical electronic can be. Now that I know “LatinTronic” is a thing, we need that label slapped all over this hot, steaming, brimming-with-life track.
18. “New” – Fontine. “New” moves like thick sludge, wrapping itself around your waistline and steering you to dance. It is intense and heavy, an unstoppable dance pop force you’re hypnotized to give into. —Rachel Haney
1. “Hero” – Starlight Girls. If you mashed up Tusk-era Fleetwood Mac with modern indie-pop sensibilities, you’d have this powerhouse of a pop song. This is the most infectious, irresistible groove of 2016 so far.
2. “Hang On To Yourself (David Bowie Cover)” – Ancient Cities. Bowie didn’t play much of a role in my personal musical development (I was introduced to him in my 20s), but his shadow looms large over many musicians. Ancient Cities drops a worthy tribute to Ziggy here.
3. “Boys That Sing” – Viola Beach. Sometimes the melody, the lyrics, and the vibe just come together for a great pop tune. Puts a smile on my face.
4. “Crazy Eyes” – Brother Moses. BroMo returns with a breezy, peppy tune that builds on their slacker-rock foundation with some scrambling drums, driving bass and twirling guitars. The compelling vocal tone and delivery are as powerful as ever.
5. “Youth Dies Young” – Til We Have Faces. Well here’s something interesting: A major key indie-rock song that thinks it’s an arpeggiator-heavy electro-jam which builds at the speed of a post-rock tune. By the end it’s almost a Here We Go Magic tune. Totally rad.
6. “Fundamental Ground” – TW Walsh. I don’t use the term “floating” that often, but this indie-pop tune has a lot of the elements that you might associate with floating: lazy rhythms, slightly washed-out vibe, hazy elements chilling out in the background of the tune, a vocal line that seems distant-yet-close. It’s beautiful, in a weird way.
7. “Sometimes (One Night)” – The Golden Peppers. Here’s a tight soul arrangement, blanketed with horns and infused with indie-pop vocal melodic flair. Just can’t get enough Nathaniel Rateliff?
8. “Lucky One” – Why We Love. It seems that the major-key, jangly pop-rock tune is not only immortal, but thriving. Everything about this is fun.
9. “Unicorns Get More Bacon” – Marc with a C. The giddy, funny, absurd, fourth-wall-destroying power-pop of Marc with a C is in fine, fine form in this 3-and-a-half minute jam.
10. “Glad to Be Alive” – Memoir. Draws from funk, reggae, and ’90s pop without camping in any of them, this grounded-yet-bouncy tune is led by neat vocal syncopation and and a mood that just brightens a room.
11. “Touch” – Guard. A hypnotic keys melody and a head-bobbing beat make this into the chillest of remix-ready club tunes. Ibiza beaches for this version, Ibiza clubs for the inevitable reworks.
12. “Still Life” – I.W.A. Blissful chillwave, the likes of which I don’t get to hear very often. Just gorgeous stuff here.
13. “Don’t Complain/Don’t Explain” – Bare Mattress. Like a more existential version of The Postal Service, this unassuming indie-pop-electro track sneaks its way into ears and heart.
14. “Glass” – Howard. This is like the indie-electro/post-dub version of a dystopian movie in which everything looks kind of right but is slowly revealed to actually be dystopian. In other words, the slow burn works great.
15. “I Don’t Want to Know Her Name” – Amber Quintero. Lilting, easygoing, spacious bedroom pop that finely balances lyrical intimacy and wide-open pad synth landscapes.
Lee Reit‘s self-titled record is largely played on a nylon-stringed guitar. In addition to adding a gentle sonic quality to the tunes, those strings import Spanish and Latin American connotations to the nine songs included here. When Reit’s evocative vocal tone and narrative vocal delivery are added in, the result is an engrossing, calming album full of intriguing tunes.
Opener “Dream Another Night” gives a good look at Reit’s guitar playing and his suave, subtly dramatic baritone vocal tone. The rolling fingerpicking is underscored by an insistent, shuffling, brushed drumbeat that would fit in a country tune; the constant press forward creates a tension against the guitar line and Reit’s easygoing vocal delivery. That tension holds even when Caitlin Marie Bell takes the mic for a verse; it’s a pleasant sort of push and pull that engages me in the tune.
There are Spanish vibes in “Dream Another Night,” both sonic and visual. The sonic ones aren’t as pronounced as they are in later songs, but the choice of all-white clothes for the band in the video gives the clip a light, airy feel that makes me think of relaxing languidly in a Spanish vineyard. (We’re honored to premiere the video above today!) “The Pleasure of the Fall” has a dusky Spanish nightclub vibe–not Ibiza, but 1920s literary expat Spanish nightclub. (The distant trumpet and sighing strings reinforce the initial thought.) “Visions of Eternity” amps up this style by incorporating Dylan-esque, cryptic, religious/political/social commentary and ratcheting up the minor-key drama. “Thanks for the Lessons” calls back to that Spanish vineyard, while also pointing toward Parachutes-era Coldplay work.
Most of the tunes on the record benefit from the control Reit has of his voice. “The Pleasure of the Fall” allows him to accentuate different points of the narrative by modifying the register and tone of his voice, from light and high to low and serious. It sounds like a simple transaction, but it’s not: there’s a significant, mysterious gravitas that he’s able to conjure up with the vocal shifts. He’s also great at delivering phrases and words, filling particular ones with meaning just by inflecting them in a certain way (“Thanks for the Lessons” and “Grace Alone” in particular, although it’s evident everywhere).
It’s not all Latin American vibes–“Grace Alone” is folky, even with hints of blues and gospel vibes. The fast-paced, keys-laden “Here, As in Heaven” has a speak/sing, Lou Reed/CAKE thing going on, which presents a very different angle on Reit’s songwriting. But in general, this is a walking-speed, unhurried album. “Wheel Within a Wheel” and “Shangri La,” the chronological center of the record, are flowing, relaxed tunes that make me want to go on a low-stress beach vacation–they’re indicative of the overall response I have to the record.
Lee Reit’s self-titled record is one that can be appreciated for its beauty immediately and for its subtlety over multiple listens. Like John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats (although in a very different milieu), Reit has developed his voice to be a fine-tuned instrument for delivering melodies and lyrics that stick in my head and keep me coming back. You could cover a Lee Reit song, but you wouldn’t sing it the way that he does. That’s a distinctive mark. If you’re into slowcore acoustic (Mark Kozelek, Songs: Ohia, Mojave 3) or thoughtful acoustic work (Josh Ritter, Joe Pug, Jason Isbell), you’ll enjoy Lee Reit’s work.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.