Happy New Year everyone! I pray you are all well and recovering nicely from your hangovers – both drinking and general 2016 related ones. As I was compiling my year end Top 50 list a couple weeks ago, I came to the sad realization that I was barely able to share and discuss all the incredible new music that came out last year (I mean, really, there was almost too much). As one of my resolutions, I would like to make a concentrated effort to provide a weekly playlist, if not a full review, of all the music that’s currently catching my attention. Thanks to friends, blogs, Spotify, et al, the internet is an endless buffet of sonic sustenance for the insatiable music fan and I would like to do my part to keep spreading the songs. And so, without further ado, I present to you my Shuffled Selections – I hope you’ll find something to your satisfaction and might share with me the same.
Gone is Gone – “Resurge”
Supergroups aren’t quite what they used to be. What used to be a rare occasion seems to happen every other week these days – but, let’s be honest, it’s still pretty damn exciting when it does. Comprised of Mastodon bassist/singer Troy Sanders, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Leeuwen, At the Drive-In drummer Tony Hajjar, and multi-instrumentalist Mike Zarin, Gone Is Gone has all the makings of a truly epic punch-in-the-face rock group but, instead, turned the expectations on their head and became an incredibly solid, sludgy shoegaze sort of supergroup. Although it’s missing the ravenous bite of Mastodon or the frantic energy of ATDI, these guys have found something together that their respective groups of origin kind of lack, to be honest: groove. With their debut full length album Echolocation, Gone Is Gone has crafted a hypnotic sound that shifts slowly and assuredly from rousing soft-edge hard rock to pulsing industrial-lite beats and keeps you locked in its charmingly simple flow.
Lontalius – “Yr Heart Is Beating”
New Zealand indie artist Lontalius might have just released his debut record but, like so many young artists these days, has been uploading music on the internet for years as a young teenager. Sighting influences from the production tricks of Drake to the songwriting craft of Bon Iver, Lontalius feels very much of his generation with his youthful deconstructionist covers littered across his soundcloud, allowing his social network to witness the development of his voice. As a culmination of his teenage tinkering, Lontalius has released I’ll Forget 17 which, as the title might suggest, is awash with angst. An ode to the confusion of love that only youth could write, this debut is viscerally disarming and quietly engrossing. An obvious student of the likes of James Blake, Lontalius certainly has the makings of something special with such a confident and lush debut record.
Henry Hall – “Dream Lover”
Sometimes, all you need is a bit of absurdity. With a soaring falsetto, a dedication to the danceable, and some slick sarcastic charm, indie artist Henry Hall is a blast of effervescent joy. As bright as the first day of spring, this jaunty little jam just might be the happiest meditation on the depressing realization you’re in love with your girlfriend’s sister. The whole EP, My Friends Don’t Like Me, is filled with the same sort of silly but immensely catchy tracks. If you need a smile on your face and dance in your gait, definitely check this one out.
Lunacre – “[Re]Cycle”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – a five-piece indie band from England prod the precious habits of modern society with pointed poetics, churning drums, and angular sounds. Sure, the trail blazed by a certain titan is well trod these days, but with bands like Foals and Glass Animals, we know well how fertile the ground remains. Lunacre may be just the latest contenders in the genre but with their debut EP Schtum they more than prove they might have what it takes to make themselves a name. With a masterful grasp on sonic space, the album feels at once claustrophobic and open ended. And, on their single “[Re]Cycle,” Lunacre have created a haunting groove that even Glass Animals would envy. I am exceedingly excited to see where these guys go from here.
dné – “Driving a Car While Listening to Bill Burr’s Podcast”
For how many acts incorporate synth keyboards, there seems to be very little in the way of classical approaches to the piano in much of modern electronic music. I mean, sure, there will be a piano run here and there, maybe as the backbone of the chorus, but constructing an album entirely around the instrument seems rare to me. This is why dné’s debut These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere feels so exciting. Now, there’s nothing particularly exciting about the music, per se, as the whole record is a bare bones study in minimalist electronica – but the piano is so damn lovely and full that it makes the digital flourishes feel all the more moving. An album that, as the song title might suggest, feels like the directionless meandering of a night time drive, this is a great record to open up your space and just be for a moment.
Civilian – “Reasons”
Protest will always have a place in rock and roll – and it seems we’ll be seeing even more in the years to come. As an artist, Civilian seems far less interested in protesting politics on their own terms, however, opting instead to get at the heart of humanity that would allow us to so royally screw them up in the first place. Self-described as an artist for the “everyman,” this is some tried and true rock and roll that wants to knock your guard down and leave you present to the plight of the other, not coddle you with slogans. On this single, it’s all about our excuses – all the reasons we chose to look away or claim we know better. This whole record is a phenomenal rallying cry and some real good rawk to boot.
Sondre Lerche – “I’m Always Watching You Too”
This is an interesting one. After releasing his forthcoming album’s first single, Sondre Lerche followed it up not with a remix but with an alternate take – certainly not what I was expecting. However, unlike the almost oppressively synth heavy 80’s pop vibe of the original, this new take creates canyons of space where the original crammed every sound together as tightly as possible. Far more akin to Age of Adz-era Sufjan Stevens than Chromeo, this album is a glorious dubby march that turns the obsessively voyeuristic lyrics from pathetic boyfriend creepily lurking about into a far more sympathetic plea of a wounded lover crying into the apathetic void. Although the original is almost certainly closer to the upcoming record’s sound, I can’t help but hope Sondre revisits this atmospheric style again one day.
Free Cake For Every Creature – “All You Gotta Be When You’re 23 is Yourself”
First off, this is a strong contender for my new favorite band name AND my new favorite album cover. That alone is exciting but, even better, that this is a pretty damn solid lo-fi pop rock record to boot. Sure, it’s not particularly innovative – and could very well sound like any number of ironic tape only indie releases – but it’s catchy, well written, and so beautifully earnest that it hits all the strong points of the genre and, for that, can’t be discounted for its twee surface. This track in particular is so full of youthful abandon and gleeful encouragement that it could very well be the theme song for every post-undergrad anxiously stepping out into the world of adulting.
Suburban Living – “Lovely Times”
One of my personal favorite aspects of the 80’s aesthetic revival in indie music is the dreamy waves of hazy synth epics, the songs that make you feel like you’re drifting on a cloud of neon blue to nowhere in particular beneath the blinding light of the night. With bands like The War on Drugs rising to critical heights, the dizzyingly lush genre known as dreamgaze seems to have thankfully returned to the spotlight and Philadelphia band Suburban Living are one of the better recent entries I’ve stumbled upon. This song in particular is so warmly pleasant and gently lulling that it feels like falling into a day dream where anything is possible. Highly recommend for anyone feeling stressed out – relax and float away.
The Lagoons – “California”
One of the most frustrating aspects of the modern musical landscape is also the most exciting: if you have an instrument and a computer, you can get your music out there. Although this is fantastic for artists and music lovers alike, it leads to the incredibly infuriating moment when you realize that you have found an absolutely perfect song by an unsigned artist who *might* have an EP but just as likely only one song – and, heaven forbid, they unceremoniously disappear just as silently as they appeared. Anyway, all of this is to say, The Lagoons are one such band that I am praying get to keep moving forward because their particular style of self-described indie-jazz synth pop is just so lusciously satisfying. Between that saxophone and my own nostalgic longing for California (where I met my wife), I have not been able to stop playing this song. I am utterly mesmerized and endlessly chilled out by this groove – and, as is the point of this article, I want to share these vibes with you.