Here's a link to the playlist. The play buttons embedded here will play 30-second clips if you're not logged into Spotify in your browser, which is probably the best way to listen to the tracks while reading this article.
There's a bit of a different mix of songs this time around — there's a few more slower ballads than normal, but I'm glad that this playlist ended up with your usual spread of electronic, danceable beats and energetic, thrashing guitars, too. I hope you enjoy it!
Wombo — Dreamsickle
single, released March 30, 2021
This song absolutely rips. I love the contrast between Sydney Chadwick's carefully crafted, low vocals, and the energetic, ripping three-piece drum, guitar, and bass combo — the latter of which Chadwick plays.
This band is right up my alley, and I want to spend more time with their existing record catalog soon. I also love their website, which does a fantastic job of revealing how close their live sound is to the recording, too.
The Notwist feat. Saya — Ship
Off Vertigo Days, released January 29, 2021
Longtime psychrockers The Notwist are back with a fantastic record, Vertigo Days, and it was really hard for me to pick just one track off of it.
"Ship" just has a great groove to it, but the cherry on top are Saya's Japanese-language vocals, and to echo the lyrics: yeah, it's good.
Another highlight is that pulsing baseline, bouncing in and around the psychedelic tones. Listen to "Al Sur" next!
Wednesday — One More Last One
single, released July 7, 2021
I wrote about Wednesday back in May 2020, and it's really great to see that they're releasing more singles after their fantastic record Fate Is….
Wednesday have taken a huge turn to shoegaze this time, and I love it — this is a powerful wall of sound, and it's a great part of this soundtrack to life. One word I feel like I reach for a lot is "cinematic," but that's absolutely the case here — it's a song you want to hear when there's a camera running somewhere and you're in the background of the shot.
Metz — Acid
single, released March 12, 2021
Well, right from the outset, with those screeching guitars, you know what you're in for! This song is an energetic punk piece, with the utterly cool, distorted vocals from Alex Edkins blending with an impressive back line. Like, this is what punk is all about: there's a kind of message with the lyrics which are admittedly hard to understand, punctuated by the way the rest of the instrumentation builds up and drops out. And, of course, there's an unmistakable energy; this would be a great track to run really fast to.
Geese — Disco
single, released June 22, 2021
This is a straight-forward jam from Geese, a rock song with a cool vocal style and a few moments where the energy builds and drops out. There's a bit of a prog element in how a few separate movements come together here, ultimately telling a cool story with the progression of the chords and lyrics.
I'm excited to hear more from these folks; this is seemingly, at time of writing, the only track they've put out, though they seem to be playing shows, so surely there's more to come soon!
Shamir — On My Own
Off Shamir, released October 2, 2020
Shamir is the quintessential songwriter, and On My Own is the ultimate pop song with serious indie credentials. The parts which come together in this track are astonishing — the thing that stands out the most is the ever-moving, fuzzy bass line, but it seems like every listen I find something cool and technical.
Shamir's vocals are also incredible, fitting the earworm of a melody very well.
Surely this one ended up coming across my plate because of The Algorithm — I really ought to spend more time with the rest of his discography!
Public Service Broadcasting feat. EERA — People, Let's Dance
single, released June 1, 2021
Public Service Broadcasting are back with their first single in … not a short amount of time, at least — something around three years. This new track does exactly what's on the label: it's an energetic, cool, dance track with fun guitar licks.
Brodka and Scottibrains — Wrong Party
single, released January 22, 2021
"Wrong Party" is a delightful… actually, I don't really know how to classify it, to be honest. It kind of feels like a dance track, but there's not a lot of the traditional electronic influences that you'd typically expect. Brodka's vocal performance is extremely cool, and the beeps and boops that Scottibrains brings to the table round out the track to be something caught between a kind of gothic tone and a happy, poppy thing.
I really like that chorus; it repeats itself in a good way, and it's definitely the centerpiece that the rest of the track revolves around.
Katie Dey and Lonelyspeck — Darkness (Lonelyspeck remix)
Off Urdata, released January 29, 2021
I wrote about Katie Dey's Mydata nine months ago, and back then, I had a hard time picking just one song off of the record. There's a bit of an unconventional mixing style there, which kind of encourages you to play the tracks loud, especially "Dancer," the track I ultimately ended up going with. Lonelyspeck took an incredible song and just translated it into something otherworldly, leaving behind a flowing digital experience.
Falle Nioke and sir Was — Wonama yo ema
single, released April 14, 2021
This track is perfect.
It's cinematic, and it's an atmosphere that grips me every time. Every piece of this song is in the right place: Nioke's expressive, perfect vocal take is an astonishing centerpiece which are wrapped by the Gongoma tones and sir Was's production and percussion.
I don't understand the Susu-language lyrics, but this song absolutely envelops me with emotion; from what I've found online, the message behind the song is as powerful as the track itself, too.
Bubble Tea and Cigarettes — Santa Monica
single, released May 14, 2021
I love this slow jam from newcomers Bubble Tea and Cigarettes; it's a sweet, long, emotional track that knows how to take its time. There's some really cool strings that support the kind of traditional ballad four-piece instrumentation, and some subtle overtone tricks with the percussion and pads in the background, but that all pales in comparison to the magnificent octave-split vocals.
Let's hope there's more to come from this duo!
Saint Saviour and Bill Ryder-Jones — Home
Off Tomorrow Again, released September 4, 2020
I love Saint Saviour's vocals in this sweet and gripping track. The unique instrumentation has a sort of aleatoric feel, making the analog tracks feel somehow immensely digital.
I love how everything builds over time in this song, with Ryder-Jones's vocals providing the perfect foil to the amazing doubled harmonies from Saint Saviour.
Also, this chorus is just amazing; there's a slight trick with the melody in the lyric "Breathe the morning in / Fisher King calls out" that I can't quite pin down, but it catches my ear every time.
Lucinda Chua — Until I Fall
single, released April 20, 2021
This orchestral, percussion-free track from Lucinda Chua packs a big punch with all of the space it leaves on the table. Chua's vocals are always the most prominent, with the rest of the instrumentation following her like the orchestra below the stage.
Chua's rich, airy vocal timbre is clearly an instrument in itself, and there's a great parallel with some more reverbed, distorted, electronic instruments that provide that extra layering kick.