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.
Many of the songs on this list came out in 2019 — this is a little bit of a break from the last few months, but it really does seem to me that the pace of new music coming out is understandably slowing down. So: I’m not sorry about it. I love every single song on this list, and I hope you will to.
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down — Phenom
A Man Alive (2016) by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down is one of my favorite records, so I was ecstatic when I found out Nguyen was releasing a new record.
“Phenom” is a real standout hit, a punchy, dramatic anthem. It’s dissonant and powerful, and when it kicks in, it’s an astonishing sound.
Few things could ever replace her sophomore effort in my heart — seriously, please check out “Nobody Dies” — but “Phenom” is equally good.
Stef Chura — Method Man
My word this album is so good. This track is so, so good.
It rules. It rocks and rolls. I am surely not the first person to compare Chura’s work here to Karen O. This is fine. Everyone should strive to have a little Karen O about them. “Method Man” is everything classic-O, and more, from its structure to its crunch.
This album was produced by and sometimes features Will Toledo (Car Seat Headrest), which I feel gives it permission to be crunchy and a little raw around the edges.
Also, that “Eyes Without a Face” cover — wow.
(As a bonus, check out the original version of “method man” from 2010.)
Man Man — Future Peg
Man Man are back, and they have not let up on their circus soundscape. Honus Honus really brings his A-game in Dream Huntin in the Valley of the In-Between — so many tracks from this record have gotten stuck in my head for days, but “Future Peg” really takes the cake for me. There’s just so much going on in this track. It really gets in there and massages every part of your brain.
Momma — Derby
Hey, remember last month when I said this album was going to rule? Turns out I was right!
Derby is a smashing song; it’s cool, it gives me chills. Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten come together in harmony that’s indescribable throughout the record, but their double-track melody is astonishing here.
Every time this song comes on, I crank up the volume. The subtle, glitched-out layering is so beautiful. And, then, just like that, this 106-second song is over.
Disq — Loneliness
“Loneliness” is a little bit of a break from the rest of Disq’s Collector — it’s a longer, slightly more acoustic piece with a catchy but sad melody. It’s touching without being self-pitying. The chorus, though, is so fantastic in both its lyric content and the music.
Emily Yacina — Stephanie
“Stephanie” is sweet with a choppy, electronic backbeat. The ethereal chorus with its choral harmonies give way to a circulating, catchy chorus. It’s almost slightly spooky, or maybe a little chilling.
“Siren Song” is also another hit off of this album; slightly more guitar-oriented, with those same elevated vocals and a delightful horn section.
Nation of Language — Indignities
I wrote about “Rush & Fever” in April’s article, and everything I said about Nation of Language there holds true in their now-released LP, Introduction, Presence. “Indignities” is groovy, but also New Wave soft. The projected vocals have an amazing hook. It’s everything great about Cut Copy, if they were also Tears For Fears.
Owen Pallett — A Bloody Morning
Pallett is back after a six-year break — Island is cinematic, as to be expected, following the traditions the rest of his œuvre has firmly entrenched.
“A Bloody Morning” recalls his previous tracks, but I’ve always had a real affinity for the class of songs that he’s written which have a percussive element to go along with the emotional content.
The orchestral atmosphere here belongs in a movie: it’s sweet, sad, raw, and powerful.
Hoops — Don’t Panic
Hoops doesn’t deviate that far from Coldplay in this cover; it’s just a little bit crunchier and raw around the edges. And, it turns out, that just makes the track even better.
Listen: I actually like Coldplay. This really is a fantastic track improved upon.
Greet Death — Strange Days
If the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World were made today, this song would almost certainly be prominent in one of the sad parts. The crunchy wall of sound behind Destroyer-like vocals works so well. The energy is pulled in and out in spectacular ways; halfway through, all we have is just a high hat keeping track of a ringing guitar and the repeating refrain… and then, of course, we kick back in to that wall of sound again.
Soul Glo — 23
This album is a masterpiece, but it’s not for the faint of heart in both its lyric content and musical styling. “23” is a collection of movements that epitomize hardcore punk in the best ways — it’s low-fi, emotional, and a head-banger.
This album touches on the punk DIY scene, race, and relationships. I’ll let “23” speak for itself:
Emotional assimilation is trauma […]
Is trauma’s worn, scar-tissued skin
Seared by state-sanctioned aspirations
Underneath my will to live clings tight my will to die
The silent secret of my strength is all the shame I’ve centralized
Happyness — Vegetable
There’s two sides to this driven-but-soft, crunchy-but-acoustic, catchy tune. It’s a relatively conventional indie track, clearly rooted in Elliott Smith’s tradition, with an extremely catchy hook and a straight-forward structure; but the way it bends back and forth from driven guitars to an acoustic crawl is really something spectacular. The instrumentation itself heavily recalls indie rock of years past, but “Vegetable” is still novel.