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.
Wow, this month absolutely flew by. Time flies when you're having fun, right? And I guess this playlist did end up being kind of more fun than usual — it's an energetic lot this time around. I hope you enjoy it as we kick summer into gear!
LUMP, Laura Marling, Mike Lindsay — Animal
single, released May 5, 2021
"Animal" is such a cool track. There's so much to talk about here. The percussive elements of a scratching layered soundscape mesh so well with the shuffling, novel backbeat. It's almost aleatoric, and it creates this frame for a simple and utterly cool synth to set the stage for Marling's vocals. The harmonies are utterly entrancing, and they completely suck you in.
Every time I listen to this song I find something else to love. I really hope these folks work together more in the future, because I could easily see an album with this track on it becoming one of my favorites of all time.
Aidan Noell — Prepositional Phrase
single, released February 1, 2021
Nation of Language member Noell brings her unique styling to this track, shining through with those typical 80s tones, but adding a unique vocal distortion to her airy vocals. Prepositional Phrase repeats the same motif several times, but it never comes across as repetitive or overworked; it's just a straight-forward jam.
Graveyard Club — Valens
single, released April 16, 2020
Fans of this article may recognize a lot of motifs in this song that I'm a sucker for: singing pad lines which cry out over the track, cool guitar takes, vocals which roll in and out between the instrumentation coming back together again, and songs that sound like they're from the eighties.
So, yeah, obviously this song is a jam.
There's a lot of novel stuff here: there's a really cool megaphone-like layering effect on the vocals which comes in and out in the verse, there's a bass waveform which wordlessly fills out the lower end of the track to give it that extra oomph. You can tell a lot of care went into this one, and it's so much better for it.
Billie Marten — Human Replacement
Off Flora Fauna, released May 21, 2021
"Human Replacement" is like, completely on the edge of pop, any you know that from the beginning with that incredibly cool bass tone. Marten's vocals are incredible, and everything about this song, from the percussive piano and dramatic string emphasis in the chorus, to the way the track dynamically drops out to an extremely clean space then comes back into a rushing river where you can't actually tell where Marten's vocals stop and the rest of the track begins, all just put the ribbon on calling this one "cool."
HighSchool — De Facto
single, released February 26, 2021
"De Facto" is a fun, noisy track, with really cool guitars, and vocals that sit in a really interesting space, often played like an instrument for their inability to be understood. The second guitar solo is so great, with a surprisingly few effects manipulating the tone.
Pale Honey — Set Me Free
Off Some Time, Alone, released November 6, 2020
My favorite way that tracks make it onto this list when I listen to an album as it moves through The Album Gauntlet, putting tracks from it onto my playlist for the month when they stand out to me. Typically, what will happen is that the third or fourth time through an album, I'll say to myself something along the lines of "wow, this song is really great," and then I'll think about it for a bit, and that'll become the basis for its entry in this article.
I put five songs off this record onto my May playlist. And somehow I ended up picking a song off this album that I didn't add to my playlist this year, just because I thought it fit the best into this playlist.
"Set Me Free" is an energetic, awesome track; it bops in and out, it has a really fun, driving guitar line which plays a perfect counterpoint to the bouncing synth bass. Lodmark's vocals are emphatic and cool, the final piece of the puzzle to this fantastic song on a fantastic album.
Mannequin Pussy — Control
single, released March 23, 2021
Philly's own Mannequin Pussy are back with another immensely heart-wrenching track. It's energetic and powerful, but there's something about Missy's vocals that really tug at the heart-strings. It's not quite emo, but there's a cool guitar layer which screams through the song and really puts the cap on a song that's good at being sad.
Lil Agony — Grief
single, released October 25, 2020
I love any song that I can put on my "future folk" playlist. "Grief" is a short track, with a straight-forward message and a straight-forward emotional package, but there's something wonderful about the combination of a heavily-chorused guitar and a slowly building synth bass track.
Iguana Death Cult — Meat Market
single, released May 26, 2021
If you like IDLES, you probably already know about Iguana Death Cult. "Meat Market" is hot off the presses, and it's an extremely fun, punky, chanted track; it has something utterly "lad"-like, and I really like how it makes no excuses for wanting to rock and roll.
Blanketman — Leave The South
single, released January 19, 2021
I really love this song a lot, not just because it deeply resonates with me, someone who is extremely conflicted about having left the south (of the United States) and identifies strongly with the lyrics. (It goes without saying that I'm not trying to say any location or any person is better than anyone else.)
The Blanketman track has an almost They Might Be Giants vibe to it, a poppy, lovely picture surrounding witty lyrics which drive the song further and further into your skull. It's happy and fun, but it's also a track I have to be in the right mindset for, lest I start overthinking my own migration.
The Natvral — Why Don't You Come Out Anymore?
Off Tethers, released April 2, 2021
"Why Don't You Come Out Anymore?" follows a tradition that I absolutely love; a rocking coif of a track which just exudes cool.
So much of this track just rings out, especially when you play it loud; there's layering that only serves to add a jacket to the root of the song that just as well would deliver the same punch if it were just one person and one guitar. It almost sounds analog when songs come together like this, and The Natvral have put forth a really great effort to further the genre.
Cheekface — We Need a Bigger Dumpster
single, released April 26, 2021
Cheekface are back with their witty, cute lyrics which point to something slightly more sinister. You can't write about their work without comparing it to their unimpeachable "Dry Heat/Nice Town," but "We Need a Bigger Dumpster" is an excellent follow-up for this new era we find ourselves in.
I love the catchy vocal hooks, the bright and brilliant instrumentation, and those well-rounded percussion elements. The lyrics are a great reminder: you know, everything is fine.