The Knocks & Skylar Spence Present Amelia Airhorn (Soundcloud, FREE DOWNLOAD)
Skylar Spence is formerly known on the internet as Saint Pepsi, and he has always been someone who seeks out and samples perfect and mostly forgotten grooves and brings them forwards to the internet age. With DJ/Remixers The Knocks, they’ve created a sonic journey through legendary disco NYC perfect for these dog days of the summer.
Beacon – Escapements (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
It’s cool to see genres start to blend in ways that were unthinkable when I was a kid but seem totally obvious now. Beacon merge ambient soundscapes and skittering electronics with soulful white R&B singing, kinda like vocal house in the early 90s, but this time in slow motion and with added warmth/claustrophobia.
Cécile Corbel – Arrietty (Original Soundtrack) (Apple Music)
Arrietty is maybe a lesser Studio Ghibli film but it’s definitely got its charms, and a big one is this unexpected harp-based soundtrack. The story is that French singer/harpist Cécile Corbel had some promo albums left, so she hand-addressed one to Studio Ghibli, which caught the eye of producer Toshio Suzuki just as he was thinking through how to do the music for The Secret World of Arrietty.
Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape 4 (Apple Music [sampler EP], Spotify [sampler EP], FREE DOWNLOAD)
I love rap music a lot, but sometimes what I love even more than rap music is rap instrumentals. Clams Casino’s instrumentals are definitely a far cry from a sample + a drum machine origins of rap instrumentals–they’re noisy and enveloping, with tons of reverb and unexpected textures. They wrap me up and make me feel things. Also the full download has the instrumental version of Clams Casino’s killer remix of Sia’s Elastic Heart, which is incredible but feels much more full of doom and destruction without Sia’s voice.
Ebo Taylor – Love & Death (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
My pal @the_shrillest turned me on to this album when he tweeted: “At 74, with an entire life in the rearview, the highlife king dropped a perfect album” and I don’t know if I have much to add other than highlife is possibly one of the top genres of music that exist and if you’re not hip to it, now’s the time.
Gloryhammer – Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards (Apple Music, Spotify)
Look, man, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a band called Gloryhammer, and the album is called Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards and if that isn’t enough for you, I’m not sure what I can do to get you into this. It’s symphonic space metal about wizard battles that’s in continuity with the space wizard stories they sing about in their other albums, okay? There’s a song called “An Evil Wizard Does a Quest” and another one called “Victorious Eagle Warfare”, do you need me to spell this out for you?
Jonathan Coulton – Solid State (Apple Music, Spotify)
Internet dude, songwriter of the songs that GladOS sings in the Portal games, JoCo has a new one that’s also loosely a scifi rock opera with its own graphic novel. And the graphic novel is all-caps GOOD. Listen to me and the boys talk about the comic book on episode 94 of Four Color Commentary at about an hour in.
Psychic Temple – IV (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Chris Schlarb is Psychic Temple’s mastermind, cult leader, and, this time around, lead singer. This album is getting lots of “Steely Dan in 2017” comparisons and they work because they imply both songwriting skill and instrumental prowess. Schlarb doesn’t hold back when it comes to collaborators, inviting disparate players together to form an unrivaled and totally killer studio crew. They even made a (short) documentary about the making of this album that’s worth seeing. Watch out, these songs seem unassuming at first listen, but once they get implanted, you’ll find them popping up and you’ll be drawn back in, over and over.
Richard Edwards – Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
The first solo album from the former leader of Margaret and the Nuclear So and So’s, Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset, is sweet and sour and not just a little wistful. It’s sonically lush and lyrically heartbreaking, and it leans towards that LA country sound but with a vulnerability atypical of the genre.
Sleep Party People – Lingering (Apple Music, Spotify)
The work of a single imaginitive Danish dude named Brian Batz, Sleep Party People fit into that genre that we used to call synthpop but now is evangelized by the likes of CHVRCHES and Purity Ring. This album only gingerly encourages you to dance while pushing the sonic boundaries of these totally sing-along-able songs.
Tall Tall Trees – Freedays (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Maybe one of my favorite albums of the year so far. The first track, Backroads, is so, so good. And the album proceeds from there, continuing to draw you in and enrapture you with its beauty and soul. It’s hard to believe that a lot of the sounds on this album come from multitracked, effects-laden banjo. No, really. It’s AMAZING.
Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestite (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
I’ve always had this weird affinity for music that you can move from one genre to another simply based on the volume your headphones are at. There’s a particular crushing electronic metal noise produced on this EP that is soothing and calming at low volumes but brutal and cathartic at louder volumes. Plus, French horn.