Happy Memorial Day! It’s time for some music!
I’m going to be trying something slightly new this year. I like making playlists and writing about what I’ve been listening to, as you can see here. It kind of started as me making a summer playlist, which wound up covering everything I’d been listening to from the start of the year through roughly Labor Day, and then me making a smaller article to cover the rest of the year. But last year’s summer playlist wound up being way longer and more involved than I liked, and it looked like that trend would only continue.
So instead, this year I’m splitting it into two playlists to keep things more manageable. The Summer one should come at more or less the regular time, but I’m cutting it down to just May through August, more or less. And this Spring Playlist will cover January through April (even though it’s posting in late May; sorry, but I do still need time to actually write out my thoughts).
I’ve had a lot of fun looking for new music and collecting my thoughts on it (and not overwhelming myself with eight months worth of it! And spacing out the writing over a few weeks!), so if you want to follow along, I’ve included both Spotify and Youtube playlists. And if any of the songs jump out at you, definitely check out the records and artists they’re from; a lot of the time, I’m picking my favorite songs from full albums that I loved (especially if it’s one of the albums I’m writing about!).
Some housekeeping notes on the playlists, before we dive in: the Spotify version is missing 8 songs. Three of those (the DDRKirby(ISQ) and Jamie Paige ones) are on the Youtube version. The Hiro Tadomatsu songs can be found on his Soundcloud (here and here). 7mai’s can be found on their Bandcamp page (here, here, and here). In fact, most of these artists also have Bandcamp pages you can check out; it’s where I found a lot of them! Things are roughly arranged in the order I go through in the article, but also obviously feel free to skip around if you want; it’s not like the pacing of the music and writing will sync up, I’m not that skillful.
Also, if you’re a fan of these playlists or my game articles and want to be notified when they go up here, a reminder that you can sign up for my Out of Left Field mailing list below!
Expert in a Dying Field, The Beths
I’m sure this will come as a shock to everyone, but my two playlists from last year featuring a few dozen recommendations? They don’t cover the entire sum of music released by humanity in the year 2022. So I spent the first but of the year catching up on some of the albums that I saw getting discussed on End of the Year Best lists, which is what brought me to New Zealand power pop band The Beths and their stellar record Expert in a Dying Field. And as you might be able to tell by looking at the contents of the playlist, I liked it so much that I wound up listening to even more of their stuff.
Really, I don’t know what else to say, other than it’s a perfect pop-rock record. The Beths excel at packing in catchy hooks and melodies that will get stuck in your head and have you singing along by the end of your first listen, even as they keep everything to reasonable lengths. The guitar riffs are jangly and energetic, the rhythm section is tight, and their vocal harmonies provide a lot of fun layering in the background. Lead singer Elizabeth Stokes has an understated but powerful vocal style that accentuates her lyrics, which have this beautiful melancholy to them, as she recounts all the anxieties that make up life and provides a cathartic release for those pent up emotions.
From the first notes of the opening titular track as it slowly builds from staccato pick ups to big chorus while weaving a metaphor between a failing relationship and seeing your life work die out, it has the way of just hooking you in, being relatable in an almost mundane way while also making you want to pump your fist to big guitar moments. But even the lower-key numbers, like “Your Side”, have an energy to them while still feeling intimate. And my favorite moment might be towards the end, “A Passing Rain”, another rumination on anxiety where Stokes relates her many fears before expressing shock and gratefulness at a partner who accepts her in spite of that, a sweet moment that’s made so much bigger by the kickass guitar riff and belted chorus of “I cave! Like I was built to break!/You stay! Like it’s a passing rain!” Man, it just feels like a high point that’s been slowly building for the entire album, even as there are so many good points on the way to it; I feel like I’m appreciating new songs each time I re-listen (even now, on my latest re-listen, I’m debating whether to swap in “Best Left” for one of these).
If you try Expert in a Dying Field and also find yourself liking it, my next move was trying the singles from before and after it, as well as their previous album, Jump Rope Gazers. It’s all just great in the same ways (check out “Dying to Believe” for a highlight), even if I think Expert is still a cut above them.
Preacher’s Daughter, Ethel Cain
This was another one that I found browsing other people’s Best of 2022 Lists and wound up loving. It’s kind of a big contrast with Expert in a Dying Field in a lot of ways, though. The songs on Preacher’s Daughter are big, sprawling things, both in length, but also in size? They feel like large caverns or imposing cathedrals, in a way I can’t quite describe; something about the big arrangements that dabble in so many styles, and how they feel like they go on and on even beyond their run times. Or maybe it’s the scope of the story; it’s a concept album, a tragic epic (both in the narrative sense) of a teenage girl trying to escape her small, crushing hometown by any means and running into disaster after horrific disaster. Really, if there’s a reason this doesn’t chart as high, it’s that it’s a lot, thematically dark and heavy in so many ways that I just can’t pop it on at a moment’s notice like I can, say, The Beths. But if you’re in the mood for that, I’d still recommend it; and if that sounds like too much to go in blind, at least try lead track (after the intro) “American Teenager”, which does a great job of setting the scene with a big, anthemic banger about a crisis of faith and dying to escape an oppressive hometown for the larger world, complete with a “Don’t Stop Believin’”-esque guitar solo over the outro.
Bright Blues, RIPE
I didn’t write any blurbs up for artists or albums back in 2018, but Ripe’s Joy in the Wild Unknown was one of my favorite releases of that year (which is really saying something given that there are a ton of records that I loved from that year), and it’s remained in regular rotation for me since then. The entire thing is just pop-funk perfection, filled wall-to-wall with infectious hooks and horn lines.
But the band had gone kind of quiet on the new music front in the five years since, focusing on touring and live releases, with only four new songs released in the interim (all in 2020). This spring, though, they finally released their sophomore studio album, Brightest Blue. I don’t think it’s quite as dense on standout tracks as Joy was, but they definitely still have a solid touch in that regard. Ripe just has too much experience writing funky grooves and big, climactic choruses to not load the album with them, and it makes for another solid listen overall, with standout tracks like “Settling” and “Queen of the City”. I’m hoping the gap before their next release isn’t this long, but at least when they do get around to it, they do a good job of keeping their skills polished.
Default Mode Network, DMN
Synthpop probably the genre I end up defaulting to the most in my personal taste (and it’s definitely the area of Bandcamp I end up picking over the most while I’m searching Bandcamp)*, and this is probably my favorite thing I’ve found there in this playlist. DMN is a four-piece band from Portland that just does a good job of building solid grooves around fun bass and synth lines, the kind of thing that you could dance to or easily throw on at parties. It’s so easy to lose yourself in the hypnotic songs, to the point where I’m always shocked when I look at the track times and realize most of this album is on the “5 minutes and up” side of things (it also doesn’t help that they love doing ending fake-outs for their songs).
But another major factor is that all of the songs have a lot of good moments in them, from strong centerpieces to draw you in to long builds and cathartic releases. It was genuinely difficult to choose a few songs here, they’re all so strong in their own ways. Album centerpiece “50303” is probably the most representative, a 7-minute sung-spoken jam about a house party, complete with shouted group vocals and echo-y discordant guitar stabs to punctuate the choruses. And my other two picks, album opener “Like a Fever” and “Known Unknowns”, do a great job serving in those roles while also representing the whole, with the former’s long build to a crescendo and the outro’s big chorus and key change. But if you like any of those, it’s definitely worth checking out the full thing (after all, these three are already a third of the album anyway).
*Or electropop? I browse both tags, and I’m still not totally sure that there’s a big difference between the two, so I end up using them kind of interchangeably.
fallback and new low EPs, nightlife
Nightlife is the rare kind of musical act, the kind where you hear them and instantly sit up, thinking “This is new! This feels exciting!” The trio describes themselves as “Baltimore soulpunk” on their bandcamp, and that’s probably the best summary, combining the slick R&B-influenced pop of the late ‘90s with things like crunchier guitars and bigger drums of pop-punk.* It sounds simple, but sounds almost revelatory, especially in how much it feels like it stands out from the current pop scene. I had both of their EPs on repeat, with tracks like “nightlifetypebeat”, “new low”, and “fallback” as the standouts. They’re an easy pick for my informal “Most Promising Newcomer” award here; I’m excited to see what’s next for them, and I kind of wonder if they might be at the forefront of a new nostalgia cycle for the eras they’re drawing from?
*Honestly, the best comparison I can think of might be those “Pop Goes Punk” records from the 2000s, where pop-punk bands covered teen pop like ‘NSYNC? Except those always had some level of irony behind them, a “can you believe this?” vibe at times; nightlife’s approach strips tongue from cheek, and tries to push that idea to its full potential.
As Above EP, Hoity-Toity
My runner-up for “Most Promising” pick is L.A. alt rock/indie pop act Hoity-Toity, for their new EP from March. I don’t really know what to say, other than it’s five really fun, high-energy pop-rock tracks that make me excited to hear more from them! They’ve have a few older EPs from the past few years that I looked through, and while I think the earlier ones are good, there’s something about As Above that feels peak, like it’s the results of years of polishing and honing their songwriting and style; it’s cool as a new follower to look back and see that kind of growth over the years. Also, if you remember We Are the Union from my Summer 2021 Playlist, their lead singer Reade Wolcott mixed this EP, which is a fun crossover!
scales, King Isis
This is the other “Most Promising EP” pick. A young artist from the Bay Area, King Isis’s songs here feel like a distinct fusion of smooth R&B jams and jangly alt rock guitars. It’s the fun kind of stuff that grows on you, where you start putting it on for a general vibing mood and then realize “oh wait, this is a really big, fun cathartic moment here”. Definitely looking forward to seeing more of their stuff.
Other albums and songs
mini mix vol. 3, Magdalena Bay
Sure, a short EP isn't going to match the masterpiece that is Mercurial World, but Magdalena Bay is still very good at their dreamy brand of indie pop, and new releases from them are always anticipated here.
Civilisation, Kero Kero Bonito
I had liked art-pop weirdos Kero Kero Bonito before, but in a kind of hit-or-miss way. But I checked out their 2021 album Civilisation, which combines their two previous similarly-titled and thematically-linked EPs, and man, if it isn't just the best vehicle for their brand of big-swing weirdness. It’s on the borderline of a concept album, drawing from things like fairy tales and apocalyptic sci-fi to tell about the shock and boredom of the end of the world, as well as continuing on after. It’s, uh, maybe not hard to see the inspiration from the COVID pandemic here. I loved the synth solos on “The River” and “The Princess and the Clock”, and the closer “Well Rested” is a fun almost anti-apocalyptic sermon about the resilience of humanity to send it all off.
Let’s!, Mecha Maiko
This would be my other favorite synthpop discovery of this playlist. Mecha Maiko is a Canadian electronic artist, with a style of synthwave that draws from retro ‘80s and ‘90s styles. I ended up going through her three albums, and her newest album NOT OK was also a strong contender for this, but I ended up going with her second album Let’s! instead. I think it helps that it’s a little lighter and more energetic (which is fair, it was definitely an intentional choice), but Let’s! is also definitely buoyed by “Trust”, which is just a glistening banger of a track, fully adorned with driving vocals and crystalline synth chimes, that gets your blood pumping. It’s really just the prime example of the album’s energy.
Mean Dreams, Miracles of Modern Science
Another group I found while browsing Bandcamp. This is one of those bands that’s inherently interesting just by its existence, a band with a chamber pop instrumentations and arrangements (including violin, cello, double bass, and mandolin as their default), but with songwriting that pulls from new wave, pop, alternative, indie rock… it’s as distinctive as it sounds. And there’s a wit and humor to the lyrics and topics, but also a lot of self-aware melancholy that really hits you (in a way that reminds me of Short Fiction’s Every Moment of Every Day from my last playlist). The opening song, “Follow Your Heart (or Something)” reflects directly on the precarity of chasing your dreams, and the closer “Never Knew Normal” mourns slowly fading away, overwhelmed despite their efforts but living on in spirit. Mean Dreams was Miracles of Modern Science’s second album, originally released in 2015 after a decade or so of music that seemed to be generally acclaimed but not super popular; they haven’t released any music since then, and their social media accounts haven’t posted anything in years, so uh… I’m going to go out on a ledge and say they maybe saw some writing on the wall here. But it’s quite the parting gift, if nothing else.
I went back and checked their first album and the intervening EP, and they’re also pretty good if you’re in the mood for more stuff like this! I still prefer Mean Dreams the most out of that set, but there’s good in all of them (and it’s not like there’s a ton of other groups that sound like this anyway, so there aren’t many other options if you do want more…).
This Is Why, Paramore
It’s been kind of wild watching Paramore over the years go from “band for teenagers” at their debut (no slight to them there, I was in that group at the time!) to “one of the most acclaimed modern rock bands”. I don’t know that I like this record as much as their last two, personally, but this is still a tight album. My biggest gripe is that I don’t know that there’s an S-tier single here (in the vein of, say, “Ain’t It Fun” or “Hard Times” or “Misery Business”...) to kick it up that last notch... but I have to say, “The News” has been growing on me more and more, with it’s frantic guitar and percussion work, so maybe I’ll end up revising this opinion later.
Dirt Femme, Tove Lo
This was another catch-up album from 2022 that I missed; last year, the Swedish pop singer released her first independent record after four on major records (which might be how it slipped by me?). As a long-time listener, it might be her best album since her first one back in 2013. That one is too nostalgic for me, so I might need to do a more neutral re-listen for direct comparison, but either way, this is a very strong entry in the singer’s catalog, and definitely recommended! Every track here is just so solid, full of dark and dancy synth lines.
Collapsed in Sunbeams, Arlo Parks
Yet another album I heard good things about but finally got around to, Collapsed in Sunbeams is a wonderfully smooth slice of dream pop/R&B. It pulls you right in from the opening, smoky groove of “Hurt” and just keeps going from there. Gosh, this is such a great album for just sitting around and thinking and vibing.
Continue as a Guest, The New Pornographers
This is a good album, but weirdly difficult to write about. Like, sure it’s good, but it’s also The New Pornographers’ ninth album, and they’ve all been good; being bad would be more of a surprise at this point. It’s definitely got a more somber, reserved tone than their other ones. I like it, but it’s not a personal favorite of mine (probably at least in part due to the tone), like Twin Cinema or Brill Bruisers. There’s no bad songs on it, but there’s also none that I’d call one of my favorites among them; there are a few that are close, but they all have clear things holding them back for me (I wish “Cat and Mouse With the Light” had a slightly bigger climax; I love the dark bass grove and hushed sax on “Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies” and the big opening of “Really Really Light” but I feel like the lyrics on both let them down a little). If you at all like The New Pornographers, this album is definitely still worth checking out, and maybe you’ll even really vibe with it; if you’re less familiar but trying to get into them though, this is probably not the best starting place (I’d personally go with the two albums I mentioned earlier or Together).
The North, Stars
While we’re on the subject of 2000s/2010s Canadian indie rock bands… I finally gave Stars a try, with their 2012 album The North. And yeah, a lot of things I like about The New Pornographers are here as well; ‘The Theory of Relativity” and “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It” (somehow only the second longest song title on this playlist) are some great examples of what the album has to offer. I need to give the rest of their discography a go now that I have an in.
Desire, I Want To Turn Into You, Caroline Polachek
I feel like I’m grading this one on an unfair curve. It’s better than her last album, Pang, which I already loved! It feels like it should be in the running for my favorite album on the album, but it probably gets hurt by the fact that 1) it’s more of less what I expected from Caroline Polachek, some very good, kind of artsy pop music; 2) it was even less surprising because all of the best songs (“Welcome to My Island”, “Bunny Is a Rider”, and “Sunsets” remain favorites, although all of them have featured on past playlists and won’t make it here) were released as singles ahead of time. Which is kind of what you want in marketing I guess, but I did kind of wear myself out of them a little before my “first” listen. I’ll be curious to see if it moves up when I revisit it after some time away, but for now, I can still at least say that it’s definitely good!
10,000 gecs, 100 gecs
The poster children of hyperpop are back! This is another one in the same category as Desire; the album is only 25 minutes long, and three of my favorite songs on it were pre-release singles (“mememe” and “Doritos & Fritos” have appeared on past playlists, although “Hollywood Baby” was released late enough to qualify here; “Frog on the Floor” was from the remaining seven). Still, even in that short length, it packs in a lot, with wild swings in styles from ska to nu-metal to electronica to whatever else they feel like, and it’s definitely a fun ride along the way!
Emotional Creature, Beach Bunny
I’ve featured Beach Bunny on one of these lists before, and I feel like they have a pretty distinctive sound? But their album from last year feels like it takes that as a base and pushes in a few different directions, but in a way that’s hard to explain. Like, it’s definitely still their stylistic sound, but… I feel like they try more things to expand on that, like the layers of synths on “Scream” or the big key changes on closing track “Love Story”. But their normal strong ear for catchy songs and riffs is still there, in songs like “Entropy” and “Weeds”, and it makes this a strong release all-around.
Between the Moon and Stars, Futurecop!
Futurecop! has popped up in my past searches on the Synthwave genre tag on Bandcamp, and their music has never been bad when I’ve sampled it, but it also hadn’t really stood out either. But something about their newest album back in March caught my attention. I think it has something about the “less is more” style of it? It’s only 8 songs and under half an hour with no guest vocals or anything else. But each song is richly layered while being highly distinct, and maybe it’s just the striking landscape on the cover art, but each one feels like a distinct and vibrant place and scene. Honestly, it feels like it could almost be the soundtrack to a Sayonara Wild Hearts spin-off or something; it’s not quite on that album’s level, but the fact that it’s good enough to make me think of that is a major compliment!
The Black Light, The Ting Tings
I loved The Ting Ting’s first two albums, which came out when I was in high school and college, and I think they had a noticeable impact on my developing music tastes. But at some point, they just kind of… faded from my attention? Like, I’d still re-visit those first two albums because of nostalgia, but I kind of just forgot about their third album, 2014’s Super Critical. I don’t even know why; I went back and listened to it and found that it was pretty good as well! It’s their signature fun and bouncy songs, but with a much bigger disco influence than earlier albums; I think “Wrong Club” at least stands among their biggest hits, and there are definitely a few other stand-out tracks. I’m not sure why I didn’t latch onto it at the time like I did the first two.
But I also realized that I had kind of lost track of them in the intervening years, and wanted to see what I missed. As it turned out, they took a long break before releasing The Black Light in 2018, and no other new material since. It seems like it didn’t make much of a splash at the time either, so I guess it makes sense that I missed it? It’s definitely the black sheep of their catalog; whereas Super Critical used warmer and denser arrangements, The Black Light is darker and stripped-back. I’m not going to call it rough, the Ting Tings are still using their normal slick pop polish, but they definitely went for a rougher version of that style here. You get the deep wubs of drum-and-bass and breakbeat at the foundation, the vocals sound like they’re mixed to be echoing through an empty space at parts, songs are in minor keys, there are stark synth lines in arrangements that sound conspicuously hollow compared to their past albums (especially the last one). I kind of dig the stylistic turn, honestly. I can see why some people might have felt alienated if that’s what happened here, but I enjoyed seeing a take that is both so firmly them while being something else. I’m not sure I’d say it should be your entrypoint into their discography if you haven’t listened to them before (that’s still probably their debut album), but I enjoyed my time with it.
Dance Fever, Florence and the Machine
I wasn’t huge on their previous album, High as Hope, but decided to give it a try after hearing Jack Antonoff worked with them; after all, this was basically the same progression I felt towards the 1975, but I wound up liking their album last year. Maybe lightning would hit twice?
And… it’s fine. I liked it more than High as Hope, but it doesn’t quite match the heights of Florence and the Machine’s first three albums (which were also pretty influential on my high school and college years, coincidentally). There are some good songs (especially the opening three, “King”, “Free”, and “Choreomania”), and on the whole it’s not a bad album, but it’s definitely a change in direction that never quite hits the big, sweeping grandeur of those first three albums.
I tried poking around a little while reflecting here, and noticed that Isabella Summers (the “the Machine” part of the band name) has cut back her involvement with the group over the last two albums (her only credits from the last two albums are “backing vocals” on this album, after various writing, production, and instrumental credits before High as Hope). I’m never going to be able to do more than speculate, but I wonder if that change is her influence? In which case… I prefer this marked change in direction to the more listless HaH, at least. I just kind of miss those big, showstopper-type numbers. Speaking of…
Powderpaint EP, Powderpaint
This is a fun, throwback synth dance pop group who caught my eye in part for their cover of Florence and the Machine’s “Spectrum” from Ceremonials (which might be my favorite song of theirs? Tied with “Dog Days Are Over” maybe?). That is a difficult song to pull off, but Powderpoint translates it perfectly into a big ‘80s-style dance track (turns out, those belted vocals work just as perfectly coming from a disco diva-style performance, and the complex orchestration makes for some fun running synth lines) and just nails it! Anyway, that roped me in to checking out the rest of their discography, which is similarly a blast to listen to, and highly recommended if you’re at all a fan of that style.
The Night Game (and Dog Years), The Night Game
I heard about this band via their song “The Outfield”, which is just a perfect song in my opinion, a throwback to ‘80s new wave stuff like, uh, The Outfield. In fact, the song sounds like someone somehow figured out how to recreate their classic hit “Your Love” while still making something that can completely stand on its own; it really is great. I don’t know that they ever quite reach that height on the rest of their two albums, but they’re still both a lot of fun, so maybe give them a try if you like that song. There’s also a Caroline Polachek feature in “Do You Think About Us”, which is another great fusion of retro and modern pop writing.
Fantasy League, Fantasy League
A synthpop duo I once again found through Bandcamp that reminds me of Creature Canopy (included way back on my Summer 2018 Playlist, and I still go back to them every now and then despite no new music recently). What can I say, I have a few types that tickle the primal parts of my brain, and one of them is “blaring, catchy synth lines, layers of instrumentals, and shouted vocals”. I didn’t know if I had a lot to say about the album as a whole, but there are a bunch of catchy songs on it and I kept coming back to it, and at a certain point, what else can you say?
Lobster, Dirty Nice
Another fun indie pop band I found while browsing Bandcamp. There’s a bit of wobbly weirdness to their style that I really appreciate, bouncing between things like acoustic guitar strumming and sped up synths and vocals. But my favorite thing I included might be a single they’ve released in the time since Lobster, a frantic piano-led jam from earlier this year called “This Is Gonna Hurt”.
SEEDS I EP, Protection
Protection is a duo that’s also a side-project of CHVRCHES’ Iain Cook , which is how I heard about them. They also deal in complex synth arrangements, but more in the territory of electronic dance music. “Still Love You” is an all-time banger of a track with a spidery synth line that I love (which is kind of a recurring thing here) and a fantastic driving sample at its core. I’m over 95% sure Lauren Mayberry (CHVRCHES’s singer) contributes the vocal sample on at least “Doll” (maybe more, although I’m less certain there).
Farm to Table, Bartees Strange
I’ve seen smart music critics praise these alt rock albums albums, but I’ve been kind of unable to produce thoughts on them more in-depth than “Yeah, they’re good!”. So, uh, yeah, they’re good!
The Quick Hits!
New Music from Bands I’ve Covered Before:
CHVRCHES, “Over”: I’m not sure if this is the lead-up to a new album or just a one-off, but either way, it’s CHVRCHES’s normal solid work. I’ve been kicking around an idea for an article taking a look at their full discography, and maybe this is what inspires me to finally do it? Before they announce an actual album?
Muna, “One That Got Away” and “Bad at Letting Go” (with Leland): I’m not sure if these are leftover songs from their self-titled album last year or entirely new songs, but either way, they’re definitely of a piece with that album stylistically. I also think they’re pretty high quality, too. Also of note, Leland was a co-writer on “What I Want” (which made last Summer’s playlist), which I learned from listening to them discussing that song on the podcast Song Exploder; it was also an interesting listen, if you like behind-the-scenes stuff!
Gryff: Since I called out Calypso Drip FM last time, I’ll mention that his four pre-release singles that aren’t on the album (“Halcyon”, “All Night”, “1984”, and “Night Drive”) all make for a great extension of it! I added the former two here.
Jamie Paige, “Ride on Time”: It’s just a cover/translation/rearrangement of a Japanese city pop classic, but it’s a good one, and there’s a promise of more music on the way!
Underscores, “Count of three (You can eat $#@!)”: After writing and producing her debut album fishmonger and follow-up EP boneyard aka fearmonger, underscores gets some big assists here from Dylan Brady (half of 100 gecs), Benny Blanco, and Cashmere Cat. I’m not sure if that’s a one-off or an indicator of what’s next, but in writing this, I learned that she has a new song out, so I guess maybe look for more info on the Summer playlist?
PG14: This is actually just a Matt & Kim sideproject, so far consisting of just an EP titled YES PLEASE. I couldn’t find a ton of material covering why they decided to do it this way, but from the one interview I did find, it sounds kind of like they wanted to separate themselves from their other work? Stylistically, I think it’s pretty similar to the type of music that they’re known for, so doing all of that seems a little over-the-top. But they do bring a renewed energy to it, so maybe that mentality helped them take a fresh look; it’s probably my favorite project of theirs in over a decade?
Common OoLF Playlist features MisterWives, The Aces, Alex Lahey, and ARIZONA all have pre-release singles for upcoming albums here (although the latter two released their albums in May after my cutoff), so expect to see more of them in a few months. Ditto Janelle Monae (although that announcement also fell after my deadline).
Shelby Harvey: Okay, so I haven’t featured Shelby here before, but while I’m foreshadowing things to come at Out of Left Field, I’ll mention that I found her music because she’s also the vocalist on the Cassette Beasts soundtrack, and there is absolutely an article coming on that game soon. I love it all so much!
Fun Things I Found on Bandcamp That I Want to Call Out (but don’t necessarily have a full blurb on):
Softee: Some fun, chill indie pop stuff. I wound up tearing through her entire catalog, so there are a few picks from each release included here. That includes “Molly”, a single from her new album Natural, which technically also released after my early May cutoff, so expect more from that one on the next list as well.
King Wine: A Scottish indie pop band whose self-titled debut album builds their traditional stuff around chiptune riffs to catch your ear, then grows on you from there. Something about those main hooks is just incredibly infectious, especially lead track “I Ride My Bike in the Summer”, and it helps that they have a goofy, endearing sense of humor to their lyrics.
ElevenWAV: ElevenWAV follows 7mai, Snail’s House (both also featured on the list), etc. in my long tradition of “finding an electronic artist who makes exciting, bouncy instrumental music and start digging through their backlog”. If you liked those past examples, maybe check this one out too.
saorise dream: I had a hard time picking songs from her (I think? There are some EPs and mixtapes too) debut album star★☆; it’s a wonderful slice of bedroom-pop/hyperpop, taking songwriting influence from the former and production from the latter.
muscle memory: I’ve stated my love for early-2010s indie pop before, and this is another great example… in part, because their music is overwhelmingly from 2014-15 (with only one follow up over the past seven years). I still enjoyed it, band singer and songwriter David Adedokun has a distinctive vocal style and delivery that I enjoy, almost a kind of crooning.
Letting Up Despite Great Faults: I just kind of stumbled on this Austin-based band through their newer stuff; they released a new album IV last year, and an EP Crumble this year, following a long hiatus (their last album came in 2014, and their release of any type was 2017). I haven’t checked out their stuff from before 2022, but it’s some great alternative rock that blends twee and shoegaze.
Happy Hollows: Their album Craver was some pretty good indie rock-electropop, but it honestly might be carried by single “Prowler”, which is just a fantastic track.
Declan Sheehy-Moss: If you liked Sungazer and their more experimental electronic-jazz stuff back when I included that on a playlist, you might also enjoy Declan’s EP Drive Safe.
Bridal Party: I got bored and started browsing the “City Pop” tag to see what I could find, and gave this Canadian band’s album Cool Down a try to see how well they translated the genre to a more North American style. I don’t know that it’s traditional city pop, but I see where they were coming from, and it’s still interesting.
AIR APPARENT: This feels like a throwback to the sort of big EDM-pop from the first half of the 2010s? I hadn’t thought of that as something that qualified as needing a throwback until I heard this and realized how different it seems from the current pop landscape. I think their first album Chromatic is a pretty well-executed version of that, so if you also have nostalgia for that era, maybe give this a listen?
Vinaigrette: Their EP Cliché is a short-and-sweet burst of catchy and aggressive electroclash. The bassline of “Kirsten Dunst” is the kind that immediately carved itself into your brain.
Parannoul: Post-rock and Korean music aren’t my normal things, but I gave After the Magic a try, and I enjoyed it a lot! People who know more about them both seem to like it too, in case my novice word isn’t good enough.
Shamir: Shamir has this great, soulful voice, and makes some great more atmospheric alternative music here.
ANGEL_TECH + Metagirl: ANGEL_TECH is some good old-fashioned hyperpop, full of beeps and static and lyrics about life on-line. And if you’re in the mood for something the exact opposite of that, Metagirl is the very stripped-bare folk music solo effort of half of the duo, which is an interesting contrast.
Namasenda: If you prefer the glossier end of hyperpop, Namasenda is a new graduate of PC Music, and her music fits the almost-alien pop-slickness the genre sometimes goes for.
Sunstoney: Some funky, spacey electronic dance stuff.
KALANDRA: If you liked Aurora’s blending of Nordic folk elements into pop music but want something a little more orchestral rock-y, maybe give KALANDRA a lock.
Kenneka Cook: Some fun alternative and jazz stuff here, including a fun Vampire Weekend cover in “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance”.
Laura Wolf: Some fun alt pop with electro- and chamber- influences!
Felt Out: This Austin-based band uses a lot of unique descriptors for their airy, atmospheric, kind of synthy-shoegaze; I liked their album Superfluid a good deal, and their newer one Until I’m Light is growing on me.
Boy Jr.: Some more chill indie pop stuff; if you liked Softee’s stuff earlier, maybe also give Boy Jr.'s album a try!
ff00ff: Some fun indietronica that plays around with very electronic synth and vocal sounds.
Fearful Earful: My love of pop hooks and blaring synths and unique vocal deliveries strikes again; check them out if that also describes you!
Hiro Tadomatsu: And finally, I’m not a future funk expert or anything, but I had a good time with his album The NeoKobe Nightly Selecta!
The full playlist is available below in text, after one final reminder to join the Out of Left Field mailing list!
The Full Playlist
|The Beths||Expert in a Dying Field|
|The Beths||Your Side|
|The Beths||A Passing Rain|
|The Beths||Watching the Credits|
|The Beths||I'm Not Getting Excited|
|The Beths||Dying to Believe|
|Ethel Cain||American Teenager|
|Ethel Cain||Sun Bleached Flies|
|Ripe||Queen of the City|
|DMN||Like a Fever|
|Hoity-Toity||Playing the Game|
|King Isis||in my ways|
|King Isis||im fine, thx 4 asking|
|Kero Kero Bonito||The River|
|Kero Kero Bonito||The Princess and the Clock|
|Mecha Maiko||End of Your Life|
|Mecha Maiko feat. Dana Jean Phoenix||Cold|
|Mecha Maiko||Shut It Down|
|Mecha Maiko||The Kids|
|Miracles of Modern Science||Follow Your Heart (or Something)|
|Miracles of Modern Science||Jimjams|
|Miracles of Modern Science||The Chop|
|Miracles of Modern Science||Moms Away!?|
|Miracles of Modern Science||Eating Me Alive|
|Miracles of Modern Science||Dear Pressure|
|Paramore||This Is Why|
|Tove Lo & SG Lewis||Pineapple Slice|
|Arlo Parks||Too Good|
|The New Pornographers||Really Really Light|
|The New Pornographers||Pontius Pilate's Home Movies|
|The New Pornographers||Cat and Mouse With the Light|
|Stars||The Theory of Relativity|
|Stars||Hold on When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It|
|Caroline Polachek||Pretty In Possible|
|Caroline Polachek||I Believe|
|100 gecs||Hollywood Baby|
|100 gecs||Frog on the Floor|
|The Ting Tings||Estranged|
|The Ting Tings||Good Grief|
|Florence + the Machine||King|
|Florence + the Machine||Free|
|Florence + the Machine||Choreomania|
|The Night Game||The Outfield|
|The Night Game feat. Caroline Polachek||Do You Think About Us|
|The Night Game||I Feel Like Dancing|
|The Night Game||Beautiful Stranger|
|Fantasy League||Imaginary Lines|
|Fantasy League||Is This Your Weight?|
|Dirty Nice||This Is Gonna Hurt|
|Dirty Nice||Sunshine End Times|
|Protection||Still Love You|
|Bartees Strange||Mulholland Dr.|
|Korine||Burn the World|
|Korine||Train to Harlem|
|MUNA||One That Got Away|
|Leland & MUNA||Bad At Letting Go|
|Jamie Paige||Ride on Time|
|underscores||Count of three (You can eat $#@!)|
|PG14||GET IT GOT IT!|
|PG14||DEAD DEAD DEAD|
|Alex Lahey||Shit Talkin'|
|The Aces||Always Get This Way|
|ARIZONA||Die for a Night|
|Shelby Harvey||Treat Me Right|
|MisterWives||Out of Your Mind|
|Jukebox the Ghost||Costume|
|Scavenger Hunt||All the Feels|
|The Midnight||Land Locked Heart|
|Soul Push||Shining Star|
|Little Hurt||Cooler If U Did|
|Modern Original||Checking Out|
|Snail's House & YUC'e||Cosmic Air Ride|
|Sub-Radio||Waste Your Time|
|Chain Gang of 1974||Highwire Days|
|Olivver the Kid||Well Hung Heart|
|Olivver the Kid||Oh, Romeo|
|Kristina Johnsen Morse||On Fire|
|Panic Division||Silver Rings|
|Panic Division||Melody Ave|
|Sylvan Esso||Echo Party|
|A-zu-ra & DDRKirbyISQ||Sunrise Shine|
|DDRKirby(ISQ) feat. Aivi Tran||Passing You By|
|The Happy Fits||Achey Bones|
|The Happy Fits||Grow Back|
|The Happy Fits||While You Fade Away|
|Primo the Alien||Beginning of Us|
|Primo the Alien||Emotional|
|Short Fictions||Nothingness Lies Coiled at the Heart of Being (It's Such a Good Feeling)|
|ALVVAYS||After the Earthquake|
|ALVVAYS||Very Online Guy|
|NNAMDI||Everyone I Loved|
|Blood Cultures||Dunk On Me|
|King Wine||I Ride My Bike in the Summer|
|King Wine||Moon Princess|
|King Wine||Sad Dance Party|
|ElevenWAV||Your Best Pal|
|saorise dream w/ can of bliss||collar|
|muscle memory||ball & chain|
|muscle memory||tautology (dance floor logic)|
|Letting Up Despite Great Faults||Gorgeous|
|Letting Up Despite Great Faults||She Spins|
|Letting Up Despite Great Faults||The Do-Over|
|Letting Up Despite Great Faults||Ricochet|
|Declan Sheehy-Moss||Wish I Could|
|Bridal Party||Cool Down|
|AIR APPARENT ft. GESS||Bad for Me|
|Parannoul||We Shine at Night|
|ANGEL_TECH||whats up with u??|
|Metagirl||GIVE AND TAKE AND WITCHCRAFT|
|Namasenda feat. Hannah Diamond||Steel|
|Kenneka Cook||The Kids Don't Stand a Chance|
|Kenneka Cook||Bang Bang|
|Fearful Earful||Dark Aftermaths|
|Boy Jr.||Ur Loveable|
|Boy Jr.||A Hit Pop Song from 2016|
|Heartracer||Ice on the Streets|
|KALANDRA||Brave New World|
|KALANDRA||On the Run|
|Hiro Tadomatsu||Pink Light District|
|Palace/Goldenfang Records||Fall Deep in Love|
|Yo Kinky||Someone I used to know|