10 Gilad Hekselman – “Magic Chord” feat. Eric Harland
Everything about the production on Far Star, the new album by Brooklyn jazz guitarist Gilad Hekselman, breathes fiery life into the listener’s ears. The drums, though played softly and heavily on the cymbals, are clear and robustly loud, with Hekselman’s chosen instrument of guitar within jazz also infusing this music with some off-kilter zeal.
9 Dot Allison – “Cue the Tears (Anton Newcombe Remix)”
Dot Allison, per legend, has been at it on the British electro scene since the ’90s, to today still just be a dot on the map but to at least let a “remixes” album bubble to the fore and wield every bit the vitality and energy of an ingenuous newbie. “Cue the Tears” finds her grating voice nestling freshly against a woozy bath of psychedelic I.D.M. texture, where it seems like clouds are the primary instruments, although, no, that can’t be right.
8 Lo Five – “MY M8TE”
Keeping it in British electro EP’s here, we go to Liverpool’s Lo Five and his four-song trek of ambient rhythm. “MY M8TE” tiptoes along under a canopy of grainy synth great for “zoning out to,” which, per the direct report from the artist himself, is exactly what he was doing to these “hardware jams.”
7 Come to Grief – “Scum Like You”
New Hampshire’s Come to Grief plays death metal that also appeals to the grunge-head in me, not unlike mid-‘90s New Orleans rockers Acid Bath. “Scum Like You” ignites as just about par for the course for them — herky-jerky, sporadic grooves that seem upstaged by the superhuman vocals of Jonathan Hebert, verbal explosions which seem to leave no stone unturned in uncovering “scum like you,” or thereabouts.
6 Tzompantli – “Tlamanalli”
“Tlamanalli,” which ambles in at track six out of the seven that grace this Pittsburgh grind outfit’s album Tlazcaltiliztli (don’t even ask how they’re getting back at me for listening to this stuff for free), seems to glide along on an effortless vibe, combining multifarious percussive fury and unsettling, apocalyptic vocals with a sense of focus that sees them changing tempo multiple times but never upsetting the groove.
5 u-Ziq – “Unless”
Mike Paradinas enlists his own God-given name as his moniker on Bandcamp and his stage name, u-Ziq, for Spotify, as he’s apparently the owner of record label Planet Mu, based in the typically athletic town Wimbledon, England. With this somewhat annoying wrinkle aside, a lot of busy, entrancing E.D.M. mania can be derived from these tracks, with “Unless” harnessing that old classic jungle groove under a curiously ambient and approachable genus of synths.
4 Mica Millar – “More Than You Give Me”
England’s Mica Millar is pretty much as bad as she wants to be, dispatching with a voice that sounds like Brandy or Vanessa Williams (so yeah she sounds black… sorry to be un-P.C.) and generally constructs music approximate to “the music that Amy Winehouse would have liked to make” territory, at least in my opinion. Like the best one seems to do these days, she seems to sing about frustrating situations, times in life that find us stretched to our limits, in which the only recourse is growth through vital music.
3 ELLES – “Hope”
Lisbon, Portugal’s ELLES pumps in this year with a masterpiece of an electro-pop album in A Celebration of the Euphoria of Life, which constantly lives up to its name while, also, possessing the dynamic ability to shift moods and grooves based on subject matter. “Hope,” for its own right, is an unflinching scope into the deadening reality of everyday jobs, with moribund, hopeless mantras uttered over a hauntingly uniform, minimalistic groove, coming to a head in the simple declaration of “All we got is hope”.
2 Andres – “Sunday Kinda Love”
Andres from Detroit marks a rare American on this list not doing metal, which gives you an idea of how we’re treating our artists here these days, described on Bandcamp as “one of Detroit’s most seminal producers,” given here to heavy sampling and old-school, boom-bap beats for a “chill-out” exercise in techno that repeats “I want a Sunday kind of love”.
1 RLYR – “Real Air”
For those of you expecting this list to conclude with “Chicago-based experimental rock,” first of all, you deserve a signed Rapeman pick from Steve Albini. Second of all, you won’t be disappointed by the post-rock miasma of booming drums, virtuosic guitar shredding and overall, vaguely psychedelic awesomeness being proffered here, straight from the city whose label housed Don Caballero and whose sociological infrastructure is just awkward and white enough to embrace this madness.
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