Major Games' EP1

Dousing the ’90s Midwestern rock of predecessors Zoom and Panel Donor with modern shoegaze textures, Major Games hits both past and present pleasure centers. Guitars alternately wobble and twitch, vocals espouse arch paranoia and world-wearied regret, and the reticent bass line of “Wet Talk” pleads its case for infinite playback.


Giving isn’t a tearful going-away party for drummer Jon Mueller and pianist Thomas Wincek, it’s a rejoicing culmination of their work together. With an effervescence unusual to post-rock, Giving charges through the post-emo hooks and interlocked Reichian patterns of “Lawns” and “Vorms” with a contradictory combination of scope and economy.


Collections of Colonies of Bees' Giving

The Men's Leave Home

It takes three minutes for opener “If You Leave…” to complete its sentence with “I would die,” but it’s a necessary inhale for the past-the-red rock to come. Blow out your hi-fi with the SST assault of “Lotus” and “Bataille,” then take two aspirin and go “Shittin’ with the Shah.”


Pete Silberman’s fluttering falsetto slips nightmares into dream-pop and clear hooks into textural art-rock, like Shudder to Think’s Craig Wedren overdosing on quaaludes. For all of its gossamer layers, Burst Apart’s foremost achievement is its tangible, enduring catharsis: “No Widows” and “Putting the Dog to Sleep” bee-line to the psyche.

"No Widows"

The Antlers' Burst Apart

Blanck Mass's Blanck Mass

Without the propulsive rhythms of Fuck Buttons to guide his interstellar travel, Benjamin John Power’s solo debut floats in deep space, yearning for a return to orbit. The merger of mammoth synths and sequenced electronic arpeggios captures the vastness of the cosmos, both in wonder (“Land Disasters”) and loneliness (“Chernobyl”).


Nearly broken by Drums and Guns’s bleakness, Low returns revitalized by those trials. Boasting their fullest, most confident arrangements yet, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are eminently engaging on the sweeping rock of “Nothing but Heart,” the shuffling pop of “Try to Sleep,” and the slow-core drama of “Majesty Magic.”


Low's C'mon

Christina Vantzou's No. 1

Vantzou emerges from the dormant Stars of the Lid offshoot The Dead Texan with her own brand of absorbing ambient classical. Relying on varied textures—sampled and live instrumentation—Vantzou’s compositions stretch out into vast spaces, leaving behind haunting vapor trails, lighting dark corners, and enforcing the laws of gravity at devastating times.

""Super Interlude Pt. 2"

Practicing dark arts and perfecting hazy guitar tones by moonlight, Implodes move slowly through a thick, eerie fog of layered drones and disembodied voices, leaving behind intermittent breadcrumb-trail beats. Ranging from vaguely disconcerting nebulas like “Oxblood” to the entranced psych-rock of “Meadowlands,” Black Earth succeeds with forms and without them.


Implodes' Black Earth

Deleted Scenes' Young People's Church of the Air

Deleted Scenes’ vibrant sophomore effort starts with a foundation of indie-pop melodies and complex DC post-punk, then stretches out into new terrain. Bedroom pop? The aptly titled “Bedbedbedbedbed.” Energetic surf-rock? “Baltika 9.” Delicate acoustics? “Nassau.” These styles fit seamlessly into the broader landscape, helped by layers of inventive production treatments.

"English as a Second Language"

Hauschildt extracts the labyrinthine electronics from Emeralds, but doesn’t lose the human resonance of the absent guitar lines. His sequenced patterns fill every corner of this retro-futuristic world with tinkling rainfall, glowing LEDs, and over-clocked processors. Centerpiece “Music for a Moiré Pattern” spans eleven minutes of textural and melodic evolution.

"Tragedy & Geometry"

Steve Hauschildt's Tragedy & Geometry

Cymbals Eat Guitars' Lenses Alien

Cymbals Eat Guitars turn cribbed notes on ’90s indie rock nostalgia into their own sound. Epic opener “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)” crosses Sonic Youth noise bridges into a weary, often violent world of second-hand narratives and first-person memories, proving Joseph D’Agostino adept at strip-mining his own past for poetic insight.

"Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)"

Dunn’s impeccable drone classical evokes the awe, grandeur, and stillness of untouched nature. There’s no fear of corrupting the pristine landscapes, no threat of suburban sprawl encroaching on this solitary domain, just the ruminative expanse of “Dropping Sandwiches in Chester Lake” and “Movement for the Completely Fucked” awaiting your exploration.

"Dropping Sandwiches in Chester Lake"

Kyle Bobby Dunn's Ways of Meaning

The Field's Looping State of Mind

There’s nothing minimal about The Field’s technicolor techno; tracks amble past seven minutes, live instrumentation like double bass and vibraphone seeps into the mix, and loops beget loops beget loops. The cumulative mesmerizing effect obscures the emergence of new elements—midway into each song I’m bewildered by fully exposed panorama.

"Then It's White"

Elucidating the difference between “melodic” and “catchy,” the choruses of “Leroy,” “Shark,” and “Steam” latch on for hours, days, weeks. There’s no bitter aftertaste, either, because Hammer doubles down on Burning Airlines’ power pop tendencies and matures in substantial ways, such as recruiting cellist Gordon Withers and ruminating on mortality.


Hammer No More the Fingers' Black Shark

Colin Stetson's New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges

Hard to believe that this alien polyphony of undulating swoops, harrowing howls, and percussive clicks comes from loop-free live recordings of Stetson’s virtuosic bass saxophone performances. Harder still to comprehend how he coaxes the emotional depth of “Home” and the bizarre groove of “Judges” from his instrument. My investigation continues.


Ostensibly dwelling on Americana (and “America!”), Apocalypse’s true manifest destiny is to continue Bill Callahan’s cartography of Bill Callahan. He’s hit an unnerving comfort level with this approach, but the reward remains enticing: superlative songwriting like “Drover” and “Baby’s Breath” that finds the personal in the universal and vice versa.


Bill Callahan's Apocalypse

The Skull Defekts' Peer Amid

How fortunate we are that Lungfish shaman Daniel Higgs convened with these Swedish post-punks; nothing against his recent mouth-harp incantations, but the balance between weird and rocking has been restored with “Peer Amid,” “No More Always,” and “Join the True.” The album’s savvy sorcery could raise armies of the dead.

"No More Always"

It’s difficult to shoehorn Sandro Perri into a tidy descriptor—impossible spaces, indeed—and “post-graduate easy listening” is semi-accurate, if cringe-worthy. Singing with urbane expressivity over seemingly light arrangements, Perri obscures the lyrical and instrumental depth lurking beneath “Changes” and “Impossible Spaces.” I’m compelled to solve each of these riddles.

"Futureactive Boy (Part One)"

Sandro Perri's Impossible Spaces

Office of Future Plans' Office of Future Plans

J. Robbins reappears with tom-killer Darren Zentek and the intact tenets of melodic post-punk, but controlled growth breeds new life. “Lorelei” adds classic pop via Gordon Withers’ cello, “Ambitious Wrists” cuts loose, and crowd-pleasing stomper “Dumb It Down” stakes a claim in Robbins’ best-of. Two steps forward, one glance back.

"Dumb It Down"

His technical skill alone merits inclusion—consult the high-speed verbal-hurdling of “Rigamortis,” the fluid dynamics of “A.D.H.D.,” and the emphatic punctuation marks of “HiiiPower” for proof. But the parity between his stream-of-social-consciousness, earned braggadocio, and ongoing self-analysis is equally essential, allowing Lamar to speak for, not preach to, his generation.


Kendrick Lamar's Section 80

Grouper's A I A Alien Observer

Akin to watching a foreign feed on a dusty, flickering, black-and-white television, Liz Harris insulates her songs with layers of abstraction. Hauntingly beautiful melodies slip through the mist, teasing illumination, but even when her words are decipherable—“Alien observer in a world that isn’t mine”—Harris remains out of reach.

"Alien Observer"

Outdoing mere rock operas to become a veritable cottage industry, David’s expanse reached beyond this 78-minute deluge of barked vocals, broken hearts, pounding fills, and thousand-guitar swarms. It’s exhausting in fantastic ways, with pulverizing sing-alongs “The Other Shoe” and “A Little Death” encouraging further exploration of their town and tale.

"A Little Death"

Fucked Up's David Comes to Life

Tim Hecker's Ravedeath, 1972

Hecker’s self-destructive tendencies prevail on Ravedeath, 1972, enacting trench warfare between the analog source material (a massive church organ) and digital accompaniment and processing. The ravaged infrastructure fuses the two factions together, authoring hybrid aesthetics, excavating beautiful decay, and lingering on lost culture. Simply too riveting to be considered ambient.

"In the Air III"

Civilian quickly grew from expected excellence to the warm embrace of a life-long friend. Such familiarity seems preposterous, but Jenn Wasner’s songwriting doesn’t just hit home, it redraws the posters on the walls. Wye Oak bolsters this unmatched empathy with a prodigious leap ahead in cathartic soloing and crafty percussion.

"Holy Holy"

Wye Oak's Civilian

Julianna Barwick's The Magic Place

The logistics alone intrigue: loop layers of wordless vocals into virtual choirs, then flesh out the arrangements with minimal instrumentation. The results eclipse expectation. Spanning from spellbinding ambient (“Envelop”) to exultant psych-rock (“Prizewinning”), pastoral reverence (“Cloak”) to beguiling pop (“Vow”), Barwick’s world is divine in every sense of the word.


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