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my actual last music recommendation list for real this time

posted 2023.03.16
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I keep making music posts to evangelize my favorite music, but I keep making them too short and then I don’t get to evangelize enough music. Plus, I would like to explain the reasons you should listen to this music. So the list of recommendations is broken up into tiers, with the higher tiers being more special to me and having longer writeups. On the albums list, I’ve also highlighted best songs from albums with notably good individual tracks. If it has (!!!) next to it, that mean I like it as much as tier 1 of the songs list; (!!) would be tier 2 and (!) would be tier 3, and no exclamation points is just below that. Anyway here’s the post. Fair warning: I recommend a lot of music in it!

Albums and EPs

Tier 1: mandatory listening

Liminal Space by Ill-Considered. This album “goes hard”, as the kids say. It’s easy for jazz fusion albums to lose my attention and slip by without me noticing; this album absolutely does not do that. It’s intense and utterly gnarly the whole way through. Despite only being a three-piece band, Ill-Considered sound huge because of the sound design and the intensity of their playing. Best song: Dervish (!!).

Playful Spirits by in love with a ghost. This album actually did slip by without me noticing the first time (for the most part). It’s not aggressive or intense or anything. It’s just a series of pleasant, cute electronic musical sketches. And that’s why I keep returning to it – it’s very comforting and sweet. And by Jove do I need something like that sometimes. Best song: the end (rejected demo) (!!).

So It Is by Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Preservation Hall Jazz Band are based out of New Orleans, and this album is a combination of their New Orleans sound and the sound of somewhat-nearby Cuba. For about half a year after I heard this album I kept searching for Latin- and Cuban-inspired jazz with as much energy as it. And I guess I didn’t find any. It’s upbeat, it’s cool, it has flair and finesse. Best songs: Santiago, La Malanga.

The Theatrical Death of Julie Delicious by HOLYCHILD. The singles from this album are my church, my priest, and in fact my communion wafers as well. They are the bubbliest of bubblegum pop and I can scarcely imagine how to improve them. The non-singles are hit-or-miss but at least some of them are hit. Best songs: Hundred Thousand Hearts (!!!), Over You (!!!), Wishing You Away (!!!), Carmelo.

The Turning Wheel by Spellling. This album is transportative and very mystical in its atmosphere. It feels like how I suspect tarot cards are supposed to make me feel. The instrumentation is beautiful and Chrystia Cabral’s voice is beautiful over it. Her songwriting is artistic but not in a lame sense – just really well-written art pop / rock. Best songs: Boys at SchoolAwaken (!!!).

Tier 2: really, really good, but not mandatory listening

Air Guitar by Sobs. This is very much indie pop, but its average quality is so high compared to most pop albums. The guitar and the buzzy synth and the singer’s voice are all so bright which allows almost every song to reach out and grab me. And this is neither here nor there, but I notice Sobs’ choruses tend to repeat phrases much less than most pop choruses. Best song: Friday Night (!).

can opener’s notebook: fish whisperer by Vylet Pony. Some electropop but mostly slightly vibey, sometimes glitchy EDM. The second half especially is very pleasant to let wash over me. Best song: good grief!

CUTIEMARKS (And the Things That Bind Us) by Vylet Pony. A mix of electropop, EDM, and dubstep, with some of the best hooks and drops I’ve heard. It’s admittedly a bit bloated, but I can forgive this for the sheer excellence of its best tracks. Best songs: ANTONYMPH (!!!), BONNIE (!).

Mena by Javiera Mena. It’s just a very relaxing electropop album for me. It is a little more vibey than most electropop, but it still has good, memorable hooks. It’s simply produced, earnestly sung and doesn’t have any weak songs.

Nurture by Porter Robinson. Porter Robinson is great at making EDM drops feel huge but not harsh or grating. But this one isn’t totally drop-centered—there’s a lot of more ambient or songwriter-y moments as well, which are executed just as well as the EDM. The lyrics are very earnest, uplifting, and sweet. Best songs: Sweet TimeUnfold.

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert by Little Simz. This is the only hip hop album I like all that much, and it’s because Little Simz’s flow integrates so well with the music and the instrumentals are so interesting and lush. I don’t usually care about lyricism but the lyricism is good too.

Yellow by Emma-Jean Thackray. Some rather spiritual jazz, in a cosmological way more than a religious way. Not every song grabs me, but it even without that the sound and groove make it worthwhile. The players are delicate, precise, and cohesive. Best song: Say Something (!).

Tier 3: really good, with a few reservations

1 by The Nychillharmonic. (The only album that could precede a 100 gecs release alphabetically!) It strikes a great balance between jazz / big band and more aggressive guitar-driven parts. More impressively, it manages to get technical at times but always in service of the song, not just for the sake of showing off.

10,000 gecs by 100 gecs. This is more punk / ska than their previous work, and a lot catchier and less glitchy. That arguably takes some of the edge off, but in my opinion there is still plenty of edge remaining. It’s noisy but not hard to listen to, simple and catchy, and all-around fun. Best songs: Doritos & FritosFrog on the Floormememe (!!).

Blue Rev by Alvvays. It’s backed by waves of shoegazey noise but there’s a great alt pop sensibility to it. I expected a record like this to drag towards the end and start feeling samey but it didn’t. I mean, it doesn’t change that much by the end, I just don’t get tired of it like I expected to.

Carousel by Vylet Pony. It’s amazing how many genres (electropop, glitch, dubstep, cabaret, even metal) Vylet Pony pulls together on this album, and she makes it work. There are a few too many interludes and intros/outros, but the production and the melodies are fantastic. Best song: Creekflow (!).

Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae. This album likewise has hits and duds, but the hits are really quite good. There are a few more duds, though. I am impressed by the lyricism on this album quite a bit. Best songs: AmericansMake Me Feel.

Esquemas Juveniles by Javiera Mena. This is like Mena if it had higher highs but more duds. Best song: Cámara Lenta.

I Disagree by Poppy. The first four songs fascinate me with their mix of metal and shiny over-the-top pop. After that the pop is lost and it falls off a bit. Best song: Concrete (!!).

Juno by Remi Wolf. Breezy, fun pop that you can play out your car windows as you drive down the avenue with your friends in the backseat. Best song: Quiet On Set.

Keepsake by Hatchie. Like Sugar & Spice below, this is waves of guitar with strong pop melodies on top.

Our Extended Play by beabadoobee. This is a short EP of chill 90s acoustic guitar pop, and in terms of average quality it could easily be in the tier above. As a body of work it is not as substantial as the albums, but each song is really nice and playful and I like them a lot. Best song: Last Day On Earth.

Sugar & Spice by Hatchie. You can get lost in the waves of soft guitars and reverb. But there’s still a strong pop thread behind every song. Best song: Sure.

Quality Over Opinion by Louis Cole. If there’s one thing Louis Cole likes doing, it’s jamming out on keys with amusing lyrics over a funky as hell groove. And if there’s a second thing he likes doing, it’s ethereal, bittersweet vocal harmonies. Most of this album is one or the other.

The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. It’s classic because it’s both epic and accessible, with great lyrics, sound design, and performances. A real journey. Best songs: TimeEclipse.

The Dollyrots by The Dollyrots. Extremely campy pop punk. Way too catchy to be annoying (most of the time). Best song: After 2012 (!!).

The Good Life by Sammy Rae. Lots of this EP is just ecstatic, with Sammy Rae’s bold singing over a brass-based head-nodding groove. And I like feeling ecstatic. Best song: The Feeling.

Time by Louis Cole. The vibe dial is turned up to 70% on this and the funkiness dial is also turned up 70%. This makes for a lot of funk and vibes at the same time, more than I realized could be compatible. That said, some tracks are a little too vibey and turn out dull. Best song: Things (!!).

Time Won’t Stop by Sara Wakui. It sounds kind of like every ‘out-there’ jazz fusion record from the last decade except without any bad spots. A good balance between crazy harmonies and rhythms and normal songwriting. Weird and entirely listenable. Sara Wakui is very good at playing piano.

[USA] by Anamanaguchi. This album approaches the possible grandeur of electropop. (Well in some ways it’s not electropop because it’s more instrumental / chiptune, but anyway.) The peak in the late middle section is one of the more pure sections of music I’ve heard. Best song: Overwriting Incorporate (!).

Tier 4: notable to me, but hardly mind-blowing

Tier 5: good, but not that significant to me

Songs

Tier 1: mandatory listening

Lento by Julieta Venegas. It’s so delicate, earnest, and sweet… I find it calming and uplifting to listen to. It’s not flashy or overwhelming with emotion; just simple and perfect.

money machine by 100 gecs. I’ve heard it so many times that it’s lost a bit of luster for me, but this song was the hyperpop moment, and for good reason. It feels like the uncoolest person you know absolutely owning you and crying while doing it.

My Love by the bird and the bee. The flutes are beautiful in this! This song feels like walking along the boardwalk at night, holding hands and smiling as you pass the ferris wheel; or rather, like the fond memory of having done so.

rom com 2021 by Soccer Mommy and Kero Kero Bonito. This song is like Pixy Stix for my brain. The only thing happening in my mind as I listen to it is “Yeah! Yay! Yeah!”

Semicircle Song by The Go! Team. This song makes me feel like a character in an after-school special or a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s unabashedly joyful and dare I say spunky.

The I Love You Song from 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This is even more poignant in the context of the musical, but it is heartbreaking on its own anyway. One of the strongest emotional experiences I have had watching a musical or play was the first time I heard this song.

The Procession of Celestial Beings I by Joe Hisaichi. This song is like when, for a brief moment, you get a glimpse of heaven to see some of your loved ones who truly are in a better place now; but you can’t stay, and you can’t interact. But at least you know they’re happy.

Tier 2: really, really good, but not mandatory listening

Tier 3: really good, with a few reservations

Artists

In addition to all this, there are two artists that do not appear on the albums list but whom it feels wrong to leave out. The first is Bill Wurtz, whose songwriting I would describe as “pop but unusual”. It is very clear at times that his music is the work of a single person, for better and for worse (he is very talented!). His best songs, in my opinion, are La de da de da de day oh and Long Long Long Journey. But I used to listen to the older, weirder songs (not the jingles) from his website all the time, and I have a strong connection as well to ones like do the thing and the future song as well. A lot of my early vocal songs were very clearly lyrically influenced by his songs. However he has never released an album, and probably never will.

The second is Two Steps From Hell, who make music for TV and film trailers. And some other things—I once heard their song Magika played at the stadium before a soccer game. Their music doesn’t really sound like the stereotypical Inception “BWAAHHHH” though; it’s more orchestral and definitely able to stand on its own. (They have other, non-orchestral albums, but I don’t listen to those because they suck.) It’s hard to say any of their albums are good, because they’re usually like 30 songs and 20 of them are uninspired. But because of their line of work, they have released many hundreds of songs and at least 50 are good. My iPod used to be loaded with those back in the day. It was nearly all I listened to during middle school, and my first many songs were pale imitations of their style. I deem them the greatest artist in GrooveShark history.

Changelog

5/3/23

Added: The Worm, Heaven Come Crashing, Spoiled little brat, Everything is Different (To Me), Filming School.

Removed: If I Had You, Multi Til’ The Sun Die.

Upgraded: Frog on the Floor, Out Loud.

Downgraded: Carousel, Boys.

5/31/23

Added: Time Won’t Stop, 1, Over the Moon, Two Fold Pt. 1, Beautiful World, Big Cat, Shelter.

Removed: L.D.K. Lounge Designers Killer, Junk, This Time It’s Different.

Upgraded: Heaven.

Downgraded: Friday Night Big Screen.

7/2/23

Added: Ascension, Hmayra, Nocturna, Mother’s Love.

Removed: Kalk samen kuri no hana, Perfume ~Complete Best~, Wish You Were Here.

Downgraded: Emerald Princess

7/29/23

Added: Air Guitar, Keepsake, On the Way Out, Semicircle Song.

Removed: Those Who Throw Objects at the Crocodiles Will Be Asked to Retrieve Them, Casualty.

Upgraded: 1.

Downgraded: Melodrama.

9/14/23

Added: dawn111, I Know My Love.

Removed: Like a Stone, You Can’t Hide.

Downgraded: Background Songs For Your Boring Life, Part I, Concrete, Lucky 88.

12/28/23

Added: Knower Forever, going…going…GONE!, Head Hunters, Perfect Picture, STRUGGLER, The Scene Between.

Removed: Hmayra, jane_remover_remixes.zip, #1 Crush, Boys, Hanging On, Little Again, Make Me Cry, Oh No.

Upgraded: Filming School.

Downgraded: Chromatica, Time, [USA], memoryland, Carmelo, The Carrion Child, So Now What, Song For Zula.