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Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Pale Flower

If chillwave sounded like warped copies of old soft-rock and synth-pop tapes, then Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s “Pale Flower” is the sound of a warped, nearly wrecked, copy of a chillwave tape. Or in the words of its creator; the music explores ways of “conveying memory in music without being sentimental”. Sentimental or not, “Pale Flower” is like trying to adjust the knobs on an old transistor radio broadcasting a memory of a memory of a memory of a song that probably never existed in the first place.

Mexican Summer, no strangers to forward-thinking nostalgia-obsessive music, is wisely releasing A Year With 13 Moons, the follow-up to 2010’s Love Is A Stream. Cantu-Ledesma has been releasing a steady stream of music since 1996, collaborating with Grouper’s Liz Harris, and also the founder of Root Strata, a record label that released music from Oneothrix Point Never amongst others. While I haven’t heard his previous work, “Pale Flower” is an invite to explore more from one of ambient music’s best kept secrets.

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Modest Mouse – Lampshades On Fire

Two decades into Modest Mouse’s career, it would be harsh to expect anything revolutionary. Their last album, 2007’s We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, saw them climbing to the number one spot on Billboard, but failed to produce any memorable music. Modest Mouse influence on post-millennial indie-rock should however not be taken lightly. Not only as stylistic authorities, but as a band that paved the way for other indie-rock bands to reach a level of commercial success that would’ve been unimaginable at the start of the last decade. So far we’ve only been given one taste of what’s coming, but new and surprisingly great single “Lampshades On Fire” sound a lot like a synthesis of “Float On” and “The World At Large”, two of the most memorable tracks on their decade old commercial breakthrough and Grammy nominated Good News For People Who Love Bad News. While Modest Mouse greatest (artistic) achievements will always be their pre-04 albums (two of them newly reissued via Glacial Pace), “Lampshades On Fire” is the best we’ve heard from the band in a decade. Watch for their new album Strangers To Ourselves, out March 3 via Epic.

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Vision Fortune – Dry Mouth

New single ”Dry Mouth” from Vision Future starts off with hypnotic, repeated metallic synth sounds underneath foreboding, almost chant-y, vocals that somehow reminds me of a distant cousin to the apocalyptic and often unsettling sound of Silver Mt.Zion, or even Swans. But the real treat is the entirely instrumental second half that stalks my ears with a quietly lurking bass line accompanied by spine-chilling synths dropping in and out. “Dry Mouth” is exceptionally multifaceted for such a short track, and makes me hope for great things from the London three-piece when their second full-length, Country Music, comes out on February 9 via ATP Recordings.

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Shlohmo – Emerge From Smoke

The last we heard of L.A. producer Henry Laufer aka Shlohmo was the surprisingly uninspired No More EP, a collaboration with R&B singer Jeremih. Thankfully, and as the title suggests, Shlohmo emerges with newfound strength on his latest single “Emerge From Smoke”. The track shows Shlohmo in his darkest mood yet; firing laser-beams of squealing dystopian synth lines over hollow percussions and slowly unraveling, bottomless basslines. As shown many times before, he is a master of creating tension by slowly adding layers of elements, then subtracting them before everything comes crashing down like an alien ship wreckage. “Emerge From Smoke” makes me hope that Shlohmo got most of his R&B dreams out of his system, as he is at best when moving in intersecting, indistinguishable genres, and having more in common with Clark then The Weeknd.

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Shad & DJ T.Lo – Fire

Previously mentioned Canadian rapper Shad follows his great DJ T.Lo collaboration ”Hang On” with an entire five track joint effort titled Boarding Pass. It’s a worthwile listen from the pair; filled with optimistic, bouncy beats  and soulful samples that vibrate underneath Shad’s humble, often bleak message. Above you can hear another great EP stand-out “Fire”, and check out the whole thing here.

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The Cabana Kids – Sortida

There are many bands that sound like The Cabana Kids, but few can write an emotive “surf-pop” track like “Sortida”. The western-styled guitars are sublime and the interchanging girl-boy vocals brings an added nerve to a track that checks many boxes on how to write ear-catching, instantly gratifying melodies. If you like what you’re hearing don’t forget to check out the band’s debut EP The Bird & The Bees released via Small Plates.

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Conveyor – Wry Thing

It’s hard to pick a favorite Gold Robot Records release this year, there has been so many great (Yalls, Ladada, Roman Ruins, Monster Rally & Jay Stone), but Brooklyn quartet Conveyor is possibly the strongest contender with the release of the short and sweet Ani Mag EP; an unexpected acoustic detour, at least if compared to their warped, sonically experimental self-titled debut. The softly strumming opening track “Wry Thing” is nonetheless complex in its simplicity, adding a depth to Conveyor’s craft and revealing them capable of reaching further and wider than their previous work had me believe. Listen above.

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Father John Misty – Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)

I’ve really warmed up to the songs Father John Misty, the moniker of Joshua Tillman, so far premiered of his upcoming new album I Love You. Like previous track “Bored in the USA”, the instrumentation of  latest track “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins) magnificently dresses Tillman’s narrative in sentimental but timeless harmonies, resulting in the most thought-provoking and adventurous music of his decade or so long career. Just like his previous album Fear Fun, which was the first under the Father John Misty moniker, it sounds like a huge departure from the music he recorded under own name. Undeniably, his years with the Fleet Foxes rubbed off in sound and instrumentation, but it doesn’t entirely explain his growth as a songwriter. Something has clearly progressed since his last album, and in these two songs, Tillman reaches the highest possible level of storytelling; full of understated humor and clear-headed insight.

Look for I Love You early next year via Sub Pop.

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Of Montreal – Bassem Sabry

Kevin Barnes’ Of Montreal reemerged with newfound vitality on last year’s lousy with sylvianbriar, once again making me pay closer attention to the very prolific and ever-changing  outfit. New single “Bassem Sabry”, named after the Egyptian activist and journalist, is the opening track of upcoming album Aureate Gloom, and is Of Montreal’s version of psychedelic funk; sexy and a bit starry-eyed, but it works, and Barnes can check the box of yet another well-made and focused venture. Look for Aureate Gloom on March 3 next year via Polyvinyl.