WILDEST PATTERNS OF 2019
1. Twin Galaxxies - Pink Secrets (via Business Casual)
Right from go, Twin Galaxxies’ Pink Secrets greets you with an infinite vortex of fragmented nostalgia, blubbering into a void of late 80s software culture, zen new age and advertising. The album is cosmic stream-of-consciousness - a pure shot of formless vaporwave psychedelia that is as mysterious as it is captivating. Kaleidoscopes of warm analog synths and 90s MIDI presets permeate the journey, carrying you through tumultuous expansion and calm resignation. It’s an album I’ve described several times to friends as “everything” and I don’t say that lightly. Pink Secrets is an embryonic, inner-dimensional feast for the ears and you’re going to want to gorge yourself over and over again.
2. Lacing - Without
Lacing’s sophomore album, Without, is a heavy trip where cathartic emotion informs every block of distortion, every plume of reverb, every vignette of looped noise, rather than taking a backseat to all the atmospherics on offer. Since the band does both so well, the album barrels down like a juggernaut ghost, running you over with waves of guitar fuzz, cascading reverb and Joe Davenport’s solemn vocal delivery. Lacing finishes the record on an audacious note: a 15 minute ambient loop simply designated with an infinity symbol. It serves as a sort of soft wane into oblivion after the storm - a fitting way to acquiesce into nothingness.
3. channel select - sails (via Business Casual)
I’m always on the look out for the stickiest, hard-hitting vaporwave jams and channel select delivers aplenty on their mini-album, sails. Filled with beach blasting chop-and-screw samples, you’re directly transported to the ocean waves, volleyball, suntans and boardwalk shopping of a wild 80s vacation destination. The thick drum patterns never let up, flexing across copious slap bass, glimmering synths and soulful, detuned vocals. sails is ultimately a beat tape from a talented producer, but it’s one that radiates sexy, steamy mid-tempo funk, transposing classic nostalgia into a delirious modern groove from beginning to end.
4. Knifeplay - Pearlty
Stuffed with lethargic guitar bends and drowsy vocal harmonies, Knifeplay have dreamt up a cozy slacker opus on their debut album, Pearlty. At first glance, the album seems to careen around in ramshackle fashion. Constant somersaulting song arrangements - from acoustic guitar jangle to found dialogue to sticky leads to off-kilter distortion drops to long-running vocal melodies - give the impression that Pearlty was loosely constructed. However, upon listening closer you realize there is an impeccable method to the madness. The level of intuitive, evolving songwriting on offer is incredible, really pushing the blend of slowcore, shoegaze and slacker pop into an intricate, engaged quilt without drawing attention to itself. There is a lived-in genius about it, a warm and pensive album that asks you to lay in a messy bed all day and pour over all the little details as much as it tells you not to worry about it, lay back and enjoy the ride.
5. Small Wood House - Runner
Small Wood House have a unique perspective on psych pop. Rather than walking a linear path inside the aesthetics of 60s French pop music on their debut album, Runner, the band stretches outward, infusing a dash of slowcore, folk rock and soft grunge into the mix. You still get plenty of ornate organ synth, wintery tapestries of jangled guitar arpeggios and washed out crash cymbals but it ultimately feels contemporary by the sheer downer emotion within certain chord progressions and melodies. Speaking of melodies, Runner features some of the richest and most limber vocals I’ve heard in a while. At times, the surreal, slapback reverb-coiled phrases seem to reach almost into the middle of songs before repeating, adding to the knitted feeling of the whole record. Runner is an album full of intertwining, crystalized strands of bubblegum psychedelia and bedroom pop heft that, when woven together, create a hypnotic quilt that feels as affecting as it does dreamy.
6. Nitewind - Nite Tapes (via Stratford Ct.)
There’s a distinct lo-fi chunkiness to Nitewind’s brand of synthwave that is so damn satisfying. The producer’s sound is further catalyzed on his second EP, Nite Tapes, with warped VHS production adding an immediacy and warmth without sacrificing the hazy twilight bop of the EP’s arrangements. Bouncing, arpeggiated synth glimmers roll on top of a thick drum machine, strutting confidently down the slick neon streets of a night out in the mid-80s. Though it’s short, Nitewind offers up so much to love in just four songs - a stand out EP from a stand out producer in the genre.
7. SWING - VENUS
SWING operates simultaneously on multiple levels of wild subconscious expression, making it hard to classify the producer’s music. On their album, VENUS, bursts of vaporwave ephemera, ambient loops, distorted shoegaze textures, sound collage dialogue, occasional trip-hop drums, bedroom pop mysticism and more crowd inside a gold-pink acid bubble that’s constantly melting in on itself. The result is scattered, avant grade psychedelia that’s strange in its arrangement but inviting in its vibe. It drips with intuition, slipping around strung together ideas all the way to their glowing cores, their primordial point of origin. The result is an album that’s defiantly unique and endlessly listenable - a dynamic that’s hard to land, but SWING does so brilliantly.
8. HollowTown - hospital
HollowTown’s new album, hospital, is a subtle, smothered blanket of lo-fi ambient, perfect for curling up in a ball in a dark bedroom. The lived-in bend of drone layers feel both comforting and alienating at the same time, making the album a mystifying experience. All the treble is rounded off for pure low drone vibrations, draping a moth wing shroud across the entiriety of the record. hospital is an intimate, haunted set of soundscapes that billow underneath the surface, barely asking to be acknowledged but sticking with you regardless.
9. Hotel Pools - Constant
The indelible synthwave songwriting of Hotel Pools shines once again on the producer’s full-length 2019 offering, Constant. It’s a kick back and chill album from head to toe, laced with endless synth arpeggios and glimmering pads that yearn for a beautiful sunset horizon. The record’s foundation of calm intimacy frames its more cosmic elements like interactive photos viewed from the comfort of a beach house. Constant not only nails the vibe but it remains consistently mesmerizing throughout its entire playtime. It already feels like a classic within the genre - a must listen for folks who need chill, A+ synthwave in their life.
10. Alan Lidden - Sea Change
Alan Lidden is a prolific ambient guitarist whose numerous releases are all fantastic, however, his fifth release of 2019, Sea Change, is the one that stuck with me throughout the year. Billowing deeply across a wall of glaciers, the record stretches, bursts and sweeps, blue-white strands of light weaving slowly behind the ice. It invokes a distant serenity, the kind that makes your physical form disappear, your earthly anxieties dissolve and leaves you only with pure, blissed out mood.