Welcome to Stereo Field, the music newsletter dedicated to helping you discover new music.
Did you miss us last week? This season's "tripledemic" hit us hard, and with three out of the four of us sick, we decided to take a bit off to rest and recover. Now we're back, healthier than ever, and stocked up with two full weeks of music to share with you.
This week we're starting our Albums of the Year series. Each week in December, we'll choose a few albums that we loved this year, and share a few words on what made them stand out in the sea of all the other great music that we heard this year.
Plus as always we've got our weekly playlist with the songs we've had on rotation this week and the new releases we're most excited about it.
Let's dive in.
We're doing things a little differently with our Album of the Year series: instead of one list that exclusively focuses on albums that came out this year, we're looking at the albums that we spent the most time listening to, or that meant the most to us in 2022. Each week in December a few of our writers will share their album picks, and we'll end up with a diverse mix of new releases, new discoveries of older albums, and old favorites that we kept coming back to.
We're kicking it off this week with Julia on Big Thief's Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, and Taylor on Porter Robinson's 2021 release, Nurture.
Big Thief - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
In 2018 Big Thief had a tremendous year. They released two records, UFOF andTwo Hands. I love both, but neither comes close to their 2022 album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You.
I was hesitant when I heard the record would be 20 tracks long. I love Big Thief, but could they hold my attention for an hour and 20 minutes? The answer is yes. By the end of my first listen, I was blown away. This is Big Thief’s most significant creative endeavor yet. It is explorative and almost childlike, all while staying punchy and gripping, and never drags at any point. From stripped-back simple acoustic tracks like ‘Change’ to the full-on wild folk-rock instrumentation on ‘Red Moon’, or the quirky bluegrass sounds on Spud Infinity -this album checks every box for me. Listening to this feels like sitting around an insane campfire jam session with the band.
Adrienne Lenker's lyricism shines brightly in this record. Not like she needed to prove herself even more than she already has; she is just flexing on us at this point. Throughout the entire record, you can see the influence of classic folk in her writing. She combines that with her style, and it makes something truly magical. Lenker is at her absolute best, as is the rest of the band. Drummer James Krivchenia, guitarist Buck Meek and bassist Max Oleartchik are all incredible artists that have released their own great projects over the past few years. All together, they are the dream team.
Big Thief dives deep into their sound and doesn’t look back. It is impressive, explorative, and, most importantly, so much fun.
Porter Robinson - Nuture
I initially ignored this album when it was released in 2021. I didn’t connect with Porter Robinson's 2014 debut Worlds and figured this album would be more of the same. I finally decided to give it a chance in 2022, and wish I had earlier. When I finally did, it almost immediately became one of my favorite albums of the last few years.
Nurture sees Porter abandoning the EDM-electropop fusion of Worlds in favor of a totally new sound, merging heavy dance beats with the intimate feelings and organic textures of bedroom pop, the glitchy production and pitched vocals of hyper pop, and the simple melodies and gentle piano of the best anime soundtracks. We're brought even further into the album's sonic world by the heavy manipulations Porter applies to his vocals, vulnerable inward-facing lyrics, and a new focus on the songs themselves, not just sound design and huge drops. This all results in an incredibly euphoric, emotional, and transportive experience across the album's 14 tracks.
Porter cited Masakatsu Takagi's soundtrack to the 2012 anime film, Wolf Children as a major influence. This couldn't be any clearer on gentle ambient electronic and piano-driven instrumentals like 'Wind Tempos' or 'Lifelike', but is just as present in the sweet progressions, and shimmering textures on the album's more beat-driven tracks like 'Mother' or 'Mirror'.
'Get Your Wish', the third track on the album, is one of the best examples of the Nurture sound. The soft pianos and organic instrumentation in the verses are complimented by a huge, driving, and incredibly danceable chorus, as Porter sings about realizing that fulfillment won't come from the huge stages he's played and the massive success he has achieved with his music, but instead from the meaning his music has brought to others.
This realization seems to be the primary thing Porter brought out of the seven-year period of intense self-doubt and creative block that he experienced in between creating this album and Worlds, and is perfectly captured on the album's final track, 'Trying to Feel Alive'. Pianos and glitchy electronics gradually build into a huge angelic chorus, but everything drops out as Porter delivers the album's final line:
"But then somebody finds the warmth of summer in the songs your write. Maybe its gift that I couldn't recognize, trying to feel alive."
More than anything, every time I listen to this album (and I have a lot this year), I can't help but leave feeling hopeful, thankful, inspired, and alive.
Every week we curate a playlist of the new releases, old favorites, and newly discovered classics that we're listening to, and share our thoughts on a few of the tracks. Check out the whole playlist on Spotify, and find our thoughts below:
Check Out The Whole Playlist Here
Claws - Charli XCX
Hyperpop is one of our favorite genres, so naturally, Charli XCX is a staple in the Stereo Field rotation. All of Charli's 2020 record, how i'm feeling now is fantastic, but Claws is a stand-out track. It is experimental and outlandish but stays palatable. The lyrics are some of the most fun she has ever written, rivaling ‘Vroom Vroom", one of her biggest hits.
And if you haven't heard it, Hovvdy (another Stereo Field favorite) covered this song, and we love the cover as much as the original.
Fishmans - ナイトクルージング (Night Cruising)
Fishmans was one of our favorite discoveries of the year, and that all started with this song. 'Night Cruising' sees the legendary Japanese band at their dreamiest, with slow reverb-laden psychedelic guitars, dub-y basslines, and late vocalist Shinji Sato's ethereal, repeated vocal lines creating an absolutely entrancing, floating feeling.
Lean into Life - Petey
We initially discovered Petey not from the music he makes, but from the surreal, hilarious short videos he posts on social media. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover that he also made genuinely good and interesting music.
Lean Into Life, Petey's 2021 debut record, is full of anthemic songs that sound like a cross between LCD Soundsystem and 2010's emo. The title track is one of the best examples of this sound. Petey explores the tension between wanting to break out of living an average, boring life, and the pitfalls that come with chasing life on the edge, backed by pulsing drums and synths and anthemic electric guitars.
After Silver Leaves - Smut
"After Silver Leaves" is an homage to the kind of '90s, jangly college rock we love around here. The swirling guitars, simple catchy melodies, and soaring chorus capture the same pure nostalgia as our favorite records from that era, but the tight songwriting and production keep things from sounding too derivative.
Check Out The Whole Weekly Playlist Here
As the year draws to a close, and best-of-the-year lists (including our own) start to drop across the internet, new releases normally start to slow down. But there are still a few more exciting albums coming in 2022, and a handful of tracks and albums from the last two weeks that we're excited to check out.
Check Out Our Playlist With This Week's Releases Here
100 gecs - Snake Eyes (EP)
Gecs fans rejoice: The wait is finally over. It's been over a year since 100 gecs announced their sophomore album was coming soon, but without a release date. That all changed this week, when the hyperpop duo not only announced an official release date for 10,000 gecs, but also dropped a surprise EP, Snake Eyes.
The 3 track EP features 'Hey Big Man', a super heavy, distorted guitar-driven bop that gecs have been opening their shows with for the past year, as well as the Skrillex-featuring 'Torture Me', and 'Runaway', which begins as a low key-piano ballad, but builds into a classic gecs track. Check it out this week and start preparing your body for 10,000 gecs to drop on March 17 of 2023.
MIKE and Sister Nancy - Stop Worry! (Single)
Stop Worry sees beloved underground rapper MIKE partner with dancehall legend Sister Nancy. Over a bed of dubby bass and synth lines, MIKE wrestles with the grief and depression he feels from losing his mother in 2019. Nancy's sing-song dub callouts are the perfect counter to Mike's signature woozy flow, as she calls for him to "wake up" and rise out of his grief.
Coward - Thousandaire (Single)
'Thousandaire, the latest single from Coward, is an explosive piece of post-hardcore, with massively heavy guitars and drums, but with the slumberly pace and beautiful melody of the best slowcore tracks.
This is the first we've heard from the Atlanta-based band, and leaves us stoked to hear the rest of their sophomore album, out in a few weeks on December 16th.
Other New Releases We're Checking out
Acre Memos - A Collection of Bird Songs
Brakence - Hypochondriac
White Lung - Premonition
MIKE, Wiki, The Alchemist - One More (EP)
Tutankhamun - Tutankhamun
Fievel is Glauque - Flaming Swords
Melaina Kol - Roach Friends
PinkPantheress - Boys A Liar (Single)
Cruza - Fantasy (Single)
Eaves Wilder - Morning Rain (Single)
Rozi Plain - Help (Single)
Vulfpeck - Sauna (Single)
Storefront Church and Phoebe Bridgers - Words (Low Cover) (Single)
And let's put a bow on this week with the good ole meme of the week, courtesy of @angus_william on IG
Thanks for reading, if you liked this issue let us know below. And hit reply on this email to let us know what songs you liked, or if there's a great song, album, or artist we need to hear.
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