Welcome to Stereo Field, the music newsletter dedicated to helping you discover new music.
The Stereofield crew is in Brooklyn this week, getting the tour from our resident Brooklyn-ite Sam. So far that's mostly consisted of going to restaurants, gorging ourselves, walking it off on the way to the next restaurant, and then repeating the whole process for 12 hours straight. It's for sure our preferred way to experience a city. If you've got recommendations for restaurants, record stores, or anything else we should check out, definitely let us know.
In this week's issue we're covering:
- A few more of our favorite albums of the year, with Julia on MUNA's self titled album and Taylor on Black Country, New Road's Ants From Up There.
- Some excellent live sessions you need to check out on Youtube this week.
And as always we've got our weekly playlist on Spotify with the music we've had on rotation this week, plus the new releases you've got to check out.
Let's do it.
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
Which Will - Nick Drake
There might not be a better soundtrack for the approaching cold of winter than Nick Drake's seminal 1972 album, Pink Moon. On his last album before his untimely death at only 26, Drake stripped his sound back to its absolute bare minimum: his voice and a single acoustic guitar are the only sounds heard on the album (outside of a single piano overdub on the title track). Combined with lyrics that are both cryptic and intensely personal, and almost no reverb or post-production on the recordings, the album's 28 minutes are an extremely intimate look into Drake's melancholic inner world.
'Which Will', the 4th track on the album, sees Drake wrestling with both unrequited love and the lack of success and popular acceptance that his music was receiving.
Water Table - Cola
Cola is a new project from Tim Darcy and Ben Stidworthy of Ought, who were one of our favorite bands of the 2010s and a predecessor of the current surge in new post-punk bands.
Cola has a similar angular post-punk sound as Ought, but is more straightforward and hard-hitting than Ought's lofty and often atmospheric art-punk. 'Water Table' is the song that probably sounds the most similar song to Ought on the album, with Darcy's David Byrne-Esque vocals taking center stage over, driving drums, sparse bass and guitar strums, and a droning synth patch.
Taurus - River Tiber
Taurus is a 2019 track from the often sampled ambient RnB/Soul artist River Tiber.
The gentle acoustic guitars and bass, paired with atmospheric harmonies and synths make this a perfect track for taking a step back, closing your eyes, and zoning out for 3 minutes.
Check Out The Whole Playlist Here
Every week we share the new weekly releases we're the most excited to check out. Check out our playlist with all this week's releases here, and read more about a few of our picks below:
SZA - SOS (RnB/Hip-Hop)
After a 5 year wait, multiple public disputes with her label TDE, a few #1 singles, and a subsequent massive surge in the popularity of her previous releases, the third album from R&B singer SZA is finally here.
Our goal at Stereo Field is half to help you discover new music, and the other half to nerd out about the music we love. SZA is currently the 64th most streamed artist in the world, so we're definitely leaning more toward the latter with this one. But the hazy production, raw, unfiltered lyrics, and unique sing-song vocal styles on Z and CTRL, SZA's 2014 debut and 2017 follow-up made them some of our favorite albums of the 2010s. So even though her hidden gem status is no more, and her profile has grown exponentially in the last few years, we're still extremely excited about this album.
Leland Whitty - Anyhow (Jazz)
Anyhow is the debut solo album from Leland Whitty, who is best known as the saxophonist of the jazz/soul/hip-hop band BADBADNOTGOOD. Anyhow's features performances from many of BADBADNOTGOOD'S other members, and its instrumental, cinematic jazz follows similar notes as the Toronto quartet's last full-length, 2021's Talk Memory, which heavily featured orchestration from legendary Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai, and focused a little more on the jazz element than the typical hip-hop fusion that the group has become known for.
But where the orchestration on Talk Memory often built into a furious coda, Anyhow is a much more laidback affair, with gentle orchestration and experimental textures creating a bed that allows Whitty's truly excellent saxophone playing to shine.
Other New Releases
- Fran - Palm Trees (Single, Americana)
- Caroline Polachek - Welcome to My Island (EP, Alt-Pop)
- River Tiber - Dreaming Eyes (LP, Psychadelic RnB/Soul)
- Sparklehorse - It Will Never Stop (Single, Rock)
- Foyer Red - Etc (Single, Art Rock/Post Punk)
- Hammok - JUMPING/DANCING/FIGHTING (LP, Hardcore)
- Gorillaz - Skinny Ape (Single, Electronic Pop)
- Iglooghost - Rust Genome (Single, Electronic/Experimental)
- NINA, Dean Blunt - Slur (Single, Art-Pop)
- Samia - Pink Baloon/Sea Lions (EP, Alt-Pop)
- Blondshell - Veronica Mars (Single, Rock)
- Oberhofer - Catching Feelins (Single, Indie Rock)
- The Arcs - Eyes (Single, Rock)
- Billy Lemons, Dua Saleh - Concentrate (Single, Hip-Hop)
- Improvement Movement - Tightrope (Single, Art Rock)
Check Out Our Playlist With All This Week's Releases Here
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.
MUNA - MUNA
In 2017 and 2019, MUNA released two outstanding records. But the band took a hiatus from 2019 until this year. That was partially to do with being dropped from their old label, RCA. In 2021 they were picked up by Saddest Factory, Phoebe Bridgers’s label. After being dropped, they are making the best music of their career and doing it exceptionally proudly.
This past June, they released an album titled MUNA. And it was definitely my album of the summer and has stayed in my rotation all year. The record felt like a fresh start for the band. It is so confident and controlled; the band sounds like they’ve fully come into their sound. This mainly comes from the record being self-produced by the band’s guitarist and keyboardist, Naomi McPherson.
MUNA is packed with full-force drums and vibrant and frisky choruses. The record goes from an early 2000s electric pop banger (‘What I Want’) to sweet and heartfelt notes to self (‘Kind Of Girl’). Also, if you’re into music videos, those two songs have incredible videos Front woman, Katie Gavin, delivers celebratory and mature lyrics. You can see their writing and instrumentation evolve over the years to something special. I cannot talk about this record without mentioning ‘Silk Chiffon’. It captures a carefree spirit and features Phoebe; how can it not be a banger? The record goes fully pop, and it works so well. Some other favorites of mine are ‘No Idea’ and ‘Loose Garment.’ ‘No Idea’ has pounding drums and a subtle autotune- it rips. And ‘Loose Garment’ has my favorite lyrics from Katie: “Used to wear my sadness like a choker. Yeah, it had me by the throat. Tonight I feel I'm draped in it like a loose garment. I just let it flow” It can bring me to tears any day.
MUNA has solidified themselves with other pop legends like Charli XCX, PinkPantherss, and Japanese House. In 2022, the band finished a headlining US and UK tour, a US tour opening for Phoebe Bridgers, and now they are opening for Taylor Swift in 2023. A well-deserved year for a well-deserving band. MUNA are finally getting their time to shine. When I finish listening to this record, I feel more self-love, confidence, and hope.
Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There
The first time I heard Black Country, New Road was on their epic 10-minute single 'Sunglasses'. As the droning, interlocking guitars, and monologuing, narrative lyrics exploded into a cacophony of horns and strings, and then dropped out into a wholly new, furiously driving section, my mouth was left wide open. The fact that the band was still in high school with half of its seven members classically trained Klezmer musicians, and the other half fully self-taught left me even more impressed. After their debut For the First Time dropped in February of 2021, my mind was made up: this was absolutely my new favorite band, and the most exciting and unique new release I had heard in a long time.
And it seemed like the music press at large agreed. For The First Time received widespread critical acclaim, topped several best-of-the-year lists, and was nominated for the UK's prestigious Mercury Prize. But after the album's release, the band began to shun playing its songs live, and instead started road-testing new songs. In interviews, they stated they were going in a new direction, heavily inspired by the stadium-indie of Arcade Fire.
The hype surrounding the release of the band's second album was shot even higher when 4 days before the album was released, Isaac Wood, the band's vocalist and frontman, announced he was leaving the band.
So what we're left with on Ants From Up There is the final recordings of the band in its initial form as a seven-piece: A masterful breakup album that is beautiful, triumphant, and heartbreaking all at once.
The desperate, DIY post-punk energy of For the First Time is still here, but now refined and controlled, channeled through meticulously orchestrated builds and swells as the band leans more on the classically trained violin and horn. Where the tracks on the band's debut often built into furious, noise-rock codas, the crescendos on Ants From Up There, are instead melodic, deeply emotional peaks. In particular, the last two minutes of 'The Place Where He Inserted The Blade' is some of the most beautiful music I've heard all year, as the entire band joins together to sing backing vocals over a jubilant bed of horns, strings, guitar, and drums.
Lyrically, the weight of Isaac's worsening depression is felt across the album as he wrestles with a personal breakup that also serves as a metaphor for his impending departure from the band, whether that was intentional or not.
Lyrics like "She had Billie Eilish style, moving to Berlin for a little while, trying to find something to hold on to" from 'Good Will Hunting' are both specific and relatable, and have managed to stick in my head even 10 months after the album was released.
Isaac's mixed feelings about the band are best captured on 'Concorde' where he uses the ill-fated Concorde Jet as a metaphor: "Isaac will suffer, Concorde will fly". Even as the band reached huge critical success, Isaac is unfulfilled.
Since the announcement of Isaac's departure and the release of Ants From Up There, the remaining members of Black Country New Road have announced they are staying together and spent the year touring and road-testing new songs. Even though I'll miss Isaac at the helm, I'm excited for the future of this truly unique and exciting group.
- 🎤 God Save Alex G... This week NPR music blessed us with a Tiny Desk performance from prolific DIY singer-songwriter and Stereofield favorite, Alex G. Alex and his band are sounding better than ever and played a few songs from his excellent 2022 album God Save the Animals, as well as a few fan favorites from his extensive back catalog. Alex is on a serious tour of famous stages in support of the album, having played both the Tonight Show and Late Show over the last few months. Check it out on NPR's YouTube channel here.
- 🎸In other live performance video news, this week legendary Seattle radio station KEXP released a live session with indie-rock band Alvvays. The Canadian band's 2022 album Blue Rev has been at the top of several best-of-2022 lists over the last few weeks, and this session is an excellent example of how well their shoegaze-pop sound translates to a live setting. Check it out on KEXP's Youtube channel here.
- 📭🚕 Postal Truck for Cutie?... Ok, I don't think that pun landed. But the point here is that Ben Gibbard has announced a co-headlining tour with his two most beloved projects, Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service. As the vocalist and frontman for both bands, Ben will do double duty as each band plays through their seminal 2003 releases, Transatlantiscism and Give Up. Tickets go on sale on 12/16, with a few presales starting on the 14th. Unfortunately, you will have to get tickets through Ticketmaster, so get ready for some frustration, and get all the info here.
- Fred again again again... And let's wrap up this week's Around The Web with another live performance video, this one from producer Fred again.. Fred has recorded an intimate "studio live" performance for each of the albums in his Actual Life series, and this week he dropped one for his latest installment Actual Life 3. Check it out for a more laid-back, intimate take on Fred's unique style of patchwork sampled dance music.
If Ben is already doing double duty, he might as well make it triple. This week's meme of the week comes from thehardtimes
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.
What'd you think of this week's issue?