The Monthly RecommNeds: April 2021

By Aaron Stein Apr 1, 2021 10:52 am PDT

Ahoy, friends, I hope the change in seasons is treating you well. Have you been digging any of the picks from last month’s column? Hopefully you’ve made some new discoveries, definitely let me know what you’ve been digging. That Elephant9 seemed to be a winner. If you missed that one or any of last month’s picks, the March column is here, and the accompanying playlist is here.

As a reminder, I’ll be using this column to highlight 10 new releases each month, mostly taken from new releases the preceding month, hopefully hitting at least one of your sweet spots along the way, and probably a few bonus picks thrown in as well. A couple months into the year and I’m already finding it hard to whittle my list of must-hears down to just 10 albums. As such, I’ll try to mix the featured albums up to hit as much of the stylistic and genre spectrum as possible, while concentrating on the great shit that’s likely not on your radar, and you can always hit me up for more recs of a certain stripe … always more where these came from!

I’ll also be putting together a special 25-track playlist each month: songs I’ve been digging, some from the monthly picks, some from albums that weren’t featured, some singles from upcoming releases and maybe a random blast-from-the-past favorite or two. This month’s playlist is here. I hope you enjoy it! With the new Monthly RecommNeds, there are lots of ways to discover new music in whatever form works best for you.

And a reminder that I’m always on the hunt for the good stuff that I might not be hip to, so never hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter @neddyo.


The Monthly 10

Ten under-the-radar albums released last month that I think you might dig.

The City Champs: Luna ’68

Out of Memphis, The City Champs are, at first glance, sort of like an old school organ-based instrumental band in the spirit of Booker T & the MG’s. But before too long, this listen takes all sorts of fun turns, moments of proggy exploration and more modern-day jam nestled in with excellent grooves. Hard to go wrong here. Very.

CV Vision: Tropical

CV Vision is Berlin musician Dennis Schulze and he plays everything on this inspired collection of music. Ranging from weirdo experiment to kaleidoscopic sound patterns to straight groovy exotica, nearly every track here is worth a repeated listen. If anything they’re too short, so if you’re digging this, check out his even more recently released EP, Elemente, consisting of two longer tracks well worth zoning out to.

Double Celled Organism: Time & Other Things That Don’t Exist

While we’re checking out music that runs the gamut, make some room in your queue for Double Celled Organism, a duo project from violinist Richard Carr and guitar/banjo/etc. player Bill Brovold. Nearly each track here sounds like a completely different band, from compositional classical to straight funk and nearly all points in between. It’s quite a compelling journey into the musical multiverse, one well worth taking.

Cameron Knowler & Eli Winter: Anticipation

May we never make it through another month without a gorgeous guitar record to keep our souls afloat. This month’s must-listen offering is from the fabulous duo of Winter and Knowler. Sparkling acoustic guitars in perfect harmony, this music tells stories of déjà vu dreams and landscapes unknown to man. These are the songs to listen to as we come out of a year-long hibernation, savor them.

Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno: Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno

We’ve done some great instrumental duos here, but let’s mix things up with a different kind of pair. Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno’s self-titled release is a warm, soulful collection of hits-the-spot Americana. Leva’s voice dominates in a good way, Calcagno adding sweet-nothing doses of harmony, with plenty of acoustic guitar, fiddle, and pedal steel to round out the sound. Some pairs just got it and you just know it when you hear them; this young duo definitely do. Get on it while the goings good, friends.

Mecánica Clásica: Mar Interior

Back over to Europe we go, to Spain for this fabulous new discovery I’d love for you to check out. Mecánica Clásica makes magical ambient music, structures of analog-meets-digital beauty, sounds that will send your mind bouncing along the soft corners of infinite fractals. Gently hallucinogenic, their guitars, synths and rhythms will have your brain spinning in the best way possible. Dig in and dig it.

The Muckers: Endeavor

Hey, is rock and roll dead? According to pretty much every second of the debut album from New York City’s The Muckers, the answer is quite definitively no. Channeling the greats of the classic FM era, these guys still have plenty of new life to breathe into the genre. Also, they just kind of … kick ass, and you can’t ask for much more than that. They’ve found a sweet spot and you should join them there for a listen or two. Trust me.

Nashville Ambient Ensemble: Cerulean

Sometimes a band’s name says it all and sometimes it poses a bit of a mystery. It’s rare when it does both, but that’s the case with the intriguing Nashville Ambient Ensemble. It’s not the “what” that’s a mystery, they are indeed a band from Nashville that plays ambient music. It’s more of the “how” that creates the intrigue. Like putting on the snorkel and mask and sticking your face in the water to discover a hidden underwater universe, I suggest you just dive in and find out for yourself.

Samuel Sharp: Patterns Various

Good to throw some new-and-inventive jazz out there for you and this is one to check out for sure. The latest from saxophonist Samuel Sharp came out back in February, but I just discovered it this past month and it’s been growing on me ever since, which is saying something for a solo sax record. But it’s so much more than that. Sharp’s excellent use of echoing loops in a savvy compositional sense create, as the album title says, various patterns of ever increasing dimension and complexity. This is a labyrinth to get lost in for a while.

Sunny War: Simple Syrup

We’ll finish this month’s set with some straight songsmithing mastery courtesy of Sunny War. War is one of those artists that I’m not sure how many people know, but she’s so damn good it’s worth making sure, just in case (and then I can say “I told you so” when the time comes). Her just-out latest is one of those makes-it-look-easy collection of delightful songs, catchy melodies, emotional depth, some excellent instrumentation and a voice that, like simple syrup, seems to mix with just about everything for a delicious cocktail. Bottoms up!

Bonus Round

In addition to the Monthly 10, I’ll try to throw in a few other picks each month.

For my monthly live release pick, let’s go back to the guitar-duo well once more with Guy Buttery and Derek Gripper, Live in Cape Town, a tit-for-tat, high-level engagement from two masters of their instrument. Enjoy!

Once again, a couple EP’s worth listening to: ready for more guitar? This release from guitarist Deniz Cuylan is a feat to behold, a must-hear in the Friday Afternoon In San Francisco tradition. Abram Shook’s between-two-LP’s EP release finds him at his groove-rock finest, a true gem that remains woefully under-the-radar.

And finally five more recommendations that may not be on your radar but are well worth a listen, presented without comment: Elizabeth & the Catapult, Field Works, Landlady, Mia Doi Todd and Jane Weaver … what other good ones did I miss this month?

I think that’ll do, more next month.

All of the music mentioned in this column can be found in this April compilation playlist on Spotify. I’ll also keep up this running playlist with all the recommendations from 2021 so they’re all in one place for easy new music discovery at any time.

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