The Monthly RecommNeds: December 2021

Check out this month's new music picks from longtime JamBase contributor Aaron "Neddy" Stein.

By Aaron Stein Dec 13, 2021 11:21 am PST

We are officially in year end mode, and while most major publications are coming out with their best-of lists, here at RecommNeds HQ, we’re still doing our deep dig through the pile, trying to catch up on what’s out there so we can pass on the best new and interesting finds on to you. I hope you find something worth adding to your new favorite band list.

Just in case you’ve missed any of this year’s columns, there’s now almost a whole year’s worth, plenty of great stocking stuffers, you can check ‘em out here:

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As a reminder, the RecommNeds is a monthly rundown of maybe-not-on-your-radar new music, hopefully with something-for-everyone variety. I’m also 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. Dig it!

Without further ado, here are my latest finds, enjoy!

The Monthly 10:

Ten under-the-radar albums released last month that I think you might dig, presented in alphabetical order.

Ben Chasny: The Intimate Landscape

Almost every month there’s a new guitar album that hits the RecommNeds sweet spot and right off the bat I’d like to introduce you to Ben Chasny, guitarist from Six Organs of Admittance. This solo effort is a set of absolutely gorgeous acoustic music. Between the title and the album cover art, the stage is set for an introspective, intimate, lovely journey of easygoing melodies and luscious playing. Perfect for cool winter mornings with a cup of coffee, or any other time you need something beautiful.

Al Doum & the Faryds: Freaky People

Three years ago, I happened upon an album from Italy’s Al Doum & the Faryds and was just totally blown away by it. Well, they’re back with a follow-up and I am happy to say it does not disappoint. Large-scale spiritual jazz meets psychedelic Eurojam. This is glorious freak-out music for the freaky people, no doubt. Saxophone blasts, joyous chanting, and plenty of jamming guitar, there’s much to love here on multiple levels. Dig it!

Electric Eye: Horizon

If you dig your Eurojams a little more down-and-dirty psych-rock, then you’ll be very happy to hear that Norway quartet, RecommNeds veterans Electric Eye are back with their fourth full-length on Fuzz Club Records. Like past offerings, it’s a total heater, but with a more expansive and developed sound, music that gets out there, but tells a story as it goes and even grooves a bit along the way. This is definitely their best work to date and a must listen.

The Grease Traps: Solid Ground

Time to get funky, friends! Looking for something to get the party started? Let me introduce you to The Grease Traps, an eight-piece out of Oakland. Big, fat, old-school funk with the horns and the organ and fat bass lines and soulful vocals, their debut album, Solid Ground, has it all. What’s best is that they stick to bread-and-butter grooves while keeping it fresh and interesting. Put your dancing shoes on and enjoy!

Natalie Jane Hill: Solely

On the other end of the spectrum, good to get some great folk music into the mix, and there is some great folk music out there. Take Natalie Jane Hill. The Austin singer-songwriter’s new sophomore album is a delight of beautiful, lived-in lyrics, scampering acoustic guitar and Hill’s uniquely haunting voice. Add in some extras like pedal steel, vibraphone and cello, and you have a rich sound with a serious emotional tug. Give it a listen, it might hit your sweet spot!

Hedvig Mollestad: Tempest Revisited

Friends, we’re going back to Norway. This time to grab the latest from guitarist Hedvig Mollestad. Mollestad rests comfortably in the crux between jazz and rock, between tradition and cracking tradition like an egg and scrambling it up good. Her latest is a little of all of that, thoughtful compositions, expert improvisation, relaxing mindwander and meaty bits of grooving and jam for sinking your teeth into. Lots to love here, please do check it out!

Dan Munkus: The Edge of the High Trace

For something a little different, check out the latest from Dan Munkus. Somewhere in the ambient/classical category, these instrumental tracks carry a serious emotional heft. These are slow-moving pieces, that seem to start from a distant nowhere and eventually come into view, swallow you and take you somewhere fascinating. Which is to say, your patience will be rewarded. If you’re in the right frame of mind, The Edge of the High Trace has plenty of power hidden inside.

Thesis Heists: Songs We Don’t Know

One thing I love almost as much as recommending great, new, undiscovered music is having great, new, undiscovered music recommended to me. So when multiple people point you in the direction of an album and say “this is very much yooour jam,” well, you know I’m on board. That was the case with the debut from Thesis Heists, a jamming trio whose debut album is like a homegrown delight of Eurojam-style improvisation. Heavy, exploratory, elevating, engaging, these in-studio totally improvised pieces are, as the kids used to say, sick. If you’re reading this right now, I have trouble believing you wouldn’t love this as much as I do. So, like, get at it!

Traffik Island: A Shrug of the Shoulders

Here’s another RecommNeds repeat customer – with good reason! Traffik Island is one of many projects from Zak Olsen from current great-music hotbed, Melbourne, Australia. The latest release, A Shrug of the Shoulders is a bit of groovy pop sunshine mixed with a bit of darkened psychedelia, like old Pink Floyd updated for the modern ear. Equal parts catchy-as-heck and just-weird-enough, Traffik Island continues to be a must-hear fount of creativity. Dig it!

Uzupis: Dirt

As someone who spends a lot of time immersed in the New York City live music world, I’m always glad when I can introduce you to something special that typically you night only see in a small room in Brooklyn. Uzupis is a unique trio consisting of two vibraphones (Kenny Wolleson and Will Shor) and a drummer (Dalius Naujo). Their music is often gorgeous and dreamlike, occasionally expansive and weird, but always as interesting and cool as a band with two sets of vibes should be. This one transcends genre and preconceptions, a perfect fit for the RecommNeds. Enjoy this one and all of this month’s picks!

Bonus Round

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

For my live pick this month, please check out the brainfeeder spiritual jazz live set from trumpet player Matthew Halsall, this is pretty fantastic!

I’ve got two more nice EP’s for you, one South African jazz banger from Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O and the other five tracks of experimental pop perfection from Toth.

And finally, five more recommendations that may not be on your radar but are well worth a listen, presented without comment: Hampshire & Foat, Ill Considered, L’éclair, Mapache and Pipe-Eye … what other good ones did I miss this month?

I think that’ll do, more next month.

Please note: all of the music mentioned in this column can be found in this December 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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