(1) Snow Ellet - "Brick"
This is why I love new music so much. As far as I can tell, this is just some random guy from the Chicago suburbs who wrote and recorded a perfect five-song EP. Oso Oso and Built to Spill are the obvious reference points, but there's some Beulah here, too. And it didn't require a major label or a big-name producer or a global promotion budget. Maybe we all have a project like this inside us.
(2) Rosie Tucker - "Barbara Ann"
The singular joy of hearing a song for the first time, thinking "yeah, this is a pretty good chorus," and then slowly realizing "wait ... this is just the pre-chorus, here comes the real chorus." It's like that little pause at the top of a roller coaster. Happens between 1:00 and 1:10 here, and I still get chills every time I hear it.
(3) Fresh - "My Redemption Arc"
Like most of my favorite artists, Kathryn Woods has somehow found a way to turn blinding rage into sing-along pop songs. If we're just projecting things into the world: Fresh/Martha Tour 2022.
(4) Manchester Orchestra - "Telepath"
It's been a big year for me "discovering" bands that have been around for years, making album after album that sound like they were written with my specific taste in mind, and yet I am only hearing them for the first time now. Everything I've been saying about Tigers Jaw is equally true of Manchester Orchestra. The Million Masks of God is a fantastic album, but diving headfirst into their entire back catalog has been even better.
(5) Hit Like A Girl - "Monsters" (f/ Bartees Strange)
Sort of the house band for a transgender non-profit called No More Dysphoria, in that frontperson Nicolle Maroulis runs both of them. Hard to pick a favorite from Heart Racer, but "Monsters" is an especially good intro to their sound. If you like this one as much as I do, go check out the full album.
(6) Remember Sports - "Sentimentality"
Felt like I didn't enjoy their first two singles as much as I was supposed to, but ... wow. I get it now. A great pop song that just keeps adding layers of guitar effects.
(7) Home Is Where - "Assisted Harakiri"
There is a small pocket of Twitter that absolutely will not shut up about Home Is Where's EP I Became Birds, and I'm thankful for them because this didn't grab me at first, but now I love it. It's more abrasive than I normally enjoy, but the hooks are there. Would be incredible live.
(8) Semler - "Thank God For That"
On the one hand, I want Grace Baldridge to become a massive star. On the other hand, I do understand that that market for aggressively gay Christian Rock that sounds like "With Arms Outstretched" by Rilo Kiley is probably somewhat limited.
(9) Illuminati Hotties - "MMMOOOAAAAYAYA"
By the end of the year, I will know how to spell this without having to look it up. First of at least three Sarah Tudzin projects on this list.
(10) Pinkshift - "Mars"
Darlings of my 100 Songs for 2020 list, they have not done a single thing to make me regret that. Like I said at the time, there is absolutely no rational explanation for why Ashrita Kumar is not a massive star.
(11) Wolf Alice - "Smile"
Maybe not as revelatory as "The Last Man On Earth," but absolutely succeeds in building excitement for next month's Blue Weekend.
(12) Foxing - "Go Down Together"
A dark twist on some very light influences (Passion Pit, Cut Copy, MGMT), Foxing seems to be headed in several directions at once, but all of them are interesting.
(13) Lucy Dacus - "Hot & Heavy"
I still haven't listened to "Thumbs" because, from what I've heard, I'm still not emotionally prepared. Glad she went with lighter fare for her next single.
(14) Wormy - "Hungry Ghost" (f/ Samia)
This is going to sound like a backhanded compliment, but I honestly mean it as high praise: This is a perfect Better Oblivion Community Center impression.
(15) Hiss Golden Messenger - "Hardlytown"
Reliable folk excellence.
(16) Pom Pom Squad - "Head Cheerleader"
Feels like I'm saying the same things over and over. This one gets an "Every good song of 2021 is connected to either Sarah Tudzin or Bartees Strange in some way" and an "I love it when indie bands level up on production values." I should make shortcut keys for those sentences.
(17) Downhaul - "Standing Water"
It's always humbling when a band talks about their influences and you don't know any of them. Anyway, these guys either have an original sound or they sound just like a bunch of bands I've never heard of. Either way, it's new to me.
(18) Cartalk - "Anyone"
One more from the Sarah Tudzin Extended Universe. She has legitimately never made a bad song.
(19) Pronoun - "I Wanna Die But I Can't (Cuz I Gotta Keep Living)"
As Stereogum put it, this "lands somewhere between Springsteen and Tegan And Sara." Before you say, "wait, isn't that true of literally all music?," listen to the song. That is spot on.
(20) Jessie Ware - "Please"
Looking forward to the day when the weather will allow me to enjoy songs that sound like this. We are not there yet.
(21) CHVRCHES - "He Said She Said"
Honestly, a little bit of a disappointment. They seem to be taking more chances with their sound, and I'm relieved they seem to have moved past their "every song needs to have a festival-ready EDM drop in the middle of it" phase, but I just think they can do better.
(22) Evan Greer - "Back Row"
"The Tyranny Of Either/Or" is probably the best song on Greer's Spotify Is Surveillance EP, and "Emma Goldman Would Have Beat Your Ass" is definitely the best-named song on the EP, but "Back Row" is a strong opener.
(23) The Mountain Goats - "Mobile"
Has it really taken this long for John Darnielle to write a song about the Book of Jonah? Surprising.
(24) Parannoul - "To See The Next Part of The Dream"
Korean shoegaze! This is the title track for an album that's been out for awhile but just showed up on Spotify. If you're looking for interesting work/study headphone music, I would start here.
(25) Mdou Moctar - "Afrique Victime"
African guitar god with a new album out later this month. I've honestly never heard anything like this before.
I'm doing my best to keep these at twenty-five songs per month, but this was especially hard for April.
Olivia Rodrigo - "Deja Vu" (not often you get to use "clattering" as a compliment, but the drums on this are great)
Porter Robinson - "Look At The Sky"
Kings of Convenience - "Rocky Trail"
Smol Data - "Emotional Labor Day" (real contender for the Good Band, Horrible Band Name Hall of Fame)
Waxflower - "Not Alone" (probably disqualified on account of just how much Ilana hates this specific "o" sound in an Australian accent)
St. Vincent - "The Melting Of The Sun" (Justice For Emma Madden!)
Rostam - "Changephobia"
Japanese Breakfast - "Posing In Bondage"
Yola - "Diamond Studded Shoes"
Kero Kero Bonito - "21/04/20"