It's been unusually cold in the DC area this month. We're far enough south that the temperature rarely dips below the twenties, but lately it's been in the teens at night, and taking the dog for a walk has been something of an endurance test.
Not a lot of writing news I can share at the moment. Many interesting things taking place, but none of it concrete enough at this point to tell you about. I hope to be able to show you the covers for my next two middle grade novels, G.I. Joe Classified, which comes out in July, and The Ghost of Drowned Meadow, which comes out in September. I've seen early versions of both and they look very cool, albeit in very different ways.
But that's not what this issue of the newsletter is about! Oh no! As promised, here is my annual music round up! I've already given my list to David Levithan, who compiles lists from a great many people, but I didn't really go into details for him. Instead, I thought I might do that here.
As in previous years, I've made two lists. The first is music where vocals are the focus. This is generally the music I listen to when I want some entertainment while I'm cleaning the house, cooking dinner, etc. The second is either entirely instrumental, or else the vocals are not the focus. This is music I listen to while writing because it creates a certain mood and helps me focus without distracting me with other people's words.
Parannoul, To See the Next Part of the Dream
This album out of Seoul is by far my favorite vocal album of the year, hands down. Vast ambitious rock-electronic fusion that sweeps me away.
Wednesday, Twin Plagues
Nervous Dater, Call in the Mess
These two albums are in my alt/indie rock cozy zone. Irreverent and catchy, with jangly guitars and sharp vocals. For me, this is music comfort food.
Japanese Breakfast, Jubilee
Julien Baker, Little Oblivions
Flock of Dimes, Head of Roses
These three albums fall more under the singer/songwriter indie pop sound. Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast continues to refine and enrich her compositions, while Julien Baker has somehow gotten bigger in her sound without losing the intimacy that made me fall in love with her music in the first place. And Jenn Wasner, of both Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, is truly one of my favorite artists of all time. Is there anything this woman cannot do?
Arlo Parks, Collapsed in Sunbeams
Hiatus Kaiyote, Mood Valiant
I don't listen to enough R&B. It's a problem I am trying to correct. If you're also feeling the same, here are two great artists that warrant your attention.
Black Country, New Road, For the First Time
This is a band my son introduced to me. Having a sixteen year old who's passionate about music is really handy when trying to keep abreast of current trends. He mostly listens to underground/alt rap, but this weird jazz-rock-psych infused spoken word band grabbed his attention and when he started playing it in the car one day, it grabbed mine as well.
Kælan Mikla, Undir Köldum Norðurljósum
Look, I've embraced my goth tendencies. And this Icelandic band is pure sugar pop goth. If you like dark 80's synth, you'll love this. I do wish I could pronounce the name of the album, but that's my shortcoming, not theirs.
Ghost Bath, Self Loather
Sadness, April Sunset
The Ember, The Ash, Fixation
Unreqvited, Beautiful Ghosts
These bands all fall under a particular subgenre of metal most often referred to as doom or black metal. But I prefer the less frequently used descriptor "doomgaze" because that's exactly what it is: shoegaze, but metal. At times symphonic, and at other times bombastic, it is always sublime and deeply moody, with a great deal of quiet screaming in the background. I did not so much get into this music as succumb to it. I like to think of myself as an omnivorous appreciator of music, someone who enjoys all its many styles and flavors. But I must confess that these days, over 50% of my listening habits focus on this particular subgenre. What that says about me or my writing, I leave for you to decide.
Anoice, Hidden Forest
A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Invisible Cities
Ólafur Arnalds, The Invisible EP
I would put these bands/artists/composers in the modern or neo classical subgenre. This music has all the haunting and moody symphonic elements of the previous group, but none of the bombast or screaming. It's great music to soundtrack your writing, or to listen to while drinking chai and watching the snow fall outside your window.
Theon Cross, Intra-I
I used to be a big jazz head, but I fear most of that discovery bandwidth has been taken up by doomgaze these days. Thankfully, I don't need to look far for great jazz when there's a new Theon Cross album.
I am always here for a new Grouper album. There is nothing in the world like the dark, gritty, wistful ambient soundscapes that Liz Harris creates. She is an acquired taste, to be sure, but oh what a unique and special taste it is. She's right up there with Jen Wasner as one of my all time favorites, although in a very different way.
Well, I do hope at least some of those peaked your interest. And if you're in a financial situation that enables you to do so, when you find an artist you fancy, please consider purchasing their music from their Bandcamp page rather than merely listening to it on streaming services. Those services are great for discovery, but terrible for actually ensuring that the musicians you love can keep doing their thing.
Until next time.