Radiator Hospital – Torch Song

Salinas Records, 2014

Sounding like a dream I once had that Jeff Mangum was leading a high-school Ramones, the nth album from prolific songwriter Sam Cook-Parrott is a collection of love songs to the potential of a love affair. Despite the mawkish connotations of the title, there is a freshness and vitality that runs throughout, carrying the wistful lovelorn lyrics on a tide of brief, summery power-pop. Torch Song never becomes sentimental or cloying, but races through a cluster of infinitely relatable songs as though the feelings will wane if they aren’t expressed in a hurry. Breathless and dizzying, like a teenage romance.

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Air Dubai – Be Calm

Hopeless, 2014

Ultra sleek synth-rock meets hip-hop meets alt-rock, this six piece are proof that originality still exists. Sticking with carefree themes of good times, sex and companionship, the music is similarly upbeat with keys, trumpets and guitars that take nods at ’80s New Wave as well as today’s hook filled pop. With well done dual vocals and instrumentation that also takes nods at R&B and jazz, it’s no wonder these guys are all the rage right now.

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Moondy – Puffers

Bitter Poodle, 2014

The mysterious Moondy returns with a noisier version of his retro-pop songcraft, using drums, bass, horns and pianos alongside plenty of effects – vocals and otherwise. Often times artistic, other times channeling ’90s alt-rock, this is an explosion of eccentric and oddly addictive songs that constantly shift in structure. It’s surprising that Moondy is so obscure, since he occupies such a unique space and does it well.

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Ancient Cities – Ancient Cities

Self-released, 2014

A band who are skilled at today’s experimental folk ideas as well as ’60s psyche-rock wandering, Ancient Cities bridge the gap between indie-rock and classic rock with swift, fuzzy guitars, excited drumming and dreamy atmospheres. Synth, horns and acoustic guitars also make appearances, enabling the album to soar loudly as well as channeling influences like The Beatles and Elliott Smith.

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Katie Kate – Nation

Self-released, 2014

Classically trained but making music in the hip-hop/electro-pop vein, Kate creates a staggering amount of looped beats on this sophomore album, choosing bright synth, precise production, and quick-paced rhyming mixed with pretty singing as her tools. Though it’s a littler dark in scope, Nation is just as lyrically empowering, as Kate shows a lot of skill among ’80s influences and today’s version of indie-tronica.

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Willis Earl Beal – Experiments In Time

Self-released, 2014

The always fascinating Beal produces, engineers, writes and plays everything on an extremely minimal approach to soul, electronica and gospel. The instruments here are merely a footnote to Beal’s imperfect, emotional vocals, as the minor organ and gentle acoustic guitars help drive home his timelessness. For a very lo-fi listen, it’s heavy, filled with intense sentiments from Beal’s unique mind.

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