It’s the question most frequently asked of a music journalist: “What should I be listening to?” This semi-regular column aims to provide an answer.
David Heartbreak, “Thursday (Heartbreak Remixes)”
If you need a crash course in Moombahton (the viral, D.C.-born genre that slows Dutch house music down to the tempo of reggaeton) and the Weeknd (the enigmatic Canadian R&B crooner), David Heartbreak provides the double-bird killing stone. The North Carolina producer has beefed up the Weeknd’s still-pretty-new mixtape “Thursday” with a heavy, tropical pulse without losing the music’s soft-focus sensuality. It’s a stunning example of how quickly 21st century pop can travel, be reshaped and be redistributed. But its ability to move your hips should feel timeless.
Scott Holstein, “Cold Coal Town”
Holstein has roots in West Virginia, but his latest release — easily one of the year’s finest country albums — is hiding in the dark corners of the internet. With a few clicks on Holstein’s crude Web site, you can order a CD copy of ”Cold Coal Town,” 11 bluegrass-tinted songs penned by Holstein and sung in a commanding baritone that practically stops time during the somber a cappella of “Black Water.” For fans who like to whine about the death of “real” country music, it’s time to put your PayPal password where your mouth is.
Motion Sickness of Time Travel, “Luminaries & Synastry”
Bedroom producers around the globe have smogged-up the internet with an excess of billowing ambience this year. But the music of Rachel Evans — who records as Motion Sickness of Time Travel — resides on the silver lining. This is homespun neo-new age music that pours from the speakers like mist from a humidifier, yet remains girded by Evans’ ethereal, consonant-averse singing.
Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer, “Re: ECM”
Smells like a gimmick: The beloved German techno producer raids the vaults of the brainy European jazz label and starts re-imagining its atmospheric catalogue for the dancefloor by adding a little oonce-oonce-oonce. Thankfully, “Re: ECM” isn’t that tacky. Instead, techno hero Villalobos and experimental musician Loderbauer let delicate, computer-born sounds rub up against vintage recordings of real world instruments vibrating the air. The friction creates tiny sonic sparks that are as interesting as they are delightful.
Wolves in the Throne Room, “Celestial Lineage”
By its very nature, heavy metal is ambitious. It’s the mutant strain of rock-and-roll that has proudly grown into something louder, faster and more visceral than anything else you can stick in your eardrums. But it’s also incredibly conservative. There are rules, boundaries and aesthetic codes that can’t be broken. Wolves in the Throne Room seem keenly aware of the borders that surround black metal — and with their fourth album, they continue to storm right over them with guitars and drums often behaving so violently, the music feels as if its slashing itself into a vapor.