Every month, Utne Reader presents free, downloadable music gleaned from current and upcoming releases on independent music labels. This sampler was curated by editor-in-chief Christian Williams and associate editor Ben Sauder.
Artist: Shugo Tokumaru
Record Label: Polyvinyl
Latest album: TOSS (out April 28)
Featured song: “Lita-Ruta”
Why we like this song: In a similar vein to Cornelius, Shugo Tokumaro layers samples, horns, marimbas, guitars, vocal harmonies, and more to craft a baroque-pop gem.
Record label: Arrowhawk
Latest album: Clearing (out April 7)
Featured song: “Heat Seeker”
Why we like this song: With big, dreamy guitar chords and Sarah Kinlaw’s washed-out pop vocals this track would fit comfortably on 80s radio.
Location: Portland, OR
Record label: XRAY
Latest album: Deathlist (out April 7)
Featured song: “Dream Of”
Why we like this song: Jenny Logan, aka Deathlist, plays all the instruments on her debut LP apart from drums on a couple tracks. The acoustic guitar riffing on “Dream Of” is unexpected but goes surprisingly well with the vibe of the other instrumentation.
Artist: Taylor Haskins
Record Label: Recombination Records
Latest album: Gnosis (out now)
Featured song: “Hazy Days”
Why we like this song: Acclaimed trumpeter Taylor Haskins latest album is an amalgamation of pre-programmed synths and improvised trumpet that meld jazz and EDM. “Hazy Days” is an excellent example of what you can expect from the rest of the self-produced album, on which Haskins played nearly all of the instruments in his home studio.
Record label: Swoon Records
Latest album: True Cinnamon (out April 14)
Featured song: “True Cinnamon”
Why we like this song: “True Cinnamon” feels like several sonic worlds fused together with a lead guitar riff reminiscent of Radiohead’s “My Iron Lung,” a quiet Mellotron bridge, and a squealing rager of an outro.
Artist: Desert Culture
Location: Austin, TX
Latest album: They’re Not Gone (out April 28)
Featured song: “Elva”
Why we like this song: Simple, and catchy as hell, “Elva” employs the traditional instrumentation of a surf song — reverbed guitar, organ, bass, drums — but singer Daniel Vega takes the song to a different level with an impressive hook on the chorus.