The tracks for the November 2010 sampler are no longer available. Please visit the latest sampler for more tracks!
Every month, Utne Reader presents free, downloadable music gleaned from current and upcoming releases on independent labels. This sampler was curated by senior editor Keith Goetzman and editorial intern Will Wlizlo.
There’s been a resurgence of lo-fi music released lately, but none that sounds as warm as Benoît Pioulard’s ephemeral and unpretentious acoustic-guitar driven pop. Listen closely for tasteful tambourines and nostalgic field recordings. Pioulard’s latest album, Lasted, is out on Kranky. —William Wlizlo
Track: “RTO” by Benoît Pioulard
Bear in Heaven
Dense, intense, and meticulously crafted, Bear in Heaven’s music is a missing link between synth pop, psychedelic, prog rock, and krautrock. The new edition of the Brooklyn band’s Beast Rest Forth Mouth album on Hometapes includes a second CD of audacious remixes. —Keith Goetzman
Track: “Wholehearted Mess” by Bear in Heaven
Some musicians craft such unique sounds that they warrant their own genres—in the case of Norwegian Bjørn Torske, that genre is called “skrangle-house,” an offshoot of the minimal disco popular in the Scandinavian club scene these days. The fourth full-length from Bjørn Torske is out on Smalltown Supersound on November 16. —W.W.
Track: “Bergensere” by Bjørn Torske
Mavis Staples’ soul-drenched, reaffirming music on Your Are Not Alone (Anti-) benefits from tasteful production and a stellar title song, both courtesy of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. But it’s her commanding, lived-in voice that drives these tunes home. —K.G.
Track: “You Are Not Alone” by Mavis Staples
Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers
The legendary Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdés remains as vital and adventurous as ever on Chucho’s Steps (4Q), coming at his melodies from all angles and prodding his bandmates into heated exchanges of the musical kind. —K.G.
Track: “Yansa” by Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers
Vintage synthesizers and an odd array of instruments inhabit sweeping orchestral landscapes in Yann Tiersen’s music. Having written for film, Tiersen seems to have internalized a cinematic approach to plumbing emotional undercurrents on his new Dust Lane (Anti-).—K.G.
Track: “Dust Lane” by Yann Tiersen
Startle the Heavens
Ben Leopard’s Startle the Heavens project takes as many cues from ambient demigods Brian Eno and Stars of the Lid as from experimental rock outfits like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky. The final product is dreamy and cathartic, breath-stealing and ecstatic. Leopard releases all of his own music, including his latest album All That is Wild & Alive. —W.W.
Track: “Desolate” by Startle the Heavens
After releasing independent music for two decades, English record label Ninja Tune had plenty of reason to celebrate. It gave a 20th-birthday present to the world: a compilation called XX: Twenty Years of Beats and Pieces, which showcases the dirty hip-hop and wonky electronica Ninja Tune built its name on. Our featured song is a rhyme-sputtering Antipop Consortium track remixed by techno-wunderkid Four Tet. —W.W.
Track: “Volcano (Four Tet remix)” by Antipop Consortium
Listening to these classic Afrobeat grooves, it’s not surprising to learn that Ebo Taylor was a friend of Nigerian superstar Fela. The songs on Taylor’s new Love and Death (Strut) are from the last several decades, but are newly recorded in fresh, vital versions.—K.G.
Track: “Love and Death” by Ebo Taylor
Spilling over with glistening chimes, smoky grooves, and clackity ’80s hip-hop drum kicks, Botany’s debut Feeling Today EP is a flawless synthesis of psychedelia and chill electronic music. Out on Western Vinyl. —W.W.
Track: “Agave” by Botany
With its latest release, Australia’s PVT has entirely recreated itself. Once a jazzy electro-rock group, now PVT writes punchy avant-pop. “Window” is PVT’s lead single from Church With No Magic (Warp), which features the biggest vocal hook of the century. Seriously. —W.W.
Track: “Window” by PVT