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Every month, Utne Reader presents free, downloadable music gleaned from current and upcoming releases on independent labels. This sampler was curated by editorial intern Will Wlizlo.
Sarah Kirkland SniderThis collaboration between composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, the chamber orchestra Signal, and vocal virtuoso Shara Worden is truly epic—so it is only appropriate that the story of Penelope would loosely follow the storyline of Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey. Bring these musical heroes home on October 26 (New Amsterdam Records).
Track: “Calypso” by Sarah Kirkland Snider
Sharon Van EttenAlthough Epic is Sharon Van Etten’s sophomore album—out October 5 on Ba Da Bing—she has the nuanced emotional range, hook sensibility, and thoughtful instrumentation of a veteran songstress. This album is peaceful, somber, and celebratory all at the same time.
Track: “Love More” by Sharon Van Etten
Max RichterThe German neoclassical composer Max Richter was charged with the task of writing a score for a contemporary ballet reinterpretation of T.S. Eliot’s sprawling poem “The Wasteland.” Thus, Infra was born. Strings, spare electronics, and a handful of other instruments grace this album out on Fatcat Records.
Track: “Infra 5” by Max Richter
MoshimossKosuke Anamizu, who molds beautiful ambient under the moniker Moshimoss, was born in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, and has ever since been influenced by great expanses, barren landscapes, and our own inner worlds. Hidden Tape No. 66 is his first release on the detail-oriented Dynamophone record label.
Track: “Slow Days It Was Super” by Moshimoss
Rahim AlHajRahim AlHaj’s latest album, Little Earth, was inspired by the Earth’s population nearly reaching seven billion. AlHaj’s compositions explore this theme with the help of a spectrum of virtuosic collaborators—including jazzist Bill Frisell, Peter Buck, and Chinese pipa-player Liu Fang. While enjoying AlHaj’s striding guitar-work, read former editor Jeff Severns Guntzel’s profile of the dissident Iraqi.
Track: “Dance of the Palms” by Rahim AlHaj
The WalkmenWith their brand of plodding, not-quite-anthemic garage rock, the Walkmen return with their sixth album Lisbon on September 14 (Fat Possum). Expect uncontrollable foot-tapping and finger-snapping.
Track: “Angela Surf City” by the Walkmen
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. plays minimalist pop—imagine a groggier Arcade Fire—loaded with sugar-coated vocals, vaguely hip-hoppy drum machine beats, and shimmering synths. Their debut Horsepower EP is out on Quite Scientific.
Track: “Nothing But Our Love” by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
The Bad PlusHow do three Minnesotans turn a drum set, piano, and upright bass into surprisingly danceable, at-home-in-a-dive-bar postmodern jazz? Knowing the answer would probably spoil the fun. Although known for playful covers of contemporary classics, like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” the Bad Plus feature only original compositions on their seventh album, Never Stop. Out September 14 on E1 Entertainment.
Track: “Beryl Loves to Dance” by the Bad Plus