I know without a doubt that there are collaborations on this month’s IMF Playlist, without looking at a single track submission
I know this because collaboration is in the DNA of IMF. I’m still an IMF newbie, and I’ve got like seven work-in-progress projects I’m involved in with other folks in the community. I had to stop for a minute to count them up just now — I was actually surprised it was that many. Weird, huh?
LISTEN TO THE PLAYLISTS
A funny thing: when I’m working on someone else’s material, I find myself being really thoughtful about how best to support it in a way that I don’t do with my own creations. I listen differently to feedback when I get it, not just from the folks I’m collaborating with, but from others, too. I feel like I owe that — that it’s the least I can do. I understand in a deeper way what it means to be a ‘producer’ when I’m working to support someone else’s ideas and creativity with my own.
The thing about collaborations is that they strengthen us, hone our skills, and fuel our creativity. This intention and attention is a powerful thing, and giving it in partnership in a creative exercise is super powerful.
There was a time when I thought that pointing out flaws in a thing was an indicator of my taste and intelligence, and that fault-finding was my way of making the world a better place. I’m still guilty of this tendency sometimes. But I’m learning to be a better producer, better songmaker, and better critic by narrowing in on the things I appreciate about a person’s work, rather than the things I don’t. In a creative partnership, I find that criticism is often not the best path to cultivate the really special things.
I often have a particular experience when I’m working on piece of music: my wife will poke her head into the studio and I’ll ask her what she thinks about something. What happens is fascinating — she hears what’s coming out of the speakers, not what’s in my head. And she points out factual things about what she’s hearing. Which is helpful in developing my understanding about how close to (or, more often, far from) executing my vision I actually am.
And here’s a thing I’m still always learning: that my best ideas suffer from my limited ability to express them. That the flawed products of the efforts of others to express their ideas contain an essence that makes them special. That maybe the best thing I can do is to listen with my best ears and find that essence.
One of the best gifts any one of us can give to a creative person is attention to their work. One of the most vulnerable things we can do as creative people is to ask for that attention, and open ourselves up to criticism (or worse, insincere or empty praise).
So, I listened to all the tracks on this playlist. IMF creators — I gave you my attention, because you have given / will give me yours. And I listened for the things about each track that made them special for me, flawed observer that I am.
Congratulations, lucky listener — if you’re listening to this playlist and hearing these tracks for the first time, you’re having an experience I’ll never have again. I wonder if you hear the same things I do, or entirely different ones. I’d like to hear from you, and all these wonderful artists sure would as well.
with love and attention,
ON SPOTIFY THIS MONTH
Felknia — Infinity Conundrum
This is a dramatic track with lots of ornamentation. It flips between neuro, drum n bass and chiptune in a way that makes all these make sense together. Even without the French-accented vocal samples, this track (like others from Felknia) somehow just sounds ‘French’. Worth every second of a listen.
Somewhat Incognito — The Reason I’m Here (feat. Dreams Of Lasers)
I hate to play favorites, but these guys are two of my favorite IMF artists, and getting them together on one track is actually something special. There’s a real craft at work in the songwriting and production on this track. Nod along, and keep your fingers crossed these two do more together.
Grizzzly Panda — Thai Funk
Reminscent of Khruangbin —vaguely ‘ethnic’-sounding psych rock. It’s a short sketch, and a good one — I’d like to hear this evolve into a longer song that might be played on a warm and buggy night in a bandshell somewhere outside the city…relaxed.
Dreams of Lasers — Bad to Better (ft Somewhat Incognito)
Hey, these guys did another thing together already. That was quick. This one is my more favorite of the two on this playlist. It’s so sweet. I don’t need to say more. Put it on repeat for a while — you won’t regret. It is going from bad to better — relax, let it wash over you, and you can, too.
Fried Monk — Please Go
What does this remind me of? Smoking outside my high school. Staring into the distance. It’s a sort of lofi-indie lowkey thing, but it’s evocative in a way that snuck up on me. I think I’ll go for a drive. No destination in mind.
Matt Dubrow & the Captives — Waste my Time
A bit twangy. Matt’s vocals are rich and sweet, and there’s a real songwriting and lyrical craft on display in this track. Matt is one of those multi-talented people that make me a little anxious: performer, composer, singer, dog-lover.
Tony Appleseed — The Operating Matrix
Gloomy. off kilter, industrial/orchestral intro opens into a clearing in the woods, which is both relief and threat. I think we need to move quickly and stay in the shadows. But the shadows are full of drop-offs and sharp things, and we’re not sure whether we can get to safety.
Torment of Gloom — War
There’s a lumbering mosh pit circling through this song. No one is really throwing elbows or anything, but there’s menace in their movements. Lots of heads are nodding, not-quite-banging. The band is pulsing. There’s a smoke machine. Or maybe smoke. For a little bit, it feels like menace might shift to aggression, but it settles back down. The band leaves their instruments on and leaves the stage.
colossal rex — dust devil
I was playing this just now thinking: “maybe I’ve heard this song before”, and then I got to the three minute mark, which starts with a great little bass solo, and a really open atmospheric section that builds into some really nice chaos. More of this, Colossal Rex!
Saito Gamu — Ola Sinte Pero Ola de Mar No de Ola Cmostas
I can’t believe this track is only two minutes long. It took me down the dark freeway, up the ridge road, through a mysterious space tunnel, and back home with a vague sense of amnesia. A well-composed ride.
Big Beat Big Band — Sensitive Woman
This is straight ahead R&B that I’d love to have playing at my wedding after everyone is a little tired and tipsy and the bride’s maid is sneaking off with the groom’s second cousin. A really crisp arrangement. Watch Big Beat Big Band’s videos if you’re not convinced they are legit. Also Allison’s voice is just…yeah.
homesick — life goes on
This song sounds pretty, but it’s really mournful. The lyric is all about the desire for stability, maybe about nostalgia for youth and innocence. From a person much younger than me. This brings me back to my younger self, and reminds me that my yearning for youth and innocence now is not a new thing. Youth wasted on the young, and all.
Murat Ozcan — Mors
Dramatic from the first note. I’m peeking around the trees in the forest to watch the invaders marching through the valley below. They’re at the city walls now. There’s no way to avoid the fight ahead.
Frances Gein — Faded to Black
I feel like Frances left this song on my voicemail. It’s so intimate, like I’m special to her. How does she do that? I don’t know, but I’m just drawn into her vocals and this spare arrangement. I hope Frances has friends that feel like this when she’s around — she deserves that. These lyrics break my heart, Frances.
Ground Up To — Being a Shit-Stained So and So
This song is all jangle and clash. The lyrics are an exploration of self-loathing. Somehow it’s not actually disturbing or depressing — it’s theatrical and melodramatic. There’s sort of a They Might Be Giants kind of absurdity to the whole thing.
James Marton — Thumped
Reminds me of Cake, and of something older that I can’t quite put my finger on…Lou Reed? Slightly warbly and quirky vocals. James says, “it’s the time between thumpings that matters most” — words to live by. James made this on an iphone in his living room, btw.
avdrav — Vaporizer
I’m on a drive in a well-built car with tinted windows late at night. On the outskirts of a city. This track is throbbing on the stereo. I’m tastefully dressed. Someone else is in the car. It’s been a long night, but it’s quieter now.
LOHM— Cartoon Network Remix (feat Striped McCoy, Oshua, & Porkboii)
The thing is, I had a hard time all the way immersing myself in this song, because I’m distracted by Oshua and Striped McCoy’s vocals, which are such jujubees. I had to listen several times to really appreciate the contributions of all the collaborators, and of LOHMs subtle production skill in weaving them all together. This is a well-crafted gem of a track, and over far too soon.
Dewith — Stone
Love the lowkey grunge vibe on this track. Sorry to read about your struggles, Dewith— maybe I hear them a little bit in this track. The last third sounds like it’s all tied up in yarn; makes me clench my jaw a bit. This is a good thing, in case that’s not clear.
White Cat — Big Seams
There’s a long hallway and White Cat is trying to tell someone important something important. It feels a little unsettled, but not dangerous. It’s drizzling outside, or maybe it’s just a heavy mist. It feels fine. I could spend some time here.
Eric Pande — de Lune Mécanique
The soundtrack to a movie in my mind: frogs, thumb piano, wind and waves. The electric piano improv is pretty, and surprisingly evocative. Pandelic manages to capture a lot of emotion in this sketch, and paints a specific scene in just over 100 seconds.
The Cardboard Man — Like Hot Cakes
This is a bouncy little beat (with a banjo? ukelele? something plucky and fun). “Hot cakes do sell really well” — words for life. The lyrics are authentically funny — and bouncy, and chewy. Like bubble gum that maybe fell on the floor for just a second. Hold my keyboard while I bop for a minute.
Satellite — Day Dream
A poppy arrangement under a super chill singsong / rap vocal. A nice vibe for a breezy afternoon. Which it is right now, so I’m just enjoying this one. Satellite is new to the IMF community, and new to me. I want to hear more from him.
Dispirited Spirits — Negatives of the Moon (On a Moonless Night)
Wow, this is pretty. A really open arrangement with a rich guitar and buttery vocal. The moon is cold, and the moon is dead. Metaphors. And beats.
Flora Lin — Miles Away (feat. Emil Visti)
I love Flora’s voice, and her clear attraction to challenging songs and arrangements. This one is super straight indie grunge that literally sounds like it could have come out of Seattle in 1990-something. It’s a sweet and melancholy song that set its tempo a few bpm slower than most would have, which is an excellent choice.
Tone Deaf Jeff — Assault Analysis (Slackerman’s Corrupted Codec Remix)
Slackerman beat under Tone Deaf Jeff’s science fiction rap is a great combination. I’m transported to a space station preparing for an alien invasion. Or a movie about one.
DHXP — Things That I Miss
I have to brace myself when I listen to a DHXP song. Duri has a way of just jamming an incredible amount of musical ideas into one track and making them all make sense. He takes us from lofi beachy sounding electropop through some straight ahead distorted indie rock, and then beyond, and back home down a little dirt road by the sea.
Slackerman — Return of Suzy Diablo
Slackerman’s beats are instantly identifiable — he’s got this gated and compressed snare sound that can cut through solid rock, combined with lofi instrumentals that sound like they were dubbed on cassette off a 1970s movie soundtrack. Slackerman is a world builder, and I wanna live in his world.
Serain — Revenant
Fuck yes. It is heavy. And slow. And grinding. This song is the perfect tempo, and the moments of really pretty un-crunchy stuff really make the crunchy stuff land harder. It’s impressively dynamic. The vocals are great too. I can’t make out all the words. Hopefully it’s about cool stuff too.
The Vet’s Fetching — Please Haunt Me
This is a sketch of some dirty guitar with some interesting and unexpected edits. Would be great with some languid vocals on top. I love the moments of build that get pulled back, then don’t. Some nice instincts here.
Hurling Pixels — Dope
Downtempo electronica with some seriously pumping synths. Bleeps and blurps. And some silky distorted vocals. Is it about actual dope, or is that a metaphor? Can’t be sure. Reminds me of 1990-whatever Sneaker Pimps.
OK I Dunno — Elephant Hunters
This track is a surprise from a prolific artist with multiple personas who seems to be working through the process of applying their significant songcrafting ability into creating a ‘sound’. I can relate. Elephant Hunters is a soundtrack to a trek through the jungle, skirting the edges of guerilla mining and drug processing operations.
Screaming Neon — Fading Fast
This song is one of my more favorite kinds of weird…warbly, kind of broken sounding. We’re swimming drunk. Someone is singing. There’s a song playing. I think they’re related. Yep, they are. I need to hold on to the edge of the pool.
Caleb Scott Evans — I Just Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
I didn’t know West Virginia ever sounded like this. Loping music, and slightly numbed out vocals, but a surprisingly straightforward and sentimental song. I don’t know whose boyfriend you want to be Caleb, but I hope they noticed.
Barabbas t. Jones — You Are Much Stronger Than You Know
Such an earnest song. It sounds like a live recording of a performance at the corner bar — one where the regulars might join in on the chorus. I feel stronger, Mr. Jones. Thanks for the lift.
habit. — Faces In The Dark
An earnest vocal about uneven attraction (or interest, or whatever), over a sparse and laid back arrangement. It’s catchy. It has a vocal skit in the middle. The vocal harmonies on the chorus are special, and the vocal melody is hooky and memorable.
Dewey! — Shoefits (feat. HannahLee)
A nice laid back little skit of a popsong, with an unexpected change up and a real journey in the bridge. There’s an actual essay and full lyrics for the track on Dewey!’s Soundcloud — go see for yourself.
zh uh — he’s not the one(intrumental)
A sketch of a song with some good sound design. There’s a buzzing that comes and goes and keeps my interest longer than I thought it might. For someone who’s just ‘trying to learn’ [ed: from the artist’s notes] this is a good almost-song.
popijininsky — Errorrorrorrata
This song is a mess, and intentionally so. I made it. I can’t say more about it than that I made it for IMF people, and some of them said it was good. I’m not sure if they’re right. LMK, ok?
Mitch Werth — Error
This is not a punk rock track. I like punk rock, but I also like this, which again, is not punk rock. It’s a somewhat startling glitchy sonic assemblage, with jarring shifts between grooves. There are some pretty moments and some ugly ones. Contrast is good, folks.
CT Lee — Invisible Friends
A little sonic trip — all my children have invisible friends. The breakdown in this track sounds like a mescaline trip in a spooky carnival. The rest sounds like a mescaline trip while watching a 1950s morality movie.
Data Trails — Outside Your Door
I am immediately transported to 1985. Everything is big sounding, especially snare drums, and especially synths, and especially also vocals. This song is stadium level. In the dark, I lift up my lighter while I pump my other fist. The lights are flashing in neon colors. I don’t care what happened before or what will happen next — I’m all the way inside this one.
kingdaro — Distance
Kingdaro says he ‘likes to make cute sparkly sounding stuff’. Cute isn’t the word I’d use for this. It’s mature sounding, restrained. Pumping and pulsing. I’m in a neon dream, going kinda fast, but not too fast.
Emmet — Thaumaturge
This is a soaring piece of dancey electronica. I feel like I’m leaning into a wind or riding a horse through tall grass. The clean production really lets the sound design come through — listen with your eyes closed & tell me what you imagine.
Keyfinder — Walk On By
This sounds like an early Zero 7 demo recorded in a garage — open arpeggiated guitar and hazy leads. The vocal is lowkey and direct. And there’s an accordion, which I always appreciate.
Bamboo Leaves — Roots
The bloopy descending arpeggios in this track that just swirl all around me are like a light rain on a warm day. Headphones on for this one — I’m inside the space of this track, but there are some parts of it that are not in the space with us. It’s coming in and out like waves. Leaves me grinning.
bitbeak — it haunts
I got distracted while this one was playing, but then I noticed that there was a really great song on. I clicked over to Soundcloud to give it a heart, and came back to the playlist to figure out what the next song was. It’s this song. It’s really subtle, with a haunting vocal, which suits the title and theme. I listened again. It was good to do that.