sounding sharp - featured image

When I’m surrounded by creative people, I’m often impressed on the things they’re able to do naturally, while I struggle. I also often make the mistake of taking for granted that other people can do things that I find easy.

There are tracks on this playlist that are stuck in my head. Stuck on repeat in my brain. Those songs are not necessarily technically all that impressive (although some are also this). Music nerds like to argue about how to create tension and release, or which drop tuning is the coolest, or how many db at what frequency the blah blah blah. These are pseudo creative pursuits. I am not a scientist, I am a creator. Hear me roar, and like that.

As iron sharpens iron, so one IMF artist sharpens another

proverbs 27:17 (sort of)

But anyway, I’m trying to make a point here, and I’m kinda beating around the bush and taking the long way around the freeway overpass. The point is that I love hearing people do things I can’t. I love working with those people, who often embarrass me unintentionally with the ease with which they do certain things that I find basically impossible. You’ll hear some of those people on this month’s playlist. I’m surrounded in the IMF community by folks who make me want to push harder, be better, and then to turn around and help other people do the things that I find easy.

This playlist is dropping a couple days after Thanksgiving. I’m grateful that I’m part of this community. Of friends who push each other to do more, without actually pushing at all.

Iron sharpens iron.

Enjoy these wonderful songs, from all the people and all the styles. And drop in the IMF subreddit, or even the Discord, if you’re so inclined. The creative folks on this playlist would love to hear that you listened. And would also pay attention to what you thought about what you heard.

Whether or not you’ve ever made a lick of music before.

Happy (US) Thanksgiving.


SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

LIFE COACH (BEES!)

FROM THE ARTIST:
“Life Coach” is about repetition, misappropriated quotes, and how everyone thinks they’re the smartest person on the internet.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
sounds a bit like Descendents, if Descendents were a bit more mature and fronted by Bob Mould. This sound drives like a mack truck. Get out your skateboard and find a halfpipe to injure yourself on. 40oz is optional.

B4DMOODSH1T (frank vapor)

FROM THE ARTIST:
this was my dark mood joint, in collab with another guy as a producer that I met on Reddit.that’s the tune u would lite a cig to and just think about her

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Dark & brooding mumble rap with a non-english accent. If I were unhappy, this would make me unhappier. But since it’s Thanksgiving, I’ll just eat some more brussels sprouts and kick back to the vibe.

COBALT COCOA (Felknia)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Had a lot of fun with this one, I’m happy with the melody and harmony. Pretty genre-less but it was video game inspired.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Felknia has a way of making chiptuney sounding music sound and feel grown up, and this track is a perfect example – bouncy, upbeat, but surprisingly sophisticated composition and arrangement.

HOMETOWN (Colossal Rex)

FROM THE ARTIST:
This song’s about growing up in a small Northern Californian town.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Backcountry walking guitar licks sometimes wander into disorted licks. This is some outlaw country that makes me wanna slap the dust off my jeans and find a pretty lady to dance a bit too close with.

GLINT (Slackerman)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Slackerman makes Rock-infused Electronic Lo-fi music. His music sometimes also ventures into Hip Hop and Funk. He gets his inspiration from bands like Lemon Jelly, Gorillaz, White Zombie and Tricky. He has released a couple of albums within the year.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This is a time machine to somewhere in the past and also the future. Signature Slackerman drums under washed out guitars and chopped vocal samples. Close your eyes and let it take you to a better future, or back to a past that didn’t hurt so much.

GHOSTS (Striped McCoy)

FROM THE ARTIST:
This is from my new EP, a chilled out dancy sadboi McCoy collab between me and my buddy Soran Leif, listen in a dim room with LED lights for maximum success

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This track, like all of Striped McCoy’s new EP, is moody and lush. His vocals just wash all over this really rich, but minimal instrumental arrangement. The feels are actually real.

CURVED (Huph)

FROM THE ARTIST:
A song produced by me that’s about being curved by a love interest.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Synth-drenched, dreamy rap/pop/indie vibes here. Like a polaroid photo developing in the back seat of a convertible on a summer afternoon driving near the ocean.

UNTITLED (Ground Up To)

FROM THE ARTIST:
This ridiculous quasi-joke song ended up being the most time-consuming from a production standpoint. It’s a bizarro EDM parody rollercoaster with overtly autotuned vocals detailing a series of reckless decisions made while blackout drunk.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
EDM-y vocal track with a ska guitar and screaming distorted guitar leads. This is dark and also funny. Lots of surprising sound design that pops in, waves, and runs down the hallway laughing.

ABYSS (Music By Fi)

FROM THE ARTIST:
This song is my first song I’ve officially released. I wanted to go for sort of a chill, lofi, indie vibe, though I’m still not exactly sure what genre you’d call this. I wrote Abyss at the start of September in 2 days and then spent weeks trying to make it sound exactly how I wanted it to. I mean it’s not perfect but it’s pretty close to what I had in mind. I’m very excited to have finished the song and for it to be my first official release. Thanks for listening

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This song happens in a tiny universe. The childlike vocal sounds extra special against the muted and slightly bent arrangement. I love being in this space – I feel like a voyeur, living vicariously through this sweet nostalgic love letter.

MY HEAD (Summersick)

FROM THE ARTIST:
My Head combines driving surf rock guitars and a catchy, danceable beat to support an emotional song about battling self doubt in daily life.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Happy strummy indie-punk-y guitars and vocals. Bouncing in my chair makes it hard to type the words. The heavy tremolo on the guitars in the bridge remind me of the Pulp Fiction soundtrack – surf gone drinking.

ROAR – THEY’RE BUILDING A NEW VERT… (LOHM)

FROM THE ARTIST:
A biploar remix that places you in a serene and tranquil meadow, but eventually drives you off a cliff and into an industrial hellscape. All the while, FYD cheers you on, reminding you to let the masses “hear you roar!”

POPS SOUNDBITE:
The original of this track is straight ahead punk rock, but LOHM manages to bring it into 2020 with this heavy electro remix, full of big fat dancy synths, siren-like sounds, and snare cracks that sound like gunshots in the streets. Try to avoid dancing.

PHOEBE’S SHOES (Matt Fasullo)

FROM THE ARTIST:
It’s about me being okay with not being as successful as my inspirations.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
The lyrics are a bit melancholy, but the song is comfy. Surprising guitar solo in the middle brings a bit of psychedelia to the party.

TRAVEL LITE (Matt Dubrow & the Captives)

FROM THE ARTIST:
New Jersey’s favorite 5-piece Outlaw Country music band fronted by Twitch icon Matt Dubrow aka House_of_Dub.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This is one of the more country-sounding songs from the Captives catalog. Matt’s soaring vocals stand out against a pretty spare instrumental arrangement. Also there’s a fiery harmonica solo AND a great guitar solo. This reminds me of country rock from folks like…

LIPS TO THE GRIND (Neon M)

FROM THE ARTIST:
A 90’s inspired grunge-rock tune

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Grunge-inflected sweeping wall of guitars and vocals. Evokes light shows through spinning colored gels, and lots of haze in the air. Everyone moving without really knowing it.

VALEN (Murat Özcan)

FROM THE ARTIST:
how can i 😮

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Dreamy melodic soundscape. An actual country journey. Hobbits and vaguely threatening woods kind of vibe.

HEAVY (Anna Luther)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
The world is soo heavy. Everything is soo heavy. Anna’s beautiful vocals make it both heavier and more hopeful. This song is so sweet, and just makes my chest ache.

GRAYSCALE (White Cat)

FROM THE ARTIST:
White Cat is not a real cat. He is a man.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Floaty noodly lead guitars over a spare drumbeat with an indie rock vocal. This song is lowkey. with chimes.

WATCHING A WESTERN MOVIE… (Pastellraum)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Just a song from my last ep, hope you like it!

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This is ‘world music’. Pastellraum lives in Turkey, and this song has those vibes. Modal melodies over a lofi beat, sort of like Thievery Corporation, but with less reverb.

CALL ME? (17 Letters)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
lofi uptuned. The vocals are really pretty, although the FX on them sometimes obscures their prettiness. I think this is intentional. Lofi, lo-tech, lowkey. Nice little thing.

SEPARATION OF A MIXTURE (Care Again)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
A carnival scene. The waltz feel puts me right in ren fair folk territory, but the vocal is modern, indie. It’s an odd juxtaposition, but not a bad one.

MOUTH BREATHER (Worse in Person)

FROM THE ARTIST:
An indie rock song about not knowing what people might really think about you. Created in the summer 2020 by Worse in Person for our EP “My Hobbies Suck” as we learned to produce music asynchronously from each other.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Twangy. Drawly. Indie/country/rock is real in 2020. The choruses are indie. The verses are country. Self-deprecating lyrics are not depressing – just a bit silly.

LEIGH-CHERI (bug)

FROM THE ARTIST:
just a bug making music

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This song is slow. Bug’s slightly out-of-tune vocals give this a real sadness. It’s far too short.

TRY (Tomer Krail)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
A prog rock sort of verse, with a 1970’s stacked vocal harmony chorus. This is a fresh combination that works surprisingly well. The production is clean and crisp – like Steely Dan or Weather Report, but the sounds are much more modern, and accessible.

KYOTO (The 1)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Kyoto is a chill song with happy and uplifting vibes inspired by the likes of kygo and Marshmello!

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Nice arrangement – it’s aching for a vocal!

BECOMING CLOUDS (barabbas t. jones)

FROM THE ARTIST:
A bipolar remix that places you in a serene and tranquil meadow, but eventually drives you off a cliff and into an industrial hell-scape. All the while, FYD cheers you on, reminding you to let the masses “hear you roar!”

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Jangly, clashy, angry sounding folk punk. This song makes me want to punch things. Barrabas’s frustration and anger are just right out front in every part of this song. And also, his pure desire for a better self and a better world to be himself in.

SOLITARY (DHXP)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Sometimes you just need some time for yourself. Here’s a song about it! It was for our very own genre mash game, and I rolled Post Punk.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Duri’s arrangements are like topographic maps of mountains. This one is no different – so many shifts in tone and style, but all clearly connected. Vocded vocals, vaguely heavy metal sounding drums and guitars and twinkly keyboards with a smooth bassline knitting it all together.

LEFT BEHIND (Baaz)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Speakerbox vocals over a minimal trap beat sorta thing. And then it’s something totally else – a SciFi nightmare looks around the corner and asks for a dance. And we dance.

SIRUP STECKY (popijininsky)

FROM THE ARTIST:
I am feeling a bit split today.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Wavy. Funky. Bop. The best sounds from 1970 something, in a modern downtempo arranagement.

BUTTER UP THE SUB (Somewhat Incognito)

FROM THE ARTIST:
DIY Music Project focused on releasing a cool track twice a month. This track was the first of two releases done in November 2020.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This song is a whole lot of fun. If you’ve got a sub, you best butter it up before you turn it up so it doesn’t shake itself apart. SI’s vocals sound like he’s singing through clenched teeth – like a 30’s movie gangster. They work super well in this track, which is an absolute party opener.

FALL ASLEEP ON REPEAT (Moonglow)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This is a raw arrangement with so much space. Moonglow’s vocals are so creamy, and Elizabeth’s sparkle. The little sitar turnaround is a big smile moment. I can’t fall asleep with this on repeat – it’s too much.

FREIGHT (Avdrav)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Avdrav is a New Jersey based musician focused on electronic sounds. This track was written at the start of the covid crisis. It is an instrumental song that goes out to all the workers who lost their livelihoods when we shut down the economy.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Trains. Screaming down empty tracks in the middle of nowhere. Moving through empty trainyards and pulling out of empty stations.The world turns. We’re just watching

IT’S TERRIBLE TOO (Girls With Depression)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Grungey single from my isolated-as-hell synthpop album 818 Delyxe+, which you should definitely listen to if you hate pitch-correction!

POPS SOUNDBITE:
It’s quirky – bent, but not broken. It’s melodramatic, like a little play on a little stage. With puppets maybe. I would tip the puppeteer and ask for an encore.

DECISIONS (Soran Leif)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Loungey. Snare drum sounds like a kids toy block hitting a wooden cigar box. These vocal samples are beautiful and; haunting. This is a real playlist track that will distract you from what you’re doing to go see who it is.

DIE ALONE (Max Oakland)

FROM THE ARTIST:
A dark and energetic vibe like driving fast at night

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Max’s vocals are so super saturated and warm. He could be singing about how he wants to hurt me and make me miserable, and I’d still be loving it. This track has a harder edge than the Moon song last month. I like this one too.

FOR YOU (Starcry)

FROM THE ARTIST:
The first track produced that set the tone for the entire Starcry project.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Very grown up sounding electronica/pop. Insistent.

LAMINAR FLOW (James Marton)

FROM THE ARTIST:
This song was a result of last month’s mood swing game. I was given “great” as my mood. But I think my song sounds more like an altered state of mind great mood. Still, it was a great prompt and I’m happy with the outcome!

POPS SOUNDBITE:
James is reverb-drenched happiness – this one is reminiscent of 1980’s Grateful Dead.

INFILTRATION (PR)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This is a soundtrack in the panopticon of 2020 – the voice of Big Brother over the loudspeaker. It’s edgy – puts me on edge.

ON YOUR LINE (State of the Sea)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Song about waiting for a loved one to return you texts and calls

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Twangy surfy guitars over lofi drums and with a super lowkey vocal. The lyrics are about waiting for something to happen, and the feel permeates the whole song. The dial tone. The guitar melody. Well put together.

GUILTY TABS (Aveiro)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Art Before Chart

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Pumping but restrained instrumentals under a mournful r&b vocal

ASSASSINS (Tone Deaf Jeff)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Assassins is a collaboration between Partial Cigar and Tone Deaf Jeff.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Dispatching insurgents. This is an anime in a song. The assassins are real, and they’ll actually kill you if you don’t t the line. Jeff’s storytelling flex is on full display in this one.

ELECTROLYTE (Iman Kumar Mukherjee)

FROM THE ARTIST:
My third track Electrolyte. Genre- EDM

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This is a pirate jig in the future. The lights are super bright. The ships are made of future plastic that doesn’t come from goop in the ground. The pirates are pretty nice and happy. And they like to dance.

PULSE OF THE WORLD (Tony Appleseed – Asbury Park, NJ based indie/electronic artist)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Tony Appleseed is an Asbury Park, NJ based artist who makes indie/electronic music.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Ooo. It’s super chill syncopated drumnbass under an indie-surf-lounge sort of guitar vocal thing. It meanders, and it’s happening all around me. Headphones on for this one for sure. It’s a popsong of a lounge dance thing. I’ll be back for this one later.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS (THE BEAT WIZARD)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Song info:Key: D# Major to F# MajorBPM: 128 BPMGenre: Progressive House

POPS SOUNDBITE:
SUPER PUMP house. The jump is real. The floor is flexing. Is that OK? It’s probably OK. It’s a bit sparse. Maybe needs some company.

SUMMER OF YOUNG LOVE (OK Feather)

FROM THE ARTIST:
OK Feather is an international feathery project revolving around the underrated and fascinating creatures that are pigeons.Our first official release “Summer of Young Love” is a K-Indie lo-fi r&b story about nostalgic memories of first love, from a pigeon’s perspective.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
A smooth and sophisticated downtempo track that evokes 90’s Sneaker Pimps. Flora’s vocals just flow over this like buttery silk. The lyrics are tongue-in-cheek, but not silly. I care about these pigeons and I want to know how the story works out. Also the cheek-finger pops are actually perfect.

SMOKE / MIRRORS (Babebee)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Reverb-drenched, tape saturated trip hop that 1998 would have been proud of. Lazy sultry vocals, lush pads

PHONE STAR 四 (yumi motoma)

FROM THE ARTIST:
hello moto

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Off kilter, wow and flutter-filled intro opens up to a vocal chop salad over a straight funk groove. It’s a head nodder that alternates between that more broken place and super crispy bass-and-drums bop.


SOUNDCLOUD PLAYLIST

QUEENSPARK (FlukeyMcSwagger)

FROM THE ARTIST:
An exploration of atmospheric chill and building on a modal percussion performance.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Steel drum-like sounds that I think are actually guitars. It’s slow, open, breathing.

ANÆKITT III (arpeggi.)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
An ambient soundscape. It’s cold, like space. Hums like atomic motors. Blows like a solar wind.

BE GOOD (Televangeles)

FROM THE ARTIST:
This was my track for Life’s Everyday Soundtrack, with our inimitable host Soran Leif and Bentley. Stems by LOHM aka the Wolf.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This is a fever dream. Colliding sounds, thick arrangement. I am afraid of this song.

DAMMIT EUGENE (Dammit Eugene)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Dramatic, strummy, waltzy. crashing around a beautiful irish?-accented vocal. Like U2 and Enya jamming at the end of a summer festival, with a fusion-guitar outro by jazz Duane Allman.

RUNNING AGAINST IT (Night Spyre)

FROM THE ARTIST:
An attempt at sculpting a soft/ sad piano sound to fit the vibe of this piece. This was originally a piece that I composed for a Trimester Final Project for a class, but I tried to mix it in a DAW to make it sound better than the default MIDI piano SoundFont.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
A soft piano sketch for a late Sunday afternoon.

LIFE IS DELICATE (Emmet)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Made with Spitfire Labs Soft Piano

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Another piano composition, this one with some synth wind instruments for atmosphere.

MY EPHEMERAL MIND (Vindicating Twilight)

FROM THE ARTIST:
I want to take a hammer to my ephemeral mind then melt off the carcinogens and others of its kind

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This is tortured. Crushed sounding, claustrophobic. I didn’t know electro goth was a recognized genre, but apparently it is, and this seems like an excellent example.

HAUNTED WORLD (Atlantic Canyons)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Trip hop/dream pop inspired electronic rock.

POPS SOUNDBITE:
American trip hop. Distorted and clipped, but also pretty and vibey. Warm vocals ride over a sort-of industrial arrangement that’s somehow pretty.

EVERYONE’S AN ASSHOLE (Hunter)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Bouncy, matter of fact rap delivery. Kind of emo lyrics over a sweet pop/r&b instrumental.

NONSPATIAL (CT Lee)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
We’re gathering. Getting ready for something important. There are important signs in the sky. Signal fires on the horizon. We’ll need a plan – time is running out. Expansive sound design and cinematic percussion drive this track, and the build is real.

DISTANCE (kingdaro)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
Sparkly. Clean like a tokyo train station. Lit like an LA summer afternoon. It pumps, but it’s not a dance track. It’s world building with sound.

DREAM WITHIN A DREAM… (Mr. Chris)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Honestly, I have no idea what genre this track is. Sort of an ambient-trap hybrid. Either way, I hope you all enjoy it!

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This is BIG. There’s so much space inside it. Not sure how Mr. Chris managed to do that. Big things crashing. Heavy curtains billowing in a strong breeze. It has a subtle tempo acceleration that builds a sense of unease before breaking into a clearing where all is calm again.

MISTAKING (Martin Cuticchio)

FROM THE ARTIST:
Kind of a genre

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This is a fresh sound – glitchy sound fx playing around a straight keyboard composition, with some really sophisticated chords and changes. And then it’s briefly a soundtrack to a grown-up thriller before it resolves into one note.

AUDIENCE OF ONE (David W R Campbell)

FROM THE ARTIST:
This is a song I wrote about performing at an open mic, no ones listening except the one person you care about, and that’s all you need. Recording is simple but was trying to get a sound not dissimilar to an open mic. Hope you enjoy 🙂

POPS SOUNDBITE:
This is a pretty, open arrangement. The idea of only needing to be heard by one person is actually so resonant.

LOVE AGAIN (Chuck Islands)

FROM THE ARTIST:
none submitted

POPS SOUNDBITE:
It’s dreamy. The lyrics are simple, straightforward. The things that are actually hard to say in person, but easier to say in a song. ‘I wanna be with you…but I couldn’t change for you.’

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