dead lizard grin (a.k.a. Terry Skaggs) follows up on his excellent April release Notes from a Temporary World with a new full-length titled We Are Shadows Dispersing Upon the Warm Spring Air. While the composer/synthesist/producer tries out a palette of tones here that remain in line with his typically zoned out and transportive drone/ambient excursions, this album finds him shifting his practice toward the twin poles of absolute formless drift and more animated, even beat-driven composition.

The very act of paring down your favorite albums will always have value. There’s something warm and cozy about imagining those albums existing as discrete milestones in music history, having reached so many ears in their compact form, entertaining outside of the framework of infinite availability and almost too-comfortable omni-selection that streaming has produced. With that in mind, here are my picks.

Robert Earl Davis Jr., better known to the world as DJ Screw, passed away nearly 20 years ago in the year 2000, but his legacy and the diaspora of his musical trademarks remain as strong as ever.

A new collection of music titled DAY DAY from Iowa City's electronic artist and composer Kent Williams, a.k.a. Chaircrusher, hit Bandcamp sometime in the recent past. Though the album has a release date of October 2020 listed, it’s available in full to stream and purchase now – perhaps a sign that Williams is, in fact, living in the future.

Braxton’s work long ago shattered the divide between the gritty, atonal language of improvised free jazz performance and the typically cloistered world of academic classical and minimalist composition, and he continues to expand in unexpected directions with new works that emerge to this day.

In a sea of carbon-copied hits that sound like they were genetically engineered in a lab, alchemized into being with the same few ingredients and signifiers that topped the charts a couple weeks before, the best pop music to emerge from any given era stands out by surveying recent musical trends and streaking off in the completely opposite direction. More than a process of picking a sub-genre no one has heard in five years or so and hopping into it just for the sake of a novel juxtaposition, to shock fans for a moment before they keep scrolling down the feed, the artists who succeed at bucking trends and emerging with something unique do so by embracing the weirder or potentially more “uncool” aspects of their own musical interests.

A. Riggen, half of Quad Cities doom metal duo Murnau, has released Sugarcane, an album of indie-rock/dream-pop compositions under the moniker Wilhelm. Though the yearning, reverb-heavy vocal style he employs in Murnau remains intact here, his arrangements in the context of this project have shifted to the world of a more conventional “rock” band built around more relatively straightforward piano, guitar, bass, and organ lines.

Rock Island-based composer Terry Skaggs, a.k.a. dead lizard grin, released an album of layered, atmospheric ambient/drone works in mid-April called Notes from a Temporary World. The artist describes the album as: “A collection of pieces arrived at during COVID-19 isolation, March & April 2020.”

One-person production project Landethics dropped the relatively short but jam-packed 12-track album phantom tidepools on their Bandcamp at the beginning of May. The producer explores a palette of sounds and production styles that falls between windswept Japanese role-playing-game soundtracks that you might hear on turn-of-the-century Playstation games and a hip-hop-adjacent series of grooves built over clipped kick drums and heavy 808 bass thuds.

Iowa’s premier grindcore/mathcore/screamo ensemble Closet Witch compiled their full discography together into one conveniently compressed Bandcamp page at the beginning of April. The band’s complete catalog, consisting of 44 tracks, ranges from songs that bear a fuller, more detailed sound characteristic of more professional studio-recording environments, to tracks clearly marked with [DEMO] that, paradoxically, end up hitting just as hard despite their cruder recording origins.

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