My top listens in February 2022 🎶

The above chart is based on number of separate tracks played during February, recorded via Most releases are in my Bandcamp collection, Prince being the only exception last month.

Julia Gjertsen & Nico Rosenberg – Paisajes Imaginarios (Constellation Tatsu)

Not many new listens in the last month, but this is one and I thrashed it. I may as well be honest that one reason this’ll be at the top of the list is because it’s a good one for going to sleep – but it’s more characterful and also diverse than that might sound. It’s a collection of piano-based instrumentals, but often more rhythmic and sometimes hypnotically looping than you might expect if someone said “ambient piano music”. More like a Cluster record than The Plateaux of Mirrors, if those references mean anything to you. There are great chuggy synth lines too, such as on the well-named “Atlantis”. As a whole the album has a fuzzy, recorded-to-tape quality to a lot of it, which you might consider lo-fi.

Seaworthy & Matt Rösner – Snowmelt (12k)

These two released their first album in 2010, taking just shy of 12 years to release a second one. The first album was principally Seaworthy’s acoustic guitar on top of untouched recordings made mostly underwater. This one the concept is something about the sound of climate change, and I think there’s more electric guitar, in the vein of say “Albatross” or something, as well as more synth-y sound beds. The field recordings are still there, but not so baldly right there.

Helado Negro – Far In (4AD)

This is a new (to me) release that I listened to a couple of times via Deezer. But there’s quite a lot of tracks so it came right up the list. I got here off the back of listening to yacht rock playlists. It’s all very mellow with cool grooves and chunky drums. I didn’t find any of the songs particularly compelling, unfortunately, but I might try again later. I’ve listened to a few of his releases over the years and he did a great song with Mouse on Mars once upon a time.

Negro’s singing reminds me a bunch of Erlend Øye / Kings of Convenience, Ruspo, and one or two tracks actually had me thinking of recent The Phoenix Foundation songs sung by Luke Buda. So this Ecuadorian American reminds me of Norwegians, Brazilians and Kiwis. 🤷‍♂️

N Chambers – Air Example (Love All Day)

Norm Chambers / Panabrite released a new album in the last month or so and I thought for once I’d go back and give the albums I already have a listen, rather than reflexively buy a new one. I own two albums and maybe I was just in the wrong mood (all month?) but I found this time around these gurgly, slightly tropical feeling synth noodles left me cold.

Lord of the Isles – Geoglyph EP (Dusk Delay)

A great EP, with two beatless tracks bookmarking mellow technoish jams. I hadn’t heard of this producer before this release, but he’s been at it for years. One of those super solid releases where no particular track stands out, but that’s because they’re all good.

Paintings of Windows – Canvas (PseudoArcana)

Almost 20-year old debut of Antony Milton’s location-specific project Paintings of Windows, based around field recordings made in a tent at night in Paekakariki. It’s very quiet, while at the same time seems obviously part of that decades-long NZ tradition of strange guitary noise recordings which I think of as more of a South Island thing. I like the intimacy of this. It ends with a very lo-fi recording of a song, almost a blues.

R Beny – Eistla (Dauw)

I have a really strong memory of listening to this in a hotel room in Sri Lanka in 2016, which is two years before the album came out. 🤔 To be honest, I found the music on this album literally forgettable, revisiting it I felt like it was the first time. But it was enjoyable enough to give it a couple of spins again.

R Beny is part of what sometimes gets derisively called “houseplant ambient”, after YouTube videos where nerds set up their modular synths to gently burble with an attractive houseplant in shot. I bought this off the back of a split tape between him and Paperbark, which I still really like. But I haven’t found a release by either one of them that I like nearly so much.

Mirko – LP1 (ROOM40)

This was released in 2016, but I don’t think I listened to in Sri Lanka. 😂 It came up on shuffle and I ended up coming back to it. I haven’t heard anything since from Mirko, but Lawrence English’s ROOM40 label tends to serve up these kinds of releases that are on the verge of what I consider ambient, but just that bit weirder and edgier. Worth the price of entry for the immediate drama of “In Conversation” alone. But tracks like “One Hour” are indicative of that sort of ambient thing in a different way: it seems like it’s going to be straight up drifty niceness, then in the second half a fast and insistent bassline comes along and a bit of distortion. It’s not scary or anything, it just leans a little more towards rock moves than most beatless electronic music.

Prince – Sign ‘O’ The Times (Super Deluxe) (Warner)

I chucked this on while making dinner the other night and it ended up 9th most listened for the month! This is the first Prince album I listened to from start to finish as a kid, and I’ve probably listened through it more than a hundred times over the decades.

Like Bowie, Prince had a run of interesting and inventive records with some amazing songs and was no doubt very influential to many great artists, but … there’s actually only one or two of those records I like to listen to from start to finish.

“The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” is just an ideal song, in my mind. I’ve pulled it apart in my head over and over, but it also still hits me. So it technically fascinates me, but I also still just feel it and feel that it works as a song. So much is so otherworldly: the pitched electric drums, the glucky organ-like sound, the drunken chords, the roaming and random vocal parts (including the Joni Mitchell quote) and the way it all finally feels like it’s coming together just as it ends… Wow!

While the details excite me and have inspired me, perhaps the most inspiring aspect is that it reminds me how (duh) good music is almost independent of all the little details. A great track can be great because of the technicalities, great with its technical “failings”, or great in spite of them.