Bright Sparks is our attempt at rebranding our Best of the Rest series. In case you missed it, here’s our description of that series, “One of the best/worst things about the whole blogging game is the abundance of great music. Unfortunately there are (still!) only twenty-four hours in a day, most of which are consumed with non-WTD things, so even if we get sent ten great albums then chances are we will only be able to cover three or four. While trying to avoid falling into the listicle trap, we thought the best way to remedy this problem would be a semi-regular round-up”.

A new volume will be posted every few weeks and will offer a collection of really great songs that we’re determined not to let slip past our radar.

Deer Scout – Sad Boy

After the excellent EP, Customs (which we described as “at once sort of sad and strangely uplifting”), Dena Miller’s Deer Scout is back with a brand new single, ‘Sad Boy’. Complete with a video directed by Haftom Khasai and Nick Morgan, and produced by Neuromantic Productions, the track sees Miller adopt additional production and straight-eyed confidence, toeing the line between sincere intimacy and cool commentary. As such, the track serves as a neat put down for every tortured male with a guitar, and a high five for all the female, trans and non-binary people (what Miller calls “non-dudes”) who write honest, earnest music without due recognition. “The issue isn’t men being vulnerable,” Miller says. “The issue is that non-dudes have always embraced softness and vulnerability and never get enough credit for it.”

Outside The Academy – Anaesthetise

Recording project of Australia’s Pawel Cholewa, Outside The Academy follows up his second EP with a brand new winter single (in the southern hemisphere, at least), ‘Anaesthetise’. Something between bummed-out bedroom folk and psychedelic electro pop, the track is a slow, glassy number which plays something like Todd Goldstein’s ARMS projected through space, the dancey electronics and catchy vocals stretched sombre and strange by a minimalistic glitch.

Grab the single, and all of his previous releases, right now on the Outside The Academy Bandcamp page.

Idan Altman – Heroic Bee

Taken from Idan Altman’s forthcoming album, Expiration Date, ‘Heroic Bee’ is a sprawling experimental track that utilises a whole host of sounds and techniques to create a uniquely alive soundscape. With everything from synths, guitar and piano to crowd recordings and bee sounds, the song has a peculiarly natural rhythm, cyclical and familiar but also idiosyncratic, packed with small quirks and details which accumulate into a breathing ecosystem.

Expiration Date is out later this year so keep an eye on the Idan Altman Facebook page for more details.

Crumb – Plants

Following up the excellent self-titled EP on Citrus City, Lila Ramani’s Crumb last week unveiled another brand new release, Locket. Smashing together influences as diverse as art rock, 60s psychedelica and jazz, the band create a mesmeric, swirling sound that’s somehow leisurely and intense all at once—a hallucinatory dream that follows you into the day. Check out single ‘Plants’ below for a dose of lightheaded nostalgia:

Locket is out now and you can get it from Bandcamp, plus Crumb is still available from Citrus City Records.

Midwestern Exposure – Riverboat

Earlier this month, Philly’s Midwestern Exposure release their latest LP, The West. Fifth track ‘Riverboat’ encapsulates all that’s great with the record, a textured, twangy brand of folk rock that’s as catchy as it is evocative. As such, the song ticks both boxes, packing the grand themes and finger-picked atmosphere of traditional folk while fronting a positive, almost optimistic energy. Fans of The Cave Singers and Dr Dog take note.

The West is out now and you can get it from the Midwestern Exposure Bandcamp page.

Flamingods – Bhima

After last year’s captivating debut, Majesty, the Bahrain-via-London group Flamingods have joined Moshi Moshi to release brand new EP, Kewali. Further pushing the boundaries, the release finds the band feeding off its own energy like some machine of perpetual motion, the genre needle flicking somewhere between retro dance, pervasive rock and cultic chant. ‘Bhima’ is perhaps the best introduction, frenetic and fervent and fantastically odd, opening like a theme song to a old TV show from another dimension and morphing into a powerful, hypnotic intonation.

Kewali is out now on Moshi Moshi Records and you can get it from the Flamingods Bandcamp page.

Sammus – Pieces In Space

Okay, so we’re stretching the ‘new music’ tag here, but Pieces in Space is a record we’ve been meaning to write about for a while now. Sammus does hip-hop her own way, lush beats backing her frantic, often ferocious rhymes which entwine popular culture, social issues and personal experience, what the press release describes as “raw confessions, pro-weirdo anthems, and clever musings on modern life.” As such, the record manages to sound grounded while holding lofty intentions, simultaneously taking on the big stuff and painting a vivid portrait of a recognisably dysfunctional twenty-first century existence.

Pieces in Space is out now via Don Giovanni Records and you can get it from Bandcamp.

Will Graefe – Blood Feather

After touring as a guitarist for Okkervil River, Petra Haden, Larkin Grimm and many others, this summer sees Will Graefe release his debut solo record, North America. Written on the road, the name proves to be apt—the album weaving American themes of travel and distance, yearning and loss, into a lush, lonely record with sizeable scope and even bigger heart. A prime example of this sound, ‘Blood Feather’ is at once cynical and optimistic, facing reality with a sly grin but never quite able to shake dreams of a better future from within its chest.

North America is out now on Pretty Purgatory and you can get it from Bandcamp.

Check out volume 1 of Bright Sparks for more great tunes.