Music Zone

Welcome to The Music Zone, where I highlight a few of the records that are most important to me. This isn't meant to be any sort of objective ranking, nor a comprehensive overview of my music taste, but rather to showcase some projects that were influential in my life or are emblematic of why I love a particular artist. There's a slight preference here for artists that I think deserve more recognition, and I'm also a sucker for good cover art, so those things have influenced my decision making a bit.

This list is for projects consisting of new music, like albums and EPs, so unfortunately no DJ mixes - I love a good mix, but that's a different art form, and it deserves its own list. Also, I'm limiting myself to one record per artist here - there's a few artists here that would have multiple, but I've just picked my personal favorite of all of them. I've organized these records loosely into tiers and genres, but I cannot stress enough that I'm just a dude with opinions. Everything on here is great in its own right, and objectively ranking and categorizing art is tricky business anyways.

This is a tour through some of the music that has helped make me who I am, and I hope you enjoy.


These albums are perfect, 10/10, cover-to-cover, wouldn't change a thing. I'm quite picky about this stuff so it's only a few:

Gawk Vundabar

Album Cover: A creepy-looking but very colorful illustrated man, with frazzled hair and a big frown, on a plain backgroundAlt-Rock

This is gonna be a long one. I will never shut up about this album until I die. I'm not too keen on picking favorites, but yeah, this is my #1 of all time.

It's such a fascinating listening experience. Brandon's unique, bright vocals and the interesting, often-unintelligible lyrics fit so perfectly with the grungier elements of this album's production. The guitar parts are all brilliant, the percussion is fantastic, and the bass does exactly what it needs to do to glue the whole project together. The whole record rides on this heavy, post-punk sort of sound, and then there are these splashes of color and texture here and there... it's just phenomenal. I don't know how else to say it.

The songwriting in this project leaves me speechless; there are so many great little nuggets scattered throughout. The bridge on Ash In The Sun and outro on Desert Diddy are so great they could be their own song. There's also so many incredible little details that you might miss if you blink - for instance, the modified vocal delivery at the start of the second verse in Chop, the half measures in the outro of Cotton Kid. Seriously, I could go on about it all day.

Desert Diddy was the only track that it took me a while to warm up to, but I cherish it now just as much as the rest of the record. That chorus just brings out so much emotion in me, and I must repeat myself, that outro is just delicious.

These guys are incredible performers, too. They have a super engaging stage presence, and I can't recommend them enough.

Urban Flora Alina Baraz & Galimatias

Album Cover: A Roman bust covered with flowers, on a silver backgroundElectronica

I am just so grateful that this project exists. We didn't have to get an entire album with Alina's gorgeous vocals and Galimatias's fantastic production, but we did. It's a match made in heaven. Maybe we do deserve it.

This is the kind of record that takes you to a whole different world. It's immersive, it's beautiful, and every time I hear it I get the nostalgia of those first few listens. I can only do it so much justice by describing it - if you haven't heard this album yet, please do go see what I mean.

To my knowledge, this is the only Alina Baraz & Galimatias collaboration to exist, and there are no plans for another. While I would love a follow-up as much as anyone, it would be a monumental task to match the quality of this record, and I find it oddly fitting for this to be the one and only chapter of this story.

Shadowglow Flipturn

Album Cover: A painting of a man lying face-up on a mat, in what appears to be a spotlight.  The background is a deep redAlt-Rock

Here's the newest addition to this list. I found this album only a few months ago and have spent a long time chewing on it, and I've finally reached the inevitable conclusion: it's perfect. I love this record so much. The musicianship on this album takes my breath away. I do not have enough room on this page to point out every detail I love, not even close; here's my best attempt to capture it in one paragraph.

The opener is great for this record already; that they followed it up with Playground right at the beginning of the album is unbelievable - it's got one of my favorite choruses I've ever heard, and the ride-out over the second half of the song is sublime. Everybody loves Whales, I don't even need to sell y'all on that one. In Consideration is incredible songwriting; the silky smooth meter changes throughout the song are hard to even notice if you're not paying attention but they show the technical mastery this band has. I'm obsessed with the arpeggiator in the chorus of Hollow. It took me a bit to come around to Burn, and in my opinion it can only really be understood as a setup for Weepy Woman - those two tracks together are perfect for that spot in the album. The climax in Space Cowboy moves me to tears. The unsettling melancholy of Orbit captivates me every time I listen to it, and I couldn't write a better closer to this record if you gave me a hundred years.

Please listen to this album. And see them perform live, that drummer is a maniac.


These records are transcendently good. They might have fallen just shy of my top tier but they're all masterpieces nonetheless.

The Sun's Tirade Isaiah Rashad

Album Cover: A cartoon man jumping above a convertible car, in front of a pastel-colored cityscape backgroundHip Hop

Isaiah Rashad's music is some of the most innovative in our generation, and this project has so many great examples of why.

What gets me about this album is how it gets so much energy out of such minimal production. Take a look at the last verse on Park, the bassline on Bday, the beat drop on Tity and Dolla, and then appreciate the genius of Rashad's vocal delivery and the fantastic beats found throughout the album, and you'll see why it's one of the all-time greatest in my book.

Rainbow Brain GRiZ

Album Cover: An image of a man levitating with arms outstretched, with lots of colorful, geometric, astrological and spiritual artEDM

My love for EDM is very underrepresented on this list, but MAN this project captures everything I love about it. GRiZ shows his growth as an artist here, exploring the new sounds found in his recent work while also returning to his roots, combining jazz-funk with dirty bass. The energy of this album is phenomenal, and the pacing is perfect.

Shortly after the release of this album, GRiZ put together a last-minute show with Mersiv in Atlanta. I was fortunate enough to grab a ticket, and it's one of the best sets I've seen in my life. If you want just a taste of what that was like, check out this record.

Teen Dream Beach House

Album Cover: An abstract rippled textureIndie

This album is a gut-punch, in the best possible way. Beach House have mastered this melancholy sound and made a truly great record out of it. The instrumentation, production, lyrics and vocal delivery are all spot-on, and all serve the overall project perfectly.

Silver Soul's unique guitar riff has helped make it one of their most popular songs, and I'm a big fan of it too. Walk In The Park has another one of those gorgeous outros that could be its own song entirely (I really should make another list just for those). Lover Of Mine has my favorite lyrics on the record. 10 Mile Stereo is an absolutely breathtaking arrangement. Take Care is among the best closers I can think of, and it brilliantly caps off such a unique and soulful record.

Indian Summer The Remnant

Album Cover: A monochrome illustration of the artists on a grassy hill with two trees, on a dark yellow sunset backgroundHip Hop

The lyricism on display in this project is nuts. If you're looking for a criminally-underappreciated example of what makes Hip Hop great, allow me to introduce you to this record.

Summer Dog Days is the highlight of the project, and its energy is great. The wordplay in Mark My Words can go toe-to-toe with the best bars I've heard anywhere else. Empty Nest, Call It Quits, and Withering Heights are all gut-wrenching. Do me a personal favor and listen to this album.

Tora Tora

Album Cover: A hazy Australian desert landscape, with the word "Tora" overlaid on topElectronica

I found this album at the same time that I found Urban Flora, and I had no idea what I was in for at the time. It's so good. Tora consistently surprises me with their composition. There's always something in the songwriting, the instrumentation, or the vocals that completely catches me off guard.

The arrangement on Calming Her is a good example of that. I'm also particularly fond of Cool Down, Sir; the production is fantastic, the vocals are perfect, and the arrangement is just great. It's impressive musicianship, and very worth a listen.

Bucket List Project Saba

Album Cover: The artist in a mountainous desert landscapeHip Hop

Saba's a great lyricist, and his unique vocal style never gets old to me. This project demonstrates a lot of what he's capable of.

The pacing is great - after the intro, the opening tracks are upbeat and light-hearted, followed by some super interesting developments through the middle. Then you get Bucket List, an emotional high point of the album with a timeless energetic hook, followed by a few great tracks and a very appropriate closer. I'm a big fan of Westside Bound 3 and The Billy Williams Story; they're phenomenal tracks that can only come from a project like this one. And I can't not mention how gorgeous Jean Deaux's hook in Photosynthesis is.

This record isn't a peak for Saba, but it's innovative, inspiring, and consistently great throughout. It means a lot to me personally, and its consistency is what earns it a spot up here in this list.

Lost In The Dream The War On Drugs

Album Cover: A textured photograph of a dissheveled man in a dark room, in front of a windowIndie

I really struggled to pick between this record and A Deeper Understanding, they're both phenomenal, but I've gotta go with this one. It's really hard to put into words how great this band is, and this album exemplifies it the best.

The opener is very nice, and I'm a sucker for the bari sax in its outro. The rest of the A-side is fantastic, and I love the gradual build-up through Ocean Between The Waves. That segues into Disappearing, which is a phenomenal track that profoundly captures the sort of wistfulness that this band is so great at portraying. The B-side is great, and rounds out the rest of the record really smoothly. It's brilliant musicianship and brilliant production, and I'm glad to have it in my life.

J Street Drugstore Chuuwee & Brian Lentz

Album Cover: A drug store on a purple backgroundHip Hop

Chuuwee has been my favorite rapper since I was 14. His work ethic is unparalleled - seriously, check out the man's discography. I don't think I alone will be able to fully grasp the immensity of his catalog for a long time, and I certainly can't decisively narrow his best work down to a single album - but since I have to pick just one to show what I love about his music, it's this one. It's solid all the way through, but for my money: the opener A Tribe Called UGK is phenomenal and sets the tone for this album perfectly, the B side as a whole is fantastic, and the closer Agape is one of my favorite tracks.

Brian Lentz's production on this record is phenomenal, Chuuwee's bars are as good as ever, and the features are great. Overall, just a fantastic record.

Far Out Dust Talos

Album Cover: A strange textured figure and a superimposed orange square over a white backgroundIndie

I'm convinced Talos is one of the best musicians alive today. His arrangement and lyricism pushes the envelope in so many ways, and his vocal performance is phenomenal.

His music is fascinating because it combines melancholy and darkness with dramatic orchestral soundscapes and occasional high energy electronica elements. You'll see what I mean with opener Boy Was I Wrong; also I need to find the guest vocalist who sings the titular "Boy Was I Wrong" before the beat comes in, because it gives me chills. The harmonies in The Light Is Upon Us are awe-inspiring, and the triumphant refrain that follows it moves me to tears. The Flood carries plenty more of that melodrama, with more of those incredible lyrics. Seriously, this guy is a madman. If you need to feel some feelings, this record will take good care of you.


Please don't let it fool you that these records aren't higher up on the list. They're all great, and they all mean the world to me.

The unfinished 4/13/13 leak Jai Paul

Album Cover: A digital collage of various people and animals, featuring the artist prominently in the centerElectronica

Man, it's nigh impossible to explain just what this project means to me. There's a lot to the story of this album - I started to talk about it here but it quickly spiraled into its own blog post, coming soon. In the meantime, if you're curious, check out this good youtube video by Middle8.

Even If It Isn't Right Michal Menert

Album Cover: Geometric art featuring a circle and some metallic fragments that seem to explode from the middle.  Sorry, this one's hard to describeEDM

Michal Menert is a fascinating dude with a fascinating story. His work integral to the modern American electronic music scene, and his catalog is full of great music. This is my favorite project of his, it's a fantastic listening experience.

It's a pretty massive album, and it's honestly hard to narrow it down to a few tracks to highlight; this project in particular really should be appreciated as one continuous flowing piece. That being said, my favorite bit is tracks 4 through 6. I love the vocals The Golden Rule, and the flutes are very nice. Take All You Want To is beautifully moody, it captures the essence of the whole project. The main loop on Out Of This World (is that a harpsichord?) is sick, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that that track gets the crowd moving when he plays it live.

The vinyl release of this record is also very well done - it's my favorite vinyl on my shelf, and I highly recommend it if you can get your hands on a copy. He's an awesome performer too, and I cannot stress enough how much you should see him live if you have the chance.

Tremors SOHN

Album Cover: A man in the distance, standing at the end of a road in front of a geyser. Snow covers the groundIndie

This project has long deserved a spot on this list. I first found it 7 or 8 years ago and have fallen in love with it repeatedly ever since. There's some really innovative arrangement on here, great vocal performances, and the overall atmosphere it sets is awesome. In particular I love SOHN's use of vocal chops and the gradual buildup of dramatic tension throughout a lot of the songs.

The first five tracks are a fantastic run. You see what I meant about the vocal chops and tension in tracks like Bloodflows. The climax with the synths followed by the ride-out in Lights is great. I love the hook in the title track, which is the album's closer - the synths carry so much emotion, and the ending is so cathartic it gives me chills.

I'm also a huge fan of the cover art. To this day it evokes a sense of wistfulness and wanderlust in me, and it accompanies the music perfectly.

A Good Look Private Island

Album Cover: A textured close-up of a blonde woman's face, wearing sunglasses, with a hand on her throatAlt-Rock

This is Private Island's debut EP; it's only about 15 minutes long but it punches well above its weight. I don't particularly care for the intro, but the rest is brilliant. The middle three tracks capture such a nice feeling, and I live for the breakdown on Bear Hands. Closer Mishka is wonderful. I just adore this record.

Malibu Anderson .Paak

Album Cover: An art nouveau illustration of a man wearing a nice coat, top hat, and boxers, playing a piano in the ocean during sunset, surrounded by floating objectsFunk/Soul

I've spent a lot of time debating if this is Anderson .Paak's best work. It's definitely my favorite.

Opener The Bird is phenomenally soulful. Am I Wrong through Room In Here is an incredible run of five tracks, in the middle of which we get Parking Lot, one of my all-time favorites. I don't care for Come Down but everyone else seems to love it, so make of that what you will.

It's hard to describe how nice this record was at the time it came out. It's a real treasure.

Utopia Darius

Album Cover: A picture of the artist's upper body from behind, with colored stage lighting to either side of himElectronica

Darius is a great producer and his work is always delightfully immersive. Utopia is a great 50 minute sample of what he does best.

Max Jury's vocals on Echo are great. Darius has a few awesome collabs with Wayne Snow, two of which are on this album, and they're both fantastic. The E^ST features are also great. All of these vocalists make a distinct impact in different ways, but they fit in brilliantly with Darius's overall arrangement. The rest of the album is instrumental, and I love it for that. The pacing and structure of the whole record is so easy to get lost in. It's a great experience.

The Balcony Catfish And The Bottlemen

Album Cover: An outlined drawing of a headless male and female figure, each with one hand in each other's pantsAlt-Rock

I love Catfish's style, and in my opinion this is the most well-rounded of the albums they've put out so far. They nail the mellow and spacey arrangement in tracks like Tyrants and Cocoon and treat each of those tracks with a nice high-energy peaks. Pacifier has one of my favorite choruses ever, and it fits perfectly within the broader structure of the song. It's hard not to love these guys.

Punch Drunk Dave B

Album Cover: An illustrated palm frond in front of a night skyHip Hop

Dave B has great vision as an artist, and it shines here. There's consistently great rapping throughout the record, but plenty of great singing too - check out the soulful chorus on Navy or the catchy hooks on Worth It and Outside. I also love Cheap Sofa, particularly the rhyme scheme in the hook - it's just brilliant.

The production on this album is top-notch. I couldn't easily find any producer credits with the exception of Jake One for Leaves, but I know from reading interviews that Dave B likes to produce a lot of his own music, which is even more impressive if he did it here. It all fits together beautifully on this one.

In A Million Years Last Dinosaurs

Album Cover: A desert landscape with a desaturated mountain background, with dinosaurs flying aboveAlt-Rock

This is a recent addition to this list, in a particular flavor of Alt-Rock that seems to have fallen out of favor nowadays, so let me say, unequivocally: It's good. Really good.

That sort of pop-punky dance-punky sound isn't usually my thing, but there's this undeniable energy in tracks like I Can't Help You and Weekend that I just love. I'm completely obsessed with the bridge in Sunday Night. Used To Be Mine is a phenomenal high point in the album, and the climax it hits at the end gives me chills every time. The tour version of the album has some nice remixes too. It's all very well done.

Fun DMC People Under The Stairs

Album Cover: A handwritten poster announcing a BBQ and Kickback, with an included photo of the two artistsHip Hop

I knew PUTS had to be somewhere on here, and I spent a long time debating which record it should be, so I eventually settled on the one that started it all for me. I remember it so clearly: a snowy night when I was in eighth grade, school had just gotten cancelled for the next morning, so I was up late crawling the internet looking for music, when I found The Wiz. It blew my mind, and completely changed my perspective on what Hip Hop could be. The rest of this album is great too; like most of PUTS's music, it's an ode to the Hip Hop culture that made them what they are, and it does a great job telling the story and painting the atmosphere of old-school Los Angeles. PUTS's discography is full of gems, and their positive message and passionate musicianship mean the world to me.

Celebrity deaths usually don't impact me that much, but Double K's tragic passing hit me like a train. I've since fallen in love with their music all over again. Thes One made a live tribute mix as a memorial to his fallen brother, and has returned to the studio to release a final farewell album this month, which I'm looking forward to. Double K was a beautiful presence on this world in a way that cannot be contained to these paragraphs, so I encourage you to go listen to Thes put it into better words if you appreciate this music the way I do.

Burning Bush Supper Club Bear Hands

Album Cover: A distorted illustration of a person eating some noodlesAlt-Rock

This is one of my favorite throwback records, and the dark horse pick to make this list. Bear Hands has always been one of my favorite bands, in large part due to their willingness to experiment. Their lyrics are downright strange, but I love them dearly, and they complement the uniquely tasty arrangement that supports them.

What A Drag was their debut single, and it follows a nice formula - solid verse that peels back for an easygoing chorus with simple vocals and a nice guitar riff; that can also be found on their later hit single, Giants, which is what most people know this band for. Wicksey Boxing is a fantastic ballad with a super spacey arrangement; I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff. Camel Convention is a similarly slow track with a really interesting composition, not to mention a great title that reflects the spirit of the song well. Belongings and Tablasaurus really capture the overall feeling of the album. And I love the closer Tall Trees, it has a delightful sound and wraps up this record perfectly.

This album meant a lot to me when I was younger, so I have to include it in this list now. If you find yourself reminiscing on a late summer evening, maybe give this record a listen - I hope you'll feel what I felt.

Honorable Mentions

These records don't hold quite the same place in my heart as the ones mentioned above do, but there's something special about each of them that deserves a mention.

CMPLX Chelsea Reject

Album Cover: A profile view of the artist's head in front of some detailed geometric artHip Hop

Chelsea's bars are fascinating. It sounds like she's trying to squeeze as much passion and detail as she can into whatever space she's been given, and she pulls it off well. The production on this record seals the deal, and the collaboration with great Pro Era artists like T'nah, CJ Fly, and Kirk Knight makes it really worth checking out.

47 is a phenomenal track that deserves a paragraph all to itself, but suffice it to say that the verses are great, her singing is fantastic (especially that hook, it's gorgeous), and the beat is fantastic. It's followed up by Closer and Everything's Change, with verses and production that are just about as good. Hipster Wine is another favorite of mine.

Miracle Blackmill

Album Cover: A large squirrel on a cream-yellow background, with a masked image of a forest inside of itEDM

Here's some of that early-2010s dubstep goodness for ya.

Blackmill seems elusive - from what I can gather, he doesn't perform much, and instead quietly hones his craft and releases it into the world. I respect that. The result is some beautiful music that doesn't care how it's enjoyed - it's introspective, it's soulful, and I'm glad it's here with us.

Opener Miracle and closer Fortune Soul are gorgeously energetic and a great look into what made this movement special at the time. Veela's vocals on Let It Be are fantastic and timeless to me. Sarajevo was one of my first tastes of this flavor of dubstep back in the day, and I still love it dearly. It's a great project.

Thanks so much for checking this out. If you found new music that you like from this page, I would love to hear about it! I love talking about music and I'm always looking for new stuff to listen to, so if you have anything to say about this list or what you'd like me to check out, I'm all ears. If I'm not already connected with you, the easiest way to reach out to me is at - e-mail sucks but I'm not super active on social media, so I do check it frequently.