Whispers: Lounge Originals from the Numero Group Credit: Courtesy of Numero Group

A couple years ago, Chicago archival label Numero Group launched Cabinet of Curiosities, a compilation series focused on fringe private-press releases of yore. A lot of the strange music they’ve reissued under this banner intensely evokes the eras in which its creators lived, and Cabinet of Curiosities comps are unified less by genre than by spirit. The 1980s electronic sounds on 2018’s Escape From Synth City, for example, include glacial new age (“Konya” by Al Gromer Khan), chintzy boogie (“Intellectual Thinking” by New World Music), and progressive house (“Whirr” by Reader contributor Frank Youngwerth); the LP sleeve looks like a classic NES cartridge, a theme that Numero took further by creating an Escape From Synth City side-scrolling video game. The songs on the new Whispers: Lounge Originals ooze the laid-back essence of 1960s hotel bars, martini glasses, and Pat Boone, but the artists push the concept of lounge music to its outer edges. “Kids,” a lo-fi, bittersweet shot of blue-eyed soul from Minnesota singer-songwriter Chuck Senrick, rubs shoulders with “These Moments Now,” a bizarre intergalactic psych-rock romp by North Dakota act Justen O’Brien & Jake. Lounge music generally doesn’t try to draw much attention to itself, but the odd, twisted, and boldly beautiful songs on Whispers definitely deserve it. And this time the LP sleeve looks like a matchbook, naturally.   v