1. “Take It All Back” – Sui Zhen. Who can resist a warm, relaxing ’80s throwback electro tune in the heat of summer? It’s a perfect soundtrack to lying out on the beach in the evening with friends.
2. “Holes in the Story” – Alex the Astronaut. A charming, unassuming pop song in the vein of Ingrid Michaelson, but occasionally featuring some of the more flamboyant arrangement flourishes that made Regina Spektor so popular.
3. “My 45” – Candy Cigarettes. This slackery, quirky indie-pop tune has a rhythmic flow and overall outlook on life that would fit with skateboarding.
4. “Do You?” – Slow Buildings. Lots going on in this bouncy indie-pop track that references a kangaroo; there’s marimbas, sharp left turns to the mood, and more.
5. “The Island” – Mairearad Green. A swooping accordion and lilting banjo carry this folk tune from humble beginnings to a tremendous finale.
6. “Black and Blue” – Maria Kelly. The pushing drums create a neat tension with the overarching strings, creating a nice space for Kelly’s layered alto vocals to live in this indie-pop tune.
7. “Suitors” – Wonky Tonk. In an age of oversaturated branding, it’s rare for me to even care about the visuals that accompany a track or artist. However, Wonky Tonk’s visual imagery expertly combines traditional country iconography with sensual imagery in a way that mirrors her sensuous take on country music.
8. “Bulletproof” – Cantina. This alt-country outfit (feat. members of Old 97s, Deathray Davies, Polyphonic Spree, etc.) plays the “bleary-eyed wisdom” card in the baritone vocals, contrasting a knowing, meandering vocal line against a peppy arrangement. Makes me think about old-school country singer/talkers. I’m into it.
9. “Feels Like Morning” – River Matthews. It’s a little more chill than I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, but it’s hard for me to not hear the influence of Bright Eyes full-band folk/alt-country on this track. Then the soul horns show up and Matthews goes all James Brown on it. Then the choir comes in. Buckle your seat belts and/or put on your dancing shoes: this one’s an adventure worthy of mixing metaphors over.
10. “Far Away (feat. Whitney Pearsall)” – Thomas Kunz. You’d never know that Kunz also plays industrial music from this beautiful, slowly-growing indie-pop tune accompanied by orchestra. Pearsall’s comfortable alto vocal performance shines here.
11. “Falling” – Tom Speight. Starts small but grows to a whirling, dense adult-alternative pop tune.
12. “The Light” – Me and the Moon. The vocal melodies in this Parachutes-era Coldplay-esque tune are magnetic and unavoidable.
13. “Lullaby” – The Coconut Kids. The trumpet, vocals, and delicate strum fit together beautifully in this quiet, laidback tune.
14. “Everything Looks Better (In Hindsight)” – The Wild Reeds. The guitar fingerpicking that opens the tune transforms into a Lady Lamb-like indie-rock tune with lots of close female harmonies. The instruments come together in a rich, evocative mood.
15. “all the love i give is in vain” – suede arrow. A lean-back, head-bob, slow-drivin’ electro jam for your summer delight.