1. “The Plague” – Maison Hall. Distant guitar, ambient room noise, and a carefully dramatic vocal performance come together to make a uniquely intimate singer/songwriter tune. The drums that come in halfway through only add to the vibe.
2. “Talons” – He is a Pegasus. HIAP ratchets up to some impressive indie-rock crunch in the service of high drama, but don’t sleep on the opening section of this tune. It’s as devastatingly beautiful a post-Bon Iver song you can hope to hear.
3. “Traffic Lights” – Ryan David Orr. Cross the most upbeat parts of Josh Radin’s early work and Alexi Murdoch’s work, and you’ll have this tune. It’s an eyebrow-raising show of confident lyricism and brilliant acoustic-pop songwriting.
4. “First Light” – Dustin Tebbutt. There’s definitely some Bon Iver falsetto here, but the acoustic arrangement and the vocal melodies are much more than any “spot the influence” game. Feels like a warm hug on a cold day.
5. “How Many Times” – Rod Ladgrove. The many layers of guitar, vocals, and clapping here sound huge and spacious, but in an ethereal, floating-world sort of way.
6. “Birds” – Richi Jones. The tenets of slowcore minimalism form the moody, guitar-based songwriting structure, with a bit of Passenger’s vocal tone thrown in.
7. “Hey Little Blackbird” – Elsdeer. A slight, subtle tune that relies on Elsdeer’s clear vocals, a pensive guitar performance, and amplifier hum to create a distinct mood.
8. “See Through” – Suzy Callahan. “Tenderly” is the repeated word in the chorus here, and it’s a fitting description of the pretty acoustic singer/songwriter tune as a whole.
9. “A Day Like Today” – Xavier William. William’s work is also intimate, with his vocals and major key acoustic guitar right up close to the microphone. The easygoing forward motion of a traditional folk strum is complemented by a neat whistling solo.
10. “The Wind” – John John Brown. Brown shows a deft arranging hand here, expertly creating a wide-open folk mood that’s as complex as those made by any more famous musician. The lyrics of the tune are equally expert, adding their literary heft into the already-high level of gravitas in this remarkable folk tune.
11. “West Cozy” – Creature People. By chance, I stumbled upon this text-based adventure game while I was listening to the song. Creature People’s mysterious, woodsy folk was the perfect accompaniment to a game that slowly unfolds itself as an adventure.