1. “Ours for the Taking” – Quinn Erwin. Erwin seems to be an endless fount of memorable melodies, arresting arrangements, and punchy mood. This mid-tempo indie-pop track leaps off the page, which is a tough thing to do.
2. “Laser Eyes” – Liyv. If M.I.A. were fused with a twee-pop band, the resulting staccato, bubbly, multi-colored, hiccuping track might sound something like this. Really unique.
3. “About the World” – Little Quirks. If the definition of indie-pop is pop songs that won’t get on the radio, this one is a perfect example. It’s a charming jangle-pop tune that has everything you could want: pep, charm, great melodies, fun arrangements, and an overall sense of wonder.
4. “Atlantic City” – JOA. For me, Bruce Springsteen is an artist that I appreciate more in cover than in originals. I have nothing against his originals, but the covers I hear of his work are often just spot-on. And JOA’s low-key electro-acoustic-pop version of “Atlantic City” is just that: excellent.
5. “Keep Trying” – Paul Cook & the Chronicles. With a little bit of funk, a little bit of soul, some handclaps, and a lot of indie-pop, Cook has turned out a head-bobbing, slinky tune.
6. “Blue Sky” – Internal Eye. This is a relaxing, harmonious, peaceful piece of work that blends the electronic and the acoustic beautifully and falls somewhere between the Album Leaf and Teen Daze. (Currently only available as a video on Facebook.)
7. “Mulberry Hill” – Almond&Olive. Weeping pedal steel, a male/female duet, soaring group vocals on the chorus, even a swooping fiddle. Almond and Olive take the pedestrian and make it shine, putting all these parts together into a majestic tune.
8. “A Girl Said Yes” – The Marrieds. Thought this was another romantic acoustic ballad from a married duo? Well, you’d be right, other than the slight punch of power-pop infused to the acoustic part. But boy, the songwriting and melodies are awesome. They know what’s up.
9. “New Streets ft. Caroline Saunders” – Ross Nicol. Floats above the chaos with a clear, bright duet anchored by solid piano chords and gentle percussion pulse (at least until the expansion of the arrangement in the coda, which is also lovely).
10. “Bound by Blood” – Hollow Twin. High drama acoustic work is a tough thing to pull off without sounding maudlin or bombastic, but Hollow Twin deftly manages the two extremes and comes up with some booming percussion, confident alto vocals, and carefully handled arrangements. It’s both intimate and stadium-sized, perhaps like Bon Iver.
11. “Clarity” – Ziegler Co. Descended from trip-hop and cousins with the Antlers’ style of cloudy neo-soul, this tune has subtle groove and tiny instrumental flourishes that make the work pop. The video has fittingly emotive modern dance.
12. “Sin Against Sins” – Joe & the Anchor. It’s as if Leonard Cohen and Jason Molina had collaborated on a dramatic, expansive, emotionally crushing piece of music. The lyrics are as poetic as the former and as spartan as the latter.