1. “Drop a Pebble” – Cálido Home. The rhythms, melodies and arresting female vocal tone create a skipping, dancing, beautifully complex acoustic tune. The melodies are particularly memorable.
2. “Take Me Home” – Nick Nash. A straight-ahead alt-country song with strong vocals is the vehicle for some working-class musings that Jason Isbell would love: “Give me a Jesus that I know, not the one you say I never will / Give me the ignorant working saints, not the enlightened rich with their fame.” The rest follows suit; really great writing here.
3. “Autumn Moon” – Johnny Nobles. The chorus melodies here are lovely: the lead melody dips low against a counterpoint harmony that soars gently upwards. The strings that come in right after seal the deal on this singer/songwriter tune. (editor’s note: current link goes to a remixed version.)
4. “The Courageous Getaway of Ciro and Madalina Fuentos” – Keith Monacchio. The lyrics here are the centerpiece, detailing a compelling, emotion-filled tale of danger and fear. The tune is part of the Rock against Hate charity compilation.
5. “One Day” – Alex Hedley. Hedley’s voice is evocative and emotive over rippling, smooth acoustic guitar.
6. “Will to Abide” – Nathan Andrew Jones. A swooning fiddle and keening pedal steel are sweet counterpoint to an earnest melody and “weary love” lyric in this (alt?) country tune.
7. “Merry Margaret” – David and Brittany Farkas. The mandolin and baritone male vocal give this full-band folk tune an unusual, intriguing sound.
8. “State of Grace” – Last Builders of Empire. One section of a longer song cycle about the afterlife, this post-rock tune sets an elegant mood that reflects the title, but with a bit of distortion and grit to ground it.
9. “Baracus” – Moyamoya. The enigmatic and attractive album art for this song belies the tensions in it: The guitar riffs are really wiry and brittle for a post-rock tune, the tune has a sort of optimistic cast in the key, and the percussion keeps a lockstep beat reminiscent of krautrock. But, right when confusion reaches maximum, a wall of sound appears. So there’s something for every post-rock fan here.
10. “Idle” – Sthlm Falls. Without the searing lead melody, this would be a rolling acoustic guitar composition; without the guitar, this would be a minimalist ambient piece. Together, it’s not quite either thing, creating its own place in the world.
11. “Folds” – Nathan Shubert. The delicate, precise, rushing nature of the piano here makes the keys almost sound like pizzicato strings. The clicking of the keys as they hit and the moving of parts make this an intimate yet oddly intense piece. It’s powerful but in a restrained mood; it’s full of energy but sounds just as much like a rippling river as the rush of people in a subway station. It’s gorgeous.