1. “Do You Love Me Lately” – Emily Keener. Emily Keener’s current reality may have started as a contestant on NBC’s The Voice, but that is not all there is shaping her future. With the release of the single “Do You Love Me Lately” ahead of Valentine’s Day on February 10th, the strategy may have worked. Fans of authentic folk vocalists like Courtney Marie Andrews will love this track. Keener’s vocal tone is reminiscent of Joan Baez. Though just a single, “Do You Love Me Lately” shows a lot of potential for her debut album, as she’s already in the company of some great folk-rock vocalists. —Lisa Whealy
2. “Through You” – Andrew Judah. Judah’s taken his indie-rock in a real funky, arty direction. There’s a lot of solid vibe going on here, with the bass line and guitar line working together perfectly with the drums and Judah’s vocal line. A very cool direction for his next album Impossible Staircase, which comes out in April!
3. “Pull Apart” – Summerooms. The production on Joshua Aubrey Jackson’s bedroom indie-pop project is better than most indie-pop studio-recorded projects. Everything is just immaculately recorded: warm, lush, bright, distinct, nostalgic. The song itself is a tender breakup ode, but the arrangment is the true star here. It’s just perfect.
4. “Tidal Wave” – Butcher Brown. I’m getting very into hip-hop/jazz fusions. The hip-hop gives it a steady groove and reins in some of the big flights of jazz, while the jazz side keeps me on my toes. This outfit hits a pocket and just goes and goes.
5. “Kelly Moran – Sodalis” – Field Works. Here’s some mysterious, neo-classical instrumental work built on bat echolocation and what sounds like prepared piano. It’s beautiful in a unique way.
6. “Full Squid” – Matt Evans. Evans describes his work as “ambient adjacent, hypnotic landscapes” and that’s a pretty self-aware description. There’s a lot of hallmarks of ambient: low-key drone, melodies that aren’t quuiiiiite pop melodies, and delicate percussion. However, the adjacent bit is that the percussion elements are skittering and thumping all over the place, like if ambient got trapped in a free jazz room. It’s exciting.
7. “No Rise” – TALSounds. Improvised synths and feathery vocals come together in a tune that sounds like a modular synthesizer work, but (probably?) isn’t. This has an incredibly strong focus and direction for an improvisation; it’s impressive.
8. “Lone Condition” – Fernando Lagreca. Club-ready dance music with an eerie, moody vibe; there’s plenty of beat and synth to go around, but the melodies stop just short of triumphant. Instead, they’re catchy but also clever, sort of like spy-movie cool.
9. “No Direction” – Jared Rabin. “I never had no direction / just a lot of bad advice” is the song of a lot of my people. If you like Jason Isbell’s lyrics, Dawes’ folk-rock arrangements, or the road-friendliness of West Coast/Laurel Canyon country, then you’ll love this.
10. “Twilight” – Valeska Rautenberg. This piano composition includes subtle tape hiss and birdsong to give the already-evocative piece more emotional context. It’s a delicate, well-developed recording that creates a welcome calm.
11. “Achime” – TENGGER. The synth-laden work that TENGGER makes here is heavenly–it sounds as if I’m floating off this mortal plane and entering into total bliss. The ah-ing vocals over the hypnotic, looping synths and the birdsong (two songs in a row!) are remarkably peaceful. Highly recommended.