1. “At Night” – Esther & Fatou. “Where do you go at night?” is the question that floats over a whirling, intricate composition that’s somewhere between a Fleetwood Mac tune and a contemporary orchestral piece. It is a seriously impressive piece of work. Highly recommended.
2. “Louise” – Bedouine. This track is positively hypnotic: lush strings, lilting nylon-string guitar, a lovely presentation of the Armenian language, excellent trumpet, and a strong rhythm backdrop sail me away to someplace mysterious and far away.
3. “The First Girl” – The Good Graces. Pedal steel is hard to use because it is so incredibly associated with country. But here, in this singer/songwriter/indie-pop/folk/indie-rock/whatever tune, the pedal steel is a fantastic piece of work. This ’90s-influenced piece is weightless in some places and weighty in others–deft transitions and solid songwriting make it work.
4. “All These Trees” – The Welcome Wagon. WW drops a rock’n’roll song (heavy on the roll, though–this is pretty vintage-y rocking) that is abruptly interrupted by a dream sequence that Sufjan himself would be envious of. All in all, a thoroughly solid indie outing.
5. “Tell Me” – Sonder Saloon. There’s something permanently endearing to me about blasting out of a quiet section of song with a wall of harmonized vocals. The band does that beautifully here, and includes some tambourine and glockenspiel for good measure in this wintry folk tune.
6. “Mistery Town” – Stolen Apple. Hazy, rain-soaked indie that evokes the sense of wandering the damp streets of a major urban space at night. The low-slung guitar reminds me of Mojave 3, which is always a good thing. A very cool track.
7. “Hollow” – Maria Kelly ft. Ailbhe Reddy & LAOISE. This is a fluttering, emotionally vulnerable track with a strong vocal performance. It’s ghostly and memorable.
8. “The Falling Peach” – Kye Alfred Hillig. Hillig’s Fossil is an sonically intense, lyrically angry album that shows a lot of people trying to make their way through or thinking back on bad situations. The lyrics hold true here–the mood of this track, though, is ominous rather than blistering. There’s a lot of bass, careful percussion, and eerie sounds holding out off in the distance. Not the most representative track of the record, but one of the most intriguing for readers of this blog.
9. “Running Through My Mind” – Jacob Thomas Jr. Fans of Peter Bradley Adams and Josh Rouse will love this smooth, easygoing ode to a lost love.
10. “Let It Roll On” – Alex Hedley. Some burbling acoustic guitar sets the troubadour mood, and then Hedley’s Joe Pug-esque howl turns up the intensity. The harmonica ties it all up in a pretty package. Hedley is one to watch.
11. “Horace in Brighton” – Bird in the Belly. If the song title or the band name didn’t tip their UK roots, the charming, engrossing lead female vocal performance will. And if that doesn’t prove it, they use the word “pantaloons.” The folk tune that supports these vocals is lithe and strong.
12. “Honey” – Nick Galitzine. Dusky, soul-inflected, and expansive singer/songwriter work that has impressionistic echoes of Ray LaMontagne.
13. “Liviandad” – Juan Maria Solare. This tune is a delicate, exploratory piano piece that revels in space. It plays with the ear’s perception of major/minor keys throughout, which is clever and enjoyable.
14. “Palliative” – Theo Alexander. Fans of John Luther Adams will find the towering clouds of sonics that Theo Alexander has put together incredibly pleasing. Layer upon layer of piano and synths creates the ability for the song to sound like rushing water, as well as like being underwater. It’s a beautiful landscape.