1. “Sunrise” – Knaan Shabtay. Cascading, patterned acoustic guitar notes layer on top of each other to create an impressive waterfall of sound. The breathy, high-pitched vocals and electric guitar notes add to the beautiful maelstrom. There’s a lot going on in this song: it begins with complex, patterned melodic acoustic guitar lines before opening up into a male/female duet. Shabtay’s vocals are a cross between Brett Dennen’s high pitch and Passenger’s distinctive delivery, while the woman’s are a soft alto. Then there’s an incredibly beautiful harmonica performance to cap it all off. Wow.
2. “Braille” – Sir Croissant. Gently rolling fingerpicking, ethereal backup vocalists, and quaveringly emotional vocals form a piece suspended historically between Sufjan Stevens’ Michigan and the Barr Brothers.
3. “Lucky” – Ships Have Sailed. The standout power-pop outfit goes acoustic, leaving only romantic piano, guitar and some pad synth in a stripped-down pop ballad.
4. “Water” – BONOMO. I really love the stand-up bass work in this subtly jazzy, Dispatch-esque acoustic track.
5. “Sometime a While” – Chaperone Picks. A no-frills, just-the-goods, mid-tempo garage-pop acoustic tune with surprising Beach Boys influences/overtones. Totally rad.
6. “fried chx” – lost valley. Pristinely produced, this gentle, down-on-my-luck acoustic tune jumps out of the speakers with an arresting immediacy.
7. “Paper Wings” – Brooklyn Doran. The quiet yet sturdy acoustic arrangement frames Doran’s voice and gives her lovely alto room to roam.
8. “Pocket of Lint” – Jack Ellis. The acoustic guitar leads this track, but the intensity of the performance and excellent lead guitar work give this a vibe closer to Radiohead than Damien Rice.
9. “I Lied” – Danielle Deckard. There are a whole lot of piano-led break-up ballads with big strings, but Deckard’s strong vocal tone and careful vocal performance put this one on the top shelf.
10. “liberty (ft. john garner)” – matthew. A somber, pensive instrumental for guitar and violin, this piece searches through the atmosphere without anchor, roving from beginning to end with the tension of someone who wants to get somewhere but is being subtly stopped by this or the other. In other words, it’s evocative and interesting.
11. “Follow” – Nowhere. A spacious tune that falls somewhere between post-rock and singer/songwriter; a wide-open plain with fog hovering above it and no certain path. (Editor’s note: This band changed its name to Dead Rituals after this post was published.)