1. “Freight Train” – Micah Huang. This is how you do lo-fi: instead of using lo-fi as a cover for lack of skills, the tape hiss/atmospheric sounds lend a humility and gravitas to the Elizabeth Cotten cover. It’s a beautiful rendition of a beautiful song.
2. “Falling For You” – Eric and Happie. Bouncy, punchy folk-pop with big melodies and (yes) the occasional “hey!”–I’m still into it, y’all. I am. Twin Forks forever.
3. “Man Upon The Hill” – Stars and Rabbit. Fans of instantly recognizable vocal styles will connect with Stars and Rabbit, as the lead singer is reminiscent of Joanna Newsom but not quite. The way she uses her voice is intriguing as well, beyond the tone of it. The rest of the tune is an adventure of building sounds, from alt-folky to indie rock to even Sigur Ros-like. All in all, a wild ride.
4. “Heart’s Desire” – The Loft Club. Sort of Zeppelin meets Laurel Canyon, which is a delicate balance to hold.
5. “Drop the Hammer (& Raise Some Hell)” – The Roadhouse Clams. Blue-collar alt-country with a Friday night bar flavor and a knowing wink. It’s a blast.
6. “Bridges” – Jordan Moe. There’s usually a pretty clear line between Adult Alternative and folk (Matt Nathanson/Jack Johnson vs. Joe Pug/Josh Ritter), but Jordan Moe blurs the line with delicate guitar, emotional vocal performance, and thoughtful arrangement. It ends up being more like Parachutes-era Coldplay than either of the genres mentioned.
7. “Freedom or This” – Joe Wilkinson. I was never a huge Dispatch fan, but I can appreciate groove-laden acoustic folk of that ilk. Wilkinson’s work here incorporates the usual suspects (hand percussion, acoustic guitars, group vocals, speak/singing) but puts them together in a warm, inviting manner that has appeal outside the niche.
8. “Scared of America” – Jesse Ruben. We’re going to see a whole lot more protest songs, I think, and here’s a literate, well-considered one. The chipper guitar and hummable vocal lines try to offset the bitterness of the protest; the whole “spoonful of sugar” approach.
9. “Heavy Metal” – Furniture from the Fifties. The lyrics of this delicate tune start off like a “amicable split” work, but then wander off in more intriguing directions. The song’s only 1:25, but it opens spaces to ask questions and ponder. It’s really cool.
10. “In Your Arms” – Katie Ferrara. Straightforward singer/songwriter tunes rely heavily on the vocal tone and vocal melodies. Ferrara’s vocal tone is beautiful, and her melodies here are unusually soothing and warm. Sold.
11. “Wolves of the Revolution” – The Arcadian Wild. The sort of spacious, well-outfitted, wintry folk that sounds like the soundtrack to running through a forest with snow on the ground and freedom on the mind.
12. “Amethyst” – Deda. This dusky acoustic jaunt joins whisper-folk and giant-expansive-arrangement folk to create a unique vibe.
13. “Come Back” – Rosin. When all four of the quartet get going at about 3:40 in, this Appalachian/classical string outfit really starts to connect their chops with emotional punch.