1. “Alabama Dissonance” – The Bowling Alley Sound. As a person who has felt the tensions of being an outsider living in Alabama, I can affirm that there is a lot of Alabama Dissonance. The instrumental post-rock track here displays some of those emotions via a jarring, off-kilter, start/stop tune full of found sound and sudden shocks. There’s also a banjo, for good measure. It’s a wild, unusual experience.
2. “The Things We Let Fall Apart” – Sontag Shogun and Moskitoo. Fans of Jonsi’s most ambient work will love the wide-eyed, child-like wonder encompassed in this track. Makes me think of roaming through a wide, bright valley up between two mountains.
3. “Better” – Cayden Wemple. Sort of like Bright Eyes meets Sam Smith, this tune from Wemple has a folk-singer’s lyrical complexity, an alt-folkie’s lyrical specificity, and well-done contemporary acoustic singer/songwriter sonics. A very exciting track–Wemple’s one to watch.
4. “Vultures on Your Bones” – Felsen. Pushing back on the technological imperative narrative is deeply important to the work that I do outside this blog, so it’s with great interest that I heard this folk-rock tune asking for just that. The tune itself will be a hit with fans of old-school Dawes, as the melodies and instrumentation are a fantastic American roots rock melange.
5. “Lurking from the Sidelines” – Ira Lawrence. Lawrence returns with his “haunted mandolin”–punchy tunes created by distorting, manipulating, looping, and layering a single mandolin to the max. This, as you might imagine, creates a very unique sound with little bass and lots of open space. This particular track is an impressive demonstration of all that Lawrence is going for. Adventurous listening.
6. “First Day of My Life” – All Deep Ends. I very rarely feature covers at IC, but this one is such a giant transformation that I felt it worthwhile. ADE takes Bright Eyes’ delicate, tentative love song and gives it the full-on Deep Elm emo treatment: distant vocals, distorted guitars, thrashing drums, and a sense of desperation. It doesn’t sound over-the-top, as massive transformations can sometimes feel. Instead, it’s impressive.
7. “Wander” – Trevor Hall. I’m not sure I would have put Indian raga vibes, trip-hop influences, folk fingerpicking, glitchy vocal sampling, autotune, and raspy proto-rapping in one track, but Hall does that all excellently. That’s why Hall writes ’em and I don’t.
8. “Forget Forgive” – Someone. Intimate, close-quarters production allows the bass guitar and vocals to jump out of my headphones with an urgency that contrasts with the walking-speed tempo of this indie-pop tune. As a huge fan of deconstructed songs, this punches a lot of buttons for me.
9. “Sister, I” – Jesse Marchant. Marchant continues within his oeuvre of expressive, mesmerizing, slowly-unfolding singer/songwriter tunes. Quiet but intense, soft-spoken but with deep stores of emotion beneath the veneer, this tune (and Marchant’s work) is more than meets the ear at first. Dive deep.
10. “Maria Come Home” – Kevin Pearce. A subtly yearning, churning folk tune that celebrates Maria Callas, the famed soprano opera singer. The tune has a dense arrangement but a light feel overall: the tensions are beautifully resolved by strings that float above it all and tie the tune together.
11. “Secret” – Circumnavigate. If you’re the sort of person that gets super-excited about a cappella codas, you’re going to be all over this svelte folk track with just that type of ending.
12. “For They Who Had to Go I” – Klangriket. This solo piano elegy for those lost in the Stockholm terror attack this spring is a fitting tribute: mournful yet hopeful, light yet with heaviness around the edges of the lines, stark but also warm.