1. “Red Road” – Trevor Green. It’s hard for me to resist an uplifting, hopeful, fingerpicked folk tune sung in an earnest, clear voice.
2. “Shade in the Shadow” – Dan Lipton. Evocative and cinematic without piling on the instruments, Lipton’s story-song here reaches into the folk tradition for its lyrical and musical genesis (but never feels derivative).
3. “Love Sweet Love” – Taylor Grey. Fun folk pop a la The Lumineers, Twin Forks, and the like, with a female vocalist: prepare for “whoa-oh”s, romantic lyrics, and lots of strumming.
4. “Untethered” – Halcyon Drive. Quirky, affected electro-pop with some crunch amid the smile-inducing pop.
5. “Everyone Wants to Love You” – Japanese Breakfast. This is just an amazing pop song. It sounds like it should already be on classic rock radio and permanently in our subconscious memories.
6. “Warpaint On” – Risley. It’s a tough thing to achieve gravitas, but this indie-rock tune has an emotive gravity to it that makes it hard to stop listening to. The sounds are modern, but it’s got the sort of weight that early ’00s indie-rock (Shins, Death Cab, Modest Mouse) had.
7. “No One Anymore Cares About the War” – Janus 4-14. A frantic, giddy power-pop tune about being in a band when you’re not 25 and single anymore. It’s rad.
8. “Hard” – Los Angeles Police Dept. Far from being a “Super Bowl Shuffle” celebrity romp, this dreamy, floaty chamber pop tune comes out of a single man’s vision.
9. “Drugs” – Private Island. Funky, groovy, yet not woozy, this track rides the fine line between electro-pop enthusiasm and rock grit.
10. “No Paths” – A Dead Forest Index. Moody, cerebral indie rock that creates a “mysterious woods” feel.