Sixteen Horsepower – Folklore

Style: Gothic Country, Americana, Chamber Folk
Vibe: Rustic, Sombre, Murky, Rootsy, Ominous, Loner, Western, Melancholy, Moody, Dark
Musical Attributes: Acoustic Instrumentation (Banjo, Upright Bass, Cello, Acoustic Guitar, Accordion, Piano), Atmospheric, Droney, Slow, Lyrical
Lyrical Themes: Alienation, Religious, Christian, Storytelling

Lonnie Holley – Mith

Style: Experimental Singer-Songwriter, Soul Blues, Psychedelic Soul

Vibe: Imaginative, Bluesy, Cathartic, Conscious, Cosmic, Spiritual, Heartfelt, Passionate, Psychedelic, Rootsy, Bittersweet, Poetic

Lyrical Themes: Existential, Afro-Futurism, History, Racism, Reflective

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Lyrical, Improvisation, Raw, Studio-as-an-Instrument

Instrumentation: Vocals, Piano, Synthesizers, Keyboards, Saxophone, Trombone, Percussion

Sly & the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On

Style: Psychedelic Funk

Vibe: Triumphant, Energetic, Anthemic, Communal, Rebellious, Groovy, Sunny, Psychedelic, Powerful, Confident, Eclectic, Complex

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – Bridges

Style: Soul, Jazz-Funk, Singer-Songwriter

Vibe: Conscious, Groovy, Lush, Lyrical, Passionate, Philosophical, Political, Sunny, Triumphant, Uplifting, Urban, Accessible, Bittersweet, Catchy, Confident

Mos Def – Black on Both Sides

Style: East Coast Hip-Hop, Boom Bap, Jazz Rap

Vibe: Conscious, Uplifting, Groovy, Confident, Urban

Lyrics/Themes: Philosophical, Political, Black Pride, Racism, Spiritual, Islam

Musical Attributes: Lyrical, Sampling, Beats, Turntables, Live Instrumentation (Rhodes, Electric Bass)

Stereolab – Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night

Style: Progressive Pop, Space Age Pop

Influences: Kosmische Musik, Bossa Nova, French Pop, Lounge

Vibe: Spacey, Lush, Retro-Futuristic, Catchy, Groovy, Motorik, Nocturnal, Uplifting

Musical Attributes: Melodic, Headphone Album, Odd Time Signatures, Studio-as-an-Instrument, Progressive, Lyrical

Lyrics: Philosophical, Political, Communist, Bi-Lingual (English and French)

Instrumentation: Synthesizers, Vibraphone, Drums, Electric Bass, Electric Guitar, Vocals, Brass, Strings, Keys (Organ, Clavinet, Harpsichord, Wurlitzer)

Alex G – Beach Music

Listening to Alex G, one might imagine a young alien sitting alone in his martian bedroom baring his angsty, teenage confessions to his 4-track tape recorder. Yet, at the core of his music, underneath layers of psychedelic guitars, weird pitch-shifted vocals, and occasional lo-fi hiss, lies some genius pop songs that feel simultaneously adolescent and mature.

Recommended for fans of lo-fi experimentation and bedroom pop. Alex seems to pull influences from all over and channel them through his own unique personality and penchant for odd, psychedelic production. Recalls Elliot Smith’s loner acoustic songwriting and drum machines pulled from 80′s pop songs; there’s even a fucked up jazz piano ballad thrown into the mix.

Human Behavior – Kedumim

Religious allegory, profane thoughts, and lustful confessions intertwine on Human Behavior’s third LP; Kedimum is a brooding suite of psychological chamber folk that introspects into a conflicted mind, struggling to reconcile matters of indoctrinated faith, natural human desires, and internalized guilt. Primary songwriter Andres Parada is joined by a sympathetic cast of vocalists to create a vivid sonic drama complete with choral vocals and spoken word passages to complement his haunting narrations. The intricate and shadowy arrangements blend distorted electronic beats with a wide array of acoustic instrumentation, including banjo, clarinet, accordian, acoustic guitar, violin, ehru, and cello.

Mike and Lal Waterson – Bright Phoebus

Style: British Folk, Country-Influenced
Vibe: Contemplative, Earthy, Introspective, Melancholy, Rootsy, Rural, Storytelling
Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Vocal Harmonies, Lyrical, Melodic, Simple, Sparse

Sandro Perri – Impossible Spaces

The surrealist sophisti-pop of Impossible Spaces feels both breezy and intricately progressive. Sandro Perri’s evocative songwriting and catchy melodicism are brought into high-definition by warm, futuristic production, atmospheric synthesizers, and lush arrangements for strings, horns, and woodwinds. 

Ought – Sun Coming Down

There is a certain beauty just to being alive, and Ought make it their mission to find it through raw rock n’ roll that veers seamlessly between upbeat post-punk, meditative feedback drones, dramatic ballads, and cathartic guitar freak outs.

Recommended for fans of post-punk that blends the moodiness of Joy Division, Iceage, and Television with the experimentation and noisiness of This Heat and No Wave.

Magnolia Electric Co. – What Comes After the Blues

“Human hearts and pain should never be separate, then they wouldn’t tear themselves apart both trying to fit”. The first album under the Magnolia Electric Co. name touches on the loneliness and depression of much of Jason Molina’s work, but it also contains a fair amount of the hope, light, and perseverance one needs in times of struggle. The musicians here were recorded live in a room by the great Steve Albini, featuring slide guitar, fiddle, and beautiful vocal harmonies from Molina’s band members. With its mix of melancholy Americana, country-tinged rock, and stripped back folk, What Comes After the Blues feels like a continuation of Neil Young’s great ditch trilogy.

Bibio – Ribbons

On his latest, producer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Bibio blends serene folk pop, lush instrumentation, pastoral guitar instrumentals, nature field recordings, Walt Whitman-esque lyrics and beat-oriented grooves into the perfectly crafted springtime album. Ribbons feels like daydreaming in a garden or out in the woods under a tree or by a trickling stream.

The Incredible String Band – The Big Huge

Warm, mellow Scottish folk with lyrics that border spiritual, philosophical, and fantasy themes. The arrangements are a bit stripped down from their lush psychedelia of previous releases, but still feature a good amount of sitar, organ, Irish harp, and violin to add some color to the vocals and acoustic guitar-centric songwriting.

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King

Released in 1969 on Atlantic Format: LP Pressing quality: While this album is a masterpiece, these early pressings/masters sound a … More

Exuma – Exuma

Exuma’s first album is a powerful and ritualistic masterpiece of spiritual folk from the Bahamas. Exuma, the Obeah Man, is a master storyteller and preacher, sharing visions, myths, and prayers. His expressive, soulful voice takes on many tones as he delivers his musical sermons, from smooth to raspy, soft to confident. A group of singers, percussionists, whistlers, and toads join him and his acoustic guitar, making me imagine them all circled around a large fire in communal worship and grateful that they let us listeners in on it.

David Grubbs – The Thicket

On experimental musician/author/professor David Grubb’s first album as singer-songwriter, he synthesizes technical bluegrass banjo and fingerstyle acoustic guitar playing with imaginative arrangements, abrupt stylistic shifts, philosophical questioning lyrics, improvisation, drones, and an eclectic cast of musicians, including drummer John McEntire (Tortoise, The Sea and Cake), bassist Josh Abrams (Natural Information Society), and drone violinist Tony Conrad.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Bitchin Bajas – Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties

A far cry from the sparse folk usually recorded by Will Oldham, “Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties” finds his intimate voice and warbly acoustic guitar enveloped by the cosmic drones, blooming synths, airy flutes, and hypnotic tape loops of Chicago new age trio, Bitchin Bajas. The lyrics are essentially fortune cookie mantras and, while there’s a chance they’re tongue-in-cheek, it’s difficult not to smile and feel a brightening of the spirit when hearing uplifting phrases like “Your hard work is about to pay off, keep on keepin’ on” or “you and your whole family are well” get repeated over and over. This collaboration is a soothing, heartwarming listen and a refreshing change-of-pace from Oldham’s tendency towards melancholy and solemn lyrical content.