Bill Callahan – Woke on a Whaleheart

Style: Singer/Songwriter, Americana, Alt-Country

Vibe: Observational, Deadpan, Earthy, Reflective, Rustic, Confident, Warm, Storytelling, Contemplative, Loner

Qualities: Lush, Choral Vocals, Lyrical, Rhythmic, Simple

Hiss Golden Messenger / Michael Chapman – Parallelogram

Style: Singer/Songwriter
HGM Side: Americana, Warm, Contemplative, Sunny, Rural, Passionate, Spiritual, Introspective
Chapman Side: Chamber Folk, Melancholy, Morning, Mellow, Autumnal, Reflective, Storytelling

Danny Brown – XXX

Style: Hardcore Hip-Hop, Psychedelic Hip-Hop

Vibe: Hedonistic, Personal, Sexual, Vulgar, Manic, Playful, Introspective, Depressive, Nihilistic, Aggressive, Anxious, Dark, Stoned, Storytelling, Urban, Surreal, Disturbing, Existential, Sarcastic

Musical Qualities: Sampling, Lyrical

Fountainsun – Sweep the Temple

Style: Spiritual Folk, Outsider Folk

Vibe: Mystical, Pantheistic, Contemplative, Uplifting, Enchanting, Intimate, Heartfelt, Forest, Ritualistic, Meditative, Morning, Warm, Storytelling

Musical Qualities: Acoustic, Suite, Spoken Word, Melodic, Lyrical

Instrumentation: 12-String Banjo, Acoustic Guitar, Marimba, Vibraphone, Vocal Harmonies, Gong, Percussion, Shakuhachi,

Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Superwolf

Style: Americana, Singer/Songwriter, Alt-Country, Slowcore

Vibe: Tender, Bittersweet, Stark, Cryptic, Storytelling, Melancholy, Lethargic, Poetic, Autumnal, Heartfelt, Mellow, Playful

Musical Qualities: Lyrical, Soft, Sparse

Outkast – ATLiens

Style: Southern Rap, Psychedelic Hip-Hop, Neo-Soul

Vibe: Futuristic, Spacey, Philosophical, Surreal, Urban, Cerebral, Confident, Conscious, Storytelling, Determined, Conceptual

Musical Qualities: Technical, Progressive, Lyrical, Sampling, Group Vocals, Rhythmic

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata

Style: Gangsta Rap

Vibe: Cinematic, Crime, Confident, Aggressive, Storytelling, Urban, Groovy, Warm, Hedonistic, Summer, Vulgar, Introspective, Triumphant, Dusty

Musical Qualities: Sampling, Technical, Rhythmic, Lush

John Carter – Fields

Style: Avant-Garde Jazz, Country-Jazz, Jazz Theater

Vibe: Rural, Historical, Sombre, Resolute, Intertwined, Passionate, Storytelling, Determined, Resolute, Heartfelt, Complex, Theatric, Conceptual

Musical Qualities: Suite, Acoustic, Progressive, Collective Improvisation, Polyphonic, Dynamic, Technical

Pentangle – Solomon’s Seal

Style: Brit-Folk, Chamber Folk, Jazz-Folk

Vibe: Flowing, Morning, Breezy, Warm, Medieval, Sentimental, Rootsy, Mellow, Pastoral, Uplifting

Musical Qualities: Vocal Harmonies, Acoustic, Traditional, Melodic, Improvisation

Instrumentation: Acoustic Guitars (Fingerstyle), Vocals, Upright Bass, Sitar, Dulcimer, Banjo, Recorder, Harmonica, Electric Guitar, Drums

Leslie Winer – When I Hit You You’ll Feel It

Style: Trip-Hop, Dub Poetry, Post-Industrial

Vibe: Brooding, Surreal, Mechanical, Feminist, Surreal, Evocative, Muscular, Dreamy, Witchy, Aggressive, Urban, Storytelling, Conversational

Musical Qualities: Spoken Word, Loops, Beats, Dub

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

On this mournful offering, Cave’s poetic reflections on loss, longing, and loneliness slowly float down a river of gloomy synth drones, somber strings, and sparse piano. While not exactly uplifting, the album has a sense of peace and beauty that continues up through the repeating final refrain, “and it’s alright now”.

Armand Hammer & The Alchemist – Haram

Style: Hardcore Boom-Bap, Experimental Hip-Hop

Vibe: Gritty, Cerebral, Ominous, Futuristic, Restrained, Cryptic, Spiritual, Storytelling, Urban, Powerful

Musical Qualities: Beats, Sampling, Rhythmic

Bobby Brown – The Enlightening Beam of Axonda

Style: Experimental Songwriter, Spiritual Folk, Avant-Folk, Outsider Folk

Vibe: Spiritual, Adventure, Alienation, Cathartic, Cryptic, Eccentric, Existential, Loner, Poetic, Psychedelic, Storytelling, Tribal, Tropical, Warm

Musical Qualities: Homemade Instruments, Acoustic, One Man Band, Percussive, Spoken Word, Progressive

Richard Dawson – 2020 [Review]

Style: Progressive Songwriter, Art Rock, Progressive Pop

Vibe: Satirical, Depressive, Anxious, Dystopian, Bright, Eccentric, Existential, Longing, Pessimistic, Urban, Storytelling

Musical Qualities: Complex, Dense, Progressive, Intricate, Dynamic, Conceptual

Slint – Spiderland

Style: Post-Rock, Math Rock, Post-Hardcore, Slowcore

Vibe: Angsty, Angular, Cold, Heavy, Impressionistic, Suspenseful

Lyrical Themes: Alienation, Existential, Poetic, Storytelling

Musical Attributes: Dynamic, Slow, Dissonant, Raw, Repetitive

The Incredible String Band – U

Style: Psychedelic Folk, Brit-Folk

Vibe: Theatric, Colorful, Eccentric, Eclectic, Imaginative, Messy, Mystical, Playful, Surreal, Warm

Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Lyrical, Conceptual, Indian-Influenced

Lyrics: Storytelling, Philosophical, Fantasy, Humorous, Poetic

Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness

Style: Chamber Pop, Art Pop
Vibe: Lush, Ethereal, Imaginative, Sensual, Storytelling, Surreal, Intricate, Airy, Dreamy
Instrumentation: Vocals, Keyboards (Piano, Harpsichord, etc), Upright Bass, Strings, Drums, Saxophone

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

Human Behavior – Bethpage

The apocalyptic chamber-folk of Bethpage soundtracks multiple chapters of cryptic storytelling, mixing one’s darkest thoughts with religious imagery and allegory through banjo sing-alongs and haunting spoken word passages. The heavy climaxes are whirlwinds of bombastic drums, driving bass, fiddle, clarinet, and banjo that often recall the communal chamber-punk of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. While many tracks feel seeped in shadow and darkness, a heavenly light occasionally floods in through some truly serene and beautiful passages.

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.

Joan Baez – Come From the Shadows

“What I’m asking you to do is take some risks. Stop paying war taxes, refuse the armed forces, organize against the air war, support the strikes and boycotts of farmers, workers and poor people, analyze the flag salute, give up the nation state, share your money, refuse to hate, be willing to work…in short, sisters and brothers, arm up with love and come from the shadows”

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Kendrick travels through the history of African-American music and into the future, taking inspiration from P-Funk, G-Funk, jazz, trap and everything in between. His lyrics display an acute awareness of someone battling with the weight of fame, institutional racism, and his own depression. This album is simultaneously personal and universal, and nothing short of revolutionary.