By Jaime Lees
By Roy Kasten
By Melinda Cooper
By Jeremy Essig
By Roy Kasten
By Daniel Hill
By Chris Kornelis
By Gina Tron
Cassie Morgan, Pine So Sweet: Indie siren Cat Power may have abandoned spare, bleak folk-rock for soft-touch R&B, but Cassie Morgan proudly carries the torch on her first release. Morgan doesn't require much more than her guitar and your attention to make her mark; her songs sneak up on you with gentle sensibilities, while her lyrics cut to the quick.
Rough Shop, Here Today: The definition of "folk music" gets scribbled down, crossed out, and rewritten several times over on Rough Shop' s second album. The trio of singers, songwriters and instrumentalists swap guitars, dobros and turns at the mic throughout Here Today. In the process, Rough Shop reveals itself to be a talented interpreter of blues and bluegrass, even while it tosees in elements of jazz and rock & roll.
Raglani, Of Sirens Born: Imagine Odysseus' journey home to Ithaca plucked from the wine-dark seas and recast on a bed of analog synthesizers — and then Of Sirens Born starts to make more sense. Raglani's debut for the esteemed Kranky label finds him melding pastoral sounds and warm drones alongside white noise and sheets of static. The album is a reminder that experimental music can be every bit as engrossing as standard songwriting.
Splitface and June 16th, Raydeeohh: Unlike many rock & roll listeners, hip-hop devotees know exactly how crucial a great producer is to making a stellar track. Producers Nate Womack and Chris Krug (known as Splitface and June 16th, respectively) have the gift of wide-open ears and deft skills with the sampler, as snippets of classic jazz and dusty soul are matched with vintage-sounding drum machines and guests from the Frozen Food Section and the Deadly Alliance.
Theodore, Defeated, TN: Theodore's second album was only released on vinyl, which fits both the aesthetic of the fractured folk band and the album's back story. A box full of letters found in an abandoned house provided the LP's story line; singer/songwriter Justin Kinkel-Schuster and his bandmates provided the perfect amount of pathos, feedback and heart to make someone else's story their own.
— Christian Schaeffer