An admittedly eclectic category, here are fifteen wonderful albums steeped in elements of acoustic, primitive, folk, or pop music. But those are only references and common threads. Each one is its own unique and memorable musical journey. – Click on album titles in the list below for more information
Editors note: Few of the albums presented in these lists fit neatly into a single genre and we would not have it any other way, nor would the artists. The categorizations used here should not distract the reader from the joy of discovery. They are simply a way to organize and present based on my perceptions of compatible listening experiences and I was not above stretching the boundaries and making exceptions to fit in the most music possible.
Wickerbird – The Leaf Maker
Drenches our ears in a dream like meld of acoustic guitar, field recordings, and layered vocals. Truly stunning in its grand sweep and haunting melancholy.
Featured track: ‘Bugbear’
Western Skies Motel – Prism [Preserved Sound]
Though quite capable of producing dense abstractions and experimental electronic sounds (see Buried and Resurfaced elsewhere in this year’s lists), René Gonzàlez Schelbeck shows us another side with this luminous collection of exquisite pieces played on the classical guitar.
Featured track: ‘Comfort Me’
Grasscut – Everyone Was a Bird [Lo Recordings]
A rich tapestry of folk and pop inflected songs with sophisticated arrangements, soaring melodies, and mellifluous vocals embroidered with a variety of historical and metaphorical references and reflecting a deeply held sense of place. Be sure to read the wonderful liner notes by author Robert Macfarlane.
Featured track: ‘Curlews’
The Silence Set – Teeth Out [mini50 Records]
This organic partnership of Johan G Winther and Dag Rosenqvist generously explores abstract spaces around the song structures offsetting the melodic passages making it as engaging and thought-provoking as it is beautiful. Collaborators Nils Frahm, Kristofer Ström, and Heather Woods Broderick leave their marks as well.
Featured tracks: ‘Worry Glory’
Mute Forest – Deforestation [Lost Tribe Sound]
There is such an abundance of layered sound design and solid song craft here that something new seems to be revealed with every spin. The mood is somber and heavily melancholic, but works its way toward redemptive beauty as moments of surprising grace break through to remind us that where there is decay, there is also hope for renewal.
Featured track: ‘Vine Covered Windows and Doors’
Simon Scott – Insomni [Ash International]
“Couldn’t sleep… arose to forage for sound…” This spellbinding forty minute stream of consciousness journey weaves dense strands of digital noise, ambient drone, and field recordings around melodic passages of shimmering acoustic guitar.
Yadayn – Pendel [Eilean Rec.]
The title is the dutch word for “pendulum” and the pivot at the center is Gowaart’s fluid and expressive acoustic guitar. while the eclectic and experimental elements give it added depth and intrigue.
Featured track: ‘Speigel’
Will Samson – Ground Luminosity [Talitres]
This album is a lovely finespun tapestry constructed from delicate electronics, warm guitars, layered vocals, and fruitful collaborations with artists such as Benoit Pioulard, Message To Bears, and Michael Feuerstack. A respite for the ears and the soul.
Featured track: ‘Flow, The Moon feat. Michael Feuerstack’
Other Lives – Rituals [tbd Records]
After a four-year absence and a reconfiguration of the band, Other Lives delivers a lush and organic multi-dimensional aural confection that is memorably melodic, inventively arranged, and worth the wait.
Featured track: ‘2 Pyramids’
Adrian Lane – Branches Never Remember [Preserved Sound]
Elegant, refined, and memorably melodic, Lane creates a memorable journey with a Renaissance-like aura through the unmistakable sounds of the bowed psaltery along with a menagerie of acoustic instruments.
Featured track: ‘The High Crooked Blue’
Sarah Louise – Field Guide [Scissor Tail Records]
Comprised of six compositions performed on 12-string which feature bright melodies, dazzling finger-picking, bursts of feverish strumming, and mesmerizing drone like passages, Field Guide is a stunning effort that feels simultaneously timeless & time-worn and deeply organic.
Featured track: ‘The Day Is Past and Gone’
Twigs & Yarn – Still Forms Drift [Eilean Rec.]
This album creates a delicate world of its own, like a secluded and well-appointed Japanese garden. It is easy to be seduced by this sophisticated mixture of refined ambient textures and inventive whimsy. The eccentricities may catch the ear first, yields much depth and beauty on repeated listening.
Peter Levics – 12 Months Suites Pt. 1 [Unperceived Records]
A high-spirited collection of compositions and improvisations in a lively and lyrical guitar/violin duo format. Each month in the cycle has a slightly different feel and each has its own charms at times bearing favorable comparison to Dirty Three (quite a compliment).
Featured track: ’25 November’
Sundaug – Nocturnality
A bright and mellifluous collection of finger-style acoustic guitar pieces with pleasant embellishments that never get in the way of the fluent and expressive playing. Comfort food for the ears.
Featured track: ‘Nocturnality
Konntinent – The Empire Line [Home Normal]
Fragile beauty and delicate abstractions floating through a variety of timbres and textures with a brooding undercurrent that occasionally breaks the surface and a supporting ensemble cast that includes Andy Cordle, Chantal Acda, cusshe, Isnaj Duj, and Lisa Madisson. Completely beguiling.
Featured track: ‘Tensile Strength’