Phoebe Bridgers, Stranger in the Alps
She’s forever friends with Julien Baker and Ryan Adams has called her “the Next Bob Dylan” – but this dark folk singer-songwriter isn’t intent on shining in anyone else’s spotlight. Yet you’ll hear Baker and Elliott Smith and Sharon Van Etten and so much more when you listen to her music, as she falls in line with one of the most beautiful genres as much as she defines a niche for herself.
There will be a twang of Van Etten, the talk-sing of Dylan, angst of Adams, bawl-inducing emotion of Baker, and understated timelessness of Smith as Bridgers sonically bridges the divide between the best of the best in her debut full length. Not many other musicians can master that feat by their early 20s. And I’m pretty sure I’ll still be listening to her and this album in particular when I’m in my 60s.
Tomberlin, At Weddings
There needs to be a word for “love at first sound,” because although rare, it has happened more than once over the years. And it’s always late at night, when I find myself scouring the internet in search of humanity. I’ve found it in Lemolo on New Year’s Eve, in Kyle Morton at the end of summer, and now in Tomberlin, as “You Are Here” softly announces, “I am here and nowhere else and you are all I want.” Musician Owen Pallett proudly calls this work, “absolutely the most beautiful record I’ve ever worked on,” which he contributed to, mastered and produced. It’s the product of a one Sarahbeth Tomberlin, from Louisville, Kentucky, and like the others on this list, she’s only a fifth of a century old. It echoes and sways, ebbs and flows, lingering long into the night and hopefully in the genre of ambient folk.
Composed for choreography, Gordi’s first full length release is full of dramatic, sweeping gestures, quiet, tender pleas, and grand, longing emotion that would make it a waste not to use in modern dance setting. I dub her folktronica, the convergence of acoustic guitar, vocal harmonies, and electronic elements. She’s not the first to put these parts together, but she’s one of this year’s best examples of how to do it well.
Imagine Joseph, but with one less voice and an electronic twist. Meet Overcoats, the sulty folktronica sensation that I’m head over ears in love with as of this week. It’s like folk got an upgrade that included sass 2.0, syncopation, and an invitation to dance. Their music works a capella, it thrives acoustically, it jams stripped down, and it shines as a recorded product. Who knew folk could be this flexible and funky?