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Standout Track: “Vals,” a piece of gauzy laptop pop filled with swelling keyboards and music-box-style piano melodies. “I follow the telephone wires in the street lights and the sleeping houses,” sings Aaron Thompson, stumbling through an imaginary landscape that could be either Iceland or College Park. Outside of a day spent at Ikea, you’re unlikely to find anything as peaceful, ordered,and Nordic.

Musical Motivation: Until recently, Thompson tended to focus his writing on the acoustic guitar—pumping out the folky, strummy ballads typical of coffeehouse fare. About a year ago, though, his friends hipped him to some electronic bands and he started experimenting with his computer. “When I first heard that hybrid—folk with synthetic elements—it really drew me in. Stuff like Four Tet, Caribou, guys like that,” says Thompson. “I spent a few weeks holed up in my studio. So this is kind of the result of me just experimenting with different beats and sounds.”

False Move: Prevailing logic suggests that if you want to be in a band, Baltimore—with its cheap rents, abundant warehouse space, and art-school kids—is a hot town. On the other hand, if you’re tired of people who wear DayGlo tights as pants and you aspire toward young-professionalism, D.C. is the place to be. Somehow Thompson got this backward. “I was in Baltimore for about a year and a half after college working at an architecture firm, but I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to be doing” he says. “I thought D.C. was a really good place to pursue music.”