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Keeper, SaltingSad Cactus Records
Zines and mp3 blogs used to call this kind of bedroom pop “achingly beautiful,” with good reason. Sparse and spectral, the songs of this trio have an epistolary feel, where every breath, nocturnal guitar twinkle, and barely-there synth line seems painstakingly selected; it feels all the more unburdened and cathartic for how careful it is. “Throw punches like an orphan/ a regression toward the mean,” sings Marissa Lorusso, who cuts her lyrics with scalpels. “Now no one’s gonna trust me, when I tell them what I see.”RIYL: Galaxie 500, A Weather, The Softies
Big Hush, Spirit/WholesRobotic Empire
Fuzz-pop worthies Big Hush know when to contain their shoegaze proclivities in something simmering and pretty, and when to let everything—those flannel-clad riffs, those moaning harmonies, all that cortex-throttling noise—hang out. Spirit/Wholes collects their strong EPs from 2014 and 2015, plus a new song, “Soft Eyes,” which bleeds the band’s usual Crayola box of rude colors over a gratifyingly hydraulic frame.
RIYL: Sebadoh (the raw stuff), Tsunami (the loud stuff)
Blue Plains, S/TSelf-released
A zippy, gravelly Americana unit that happens to be named after D.C.’s wastewater treatment plant and has learned some lessons well. For starters, that three chords and the truth can get you pretty far, but a good fiddle player can help you scratch heaven’s basement. This alt-country group has a pleasantly undergraduate vibe, complete with Mike Mills-style background “whoa-ohs;” it’s possible they were shooting for a “millennial whoop” with a bit of twang, but they’ve landed someplace a bit more rooted.
RIYL: Son Volt, early Avett Brothers, sewage treatment
Ezra Mae and the Gypsy Moon, Valleys in the DustSelf-released
This late-’60s-stanning group makes bluesy music that is generally quiet, hazy, and touched by the mystical; that stuff’s fine, but it’s the scratchy, thrumming epiphanies in songs like “Wandering Preachers” that make their time machine inviting. If you’re going to deploy those hot, hot licks and those astral-plane organs, you might as well summon some demons.
RIYL: Jefferson Airplane, the fact that D.C. once had a venue called the Psychedelly