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Standout Track: No. 8, “Awake,” a smooth alt-country groove from John Aulabaugh’s debut LP, Of Sins Present and Past, which drops March 31. With its twangy, soulful swagger, the track brings to mind Lucero, using reverb-tinged guitars, retro keys, and slinky violin to craft a cool, seductive sound. “Any fan of the Flobots will hear a little of ‘Handlebars’ in the intro to this song,” Aulabaugh says. “Utilizing Jason Roberts, Norah Jones’ guitarist, was a treat, and he brought that whole Tarantino movie sound to the song.”

Musical Motivation: Aulabaugh, who recently moved from his home in Fairfax to South Chicago, penned “‘Awake” after being shaken by Mike Brown’s killing and the subsequent protests in Ferguson. “I started seeing these horrific images showing police abuse,” he says. “It cut way too close to home.” The album’s violinist, Jessy Greene, has recorded tracks with Ben Harper, which further fueled Aulabaugh’s creative process. “I spent an entire weekend listening to [Harper’s] music and being inspired,” he says. “‘Call It What It Is (Murder)’ changed my whole perspective. I had to pay tribute, so ‘Awake’ was born.”

Perks of Being a Wallflower: The new LP was produced by the Wallflowers’ keyboardist, Rami Jaffee. He’s worked with a slew of big-name acts like the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam, whose original drummer Dave Krusen contributed percussion to the album. “When you get minds like that together, there really is something magical that goes on,” Aulabaugh says. “The whole sixth sense is a player himself.”