Ark Life – The Dream Of You & Me

The Greater Than Collective, 2014

Featuring Jesse Elliott of These United States fame, Ark Life takes the indie-folk sounds of Elliott’s past work and adds a soulful classic rock element as well as endless backing harmonies. Gospel and R&B influences also creep in, though it’s still largely an Americana album, and the wordplay centres around community and friendship, in a mature coming-of-age sort of way.

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Ancient Cities – Ancient Cities

Self-released, 2014

A band who are skilled at today’s experimental folk ideas as well as ’60s psyche-rock wandering, Ancient Cities bridge the gap between indie-rock and classic rock with swift, fuzzy guitars, excited drumming and dreamy atmospheres. Synth, horns and acoustic guitars also make appearances, enabling the album to soar loudly as well as channeling influences like The Beatles and Elliott Smith.

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Sean Flinn & The Royal We – The Lost Weekend

Glad I Did, 2014

Portland folk-rock is a deep pool these days, but few are like Sean Flinn & The Royal We. Though they utilise the backing harmonies and handclapping of their peers, theirs is an overall more sunny approach to the lush sounds of the Northwest, balancing pop-rock and grittier indie-rock while paying much attention to melody. Lyrically it’s just as compelling, as Flinn tackles important topics with an equal amount of thought as his sophisticated music.

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The Collection – Ars Moriendi

Self-released, 2014

An album spawned from tragedy, the 13+ members here come through with a powerful assembly of folk inspired songs that range from sparse to lush, and are sprinkled with vocal melodies and orchestral arrangements. Recorded in living rooms, cabins and old churches, it’s the sort of disc that ends with you exhaling deeply at the magnitude of not only the subject matter but the depth of the instrumentation. A musical eulogy that is nothing short of superb.

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Moonrise Nation – Moonrise Nation

Zinc, 2014

Though this trio of young women hail from Chicago, their sound is plucked from the spirit of Laurel Canyon from decades past. Graceful and sophisticated, but also gritty and rugged, this is as great an indie-folk EP as you’re likely to hear today, as each woman contributes their respective strengths with passion and soul. And hey, any tune that references The Price Is Right is okay by me.

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John Hiatt – Terms Of My Surrender

New West, 2014

Now in his 60s and after 40 years of making music, Hiatt’s 22nd album keeps his endless flow of vivid story telling strong and leaps into more rugged blues areas, with his voice a bit lower than normal. The reflections on aging here are thoughtful, sometimes comical, as Hiatt sticks primarily to acoustic guitar while his band carries the melodies. Very few people will ever be as consistently interesting as Hiatt, and it’s safe to say that he’s one of the most multi-faceted faces of Americana ever.

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