Vena Portae – Vena Portae

Humble Soul, 2014

An Anglo-Swedish outfit featuring singer-songwriters Emily Barker and Dom Coyote alongside producer Ruben Engzell, Vena Portae’s debut is a tender and rewarding foray into homespun folk-pop. Lead single ‘Summer Kills’ has Barker nuzzling up to an Americana ditty, the song seguing into a merry horn-fuelled finale. It’s a fine example of the band’s most accessible side – see ‘The Mapless Sea’, too – though the record is frequently more plaintive; low-key, if never quite subdued. Coyote’s vocals often prevail over the moodier, impressively atmospheric sections, though it’s when the two singers exchange heartaches – see ‘Transatlantic’ – that the album can be at its most arresting.

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The Ben Miller Band – Any Way, Shape Or Form

New West, 2014

Though they might use homemade instruments, this backwoods, ‘Ozark Stompin’ trio’s second album covers as many decades as it does genres, incorporating delta blues, roots rock, country, rockabilly and odd garage rock that features some of the best banjo picking and warm harmonicas you’re likely to hear. Not just back porch romping, there’s a nice folk ballad, too, further proving TBMB’s diversity and skill.

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TRWBADOR – Several Wolves

Owlet, 2014

Following up their self-titled debut, Welsh duo TRWBADOR’s sophomore furthers their distinctive and accessible brand of acoustic-electro-pop. There’s more emphasis on the dancefloor beats this time out, nudging Several Wolves more towards The Knife territory than twee folk ambles, though it’s the band’s ability to combine the two musical poles – the female vocals as compelling on both – that stand them out from the crowd. Tidy.

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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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