Ivan & Alyosha
All the Times We Had/Dualtone Music Group
It is fitting that this Seattle-based indie pop rock band is named after characters in a Dostoevsky novel where moral dilemmas, God, and free will are among the topics of debate because similar content is found in this record. “God or Man” talks about the proverbial battle between the eternal and the temporal, while on “Don’t Wanna Die Anymore,” singer Tim Wilson croons about not being ready to go to heaven yet. There’s lots of relational angst too. “Falling” includes lines about wanting to be loved but not loving back, and “Easy to Love” is a self-explanatory song about how easy it is to love some people. Musically, the album dips into dream pop with “Who Are You?” and pays homage to slow-burning rockers on “The Fold.” It’s hard not to compare its sound to The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons on “Running for Cover.” Wilson hypnotizes with his swelling, Tim Warren-esque vocals, and the band mixes compelling lyrics with engaging melodies to great effect.
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
Good Light/Good Time Records
The Southern-drenched country, Americana and rock sensibilities, great melodies, alternately philosophical and lovey-dovey lyrics, and perfectly harmonized vocals from Drew Holcomb and his wife, Ellie, all combine to make Good Light a truly memorable record. Whether singing about relationships in “I Love You, I Do,” civic pride in “Tennessee,” the profound on “You Can’t Take it With You,” or the slightly silly “Nothing But Trouble,” the album is guided by strong, honest storytellers. Holcomb’s slightly raspy vocals are augmented by Ellie’s gorgeous, impassioned harmonies, which act as a steadying counterpoint to Holcolmb’s more aggressive moments. They steal the show on tracks like “Nothing Like a Woman,” where you can hear them smiling as they sing about each other. You can’t fake moments like those, which is why this album shines so brightly.
The Hurting Scene/Weston Boys
The debut release from Australian singer-
songwriter Melody Pool is filled with a number of stunning moments. For example, check out the harmonies on the bluegrass number “All the Love.” But, what makes this album so extraordinary, is how it defies your expectations. As the title The Hurting Scene suggests, these are songs about broken relationships, but in a number of cases it takes on a more positive or cathartic note. “Lion on the Loose” employs a jangly bluegrass pop rhythm to augment Pool’s lyrics about being crazy about someone who makes her crazy, and “On the ‘Morrow” has a be-careful-what-you-wish-for aspect to it, as Pool laments being in love. The album moves between country, Americana, bluegrass, pop, and acoustic fare, but Pool threads it all together with her gorgeous, often subtle vocals.