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Every month, Utne Reader presents free, downloadable music gleaned from current and upcoming releases on independent music labels. This sampler was curated by editor in chief Christian Williams.

April 2015

Lowland Hum
North Carolina-based Lowland Hum is the musical project of husband and wife duo Daniel and Lauren Goans. The indie-folk duo has built a loyal following thanks to the intimate settings they create on tour when sharing their heartfelt lyrics and sublime harmonies, but it may be difficult to authentically recreate the majestic sound of some of the songs on their latest full-length record unless they perform under the stars. A case in point is lead single “Odell,” in which Lauren’s beautiful voice rises above a swelling orchestral arrangement that that brings to mind early Arcade Fire. Capped by Daniel’s subtle picking, it’s an exhilarating ride from start to finish. They’ll be self-releasing their self-titled second album on April 14.

Marsen Jules
As the liner notes suggest, the best way to listen to German ambient composer Marsen Jules’ latest album is LOUD. A euphoric ode to the beauty of Nordic snow and ice, Empire of Silence is comprised of eight string compositions named after the different words for snow in the Inuit language. Although his music is categorized as ambient, Jules’ elaborate compositions beg to be listened to loud and closely. This is especially true on Empire of Silence as each piece unwraps itself into a magnificent soundscape that envelops the listener. Here’s “Kayi” from Empire of Silence, out now on Oktaf Records.   

Matthew Squires
Matthew Squires is an Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter who writes thoughtful indie folk music. He’s currently working on a third full-length with his band, the Learning Disorders, and has written a few songs that he’s not quite sure will fit in with the finished product. One of those is “The Giving,” an experimental song of sorts that sees Squires singing over a simple melody textured by field recordings and his first attempt at recording trumpet. Listen to more of Squires’ music on Bandcamp

Faith Healer

Faith Healer is the solo project of indie pop songwriter Jessica Jalbert. Her debut record, Cosmic Troubles is the product of a recent obsession with ’60s pop and ’70s psychedelic rock, and a collaborative effort with like-minded songwriter and fellow Edmonton, Ontario native Renny Wilson. Over the course of the album’s 11 tracks, Jalbert emphasizes the carefree and fun aspects of those varied influences and crafts the perfect soundtrack for the warmer months on the horizon. Cosmic Troubles is out now on Mint Records.    

Complicated Animals
Complicated Animals is a Brazilian/American duo consisting of Monica da Silva and Chad Alger. As their backgrounds suggest, da Silva and Alger each bring specific musical interests and sensibilities to the project that blend really well together. Equal parts bossa nova and indie pop, Complicated Animals simply make easy-going music that you’ll want to turn up and play with the windows rolled down. Here’s “Drive Around in Cars” from their new EP In This Game, available now.

John Moreland
It’s been a while since American folk music has seen the likes of a songwriter that is able to cut as deep as John Moreland. It’s not often that someone deserves comparison to the legendary Townes Van Zandt, but he’s the first person that comes to mind when you listen to Moreland’s soul-baring lyrics. To be clear, this isn’t folk music for the faint of heart; Moreland shines when he dives straight into the painful aspects of being human, whether it be coming to grips with addiction or the dealing with the deterioration of a relationship. What makes it all work is that he sings with a passion that suggests he’s lived every word of it. “I’ve always written to make myself feel better, I think,” says Moreland. “It’s my way of figuring stuff out – figuring out where I stand. You can’t do that without emotion. You can’t do that insincerely.” This degree of honesty is hard to find in any art form, which makes Moreland’s music all the more valuable and essential. Here’s “You Don’t Care Enough for Me to Cry” from High on Tulsa Heat, out April 21 on Thirty Tigers.

The Foghorn Stringband

The Portland-based Foghorn Stringband has been a fixture in the Northwest roots music scene for more than a decade. Well-versed in the wide variety of styles and subgenres in traditional old-time American folk music, the band takes a straight-forward approach to keeping the music alive and lets the timeless songs speak for themselves. The band’s latest record is its eighth, and is yet another fine showcase of the outstanding playing and chemistry the band has built its reputation on. Here’s the band’s take on “Stillhouse,” an old square dance tune. Devil in the Seat is available now through CDBaby.  

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