Minipop A New Hope (Take Root Records). Don't let the name fool you: Minipop's music can be vast. The quartet is at its best on songs like "Ask Me a Question," where conventional pop spills over its walls like a river cresting a levee.
Elliot Randall Take the Fall (self released). Close your eyes and forget you're near the coast - Randall's roots, rock, and country numbers come straight from the heartland. Keep 'em shut and never realize he's only 25 years old.
Emily Jane White Dark Undercoat (Double Negative Records). Folk music can be haunting in the hands of White, whose sparse songs - featuring only her balanced voice over guitar or piano - are as beautiful as they are troubled, especially the reverb-drenched "Dagger."
Pinched Nerve Mission and Highland (self released). Pinched Nerve, under house arrest for crimes related to his painkiller addiction, sing-raps over demented lo-fi beats about the ills of apartment life in the ghetto: pigeons, trash, and "Scabs and Mice."
Project Greenfield The Spiral Path (Greenfield Records). On this sophomore disc, five guys who've known each other since the '70s careen between prog-rock, world, funk, and jazz like they can't pick a favorite. And against all odds, they totally nail it.