Maintain (Ehse Records)
The perfect word to describe Wume (pronounced woom), the Baltimore-by-way-of-Chicago duo, would be “chill.” Their minimal psychedelic music is chill, their personal vibe is chill, and the way you feel while listening to them is, you guessed it, chill. See them live or listen to their new record, and, before long, you’ll find yourself hypnotically bobbing along. Their sound is a sort of soundtrack groove, as drummer April Camlin’s steady beat and keyboardist Albert Schatz’s sparkly synth transport you into the opening scenes of a 1980s space film, swelling and swirling like some antiquated arcade game. Inspired by early German krautrock and funk, the duo layer their instruments and a few stray instrumental-esque vocals into polyrhythmic structures—a sort of ordered chaos. The repetition somehow manages to not sound droning or monotonous, but rather lulls you into a pleasant trance. True to the name of the album, Wume’s low-key, cadenced sound maintains, but we doubt that’s all they’re going to do. In fact, as they return home from a European tour with Dan Deacon, it’s safe to say they’re only going to grow.
The Honey Dewdrops
Tangled Country (self-released)
The Honey Dewdrops are like a cold glass of lemonade on a sticky summer afternoon. They’re simple, sugar-coated, and Americana to the core, a mix of sweet vocals, pretty melodies, and gentle, strumming guitar. It doesn’t hurt that the Virginia natives also share a lovely little love story, too: The songwriting couple spent nearly two years traveling across the country before settling in Baltimore last summer, and all their adventures and mishaps are chronicled on this fourth studio album. It’s full of love songs, blues ballads, Southern spirituals, and the kind of music heard in the depths of the Appalachian woods. They sing about hitting the road and breaking down before ending with an instrumental that feels like finding home. Mandolin and banjo plink and pluck, acoustic guitar twangs, the occasional harmonica whines—and all the while, warm harmonies permeate throughout. A year on the road must have been the ultimate test of marriage, but this album sounds like it only brought them closer. On every song, their love shines through.
Basement Vows (Friends Records)
There’s a new kind of girl power taking over the music industry, but it’s not all pop princesses, choreographed dance moves, and bubblegum hits. Sometimes, the spotlight goes dark, with electro-goth queens like Grimes, Purity Ring, Lykke Li, Zola Jesus, and even Lorde taking center stage. These femme fatales have created their own genre, combining deep house and trap music with good old-fashioned pop and R&B. In Baltimore, Blacksage has edged its way into the dark corners of this new world, with vocalist Josephine Olivia and producer Drew Scott making music that’s as ambient and brooding as it is bold and bright. From out of the darkness of their second album comes a glimmer of light, with murky, snaking lullabies like “Stay” interwoven with more upbeat, synth-riddled pop songs, like the title track. The songs come on low and slow. They’re moody, sexy, and haunting, like some smoky film noir. Olivia’s vocals ache and echo between low purrs and high coos while Scott’s heavy beats throb in the depths beneath. They toe the line between eerie and spellbinding, but you’ll find yourself seduced in no time.