The Norman acts bring folk-inspired indie tunes to the table. Webb’s disc (brinewebb.bandcamp.com) showcases his weary voice; intricate, acoustic-based songwriting; and powerful control of mood over 14 tracks. The emotional center of the album is the excellent trio of the delicate “Rrose Hips,” the slow-building “The Red Queen (and All Her Men)” and the triumphant-through-sadness “Ghost Family.” It’s a gripping, enveloping record that will drag you into its gloomy goodness.
The Nghiems (thenghiems.bandcamp.com) are more upbeat than Webb, sounding downright merry on tracks like the Wilco-lovin’ “Traveling Coat” and the fuzzed-out “Morning.” But most of “Pine Tree” falls in the space between despondency and dancing, inhabiting a comfortable mid-level mood. The excellently written tunes will feel familiar as soon as you hear them, even if the vocals may not be your cup of tea. The band works together as a unit very effectively, creating tracks that wouldn’t work as well without each other. Fans of alt-country and Death Cab-esque indie will be surprised to find each other enjoying The Nghiems. —Stephen Carradini