Why am I pairing these two albums, both strong collections of strong, in the same post? Because they both made me think of My Morning Jacket. Jesse Marchant, being a male vocalist with a strong taste for slower ballads and echo, much more than Erika—of Heartless Bastards. But both to a degree. And that’s not a bad thing.

Before MMJ got a major label deal and started overproducing their songs to the point that most of the soul was drained from them, the band made some of the most haunting music on the indie scene. Jesse Marchant seems to be going for a similar effect…

…Only he sounds a lot more youthful. Even when his lyrics betray wisdom of the ages…

His lyrics are mostly sad and tragic, like in All These Kids I Never Knew, about someone who was “shot in the back while you were running away” because he’s a man whose “fate lies in the hands of a [police officer] with a black heart.” But they make you think. It’s honest depth.

But be warned, there are a few moments where it get really, really slow…

Not bad, just very down. If you’re already sad, this is probably not the album that will cheer you up.

On that note, let’s turn to Erika Wennerstrom’s first solo album…

Soaring. Cosmic. You can hear a few traces of heartless bastards in here, but it’s immediately obvious why this was a solo album. This is a very different project.

And there’s hope here. I could easily hear Jim James singing “Extraordinary Love,” but the lyrics are hoping for something beautiful—and they seem poised to receive it. In these days of Trumpian dystopia, it’s nice to see someone who still believes in the future. At times, it even feels a little bit country!

Between the two, they’re pretty different records but both very strong entries this year.

Check ‘em out below.

Here’s Jesse’s full album:

And Erika’s….

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