Sam Valdez is the human equivalent of time machine. She encapsulates the sonic beauty of the Laurel Canyon neighborhood in the ’70s while creating cinematic soundscapes and poignant stories akin to Angel Olsen, Hope Sandoval, and The War On Drugs. This combination should eventually result in the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter becoming an indie star. For now, however, she is the most astute music fan’s hidden gem, and her debut EP, Mirage, will be among their favorites of 2018. It is for us.

Mirage takes the music of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and the Mamas & Papas to places that could only be imagined on film or in dreams. Opener “It’s Alright” casts an immediate spell with its streams of a steel guitar Valdez’s stunning vocals cast the spell. Her lyrics are poetic, as she weaves an intimate tale of undying love. She spins another gorgeous dream with “Farther Away”, which is the anthem for a lonely wanderer traversing the Mojave Desert. Meanwhile, psychedelic and Americana tones intertwine on the dazzlingly woozy “Funeral”. Valdez is the wanderer this time, and she walks alone to escape the places and people that only create pain. She calmly yet lushly proclaims, “I’m loyal to my solitude”.

The beautiful, stripped-back “Carnival” has an air of the aforementioned Joni Mitchell. Featuring predominantly a finger-picking guitar, feathery percussion, and her ethereal vocals, Valdez reveals a moment of loss that occurs in a place that should offer joy. Similarly, “Other Side” is a gorgeous dream-folk number, but its emotional center is an one of heartbreak. Through her stunning vocals, Valdez mournfully says goodbye while trying to find a way to move on. Eventually, she will move on, and in turn she will be recognized as one of the great singer-songwriters of her generation. This great EP is just the first step to the inevitability.

Mirage is out now via Nevado Music and available on Bandcamp.

For the complete list of our Favorite 20 EPs of 2018, click here.

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