Every year, SceneSC.com releases a stellar sampler album of indie music from around the state. And every year, we find ourselves asking the same question:

What was that?

The 2014 sampler was released last week as a free download on Bandcamp and Noisetrade, and as usual, it turned us on to a few bands and showed us the latest from some others we already loved. Here are our favorites from the 24-track album, followed by odd bits of imagery that popped into our head as we listened. The words don’t always make sense (it was late and we were tired), but the songs are definitely worth a listen.

“Ball and Chain” by Muscle Memory (Columbia)

What It Is: Veteran songwriter David Adedokun, formerly of alt-country act the Daylight Hours, breaks character to play synth-bedazzled power-pop.

What It Sounds Like: After midnight in a hotel bar, circa 1982. Lonely-hearted and living down a few regrets, our protagonist spills his martini on a stranger while delivering a monologue to an ex-lover, not present. The neon light burns his eyes.

“I Was You” by Jordan Igoe (Charleston)

What It Is: A strong, moody single from Igoe’s long-time-coming album How to Love. Evocative, gritty songwriting (“You figure you’ll die soon/ And that bottle keeps raping you”) puts her on par with Cary Ann Hearst, and crunchy guitars add bombast and a slow build to the track.

What It Sounds Like: Steel guitars and broken-down Buicks. World-weary wisdom won by seeing too much.

“Alison Wonder” by Can’t Kids (Columbia)

What It Is: We have no idea what Adam Cullum and Jessica Oliver are going on about when they sing in unison, “You look like Marlon Brando and you dress like Charley Pride,” but it works. With spazzy guitar riffage and yelping vocals, Can’t Kids sound like Sleater-Kinney with a bizarro sense of humor.

What It Sounds Like: A wormhole opens up in the TV screen, and we find ourselves transported to a bounce castle filled with grown-ups. Everyone is on acid, and everyone is having a rad time.

“Way Too Hard” by Rejectioneers (Columbia)

What It Is: Patriarchs of the Columbia alt-rock scene including Ben Walker (formerly of Ben Walker Radio) and production wizard Kenny McWilliams (formerly of Baumer) team up to make propulsive, guitar-driven rock.

What It Sounds Like: Pull the family station wagon out of the garage and plug in a big ol’ guitar amp. Play ’til your knuckles bleed, sing ’til your throat is raw.

“Night Owls Train” by Tyler Bertges (Charleston)

What It Is: Quiet and nebulous. With production help from Holy City recording wunderkind Wolfgang Zimmerman, Bertges sings it achy and sweet over shuffling drums.

What It Sounds Like: Nigerian Afrobeat star Fela Kuti is having a rough day. He sneaks into the studio at night and whispers into the mic, trying not to wake the neighbors. Then he shakes it off and walks down to the corner store for ice cream, stopping along the way to look at the stars in the clear night sky.

“Narcolepsy” by Release the Dog (Columbia)

What It Is: Ross Swinson sings like Jeremy Enigk of Sunny Day Real Estate, but his band plays like a mellowed-out noise rock outfit. Weird time signatures. Emo in the best sense of the word.

What It Sounds Like: A bike crash on an asphalt-melting Columbia summer day, followed by a soothing ride down the Congaree river in an inner tube. Beers with friends. Feeling a little better.

“Vampiros” by Susto (Charleston)

What It Is: Justin Osborne, formerly of Sequoyah Prep School, plays haunted, yearning Americana. His band is named after a Latin American folk sickness that has been linked to emotional trauma.

What It Sounds Like: The literary genre of paranormal teen romance, but in an alternate reality where it doesn’t suck. Weird jokes that aren’t particularly funny. Feeling creepy and misunderstood in a crowded room.

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