It’s fitting that Philadelphia guitarist Victoria Rose and Baltimore producer/musician Stone Filipczak named their band @ (pronounced “At”) — a symbol that calls to mind the detachment of an email exchange or a Twitter mention. The folk-pop duo created their debut album Mind Palace Music almost entirely remotely from, sending each other recordings over iMessage from their respective cities throughout fall/winter 2020. But although its creators were 100 miles away, the 11-track album gleams with a sense of closeness, tied together with @’s penchant for deeply personal and candid lyrics.
With an affinity for blending digital with analog elements, @ describe Mind Palace Music as “hyperfolk,” though the record never feels self-indulgent — hitting the sweet spot between pleasantly familiar and refreshingly innovative. “We were pretty aware of trying to make something well-crafted that would hold up,” Filipczak says. “I was stoked that I could show some of the tracks to my grandma and she would be able to dig it. It probably doesn’t sound that different from, like, Simon and Garfunkel to her.”
Rose and Filipczak are just as inspired by the thoughtful delicacy of ambient pioneers like Laurie Spiegel as they are by the timeless quality of singer-songwriters like Vashti Bunyan. You can feel the influence of those ‘70s folk greats on songs like “Where’d You Put Me,” a drum-free incantation that culminates with a flute solo from Filipczak. Elsewhere, @ evoke the tender drone and foolproof melodies of Elliott Smith, Alex G, or Sparklehorse, like on the spare acoustic ditty “Friendship is Frequency” or the bittersweet “Cut From Toxic Cloth”: “While I’m waiting for my mind and face to sync/I smile to my heart and I think/I like you just the way you are,” Filipczak murmurs on the latter. A subtle eeriness looms in the background throughout Mind Palace Music, preventing it from feeling too outdated or hackneyed.
@ test their limits further on songs like the chugging closer “My Garden,” where Rose and Filipczak’s striking arrangements build to a triumphant coda as Rose mulls over the frustrations of a relationship’s natural ebbs and flows and the “curse” of desire: “I don’t want intensity, no/Just a way to warmth and amity,” she sings. @ know that some of the most rewarding moments in life don’t come easily, and Mind Palace Music is no exception. But sometimes, even the hard work flows out naturally: “It was truly a something from nothing type of experience,” Filipczak says. “We just shared a bunch of music until we started collaborating, and then once we started, we didn’t want to stop.”