A decade ago, when I was a student at Ohio University, every couple weeks I found myself in the front row at a Southeast Engine concert. The band played thoughtful, rugged, ornate folk-rock with strains of Dylan, Wilco, and Bright Eyes in its DNA plus a healthy dose of Guided By Voices — just about the perfect music for a rural college town. Southeast Engine’s lineup expanded, contracted, and turned over several times through the years, but the classic lineup in my mind was the six-man, three-guitar version of the band. One of those guitarists was a prodigious undergrad by the name of Adam Torres who played sideman in Southeast Engine but got his start on Athens stages playing solo singer-songwriter stuff. When he finally released a proper studio album in 2006, it was a stunner. But like so many would-be classics, Nostra Nova never made it out of obscurity.
Jillian Mapes, a fellow OU graduate-turned-music writer, detailed the album’s backstory in a wonderful Wondering Sound feature last year. The idea was that Torres’ music has been a prized secret for so long that sharing it now feels like sharing a vulnerable part of yourself. We initiates will have to get used to it now that Misra is reissuing Nostra Nova. “Breakneck Jane’s Fifteen Minute Escape” was the song that drew me in, but “Dusty Wing Spirit,” fantastic for different reasons, is the one that kept me coming back to the album. Whereas the former swells from quiet to orchestral bombast, the latter remains simple and barebones to the finish. “Somebody’s looking down on me,” Torres croons, tenderly emoting against impossibly warm keyboard accompaniment. It’s very pretty, so listen below.