So what is it?
Well quite literally, psychedelic folk is often meant to evoke the sense of being under the influence of hallucinogens. With its atmospheric sounds, Asian musical influences (the sitar, flutes, chanting–esque melodies) and subject matter that often dwells on religion, nature, or death it’s easy to get that impression. The genre grew out of hippie culture as a combination between psychedelia and classic folk and became something of a mainstream musical style among counterculture youth with musicians like Donovan and more roc–-influenced bands like Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead.
The thing is, this subgenre didn’t begin and end in its decade of origin. Within modern indie folk, there’s been a rise over the last few years of artists going beyond the constraints of acoustic music and embracing the quintessential cornerstones of psychedelic folk. With all the weirdness of the musical experimentation and dissonant harmonies, psychedelic folk has still managed to establish itself as a musical styling that isn’t going away anytime soon and the growing popularity of artists like Sufjan Stevens and Devendra Banhart has only solidified this. It’s different, it’s nostalgic, it’s sometimes beautiful, sometimes uncomfortable, and rejects any kind of homogeneity; no two artists are doing the same thing within the genre. So put some headphones on, close your eyes, and just let the weird wash over you.