Welp… I don’t think it would be at all possible to put this off any longer than I have. The yearly tradition of picking a favorite kid once again has me denying that I actually need to do it (they’re all special in their own way!)
Someone much smarter than me once told me that limitations create value, and since time is also short, I’m going to adopt the style of the #50WordReview for each of the albums below.
(For the record, they are in an order determined by the total number of track plays for all tracks on the album, on all devices and services. Seems fair, right?)
Here’s hoping 2016 brings another stellar year of ear candy!
Imaginary Man — Rayland Baxter
From where I sit, an essential album combines outstanding musicianship, great lyrics and a voice telling stories in a way that truly makes you feel… everything.
Imaginary Man sees Nashvillain rayLand hit new heights in all of those areas. From Paul Simon to Blake Mills to Dead, it’s in there.
All These Dreams — Andrew Combs
“Tab’s on me if you think I’m lyin’, laughin’ ain’t a pleasure ‘til you know ‘bout cryin’.”
Combs lays waste to what we think a Country singer-songwriter can be. A mind for detail, an ear for wit, and a voice that melts rocks make this exquisitely crafted album a must.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats — Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
It takes a special kind of something to give you chills in 90º heat. The first time I heard S.O.B., I left the office, got in my car and turn it up all the way. But the album is much more than a great single. Dig deep on this one.
Goon — Tobias Jesso Jr.
In the past year, fans of a Randy Newman-like sound have enjoyed a few new breaths into the scene. Tops for me is Jesso Jr., the bassist-turned-hesitant-front-man displays an un-teachable knack for songwriting and a haphazard piano style that only serves to endear him more to the ear and heart.
In the Blazes — Aaron Lee Tasjan
The sneakiest of the albums on the list. Grabbed my ear during his all-to-short set at Newport Folk, converted to full on fanboy upon listening to In the Blazes. Tasjan brings wit and simplicity with a rock and roll backbone to topics from Florida men to bitches that can’t sing.
Cicada Rhythm — Cicada Rhythm
An album that arrived begging to be listened to and weeks later had me begging them to come play the Northeast. Classical meets troubadour in a musical love story that’s truly a study of contrast. Styles ranging from jazz and blues to folk should put this duo on your radar.
I Love You Honeybear — Father John Misty
What is there left to say about Father John Misty that hasn’t already been said? The enigmatic entertainer put forth his second album this year, and while it was shorter on the chantable choruses than it’s predecessor, ILYH is packed with memorable lines and styles ranging from classical to electronic.
Labor Against Waste — Christopher Paul Stelling
The performances I first witnessed in a friends living room have blossomed into a nationally recognized treasure. CPS’ latest release is rife with the thoughtful lyrics and dynamic musicianship that we’ve grow accustomed to hearing from the foot-stomping, finger picking virtuoso. Pick this one up, and grab the full catalog.
Birds Say — Darlingside
Harmonies as far as the ear can hear and a collection of songs that take the mind from the blissfully peaceful to the quite possibly inspired by a hallucinogen-filled day in the white collared world. These guys could sing the phone book and I’d listen to each and every word.
Other albums I couldn’t have lived without:
Rhythm & Reason — Bhi Bhiman
High On Tulsa Heat — John Moreland
Something More Than Free — Jason Isbell
What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World — The Decemberists
Song I wish I’d written that actually came out last year: Sean Rowe – “Razor of Love”