Over the past week, I’ve read through the flood of lists from major music blogs/publications – making a purported attempt at objectively ranking the “best” albums of the year. I can’t say that I believe in those lists, as I have no idea how you can objectively rate music, at least to a level of specificity that you can differentiate between much of the best music released over a 12 month span.
WIth that in mind, I do love taking stock of the year that’s past, and making a list of my 10 favorite albums of that time. Not only is it in hopes that you find an incredible album that you might have missed, but it gives me an excuse to dig back through so much incredible music. So, before you dig in, please note that these are in no particular order, and that the videos I include for each are just a teaser – please go investigate these albums, be it via Spotify, Pandora, or torrents – then go buy the ones that you connect with (hopefully all 10!).
1. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
I can’t say enough words about how much this album meant to me this year. An expansion of the incredible sonic depth and breadth of High Violet, with the bite of Boxer – I have listened to this album countless times this year. Favorite Track(s): “I Need My Girl”
2. Typhoon – White Lighter
Kyle Morton and the rest of the Typhoon gang created an album that’s not only vulnerable, expansive, and tremendous – but they managed to do it while staying true to all the little subtleties that made me fall in love with them in the first place. Favorite Track(s): “Prosthetic Love” and “Morton’s Fork”
3. Dessa – Parts of Speech
I love pretty much everything Dessa does. Her command of the English language, her rhythmic sensibility, the musicianship of the artists she works with. This album was wonderful, front to back. Favorite Track(s): “The Man I Knew”
4. Caroline Smith – Half About Being a Woman
Caroline Smith, former folk songstress, current purveyor of explosively beautiful indie r&b/soul. Caroline, with trust bassist Jesse Schuster in tow, and a whole slew of talented characters – really created a timeless album. Favorite Track(s): “Child of Moving On” and “Half About Being a Woman”
5. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
Three words. Song for Zula. That song drew me in, the stunning continuity, well crafted songs, and the fact that this is an A+ road trip album guarantee it a spot here. Favorite Track(s): “Song For Zula”
6. Courtney Marie Andrews – On My Page
I’ve written about Courtney a thousand times on this blog. This is my favorite folk album of the year. So many hints of Joni Mitchell, with the subtle, simmering energy of Joan Baez. Absolutely in love with this one. Favorite Track(s): “500 Nights” and “Woman of Many Colors”
7. Volcano Choir – Repave
Justin Vernon continues to explore sonic boundaries – with a very talented cast of characters behind him. Repave explores more territory vocally than Bon Iver’s eponymous album, and I found myself entranced by this one all autumn. Favorite Track(s): “Comrade” and “Dancepack”
8. Luray – The Wilder
Luray is the project of Shannon Carey (sister of Bon Iver’s Sean Carey). Similar to Sean, and his solo project, Luray is a beautiful exploration of ambient, banjo-laden folk/americana, and it is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. Take the time and listen to this one. Favorite Track(s): “Tidalground” and “The Wilder”
9. Pickwick – Can’t Talk Medicine
I know, it came out really early this year. But Pickwick put out an album I’ve never set down for more than a week at a time all year. This is just a big, awesome, fantastic record. Let the video speak for me. Favorite Track(s): “Hacienda Motel” and “Halls of Columbia”
10. The Avett Brothers – Magpie and the Dandelion
I wasn’t that impressed by last year’s Avett Brothers album – but Magpie and the Dandelion reminded me why they’re one of my favorite bands. They went back to a lot of what worked so well about I and Love and You – a simpler, more melodic approach, interrupted by their signature folk-punk sound. Favorite Track(s): “Morning Song” and “Souls Like The Wheels”
Hey Marseilles – Lines We Trace
Night Beds – Country Sleep
Josh Ritter – The Beast in it’s Tracks
At the end of the year, I look back, and really, my takeaway is that more and more incredible music comes out each year – and it’s all about finding what you connect to. What makes your heart beat faster? What makes your breath catch? Hopefully this list gives you something new to add to that list.
Much love y’all!