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Top Albums of 2015


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So what have you folks been digging on this year?


Ya, there is still a few weeks left and if you're like me you still have lots to listen to but this is the time of year I love discovering what you freaks are into.


Here are a few of mine so far;


Dawes - All Your Favorite Bands
Animal Liberation Orchestra - Tangle of Time

Chris Robinson Brotherhood - Betty's Blends Vol 2

Circles Around the Sun (Fare thee well set break music, waiting to hear the mastered versions still)
Bright Light Social Hour - Space is Still the Place

Blitzen Trapper - All Across this Land


Albums to listen to that I have heard tunes I love;


Vulfpeck - Thrill of the Arts

Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers - Birds with Broken Wings

The Werks - Inside a Dream

Dan Mangan and Blacksmith - Club Meds

Lettuce - Crush

The Wood Brothers - Paradise


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1. The Barr Brothers - Alta Falls ep. I know, I know an ep at #1? This out of nowhere release from my favorite band going right now made me get hooked on the other two full lengths all over again. The song Never Been a Captain is my #1 song of the year. I just love that Slip Sliding Away vibe and then the country gospel choir hits you right in the soul.


2. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats - s/t. Swagger. That is the word that describes this album. It has been a rare Saturday night at home that this doesn't make it onto the stereo and I've yet to make it through one side without someone asking "Who is this?!". The most Stax album that has been released on that label this year.


3. Destroyer - Poison Season. Sufjan pulled back on the baroque arrangements and Dan Bejar certainly carried the torch. This one harkens back to his classic Rubies with not a dud in the bunch.


4. Ryan Adams - 1989. I feel blessed that I have no point of reference for any of these songs because this just felt like a Ryan Adams album with more sacharrine lyrics. Repeated listens are not making me seek out the Taylor Swift versions to compare, I am happy to enjoy this one in blissful ignorance.


5. Alabama Shakes - Sound and Color. What a major slow burn of an album. On first listen I wasn't that impressed but I  found myself going back and back and back. Great songs with a great vibe. I've seen them play these songs a few times and they are not just playing the album. Each show was a true progression as they explored more of the songs each time. Tight!


6. My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall. "MMJ are definitely a changed band" is the thought I could not escape while watching them headline The Hangout Music fest as Jim James floated across the stage, wrapped in a towel noticeably absent of a guitar in hand or any head banging. They have become smarter, deeper and more soulful. This entire album is a fine example of a band at the top of their game not willing to sit back and coast.


7. Dave Rawlings Machine - Nashville Obsolete. We listened to this as we arrived in Nashville early on a Sunday. I can not think of a more perfect soundtrack to a quiet Sunday morning drive no matter where the destination may be. Beautiful in every sense of the word. Willie Watson (formerly of OCMS) even pops up on a few songs. When I first saw the track listing I nearly fell out of my chair on behalf of Booche fully expecting 'Bodysnatchers' to be one of Dave's legendary covers but it was not; however it is still an amazing and haunting song.


8. Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free. This is not exactly Southeastern but will anything he does ever live up to those expectations? That'd be like trying to capture lightning in a bottle- twice. This is a collection of great songs but I had huge expectations and anticipation for this so mentally it got shifted down this list. I still love the guy and his songs but his fantastic guitar playing is disappearing from his shows a little too quickly because of the aforementioned great songwriting. Most artists wish they could have this problem.


9. Modest Mouse - Strangers to Ourselves. Finally another Modest Mouse album! I was very eager to hear what they were up to these days and this certainly did not disappoint. The only thing that this album suffers from is that it is a totally "Modest Mouse" album, that there aren't any real new ideas or sounds here. But as someone who usually complains when a band changes too much I realize that you just can't please this old codger.


10. Craig Finn - Faith in the Future. While this album didn't stand out on first listen the way that Clear Eyes, Full Hearts did - I couldn't get these songs out of my head. Craig is finding his own songwriting voice rather than just pinning lyrics onto someone else's songs and he is coming a long way, quickly. The swing of Joe Russo on drums do a lot of justice to many of the basic songs.





Albums that by all accounts I should love but just didn't have the time or the patience for:


Tame Impala - Currents. My tastes have changed. The layers of guitars and fuzz just didn't do it for me this year.

Father John Misty - I Love You Honeybear. A good album with some seriously overindulgent lyrics but I think I over did it on this guy this year seeing him three times in just 2 months. The schtick wore thin so I didn't get in to this the way I likely should have.

Leon Bridges - Coming Home. Everything about this album should speak to me but it just feels like falls a step short on every song. Leon should further develop his (young!) songwriting voice and I fully expect some more balls on his second effort.

Kurt Vile - blieve I'm Going Down. There was too much good music this year and I just haven't gotten around to this one yet.


Honorable Mentions:


Bruce Springsteen - The Ties That Bind box set. The dvd and the outtakes album make this set one of the best of the past few years but I've had access to so much of this stuff over the years that it feels like a retread for the less than casual fan. I imagine this is the same feeling for Esau re: the new Bob Dylan set.

Sufjan Stevens- I really liked the stripped down (for Sufjan at least) arrangements against the harsh material of the songs. The material is pretty depressing and shocking at times but it is real. For those who have experienced real loss, confusion and regret - albums like these sometime help to feel like you aren't alone.

Titus Andronicus - The Most Lamentable Tragedy. As long as The Hold Steady aren't releasing new albums this is the band that will fill in for my workout, driving fast or working in the shop music. This is the kind of music that makes me work just a bit harder and is probably the most edge I get from music most days.

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4. Ryan Adams - 1989. I feel blessed that I have no point of reference for any of these songs because this just felt like a Ryan Adams album with more sacharrine lyrics. Repeated listens are not making me seek out the Taylor Swift versions to compare, I am happy to enjoy this one in blissful ignorance.




That's pretty cool.  My kids are 6 and 11, however, so I am all too well acquainted with T Swift.  You should eventually listen to her songs to really appreciate what he's done with this album.  To paraphrase a quote I read from him "I wanted to make the album as though it was written in a parallel universe".  

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Ok here we go... Tons of amazing stuff has been happening on the fringes of country music in recent years and 2015 continued the trend:


State Champion – Fantasy Error (if these guys aren't already New Rider’s new fav band, they should be)
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers – Sidelong (unbelievable debut album from Chapel Hill NC local band, self-released on Bandcamp https://sarahshookthedisarmers.bandcamp.com/ )
Daniel Romano – If I've Only One Time Askin' (trad. country album w/ segues between songs, random bits of orchestration and weirdness, this should be on year end lists everywhere)
Phil Cook – Southland Mission (solo release by guy from Megafaun, country-gospel-soul)
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (no explanation needed)
Chris Stapleton – Traveller (killer songwriting)
John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat (killer voice)
Other (more rock) stuff that was great:
Bright Light Social Hour – Space Is Still The Place (trippy spacey jammy awesomeness)
Tame Impala – Currents (ditto)
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (great album, surprisingly even better live show)
Wilco – Star Wars (feels good to put a Wilco album on a year-end list again)


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Good call c-towns...  Included on my list is:


Circles Around The Sun (Neal Casal) - Interludes For The Dead


Ever since GD50 I've been putting these tunes on as a quick and dependable go-to when I've got people over.  I love these tunes.


The rest of my list coming sometime before Dec 31st...  As always, it will be short as I haven't heard much new stuff.  I'm usually at least a year late.

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I'm sure I'm missing a few.


No particular order (Except Dylan of course):

The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965/1966 - Bob Dylan
Circles Around The Sun: Interludes For The Dead - Neal Casal
The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (5 CD) - Leadbelly
Something More Than Free - Jason Isbell
Still - Richard Thompson
Sonic Soul Surfer - Seasick Steve
Gregg Allman Live: Back To Macon (DVD/2xCD) - Gregg Allman
Born to Play Guitar - Buddy Guy
Nashville Obsolete - Dave Rawlings Machine
Hands Together - Spirit Family Reunion
The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim - Guy Clarke Jr.
Tracker - Mark Knopfler
The Monsanto Years - Neil Young

Some honourable mentions (very much depends on my mood):

Shadows in the Night - Bob Dylan (Not a favourite Dylan release, but being the fanatic I am about his music, I'll give it an honourable mention.)
Future Nostalgia - Sheepdogs
Wilder Mind - Mumford & Sons
Hexadic - Six Organs of Admittance

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The idea of the supergroup isn't a new one, and it's one that more often than not leaves a lingering aftertaste of disappointment and inflated egos - "look who wants to be in a band with me!", rather than "look how good our material is".

There's always an exception to the rule of course, and the casually at-ease excellence of GospelbeacH's debut goes a long way to righting the wrongs done by so many others. The success of "Pacific Surf Line" can be attributed to a number of things, but the lack of ego apparent here is certainly key. I'm sure that GospelbeacH don't consider themselves to be a supergroup at all. They're just a bunch of friends that happen to have impressive musical back stories involving Beachwood Sparks, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Chris Robinson and the Brotherhood, and a handful of less well-known, but equally rewarding bands. And it's obvious that they all have a great time when they get in a room together.

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