16 from ’16: Some Records For Your Consideration
From rock to pop to folk and to country, there were some very good records released this year. In no particular order, here are sixteen albums that are worth a listen.
BJ Barham – Rockingham
American Aquarium frontman goes extra folky and extra good on his solo debut, sings about parenthood (“Madeline”), persistent love (“Unfortunate Kind”), and factory jobs (“American Tobacco Company”) with equal aplomb and sincerity.
Courtney Marie Andrews – Honest Life
Two parts Joni Mitchell, one part Ryan Adams’ Gold, one part Hurray for the Riff Raff; in other words, this is one of the best folk records of the year.
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Mr. Simpson continues to prove that American country music is alive & well, and still has something meaningful to say on occasion.
His newest record is a letter to his son about life, love, and the ongoing refusal to tolerate all forms of bullshit. It’s like having the best parts of country music — the attitude, the storytelling, the lessons, the honesty — without all the simplistic… well… bullshit.
Kyle Craft – Dolls of Highland
With two of music’s great alien-weirdo geniuses gone this year in David Bowie and Prince, Mr. Craft might help you fill a certain strange, rollicking, glammy void in your heart.
Sounding a bit like watching a circus show on drugs, Dolls of Highland was the most fun and bizarre rock album of the year.
Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math
Part smarmy geek-pop, part fuzzy indie rock, Emotions and Math is a clever, evocative debut record from one of music’s most promising new talents.
The Felice Brothers – Life in the Dark
Ho hum, another year, another fantastic americana album from the Felices.
This time around, accompanying the usual dark ballads and rag-tag footstompers are, to borrow a phrase, songs of great social and political import like “Plunder”, as well as an album-length music video full of historical American imagery.
Gregory Alan Isakov – with the Colorado Symphony
Mr. Isakov has always been a thinking-man’s songwriter — more solemn, introspective reflection than outward emotion. His songs seem completely at home with some violins, cellos, and an occasional tympani behind them.
Justin Peter Kinkel Schuster – Constant Stranger
A calm, quiet, thoughtful record for a year completely lacking in calm, quiet, and thought.
Farewell Teddy – Brave New World’s Fair
This little website now gets about 200 band and artist submissions each week. Most of them are from PR reps and other “industry people”. Time constraints mean that about half of them get tossed based on their description alone (“dubtech-slowcore” or anything involving a “dope remix”, for example).
But around 15-20 each week just come from a random person — someone that says, “Hey man, I recorded this in my basement with my buddies. It’s our life’s work to this point and we think it turned out pretty cool. It’d be great if you’d take a listen and maybe help spread the good word.”
Those are the best. By far.
And that was the case with Georgian indie-rock duo Farewell Teddy — just a couple guys based in Atlanta that wrote, performed, recorded, and produced an outstanding record that not nearly enough folks have heard yet.
Huckleberry – Shasta City, Bad News Ricky
Disciples of the Band sing songs about the road, love, heartache, and drugs on a very promising EP.
Conor Oberst – Ruminations
Indie veteran gets folksy, lonely, and a little bit political while keeping things sparse and acoustic via one guitar, one harmonica, and a piano.
Quiet Life – Foggy
A fantastic, timeless-sounding college record for people who are in college as well those who graduated quite some time ago.
Me Like Bees – There Will Be Time
The Lumineers – Cleopatra
Yeah yeah, we’ve all heard the title track and “Ophelia” a thousand times. This is still a great record full of catchy folk rock and personal but relatable lyrics. (Useless trivia: it was produced by the eldest Felice brother, Simone.)
Keaton Henson – Kindly Now
The preeminent sad bastard record for a sick, sad bastard of a year.
Foy Vance – The Wild Swan
Ireland’s favorite bard released a great album of piano-centric, heart-on-your-sleeve folk rock — a welcome fit for your nearest tavern, car, or campfire.
That’s it for this year — now go buy those records!
Satisfaction (practically, but not literally) guaranteed!