074. Reef – Revelation
This very aptly named record has shades of Steely Dan, Kansas, Toto, and Joe Cocker. Really? Yes really, and it’s amazing.
073. American Aquarium – Things Change
Singer-Songwriter BJ Barham is the musical tour-de-force behind American Aquarium. On this set of Alt Country gems, he lays down a set of slower tempo reflective tunes that seem to be a perfect antidote to a poisoned world.
072. Rosanne Cash – She Remembers Everything
It has been too long since Rosanne Cash released a record, but her latest was very much worth the wait. Still spinning rich and detailed storyboards “8 Gods of Harlem” featuring guest vocals from Kris Kristofferson and Elvis Costello is worth the price of admission alone.
071. Belle Adair Tuscumbia
Recorded in the famed Muscle Shoals studio and mixed in Wilco’s loft in Chicago, Tuscumbia has a lot of musical pedigree to fall back on. There is a distinct flavor of Wilco, The Byrds, and mid-era REM flowing in the very DNA of this excellent album.
070. Beach House – 7
The record is called seven. It was released 2/14 and 2+1+4=7. The 11 songs on the album bring their entire catalog to 77 songs, and the initial label release number was 777. Numerology aside, this is an entrancing listen best enjoyed while enveloped in the glowing embers of incense.
069. Lucy Dachs – Historian
A stable-mate at Matador Records with Julien Baker, Dacus delivers a crystalline set of songs that touch on broken relationships and personal loss.
068. John Prine – The Tree of Forgiveness
Written over a two week period in a suite at the Omni hotel in downtown Nashville John Prine is at his observational best. John Prine is a national treasure.
067. Christina and the Queens – Chris
Glossy and R&B tinged this one is Madonna meets Prince with a dose of Michael on the side. “Feel So Good” with its provocative subject matter might be the centerpiece, but “5 Dollars” puts the stamp on what is one of the smartest records of the year.
066. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
This one might be the debut album of the year. Going back a couple of decades to The Smiths, The Strokes, Sonic Youth and even Television, this one is heavy on the guitars and three singer harmonies. If you are from the cool side of the pond this one should be right up your alley.
065. H.C. McIntyre – Lionheart
The lead singer of Mount Moriah steps out on her own with a set of songs mostly recorded in her living room. The stellar contributions from Indigo Girl Amy Ray, Tift Merrit, and Mary Lattimore only make an already great album even better.
064. Bennett Wilson Poole – Bennett Wilson Poole
This supergroup includes Danny Wilson, Robin Bennett, and Tony Poole. The album represents everthing that is good about music. Tight harmonies, jangle guitars, and a chemisty that slices through the air like a double rainbow. The band sounds like they have been playing together for a long time with a love for the Byrds, Crsoby Stills and Nash, and the Laurel Canyon sound coming through on virtually every song.
063. Lake Street Dive – Free Yourself Up
Mining the same territory as St. Paul and The Broken Bones and Alabama Shakes the band doesn’t stray too far from the Jazzy Blues template. But, when it is done this well there is a level of sweet forgiveness that is more than satisfying.
062. Jonathan Wilson – Rare Birds
A bit of Pink Floyd Via Alan Parsons driving through the night. When he is not producing for Father John Misty this Laurel Canyon denizen is making pure Psychedelic Pop of the highest order.
061. Rosali – Trouble Anyway
Only her second album, Philadelphia based songwriter Rosali has crafted a style that is sensual, immersive, and somewhat sprawling in the best of ways. “Rise To Fall” is an 8-minute compelling tour-de-force that puts her musician first guitar chops on full display.
060. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Better than her last record, if that is even possible, there are tones of Neil Young along with 90’s Indie Rock sensibilities sprinkled all around this record. A bit darker than we are used to from this Aussie, but Courtney continues to captivate.
059. Cowboy Junkies – All That Reckoning
Six years from the last record, their new release just might be their best record since the 30-year-old The Trinity Session. It’s that good.
058. Brandi Carlile – By The Way, I Forgive You
Brandi Carlile is a Canadian national treasure. “The Joke” end “Every Time I hear that song are just two favorites on this high-quality set of songs.
057. Anna Calvi Hunter
With this, her long-awaited third album, Calvi doesn’t disappoint delivering her strongest set yet. Channeling Patti Smith one minute and Scott Walker the next, Nick Cave probably has this one his on frequent spin on his turntable.
056. Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
On the short list of bands that just might be saving Rock and Roll. This one is meant to be listened to at maximum volume. “I Need a Doctor” might rip the hair from your skull and the title track is an angry piece of Rock and Roll that is bristling with the type of energy that would make Tesla proud.
055. Elvis Costello & The Imposters – Look Now
Look Now is one of the finest Elvis Costello albums in years. This one has all of the touch points. Beautiful ballads, “Don’t look now,” Uptempo Rockers, “Under Lime,” and Burt Bacharach-inspired tunes with “I Let The Sun Go Down.” There is even a Carole King co-write on “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter.” This one will move up your own personal list with multiple listens.
054. Willie Nelson – Last Man Standing
When Willie Nelson puts out a record we are contractually obligated to include it on the best of the year list. And, when he puts out two albums in the same year, well there are decisions to make. And the winner is Last Man Standing edging out My Way only because it is a set of original songs, and yes, Willie’s still got it.
053. Chris Stills – Don’t Be Afraid
The apple doesn’t fall far from the Stephen Stills tree as demonstrated on this Laurel Canyon tinged beauty of a record. Every song is LA fun in the sun friendly, but “This Summer Love” stands head and palm trees above the rest.
052. The Nude Party – The Nude Party
Full of Austin Powers fun and swagger, The Nude Party would have been a hit in 1969. “Chevrolet Van,” their ode to life on the road is worth the price of admission alone.
051. Confidence Man – Confident Music For Confident People
Just lock yourself into the “Low Rider” dance vibe of “Don’t You Know I’m In a Band” and you will want to check out what is around the next corner. This one is a dance fever eclectic listen that will leave you wanting more.
050. Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
Filled with guests the likes of Bryan Wilson, Pharrell Williams, and Grimes, this semi-concept album will take you down some pretty eclectic wormholes.