The “best of” lists roll on! While I do listen to metal probably 80% of the time, my blackened heart does enjoy all types of music. I particularly fond of punk, country and singer song writer, and folk music and this year had some amazing releases covering these categories. I figured they warrented their own list this year. Again, too many awesome albums to choose a number one so I present to you this list in no particular order. Click the name if you are interested in finding out more about the artist. I try to link to as many Bandcamp sites as possible as I love their service and think it’s an amazing service for music fans and musicians.
This album dropped earlier in the year and I listened to it a couple times and kind of neglected it. I’m an unabashed Frank Turner fanboy so when I first heard it I thought, “Yeah sounds like Frank. Good like always.” When I revisited it later I realized that I had over looked what an amazing album is. Tied up mostly with themes of recovery and addiction, something I can’t relate to, Turner manages to make it relatable and for most of the album you feel like you are going through the same experience. Songs about loss, heart ache, life and love are nothing new but the way Turner words his songs and the vocals he chooses makes these things instantantly relatable. Turner writes songs as if they are conversations with your best friends you have late at night, after a couple drinks. Conversations that make you feel closer and once they are over you feel a great sense of satisfaction with the world. That is Frank Turner’s place. Best friend of everybody.
I only discovered Guy Clark this year and man am I glad I did. In an age where the popular songs are written by a team of idiots it’s nice to listen to somebody who is a true songwriter. Every single song on here plays circles around anything contemporary. And Clark has been doing this for decades. This is what music sounds like.
I’m a sucker for good songwriting in any form it takes. I’m also a sucker for good country music. This is where Kacey Musgraves comes in. She has an awfully sweet approach to country music but her sound doesn’t fall into that current country music style that is so ever popular on the radio. My favorite country has always been mournful at its core and Musgraves gets there occasionally. She understands the balance of writing good country tunes that balance both sides of the country spectrum.
I checked this out based on it being a top ranking folk album on a site I frequent. I’m not certain this is folk. Sure there are folky elements but it’s more of an indie rock vibe. Regardless, this album is incredible. Great, catchy songs that aren’t just reliant on a good hook but build and build into beautiful crescendos. Stevenson’s voice is a perfect compliment to the music taking you to the peaks of happiness but also able to make you morose in a blink of an eye.
I’m was a huge fan of the Graves era Misfits so when he left the band I followed his journey into solo territory. Most of his output was kind of cheesy but fun. A couple years ago he started veering away from the horror punk sound and started writing more personal, folky style music. A lot of it was inspired by the now free West Memphis 3. His live album and previous album Illusions saw him explore this style more then this year, made by the support of a Kickstarter campaign, we got Vagabond. I would take 1000 more albums like this if it kept him playing this style of folk rock music. Graves writing was elevated beyond horror cliches and he actual turned out a solid album. More focussed and refined than Illusions and he makes smart decisions with his voice for once, instead of relying on his traditional caterwauling. It’s a hard thing to believe that Graves has made a great album and it might be just my nerdy Misfits fanboy-ism carrying over but I stand by it.
Neko Case was one of my fresh new discoveries this year. This was the first album of hers I’ve ever heard and to be honest, I wasn’t that taken with it. I heard her earlier stuff was more country so I tried that instead and fell in love with that. After listening to her back catalog I decided to give this another shot and on the second time through, I fell for this album too. Definetly not as country as her previous work, though that heartbroken country sound has helped inform this album, which is a trip through some of the darker and sadder spots in life. I would be lost in sorrow if it weren’t for Case’s incredible voice. The left over punk rock of her early days seems to be with her.
Sometimes I just want to hear some catchy, well written pop punk. Off With Their Heads delivers that overwhelmingly. Undeniably catchy from start to finish. Sometimes it gets a little dark but for the most part it just drives all the way through. I’m sure there are punk bands out there trying some new ideas or helping keep the genre invigorated but you can’t go wrong with a meat and potatoes band.
I’m not too familiar with Wolfe’s previous works but I’m thinking this is something I may need to correct based on her new album. Wolfe’s sound is best described as haunting. Combining electronic elements with her mournful voice, a slight gothic feel and slow, distance songs makes for one unique listen. Wolfe’s music is playful with sounds and atmosphere. There’s a lot thrown in the pot but it never gets muddy or unfocussed.
I’m a big Billy Bragg fan. Whether he is raging against the government in his classic punk rock stylings or taking it downa notch for his folky, country style, which he has been favoring as of late. His new album may not be as in your face politically but it’s still filled with great Bragg whit and humor as well as some wonderfully emotional ballads. Bragg’s take on classic song structre and stylings seem like a perfect mix with his past work. This is an artist still on top of his game after all these years.
Some straight up, british pub, sin-a-long punk music. The Filaments aren’t blazing any new trails here but they sure are making some great punk rock. They go from good old fashioned punk burner to classic ska style songs and even throw a little country and rockabilly in there. Good for giving your day an extra kick.
When Erik Wunder isn’t killing it in Cobalt, he is playing in his neo-folk project Man’s Gin. This album is dark and primarily acoustic which is a drastic change from the blackened war metal of Cobalt but Wunder pulls it all together. The music is just as ominous as his other project but from a different direction. This sounds like music you would be listening to in a sad country bar late at night after to many drinks. Seeped in emotion and dirt Man’s Gin is not for a sunny day but is consistently amazing.
Vàli plays a sort of ethereal, medieval, acoustic guitar heavy music. There are no vocals, just beautifully arranged and executed songs. The songwriting is top notch and without any vocals you are completely aware of the tremendous emotion and depth each song possesses.
Lucer is one of my favorite bands so I’m always excited when they put out new material. This EP took the sting away from their last album. 4 songs, classic Lucero sound. What’s not to like about it?
While this band consists of members from various metal bands and can be metallic at moments, I had a hard time fitting it into the metal list. For the most part it’s an acoustic rock album or a folk rock album, but of the evilest sort. Ancient VVisdom put their satanic leanings and occult practices right out there. The music is dark and brooding with glimmers of joyous moments. I like their take on this folk rock, occult thing and enjoy this album every time through.
After doing this for 35 years, Bad Religion still know how to make some great punk rock. True North is Bad Religion firing on all pistons and is easily their best album since The Process of Belief. Gone are their attempts at writing a hit single and back are the short burst, frantic style songs they are known for. Still angry, still keeping their sense of humor this was a pleasant surprise from a band I thought had drifted into complacency.
That’s it for the music releases. Some great stuff out there if you look for it. The search is well worth it.
Stay Creepy My Friends!