And here’s finally the final chapter in this album of the year list. Thanks for waiting, if somebody did wait. The Finnish albums of the year and EPs of the year lists still to come, but I think those won’t happen before Christmas. I have a couple of tough work days left before that and then it’s time to rest for a few days. So the rest of the lists will happen just before or just after the new year’s eve.
10. Small Houses – Still Talk; Second City
Time for the top 10 and a long time favourite Small Houses aka Jeremy Quentin will make the opening kick-off. He released a marvellous new album Still Talk; Second City early in the year and that lovely album easily managed to hold its charm and magic throughout the year. Jeremy also visited Finland a couple of times and those were some of the highlights of the year for me.
9. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
Jason Isbell had a pretty impossible task to follow up to his masterful album Southeastern, but he did alright. Actually he did far more than just alright and released another magnificent album. Some like it even more than Southeastern. I personally do prefer Southeastern any day of the week, but this is not a damn competition. It’s great to have them both to love and cherish. Here is the lyric video for the wonderful title track Something More Than Free. It’s actually directed by the next guy on this list, Joey Kneiser.
8. Joey Kneiser – The Wildness
I had the top 10 for the year all figured out and I was happy about it. Then Joey Kneiser messed that all up by releasing this beauty of an album late in the year. I had to make room for it and drop one album that I seriously loved outside the top 10. The Wildness is a great album filled with soulful southern rock’n’roll. Equally magnificent as anything Glossary has put out and that’s a really lot said.
7. Hayden – Hey Love
Moving on to the seven records that are by far the dearest of the year for me. I love all the 30 records on this list, but I can probably find some minor flaw from the ones that came before this one, if I’m really forced to. But these next seven, I love them unconditionally. I can flip them in any order and I think I would still be equally happy with the list. This is how it went tonight.
Hayden has reached a new level of brilliance with last two albums Us Alone and Hey Love. I’m not sure is that a popular opinion, because he has been releasing great albums for quite a long time. Somehow these new ones just really appeal to me. Hey Love took some time though. At first I thought it wasn’t as magnificent as Us Alone, but it grew with me during the year. At some point I just noticed that it’s an album that I keep on listening to all the time. I just couldn’t go past it when I tried to select workday soundtrack from the iPod (I know that doesn’t sound nearly as romantic as spinning vinyl at home, but that’s when I have the most time to listen to records. While packing potatoes at the factory). Hey Love is a wonderful record as a whole, but I’m especially fond of No Happy Birthday, Heart Just Beats and Orange Curtain Light. I couldn’t find legal streams of the songs I love the most, but I highly recommend this amazing Live at Massey Hall that contains some old classics and some from the new album. If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, jump to 11.30 and listen to No Happy Birthday that Hayden wrote for her daughter. Nobody can watch that without being moved.
6. Hezekiah Jones – In Loving Memory of Oosi Lockjaw
Next we have Philadelphia’s pride, Hezekiah Jones, and their new album In Loving Memory of Oosi Lockjaw. The earlier albums/releases have contained a lot of magical moments and songs that I hold very dear, but they’ve not been perfect albums as a whole. This new album on the other hand. This is magnificent from first chord to last. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. A great collection of beautifully arranged folk songs. Here is one of the many highlights of the album, Oosi Strikes Out In Hollywood.
5. Steven Lambke – Days Of Heaven
I was instantly stunned by the poetic beauty of Days Of Heaven. This album by Steven Lambke was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me. I’ve liked the Baby Eagle releases, but I can’t say that I’ve been very passionate about them (I think I have to revisit them now). This first one under his own name on the other hand. Oh my, I fell for this after I first heard the title song and my love shows no signs of weakening after the first crush. My biggest favourite Memory Forever was on the songs of the year list, so I’ll lure you into the arms of this beauty of an album with the amazing title song.
4. Simon Joyner – Grass, Branch & Bone
I’ve been a bit surprised that I haven’t seen Simon Joyner’s Grass, Branch & Bone on that many end of the year lists. I think it contains some of the most amazing songwriting of the year (or any year for that matter). Kind of recalling all kind of masters like Cohen, Reed and Van Zandt. In general, you shouldn’t compare anyone to those guys, but you can add the name Joyner to that group and it wouldn’t look out of place. Nostalgia Blues was on the song of the year list, so let’s go with Jefferson Reed this time around.
3. John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat
In the Throes took the 3rd place a couple of years ago and now the big man is back on the podium with his latest album High On Tulsa Heat. John Moreland is one of my biggest favorites these days and I can’t wait to see him play in Stockholm, Sweden in a few weeks time. The new one isn’t necessarily any better than In The Throes, but that album was worth all the hearts in the world. So I’m more than happy to settle for an album that is equally wonderful.
2. Andrew Bryant – This is The Life
Andrew Bryant’s This is The Life was the real grower of the year for me and about a month ago I noticed that it has slowly become an album that means the world to me and demands a place in the top 3. Actually it got really close to become the album of the year. He may be better known as a member of Water Liars, but this is even better than those amazing albums they’ve put out (no, it’s not a damn competition and it’s great to have both). Emotionally this left the biggest mark on my heart and took care of my soul when I need someone to lift my spirit above the ground. It’s the sweetest work of art. It’s my own saving grace.
1. Barna Howard – Quite a Feelin’
And the album of the year award goes to Quite a Feelin’ by Barna Howard. Barna Howard was already close back in 2012 when his self-titled debut was my #2, so it’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan of his songwriting. He can make an every day moment sound so warm and beautiful. Which they often are, but sometimes many of us fail to see that when are walking around our nose stuck in a phone screen. There’s nothing flashy or monumental here. It’s just an album full of small town nostalgia, warm humanity and well-crafted timeless storytelling in the vein of 70s folk/country singer-songwriters. And that’s everything it needs to be. Something real and true. A gentle companion and a warm antidote against the stress I’m so good at creating out of nothing. The finest album of the year.
Here’s a great Live on KEXP performance that contains four songs from this lovely album.