Marie/Lepanto – Inverness

Temporarily moving on to the best of 2018 list. Marie/Lepanto is a new duo formed by Will Johnson (Centro-Matic and lots of other great things) and Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster (Water Liars, solo). Their album Tenkiller is due out 26th of January on Big Legal Mess. The first single Inverness surfaced last week and sounds magnificent. This one is going to be a great album.

Marie/Lepanto at Facebook

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Top 30 Albums of the Year 2017 – The International Edition 10-1

Part One 30-21
Part Two 20-11

10. Tyler Childers – Purgatory

Tyler Childers released a stunning album that was co-produced by Sturgill Simpson. Hopefully Sturgill’s name there gave him a little bit more exposure and a sale boost, but it’s still just an interesting sidenote. Tyler’s stunning song material and passionate delivery should take all the spotlight. I was hooked the moment I heard Lady May and my affection towards the album is still continuously rising. An incredible run of songs.

9. Leah Senior – Pretty Faces

I was somewhat familiar with Australian folk singer-songwriter Leah Senior even before Pretty Faces, but I sure didn’t expect to fall so badly in love with her music. However, I was completely addicted to the moment I heard the title track Pretty Faces. She also released my favourite music video of the year. I’ve watched the video of All My Friends dozens of times, because both the song and the video are a work of art. Oh well maybe I would have put something else on the plate, but other than that it’s pure gold. Pretty Faces is such a beautiful album. Perhaps in some purely objective list it shouldn’t be quite as high, but that’s all nonsense. I love this dearly.

8. Frontier Ruckus – Enter The Kingdom

Frontier Ruckus has taken the first place a couple of times, but this time they have to settle for a place in the top 10. Nothing really to complain about though and I still love them as much as you can love a band. There just were a song or two that didn’t felt that special at least on the Frontier Ruckus standards. However, most of it is utterly wonderful. Especially Gauche, Gerunds, Enter The Kingdom and Our Flowers Are Still Burning are all perfect songs. Bonus points for the Sick of Myself reference in Gerunds, because it’s one of my favourite songs ever and using a Big Star T-shirt on this video below, because it’s one of the best bands ever.

7. J.E. Sunde – Now I Feel Adored

J.E. Sunde is a huge personal favourite and he didn’t disappoint with his new album Now I Feel Adored. Maybe there wasn’t a song that would match the brilliance of A Blinding Flash Of Light, but overall this is probably even better than the first solo album. J.E. Sunde isn’t just another singer-songwriter. He is a special talent whose music always sound unique and enchanting.

6. Joan Shelley – Joan Shelley

This was the year of the Shelley family. Joan Shelley released an incredible self-titled album full of beautiful and quietly mesmerizing folk songs and Dwight Lightning won the instagram. I’m not even sure which one of them brought more joy to my life. A huge thank you to both for being awesome and brightening up my life. We’d Be Home and Where I’ll Find You are so brilliant. Maybe not as brilliant as that photo of Dwight running on the beach, but hey nothing is.

5. John Moreland – Big Bad Luv

John Moreland is a magnificent songwriter and big favourite of mine. I can pretty much guarantee his record will be one of the finest of the year even before actually hearing it. There’s a giant cloud of guilt hanging over me, because I haven’t really praised Big Bad Luv here at all. Thankfully my few readers are probably already well aware how much I love the music he writes. Old Wounds, Lies I Chose To Believe and No Glory in Regret. Oh dear how great.

4. Craig Finn – We All Want The Same Things

Craig Finn released a remarkable solo album album We All Want The Same Things and it contains some of the finest storytelling I heard this year. God In Chicago, Be Honest and Rescue Blues are absolute magnificent. “Ain’t it funny how we all get by? / But not the way that makes us laugh” is one of my favorite lines. Maybe I’m a bit of sad case, but damn how I love that line and the way it hurts and heals at the same time.

3. Twain – Rare Feeling

Twain’s new album Rare Feeling is a little masterpiece full of heart and human warmth. I think his songs are just magical and there are some heartfelt purity in them that I just can’t properly describe with words. But I suppose music is meant to be felt and not described anyway and I sure feel every moment. Mt Davidson is an exceptional songwriter and Rare Feeling is an exceptional album.

2. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me

I’m not really sure is this an album that should be even reviewed or especially ranked on some worthless year-end list. I never even wrote about it during the year, because I didn’t find the words to make justice to the fragile, devastating honesty of this Mount Eerie album. It might be barely music as Phil said himself, but it’s definitely a powerful work of art and despite all the painfully real grief and hurt, the unconditional love he has for his late wife Geneviève shines through the dark leaving a lasting impression.

1. The Weather Station – The Weather Station

The album of the year 2017 is the self-produced and self-titled The Weather Station album. I think there was never any doubt after I listened to this album with headphones for the first time. I was immediately hooked and amazed how incredibly powerful it was all way through. There’s not a weak song on it and it’s as close to perfect as humanly possible. It’s a beautiful, courageous, mesmerizing and captivating work that demands to be heard. I’ve been fan of The Weather Station aka Toronto-based songwriter Tamara Lindeman for a long time and first wrote about her music back in 2011. I still admit that I wasn’t expecting to fall so completely in love with her album. I really like all the earlier work as well, but this new one is still on a whole another level. It’s an outstanding and phenomenal album and easily the best release I heard this year. The Weather Station by The Weather Station is available on Paradise of Bachelors (USA/Europe) and Outside Music (Canada)

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Top 30 Albums of the Year 2017 – The International Edition 20-11

Part One 30-21
Part Three 10-1

20. Fiver – Audible Songs From Rockwood

Canadian songwriter Simone Schmidt aka Fiver spent a few years going through the old case files (from 1854-1881) of patients at the Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane and turned her findings into fictional folk songs. The end result is an extremely powerful and breathtaking traditional folk album Audible Songs From Rockwood. Maybe not something that I listen to on a daily basis, but one that I still return to quite often and find it strong and captivating each time.

19. Mo Troper – Exposure & Response

Mo Troper released the power pop album of the year or at least the best one I heard. I admit that I don’t follow the genre nowhere near enough even though it’s the foundation that my music taste and this website is built on. Anyway, Exposure & Response is superb, catchy, melodic and hook-filled pop blast. I’m not sure should I smile this much while listening to it, because the lyrics are often far darker than the music. But it’s hard not to, because I love the music so much.

18. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Nashville Sound

Eventually I will look like an idiot, because I have this masterpiece so far down. Yeah, I know I already look like an idiot, maybe just for different reasons. This just haven’t been that important to me so far and I haven’t listened to it that much so far. I think the reason is just that I’ve focused more on the unknowns and have let my trusted companion Jason Isbell wait a while on the sidelines, because I already know that someday I will fall badly for this. I don’t have anything bad to say about The Nashville Sound. I think it’s a damn fine album and If We Were Vampires is one of the songs of the year.

17. Jon Latham – Lifers

Nashville’s Jon Latham and his wonderful new album Lifers should have gotten far more love and exposure on this blog. It’s been a busy year and I’m not sure is there even a point to continue, if I can’t do this properly. Anyway, I’m a big fan of his songwriting and songs like Tennessee Dime, Last In Line, Yearbook Signatures and Lifers are among the very finest songs of the year.

16. Colter Wall – Colter Wall

Colter Wall is a young Canadian folk/country troubadour with a deep voice and a suitcase full of captivating traditional folk tales. Dave Cobb is responsible for producing some of the best americana albums of the last few years and thankfully knows when there’s no need for extra heroics from the producer. The sound is rather bare and the focus is on the voice and on the songs. In Colter Wall’s case that’s everything you can possibly need.

15. Hiss Golden Messenger – Hallelujah Anyhow

I was rather slow to understand the greatness of Hiss Golden Messenger, but I’ve been onboard for a few years and these days he is one of my biggest inspirations both as a songwriter/musician and as a human being. His songs are remarkable and I love the way he continuously spreads love and tackles everything that’s wrong in the world. If only kindhearted people like him were in charge. Heart Like A Levee remains his masterwork in my books, but there’s nothing to complain about this one either. A remarkable and important album.

14. Clay Parker – Queen City Blues

I’m very fond of this new Clay Parker album. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (as if something is), but I think it’s superb. Probably no-one should ever be compared to Townes Van Zandt, but some of these songs reminds me of him. There’s nothing fancy or earthshattering. Just beautiful well-crafted songs gently delivered straight into my heart. That’s all I could ever want.

13. The Deep Dark Woods – Yarrow

The Deep Dark Woods from Canada is a long time favourite of mine and I’ve loved everything Ryan Boldt has released over the years. Yarrow is no exception to that rule and it’s filled with amazing songs. Damn it’s nice to hear that spectacular deep voice again.

12. Daniel Romano – Modern Pressure

Canadian music wizard Daniel Romano is continuosly changing his colours and sure doesn’t make it easy for his fans. My early thoughts with both this and Mosey were something like ”well is this really that great” and a couple of spins later I’m like ”oh hell it is and why I ever doubted”. Impressive musician that seems to be able to master everything.

11. Anna Tivel – Small Believer

Anna Tivel is a songwriter from Portland, Oregon and she writes tremendous lyric-driven folk songs. The stories she tells may be rather dark, but I think there’s also a lot of compassion and warmth in the air. It’s a very moving album and somehow she is able to make you really feel for the characters of her songs. Some of the finest songwriting of the year. These Dark Chandelier and Illinois that end this second chapter of this year-end list are a perfect examples of her talent.

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Top 30 Albums of the Year 2017 – The International Edition 30-21

Moving on to the albums of year – international edition in this quest of writing these way too long and entirely subjective year-end lists. It’s a list of one man, so there’s obviously lots of stuff I haven’t heard at all or not enough. For example I’ve only listened the Turnpike Troubadours a few times and haven’t bought it yet. So that’s not in here even though could easily have the quality. Bedouine is a recent addiction that I actually found from someone else’s year-end list (thanks Cale Tyson) and perhaps could be here, if I did this some weeks later. Oh and that Peter Perrett album always sound marvellous to me, but I haven’t picked up a copy yet. And countless of other things of course. However, somehow I do have a lot of time to listen as well. My first draft had about 70 albums that I had really enjoyed and thought are worthy of considering. It was painful to cut it down to 30, but probably nobody wanted a top 50 like last year. I think I take a little breather now, but there will be songs of the year lists at some point. Maybe before Christmas, maybe after. I’m not sure yet. Anyway, here it goes. Alphabetical order would probably make far more sense, because I love them all and music is life, not a contest.

Courtney Marie Andrews disclaimer – I had her wonderful Honest Life as #2 on the 2016 list, so it won’t be included this time around even though the euro release did take place in January 2017 on Loose Music. It would be in the top 3, if I would include it.

Part Two 20-11
Part Three 10-1

Top 30 Albums of the Year – The International Edition

30. Andrew Combs – Canyons of My Mind

Andrew Combs can do the honors and start the list with his latest groundbreaker Canyons of My Mind. He is a songwriter that always challenges my taste, but usually ends up winning. I never learned to love a couple of songs (especially Bourgeois King), but I could marry the most of them. Silk Flowers, Lauralee, Hazel, Dirty Rain, What It Means To You are all so magnificent.

29. Caroline Spence – Spades & Roses

People like John Moreland kept on saying that folks should listen to Caroline Spence. So I did and I owe them a big thank you. Spades & Roses is a marvellous album full of excellent songwriting.

28. Otis Gibbs – Mount Renraw

Otis Gibbs is a man that deserves some kind of culture award for a) keeping alive the work of old country legends b) casting spotlight on current folk troubadours. As an addition to all that podcast work he has done during the past years and of course even more importantly, the man is also a damn fine songwriter and the new album Mount Renraw is one of his best.

27. Jeffrey Martin – One Go Around

This one by Jeffrey Martin has some of the best storytelling of the year. I suppose it’s not surprise this is rather literate, because Jeffrey Martin was an English teacher up until taking a leap of faith and focusing solely on music. One Go Around is like a masterwork of songwriting. Short stories wrapped inside a sweet folk melodies.

26. Joseph Huber – The Suffering Stage

Milwaukee’s roots wizard, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Joseph Huber put out a strong new album The Suffering Stage. The best stuff is again out-of-this-world good. Diminished Things, Sons Of Wandering and You Showed Me especially, but everything else is very enjoyable as well.

25. Kacy & Clayton – The Siren’s Song

Canada’s finest folk duo Kacy & Clayton continue to impress and dropped a new Jeff Tweedy-produced album The Siren’s Song. Kacy is a phenomenal vocalist and the songs are mostly fabulous. Perhaps a few fall into “only nice” – category and therefore this is not yet the masterpiece I expect them to make one day.

24. Lilly Hiatt – Trinity Lane

This one by Lilly Hiatt has gathered a lot of year-end love and rightfully so. My Norwegian friends at Dust of Daylight even had it as #1 on their vote, which was a pleasant surprise. It’s indeed a great record that unlike many of my favourites also has a lot of energy, edge and rock’n’roll. Oh and Poppy is such beautiful cat and I highly recommend checking out the video for the title track. I love cats and I love Lilly and therefore I’ve watched the video countless amount of times and enjoy the bond she and Poppy have in that video.

23. Porter and the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes – Don’t Go Baby It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You

Chris Porter and his bandmate Mitchell Vandenburg passed away in tragic accident a little over a year ago. Before his untimely and horribly unfair passing, Chris had recorded an album called Don’t Go Baby It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You. Thankfully his fiancée Andrea Juarez, friends and Cornelius Chapel Records teamed up together and released this amazing album, because the best way to remember this beautiful man, is to listen to the wonderful music he wrote.

22. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in The Alps

I’ve been somewhat familiar with Phoebe Bridgers since the Pax Am 7”, but didn’t properly start listening to until early 2017 when my twitter started to get crowded with praises. They were absolutely right. The songs are mostly phenomenal and Stranger in the Alps is a wonderful album.

21. Zephaniah OHora with The 18 Wheelers – This Highway

Zephaniah OHora with the 18 Wheelers created a wonderful traditional countrypolitan album. I can’t seem to get enough of Zephaniah’s timeless country balladry. Somehow he can make heartache sound so beautiful and comfortable. Extremely highly recommended if you have any interest towards classic country music. The last song of This Highway is a magnificent way to close this first chapter of this year-end list. For a Moment or Two it might make me feel like this listing makes some sense.

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Top 10 EPs of the Year 2017

So it begins and a bunch of pointless, way too long and entirely subjective end-year lists are heading your way during the coming weeks. Sorry about that. The plan is to make The Finnish albums of the year list on Wednesday and international albums next weekend and then take a little breather before the songs of the year lists. No definite promises though. Things might take far longer. Anyway, time to get it all started with Top 10 EPs of the year 2017. I didn’t make separate lists for Finnish and international.

TOP 10 EPS OF THE YEAR 2017

10. Paper Beat Scissors – All We Know

Montreal-based Paper Beat Scissors aka Tim Crabtree always challenge my own taste. When I have his music just playing there on the background, I might not find a whole lot to hold on to and I might feel like that there’s nothing for me here. However, when I put the headphones on and devote myself to the music, I begin to see the light and the haunting melancholic beauty of the songs eventually lure me into a magical and dazzlingly beautiful atmosphere. Didn’t Know and The Weather Station cover are my particular favorites on this new EP.

9. Pinkerton/Black – How’s the Weather Over There

Henry Black could easily have his debut ep Folk is Dead on this little list as well, but I kind of prefer this tour ep he did with Riley Pinkerton. Maybe this is not really even a proper release, but hey my list my rules and I’m very fond of this. Due to reasons that a) Looked Like Eve is my favorite Henry Black song I’ve heard so far b) this one has 3 excellent songs from both artists.

8. Michael Nau – Load

Michael Nau’s Load EP contains songs from same the pool as the ones that formed his Some Twist album, but somehow these didn’t fit into the full-length. It certainly doesn’t sound like the reason was the quality of the songs, because these are just as lovely.

7. MAITA – Waterbearer

MAITA’s debut EP came out in January and kept its charm throughout the year. I like the whole thing and I’m passionately in love with the title song Waterbearer that reminds me of Laura Veirs. I look forward to hearing more songs from this Portland-based indie-folk songwriter.

6. Hip Hatchet – Hellhound in the House

Hip Hatchet released a wonderful Hellhound in the House EP in January. These are all protest songs and we would all be better off, if the world was in a state where there wasn’t a need for these songs to be born. Unfortunately that’s not the case and therefore we must live, love and resist. The other two songs are really good too, but Burden of an Empath is the song that I really love wholeheartedly. One of my absolute favourite 2017 songs. Despite all the overwhelming sadness, I still feel like the beauty, warmness and love is able to overshadow the darkness in that song. That is where the hope lies and that is what we are also seeing taking place. People coming together and standing up against the lack of compassion and empathy. To love is not a weakness. Love is the way.

5. Matt Paxton – Hunter Street Station Blues

Canadian Matt Paxton is a long time favourite and claim a place on these lists nearly every year. His 2017 release is a marvellous EP Hunter Street Station Blues. I’m a big fan of his songwriting and that voice always grap my attention. I think this lead track Baby Don’t Go is actually the worst song on the EP. The worst meaning still pretty amazing in this case of course.

4. Verandan – Verandan EP

Ville Hopponen is stepping under the spotlight with his own songs. He has been or is a member of such great bands like Cats On Fire, Le Futur Pompiste and The New Tigers and therefore the man is partly responsible of some of the finest Finnish indie pop albums ever. Verandan shows that besides being a skilled musician, he is also a really good songwriter.

3. Julie Arsenault – Softness

This is a last minute entry in a sense that I just bought it. I had this Julie Arsenault EP on the shopping list for months and thought that it’s time take appropriate action and support the artist by buying the release. Now I’ve been listening to it for hours and it’s even better than I remembered. Chain and Monsters are sort of phenomenal and the whole EP is a treasure.

2. Bone Moon – The Writer

The other Finnish entry to this list and therefore this would be the Finnish EP of the year, if I had such a category Bone Moon is a new group led by Lauri Myllymäki. Ochre Room called it a day, but no worries because Bone Moon is equally wonderful. Sure I miss Minttu’s vocals a little bit, because I loved how beautifully they sang together. Hopefully Bone Moon will release a full-length in 2018, because I sure would love to hear more after this tremendous EP.

1. Charlie Whitten – Playwright

Playwright by Charlie Whitten is the EP of the year 2017. Actually it’s one of my favourite releases of the year in general. Probably only The Weather Station album mattered more to me than this magnificent EP. I can listen to these four songs repeatedly for hours. These are timeless, heartfelt and beautifully arranged folk songs. It feels like a lot of thought and love went to each line, note and detail. The songwriting is magnificent, but the way he warmly and softly carries them into my heart is even more impressive. A perfect EP on all accounts.

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LUKA – What Kind of Animal

LUKA is a songwriter Toronto and he will release his new album What Kind of Animal on the 28th of November. It was recorded live-to-tape and will be released as cassette/digital. Luka’s songs always feel just charming and lovely at first, but further listenings tend to reveal far expanded range of emotions and far more depth and detail. His subtle soft voice challenge my thought process and conscience with insightful and unpredicted lines. Jonathan Richman influences are still there, but not as apparent than on the previous album. The album opener Near Collision is my early personal favourite, but that’s not yet available for sharing. No harm done, because this first available outtake Quick Reflex is also equally magnificent.

LUKA at Facebook

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