Mid-Year Favorites – International

A quick mid-year round up of the class of 2020. Thank you music and musicians for keeping me relatively sane throughout this first half of the year. Here’s some beautiful albums / EPs / songs that I’ve loved during the first half of the year. It’s been a good music year and I already came up with over 100 albums that I’ve either really enjoyed or that I find really interesting but haven’t yet listened enough. Maybe I should find other things to do with my life than listen to 5-10 new albums every week of the year. Anyway, the ones listed here is just a tiny fraction of all the good music released. Follow the weekly round ups and playlists for more great music.

These are in completely random order. Ok, maybe the Ron Sexsmith album is my biggest favorite, because it carried me through some dark nights earlier in the spring and it made a world of difference to have that familiar warm voice on my side during that time. But yeah, not a whole lot of thought went into this and I’m sure I simply forgot something and some good ones are missing because I haven’t yet listened to them a lot or at all. Something that’s not on this might easily find its way on the EOTY list in December. This is just a long list of some of the music that kept my 2020 as something manageable. The text and photos are actually in somewhat different order. I’ll fix it, if I bother. Maybe that just shows how unimportant the order is.

Albums of 2020

Ron Sexsmith – Hermitage (Cooking Vinyl)
Hello Emerson – How to Cook Everything (Anyway Records)
Christian Lee Hutson – Beginners (ANTI-)
Lilly Hiatt – Walking Proof (New West Records)
Tre Burt – Caught It from the Rye (Oh Boy Records)
The Innocence Mission – See You Tomorrow (Bella Union)
Daniel Romano – Content To Point The Way (and many others…)
Andy Shauf – The Neon Skyline (ANTI-)
Twain – Days of Effort and Ease
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Reunions (Southeastern)
Andrew Bryant – Sentimental Noises (Magnolia State Music)
Whitney Rose – We Still Go to Rodeos (MCG Recordings)
Jeremy Ferrara – With Every Change
Dakota Theim – Somewhere Under the Sun
Possessed by Paul James – As We Go Wandering
Anna Burch – If You’re Dreaming (Heavenly / Polyvinyl)
American Aquarium – Lamentations (New West Records)
Caitlin Sherman – Death to the Damsel
Adeline Hotel – Solid Love (Whatever’s Clever)
Caleb Caudle – Better Hurry Up (Baldwin County Public Records)
Joey O’Neil – Ever Ahead
Damien Jurado – What’s New, Tomboy? (Loose / Mama Bird Recording Co)
Drive-By Truckers – The Unraveling (ATO Records)
Leah Senior – The Passing Scene (Flightless)
Talitha Ferri – Get Well Soon (Soulpod Collective)
MAITA – Best Wishes (Kill Rock Stars)
Mark Fredson – Going to the Movies
Ariel Sharratt & Mathias Kom – Never Work (BB*Island)
Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud (Merge Records)
Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross (New West Records)
Lucinda Williams – Good Souls Better Angels (Highway 20 Records)
John Moreland – LP5 (Old Omens)
Jon McKiel – Bobby Joe Hope (You’ve Changed Records)
Girlatones – Horn If You’re Honky (Meritorio / Lost and Lonesome)
Little Misty – Little Misty
A Girl Called Eddy – Been Around (Elefant Records)
Sylvia Rose Novak – Bad Luck (Due South Records)
Jess Jocoy – Such a Long Way
Peter Oren – Greener Picture (Western Vinyl)
Dana Gavanski – Yesterday is Gone (Full Time Hobby)
Mr. Alec Bowman – I Used to Be Sad & Then I Forgot
Stripmall Ballads – Distant
Vanessa Peters – Mixtape
Strawberry Heritage – Light Magic (Earthwork Music)
Sam Doores – Sam Doores (New West Records)
Mo Troper – Natural Beauty (Tender Loving Empire)
Joel Henry Little – Ephphatha
Jennah Barry – Holiday (Forward Music Group)
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher (Dead Oceans)
Bart Budwig – Another Burn on the Astroturf (Fluff and Gravy Records)
Maybel – Gathering (Vain Mina Records)
Ali Holder – Uncomfortable Truths
Brigid Mae Power – Head Above the Water (Fire Records)
Jack Grelle – If Not Forever
Henry Black – Best of Henry Black
David Dondero – The Filter Bubble Blues (Fluff and Gravy Records)
Jesse Daniel – Rollin’ On (Die True Records)
Swamp Dogg – Sorry You Couldn’t Make It (Joyful Noise Recordings)
A.O. Gerber – Another Place To Need (Hand in Hive)
Logan Ledger – Logan Ledger (Rounder Records)

EPS of 2020:

And then some EPs I’ve enjoyed in completely random order.

Cayley Thomas – How Else Can I Tell You?
Luka Kuplowsky – Judee Justin Arthur Mary (Mama Bird Recording Co)
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges – Texas Sun (Dead Oceans)
Daniel Markham – Shed
The Deep Dark Woods – Broadside Ballads II
Fiver & the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Compositon – You Wanted Country? Vol 1 (You’ve Changed Records)
Terry’s Paradise – Shoobeedoo High, Shoobeedoo Low Pt.1
Charlotte Cornfield – In My Corner (Outside Music)
Via Mardot – Via Mardot (Eurotown Records)
Aaron Beckum – Songs from a Triangle Room
Will Stewart – Way Gone (Cornelius Chapel Records)
Sea Below – Sleeplessness
Katie Spencer – Live at Acoustic Roots (KRS Music)
Pickering Pick – Darshan
Abby Hamilton – Afraid of the Dark
Jacob Furr – Return EP
Esther Rose – My Favorite Mistake (Father / Daughter Records)
Elk Hound – The Hated Sun

Songs of 2020:

My song of the year so far is the new J.E. Sunde single I Don’t Care to Dance. I also listed just a few more great singles that aren’t on the albums and EPs above. There’s plenty of more fabulous 2020 songs on the playlist below. I know there’s some missing though, so I’ll do some further updates during this week.

J.E. Sunde – I Don’t Care to Dance (Vietnam)
NQ Arbuckle – Love Songs for the Long Game (Six Shooter Recordings)
Courtney Marie Andrews – Burlap String (Loose Music)
Zephaniah OHora – All American Singer
Chase Weinacht – Leap Day (Keeled Scales)
Dolly Valentine – My Astrology (Holy Golden Music)
War & Pierce – Amen (War & Pierce Records)
John K. Samson – Millennium For All (ANTI)

Playlist link

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Favourite Songs of the Year 2019 – International Edition

Finally the last of these pointless year-end lists and then onwards to 2020 tunes. This world song category is kinda impossible, because there’s so much great songs released within a year. This comes with a playlist that has over 350 songs. No, I do not expect anyone to listen to the whole thing. If you follow my social media pages, you may have seen and listened to this playlist that I posted before the Christmas. That was the basis for this, but I did change a few songs to different ones. Impossible to choose which one to pick from Matthew Milia, Anna Tivel and Josienne Clarke albums for example. Plus I selected these 30 songs and put them on the top of the playlist in some arbitrary order. The list might change on a daily basis, because there’s a couple hundred songs that were dear to me. The playlist is in random order after these first 30. Maybe slightly top heavy, but there’s very important ones in the end too. You’ll find it at the bottom of the post. Anyway, here’s my 30 (or well 365) favorite songs of 2019. Thank you to every one who followed the blog during 2019. It matters more than you know.

30. Erin Enderlin – Broken (Blaster Records)
29. Ian Noe – If Today Doesn’t Do Me In (National Treasury Recordings)
28. Little Mazarn – Vermont (Self Sabotage Records)
27. Carla Geneve – I Hate You (For Making Me Not Want to Leave the City (Dot Dash Recordings)
26. Vagabon – Every Woman (Nonesuch Records)

25. Clara Baker – Things to Burn (independent)
24. Sidney Lindner & The Silver Wilderness Collective – You & Me Kid (Broken Sparrow / Burst & Bloom Records)
23. Erin Durant – Rising Sun (Keeled Scales)
22. Julia Jacklin – Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You (Transgressive Records)
21. red steppes – Madera (Native Cat Records)

20. Caroline Spence – Sit Here and Love Me (Rounder Records)
19. Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron – Belief (P.W.Elverum & The Sun)
18. Friendship – Dusky (Orindal Records)
17. Will Johnson – Need of Trust and Thunder (Keeled Scales)
16. Andy Shauf – Try Again (ANTI-)

15. Kassi Valazza – Mama (independent)
14. Black Sea Dahu – How You Swallowed Your Anger (Mouthwatering Records)
13. Josienne Clarke – Dark Cloud (Rough Trade)
12. The Delines – Holly the Hustle (Decor / El Cortez)
11. D.H. Scott – Long Arms of Regret (independent)

10. Christian Lee Hutson – Northsiders (independent)

Starting the top 10 with the wonderful and deeply moving Christian Lee Hutson single.

Christian Lee Hutson Website
Christian Lee Hutson at Facebook

9. Matthew Ryan – On Our Death Day

One of the most moving and powerful songs of 2019. A heavy one, but there’s love, gratitude and beauty shining through the darkness.

Matthew Ryan Website
Matthew Ryan at Facebook

8. Ian Daniel Kehoe – Evil People (You’ve Changed Records / Tin Angel Records)

My pop obsession of the year. I’ve been blasting this with full volume all year long. One of the most listened by my neighbours too.

Ian Daniel Kehoe at Facebook

7. Matthew Milia – Congratulations Honey (Sitcom Universe)

More difficult to make one song standout, if you make a perfect #1 record. Quite frankly, any of these songs could be my song of the year. I kept changing the song multiple times.

Matthew Milia at Facebook
Matthew Milia Website

6. Joanna Sternberg – This is Not Who I Want to Be (Team Love Records)

I love the last song Don’t Ever just as much (and well the whole record), but this vulnerable yet powerful debut single is the reason I first became a Joanna Sternberg fan.

Joanna Sternberg at Facebook
Joanna Sternberg Website

5. Twain – Royal Road (Keeled Scales)

Call us gay, straight, bi
call us what you like
I call it all romance
and I call the man who hates romance a sad man

Twain at Facebook

4. Le Ren – Love Can’t Be The Only Reason to Stay (independent)

A really powerful song from Montreal-based songriter Lauren Spear aka Le Ren. Works on its own too, but makes an even deeper impact when its accompanied by this music video that was directed by Ali Vanderkruyk.

3. Matt Dorrien – Teddy Wilson (Mama Bird Recording Co)

Matt Dorrien only released one song this year, but it was more than enough to claim a spot in the top three for the second year in the row. The song is gorgeous ode to jazz pianist Teddy Wilson and gives us a beautiful warmhearted escape from this messed up the world. We all need to spend beautiful moments in the arms of the people and art we love. Such moments will give the strenght to carry on fighting for what is right.

Matt Dorrien at Facebook
Matt Dorrien Website

2. Anna Tivel – The Question (Fluff and Gravy Records)

I think almost all songs on this Anna Tivel album would be worthy of a spot on this list. The title song The Question is still the one that rises slightly above the rest, because transgender rights are an important issue and this song is so powerful and deeply moving.

Anna Tivel at Facebook
Anna Tivel Website

1. Steve Sloane – Let All In (independent, 2019)

My favorite song of the year is Let All In by Toronto-based songwriter Steve Sloane. It’s not necessarily and objectively the best song on his wonderful 2019 album Near Death, but this fragile, humane and powerful song resonates deeply within me. Sometimes it just can be so damn hard and scary to feel something else. I love the way the song unfolds into a hopeful future. I love the way Steve sings and how Julie Arsenault’s voice comes to carry it deeper into my heart. I love everything about this song. It’s a shoulder and kindred understanding soul.

Steve Sloane at Facebook

And here’s the full playlist with 365 songs. One for each day.

Playlist link

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TOP 60 Finnish Songs of the Year 2019

Just a couple of these very delayed year-end lists this weekend. First my favorite Finnish songs of the year and then my favorite international songs of the year. Both will be done very quickly without hardly any writings. Just need to finally get these done, because 2020 tunes have started to drop into the record stores and our hearts. If the ranking with the albums is silly, then it’s downright impossible with songs because there are so many great ones. So this is just 60 songs that I loved during the year by 60 different artists and the numbers have zero relevance. First 40 are in completely random order and then some sort of top 20, which might look different on another day.

There’s a Spotify playlist too. It’s pretty similar to the ongoing list of 2019 favorites, but that will carry on for 2020 and I’ll slowly delete the 2019 stuff from it. This one stays for “history books”. There’s actually 61 on this list, because Tvärtom is not on Spotify. I wanted to make that playlist 60 songs too. Astral Brain is kind of the bonus pick here, because they are half-Finnish and based in Stockholm. So could be on the international list as well. And as usual, I’m just one man and I know I’ve missed a ton of great ones. Probably also just simply forgot a few.

Lehtojärven Hirvenpää – Alaovella (Helmi Levyt)
Eden Prairie – Ana Lucia (independent)
STINAKO – Kun viimein saavuit (Soliti)
Hot Heros & Janne Laurila – Anna vähän siimaa (Soit Se Silti)
Jukka Nissinen – Kirkonpolttaja (Humu Records)
Hermaja – Anna kyynelten tulla (Balladi Jari Aarniolle)
White Jackets – Fumes (Pinetree Music)
Astral Brain – Five Thousand Miles (Astronime Records)
Klasu – Näkymättömiin (Soit Se Silti)
JLaine – Tuuli (Way Beyondo Records)
Pasi Salmi – Talvipäivänseisaus (Way Beyondo Records)
J. Matkala – Laululintu (Lumpeela julkaisut)
Tuomo & Markus – Predator (Grandpop Records)
Mara Balls – Kylmä sää (Stupido Records)
Treemer – The Great Void (Soft Monsters)
Mitä helvettiä nyt taas – Tuu mun luo (Nature Sucks Anyway Records)
Message Field – Hold Time (Soit Se Silti)
M – Jos tulen takaisin (Solina Records)
MeriTuuli – Minä odotan (independent)
Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L – Musta kimppu (Svart Records)
Anne-Mari Kivimäki & Palomylly – Ei hauta tää (Kihtinäjärvi Records)
Kynnet – Tavoittamattomiin (Luova Records)
Litku Klemetti – Sinä tiedät sen (Luova Records)
Tams – En halua nähdä sun lähtevän (independent)
Pykäri (feat Nick Triani) – Pumped Up With Memories (PME Records)
Spring Teeth – Land of Bones (I Call It Blood Detective Records)
Mental Market – Wild Poppies (Money Laundry Records)
The Lieblings – Girl on the Run (Stupido Records)
The New Magnetic North – Letters on the Floor (independent)
Grant Wood Company – Childs, Minnesota (independent)
H.C. Slim – Keep Your Eyes on the Road (Svart Records)
Baby Sweetcorn – Thousand Yard Stare (Way Beyondo Records)
Tomi Nordlund & Syvä Joki – Vuodet (Soit Se Silti)
Knipi – Hölösuu (The Friend Music)
V.Härkönen – Elokuun vaimo (Soit Se Silti)
Veroes – Something Precious (independent)
Hullu Ruusu – Käsipohjaa (Helmi Levyt)
Pintandwefall – Ah-Ah-Ah (Soliti)
Veli – The Director (Evil Veli Recordings)
The Phonies – Good Night New Day (Iso Pinkki, 2019)
Salaliitto – Outoja valoja (Soit se silti)

Everything above was in completely random order. Here’s my favorite 20 in some sort really vague order, which might look different on another day. A song or two might change too, because I had heated arguments with myself about what song to include at least from Ylva Haru, Kielo Kärkkäinen, Räjäyttäjät, Iron Country Sisters and Liila Jokelin albums.

20. Maanvaiva – Rakkauslaulu (57 Records)
19. Antti Autio – Mustaa (Soit Se Silti)
18. Joose Keskitalo – Luistelen kirkasta selkää (Helmi Levyt)
17. Lokit – Pelastusvene (Joteskii Groteskii / Roku / Combat Rock Industry)
16. Arppa – Vartiovuori (Arppa Music)
15. Rock Siltanen – Uskon huuhkajiin (Rokkia ja Sporttia Levyt) (on some level this is #1)
14. Tvärtom – Iltariennot (independent) Not on Spotify, but here’s the music video
13. Räjäyttäjät – Samassa veneessä (Räjä Records / Ektro Records)
12. Maustetytöt – Talvi Talvikin kanssa (Is This Art!)
11. Laura Moisio – Ohi ajettiin (Texicalli Records)

10. Viitasen Piia – Meidän jälkeemme hiljaisuus (Texicalli Records)
9. Liila Jokelin – Kahdeksas ihme (Helmi Levyt)
8. Janne Tapion Sisäinen Avaruus – Kaikki oli paremmin ennen (Lumpeela Julkaisut)
7. Kielo Kärkkäinen – Kukaan ei osaa kertoa (Texicalli Records)
6. Sur-rur – Fleetwood Macin villi välikausi (Joteskii Groteskii / Roku Records)
5. Iron Country Sisters – Leaves (Soit se silti)
4. Hulda Huima – Jalat laahaa tätä maata (Helmi Levyt)

3. Jari Raaste – Ilmalaiva (Fonal Records)

And then the three I loved the most. First we have a smooth earworm and sweet soulshaker from Jari Raaste. A perfect single and a superb concert too at Ilmiö Festival.

Jari Raaste at Facebook

2. Ylva Haru – Oikeiden luona (Soit Se Silti)

Next a song from my favourite Finnish album of the year. Ylva Haru created a remarkable album and at least half of the songs could be on this little list. I’ll go with Oikeiden luona, but it could just as well be Tähän hetkeksi jään or Vapaa tuntemaan. I love these three songs more than my words can express.

Ylva Haru Website

1. Amuri – Halla (Helmi Levyt)

My favorite Finnish song of the year is the debut single Halla by Amuri. Their second single is pure gold too and equally wonderful. However, this one came first and it was a homerun. I love everything about this one starting from that Asko Raivio homage in the cover art. I hope we get an album full of Amuri barogue pop in 2020. It would be a mighty good reason to keep this blog alive for another year.

Playlist link

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100 Favourite Albums of the Year 2019 – Part Seven and the Top 10

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

And finally the last part and the top 10. As usual this list was entirely subjective. Just the albums that I loved the most. There’s not an ounce of objectivity. And like mentioned in the previous post, music is love and not a competition. So the numbers are rather vague and arbitrary and mostly just there to help me count to ten with my limited math skills. Not a a whole lot of ramblings this year, because I just want to get these done and then either quit, take a break or move on to 2020 music. It’s the music that matters, not what I write. Oh and then there’s a a Spotify link at the bottom of this post that contains one song from every record on this list.

10. Josienne Clarke – In All Weather (Rough Trade, 2019)

The final chapter of the year end story begins from Isle of Bute in Scotland with a melancholic beauty from folk songwriter Josienne Clarke. I’ve really fallen for this one during the last couple of months of the year. Poignant, poetic and starkly beautiful.

Josienne Clarke at Facebook
Josienne Clarke Website

9. Joan Shelley – Like The River Loves the Sea (No Quarter Records, 2019)

The Shelley family keeps on bringing so much joy to my life. The adventures of Dwight and the music of Joan are so very dear to me. Like The River Loves the Sea is another amazing record from the Louisville, Kentucky based folk songwriter Joan Shelley.

Joan Shelley at Facebook

8. Ian Daniel Kehoe – Secret Republic (You’ve Changed Records / Tin Angel Records, 2019)

You may know him as the drummer extraordinaire for the likes of The Weather Station, Julia Jacklin, Andy Shauf etc or you may know him from Attack In Black where played with the Romano brothers. Still the best part about this multi-talented musician is his own music. First he did it under the moniker Marine Dreams and nowadays under his own name. Synth pop with 80s vibes is something that in writing seems like something that I would hate, but when I hit play, I love it passionately. I have been blasting the whole record and especially the songs Evil People and Doing Fine (without Your Trust) on my work commute all year long. Such an enjoyable record.

Ian Daniel Kehoe at Facebook
Ian Daniel Kehoe Website

7. D.H. Scott – My Body Longed For the Summer (independent, 2019)

On the way to new Albuquerque, New Mexico for the wonderful D.H. Scott album. I can’t say I know much about him, but I instantly fell in love with his songwriting and voice when I somehow stumbled upon this on a streaming app. One probably shouldn’t ever compare anyone to Townes Van Zandt, because how could anyone live up to that. However, there’s a bit of Townes here and I love that.

D.H. Scott at Facebook

6. Caroline Spence – Mint Condition (Rounder Records, 2019)

Back in Nashville for the new album from songwriter Caroline Spence. The personal Sit Here & Love Me is my biggest favorite, but this one is filled with brilliant songs. What a magnificent album.

Caroline Spence Website
Caroline Spence at Facebook

5. The Delines – The Imperial (Decor / El Cortez, 2019)

The Delines from Portland, Oregon set the bar really high for the new year in January with this perfect country soul album The Imperial. An exceptional band led wonderful songwriter and storyteller Willy Vlautin (Richmond Fontaine) and superb vocalist Amy Boone.

4. Twain – Adventure (Keeled Scales, 2019)

A late diamond for 2019 is this new suprise Twain album. I knew it was coming fairly soon, but I thought it wouldn’t arrive before the end of the year. I love Twain and this is again such a remarkable album. Twain makes my world better.

Twain at Facebook

3. Steve Sloane – Near Death (independent, 2019)

This one by Canadian songwriter Steve Sloane (formerly released music under the name Hinindar) is one of the most striking, fragile, humane and powerful records of the year. Back in 2017 Steve Sloane was assaulted and held to a gunpoint and two years later he released this remarkable album to release him from grip of near death. Let All In is my favorite song of 2019, but this album still needs to be listened in its entirety from first word to last. Some perfect backing vocals too from Julie Arsenault.

Steve Sloane at Facebook

2. Anna Tivel – The Question (Fluff & Gravy Records)

This one couldn’t fail, because Anna Tivel from Portland, Oregon is one of my favorite songwriters and Shane Leonard is one of my favorite producers. An album full of warmth, empathy and deeply moving songwriting. She is a true poet and always able to make the characters of her songs come to alive.

Anna Tivel Website
Anna Tivel at Facebook

1. Matthew Milia – Alone At St.Hugo (Sitcom Universe)

My favorite album of the year comes from Detroit, Michigan and was written by Matthew Milia. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, he is the frontman of Frontier Ruckus. This new solo album is just as wonderful as the Frontier Ruckus catalogue. It’s a bit more pop than especially the early days of Frontier Ruckus, but that direction isn’t all that suprising after the last couple of Ruckus albums. I just love this album wholeheartedly. It’s got the sweet pop melodies and lovely harmonies gently colliding with warm folk rock sounds. Super easy to enjoy, but also has so much depth and detail due to the arrangements and Matthew’s literate lyrics. I’m not gonna do the decade list, but if I did this would easily claim a spot along with Eternity of Dimming by Frontier Ruckus. Matthew Milia is my favorite songwriter of the past decade and Alone at St. Hugo is the best album of 2019.



Matthew Milia Website
Matthew Milia at Facebook

And finally here’s a playlist that contains one song from each of these records. Except Freschard, because her album was not on Spotify (at least not in Finland).

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