And finally the top 15. These are all really dear to me and I could just shuffle these into any order and be just as happy about it. Well other than the #1. That was the clear album of the year, but the other 14 could just as well be in an alphabetical order. This is how it went today.
15. Vanessa Peters – Foxhole Prayers (Idol Records)
Starting the Top 15 from Dallas, TX with the new Vanessa Peters album Foxhole Prayers. I’ve been somewhat familiar with her music since Thin Thread album and the Myspace days, but it’s clear that I didn’t fully understand how great she was until Foxhole Prayers reached my ears. I was hooked immediately and in love before the third song Fight had finished. A wonderful album full of powerful storytelling. Sometimes tackling personal issues and sometimes taking a stand for what is right. It makes me want to be a better person.
14. St. Lenox – Ten Fables of Young Ambition and Passionate Love (Anyway Records)
This St. Lenox album has been almost an obsession to me and I love it madly. It’s something that is quite difficult to chain into some specific genre, because it feels so unique and extraordinary. Thankfully there’s really no need to do that either and I can just enjoy Andrew Choi’s passionate and powerful storytelling.
13. Michael Feuerstack – Natural Weather (Forward Music Group)
Montreal-based songwriter Michael Feuerstack has been writing amazing records for a couple of decades. First under the moniker Snailhouse and nowadays under his own name. This latest album Natural Weather is remarkable and one of his finest.
12. Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain (Loose Music / Fat Possum / Mama Bird Recording Co)
Courtney Marie Andrews left the down-to-earth sound of Honest Life behind and explored new soulful heights with the help of producer Mark Howard. Deep empathy and warmhearted kindness shines through in her storytelling and she also perfectly masters these new soulful heights.
11. Erin Rae – Putting On Airs (Single Lock Records)
The previous Erin Rae album Soon Enough already had some songs that I really loved (Monticello and Clean Slate especially), but now she really hit the homerun. Putting On Airs is a deeply moving and personal record that sounds enchantingly beautiful.
10. Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – Years (Bloodshot Records)
If you want some real kick-ass country music instead of that sipping drinks by the pool stuff, introduce your heart to the music of Sarah Shook & The Disarmers. A lot of these songs revolve around toxic relationships, but even the downhearted moments have certain fearlessness and bite that kicks out the misery from the heart of the listener. A damn great album.
9. Matt Dorrien – In The Key Of Grey (Mama Bird Recording Co)
And then something completely different, but equally brilliant. Matt Dorrien has written a charming, poignant and piano-driven album In The Key of Grey. The whole thing is magnificent and then there’s I Can’t Remember and All I Wanted To Say. Oh my, I love these songs so much. Deep pain and burning loneliness, but so beautifully told. I would marry these songs, if I wasn’t already married.
8. Andrew Bryant – Ain’t It Like The Cosmos (Last Chance Records)
Andrew Bryant is a wonderful songwriter and somehow his songs just really hit me on a personal level. His new album Ain’t It Like The Cosmos is again brilliant. Beautiful rock and americana songs that are delivered with loud riffs and compelling vocals. Songwriting is honest, heartfelt and filled with sincere reflections on humanity. Awesome from the first note to the last.
7. Lauren O’Connell – Details
Lauren O’Connell is an interesting name, because she seem to have a good patreon / youtube etc following, but I rarely see her music mentioned in any of the publications that I follow. Which is quite strange, because especially this new album Details is utterly wonderful. It’s definitely a heavy album album, because some of it revolve around mental health issues. It’s still not a total bummer either like she said herself. You all need to listen to this. It’s so fabulous.
6. Haley Heynderickx – I Need to Start a Garden (Mama Bird Recording Co)
It sure has been a year of Haley Heynderickx for me. She will be in the top 10 in all of these lists and when Spotify dropped those yearly stats, she was of course the artists that I had listened to the most (and that doesn’t even count iPod and vinyl, so the grand total is so much more). While I love the EP, the biggest highlight for me is still this dazzlingly beautiful and thoroughly moving album I Need To Start a Garden. This where it all began. The profoundly captivating Untitled God Song striked really hard early in the year and the rest of the album turned out to be equally magnificent.
5. Austin Lucas – Immortal Americans (Cornelius Chapel Records)
After I found Bloomington-based singer-songwriter Austin Lucas when Somebody Loves You came out in 2009, every single one of his albums have been in the top 10. I’m definitely not going to break that tradition this time either. Of course I would if he released an album that I didn’t like this much, but I don’t really expect that to happen. I love his voice and I love his songwriting. So there’s not much that could go wrong. Immortal Americans even feels like the most complete, personal and powerful album of his career.
4. Damien Jurado – The Horizon Just Laughed (Secretly Canadian)
Damien Jurado released a quietly monumental album The Horizon Just Laughed. I think this is his finest album to date, which is a strong statement if you look at his mangificent discography. I still remember fondly the day in the spring when I took a comfortable position on the couch, put the headphones and listened to this through for the first time. It just instantly demanded all of my attention and there was no way I could do anything else than just listen until the last note had drifted into air. This is exceptional songwriting and a work of art.
3. Grand Salvo – Sea Glass (Mistletone / Inertia)
Across the ocean to Australia for this one. Grand Salvo is a Melbourne-based folk collective led by songwriter Paddy Mann. The new album Sea Glass is a poignant, melancholic and beautiful album built around a single vivid memory that is presented to the listener in the second to last song. Don’t worry, if the whole concept sounds difficult to follow. At first you can just sink deep into things like a) gentle male voice singing softly in an almost repetitive loop b) the choir that deliver enchantingly beautiful harmonies c) the wonderful arrangements that features weird instruments that you maybe can’t name, but you can feel every note they play. A masterful album.
2. Clay Parker and Jodi James – The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound
This beautiful album by Clay Parker and Jodi James was my favorite of the year almost until the end, but had to give up one place during the last couple of months. I still love it wholeheartedly. It’s timeless and endlessly beautiful folk album. I’ve enjoyed their solo albums too, but together they just reach an even higher level. The voices just blend together into perfect harmony and wrap my heart into the sweetest americana sounds. I could just listen to them sing all day / week / year long.
1. Laura Gibson – Goners (City Slang / Barsuk)
And my favorite album of the year is Goners by Laura Gibson. Laura Gibson is a songwriter from Coquille, Oregon and she has written an exceptional album. This is the one that I love by far the most out of this 2018 class. Goners grabbed me on first listen and it haven’t let go of me. Not that I’ve even tried to shake it off, because I’m perfectly happy in the company of this dark, haunting and deeply moving record about grief. It’s a strange and mysterious album that keeps on revealing more with each and every listening session. I still might not understand all the aspects of it, but it doesn’t stop me from loving it wholeheartedly. A masterpiece.