And here goes the final ten and the somewhat ranked part. Not that serious though, because I’ve probably changed it several times during the process. At the bottom of this post you’ll find Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music playlists, if you are into such things.
10. Evan Cheadle – Fault Line Serenade (Victory Pool)
Just like the previous chapter, we’ll start this one in Victoria, British Columbia. This time it’s long time favorite Evan Cheadle and his timeless new album Fault Line Serenade. So enchanting, warm and beautiful. Pure magic from first note to last.
9. Flora Hibberd – Hold
A rare visit to Paris, France although folk songwriter Flora Hibberd is originally from the UK. She made my EP of the year in 2020 and now followed it up with a first full-length album. Or well maybe it’s a mini-album with just seven songs and 23 minutes, but all that matters is that those minutes contain some of my favorite music of the year. The lead single Night, Perpetual is fabulous although my own favorite is probably the less catchy Archipelago II.
8. Andrew Bryant – A Meaningful Connection (Sentimental Noises)
Next stop Mississippi and the new Andrew Bryant album A Meaningful Connection. I’ve loved all his solo albums and this new one isn’t an exception to the rule. His songs always resonate with me and somehow I feel a weird connection to this man I only know through his songs. And Reality Winner. Oh my. Now there’s a song.
7. Summer Dean – Bad Romantic
More real country music, this time from Fort Worth, Texas by Summer Dean. This hit an instant home run when the first single came out. That beautiful duet with Colter Wall easily won my heart over and I started counting days to the release of the album. It was the worth the wait, because that single is far from the only gem and songs like Bad Romantic and Dear Caroline were equally awesome. Love the cover art too, because it instantly tells me what to expect.
6. Isaac Vallentin – “...”
A bit more obscure choice here from Pictou, Nova Scotia by folk songwriter Isaac Vallentin. I’ve been following Isaac for a few years, but before this I hadn’t fully understand how good of a songwriter he really is. My big favorites here are Diane in the Morning Light and The Ballad of Nunangat. Both are masterclass of songwriting. Even though I’ve heard these songs more times than I count, they still completely hold me under their spell for the whole long duration each time I push play. Amazing songs and an amazing album.
5. Margo Cilker – Pohorylle (Fluff & Gravy Records / Loose Music)
It’s a kinda hard to crack the top 10 with a late release date, because most albums become dear throughout the long year. Margo Cilker from Enterprise, Oregon shows that it’s possible though, because her debut album Pohorylle came out just a month ago. Of course the fact that I had loved all advance singles at that point might have something to do with how easily this album won my heart over. Such a great country / americana album full of captivating storytelling.
4. Hurry – Fake Ideas (Lame-O Records)
Next we go to Philadelphia for what might be seem like an odd pick, if you look at the list in general. However, my background and the foundation of my music taste is 90s power pop and this Hurry album just recalls all that greatness and add their own twist to it. I love ambitious folk songs about heavy subjects, but I also love when someone sings something like “Oh Whitney / come with me” in perfect harmony. And that title track A Fake Idea. What a perfect TFC-like pop song. I can listen to it on repeat for an hour. Such an entertaining pop album.
3. Joe Bourdet – Meadow Rock (Mountain Sounds Recorders)
Our year end saga continues in Los Angeles, California with Joe Bourdet and Meadow Rock. I loved his double single Seamist / El Capitan few years back and therefore I was thrilled when I saw blogger friend Lara (from the wonderful Petal Motel) tweeting that there’s a Joe Bourdet album on the way. The album that contains new mixes of Seamist and El Capitan along with seven other beauties didn’t disappoint and turned out to be a fantastic 70s folk rock -influenced album.
2. Melissa Carper – Daddy’s Country Gold (Mae Music)
And then we have an album that fully lives up to its name. This is old school country gold with western swing and bluegrass. Melissa Carper from Texas delivers such a fabulous country album. That opening trio for example. I could easily name any of them my favorite of the song of the year and I would be fairly happy with my choice. I Almost Forgot About You is probably still the one that I love the most.
1. Matthew Milia – Keego Harbor (Sitcom Universe)
Our last stop in this year-end story is Detroit, Michigan or perhaps it’s more precisely Keego Harbor, a suburb of Detroit. This of course means that the album of the year is Keego Harbor by Matthew Milia. It maybe starts to become even too obvious that whenever Matthew Milia or Frontier Ruckus releases an album it becomes an album of the year. Eternity of Dimming was my AOTY in 2013, Sitcom Afterlife in 2014, Alone at St. Hugo in 2019 and now Keego Harbor in 2021. Lately only the 2017 Frontier Ruckus album Enter the Kingdom didn’t hit #1 and even that was still in the top 10. But what can I do. I just love Matthew Milia’s literate songwriting and both the folk rock of Frontier Ruckus and the more pop-orientated approach of the solo records appeal to me. This new album contains beautifully sung and arranged melodic folk songs about the everyday life in the suburbs and it’s by far the album I’ve loved the most during this strange year.
Tidal Playlist (Rose City Band and Mitch Dillon weren’t on Tidal)