It’s that time of year again (and unlike last year’s list, I am actually on time this year). This is my fifth annual Top Albums list. Like past years, I’ll remind you that these are my favorite albums; I don’t claim to be a music critic. They might not be widely acclaimed as the “best”, but these albums are those that I kept turning to again and again through the year.
As I was looking over the list I felt that I was becoming too predictable, but upon closer review only one artist on the list has held a spot in any one of my previous top 10s (there are a few honorable mentions from years past making the cut this year).
The list, with listening opportunities after the jump…
10. Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now?
A bit more “accessible” and on the folk side of the spectrum for the most part rather than the straight bluegrass these boys are known for. I like it either way. After completely missing that it even came out in February, this one really stuck with me for most of the summer.
Check out: the title track:
9. Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit
In one form or another, Matt Vasquez keeps making it into these lists. Honorable mention back in 2008, with Middle Brother as last year’s #7, what can I say, he hits me in a good place. I really thought I wasn’t going to really enjoy this album on first listen, but it’s a definite “grower”.
Check out: California:
8. Ben Kweller – Go Fly a Kite
I have been aware of Ben Kweller for some time and I would even go so far as saying I like him. I still go crazy sometimes (in a good way) with 2009’s “Sawdust Man” stuck in my head. It was really this album made me a fan though. He ups the energy and electricity on it while dealing with slightly darker subject matter. Some good unfiltered Power Pop Indie Rock to be had here as the title hints that it’s a breakup album.
Check out: Jealous Girl:
7. The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
There’s no Leaving Now, but there is in a few minutes (just keep reading). The first of two Swedish acts on the list (care to guess the other? … without scrolling down!). Kristian Matsson’s third album is no great departure from his previous offerings, but it is him at what he does best. An unconventional vocal style really meshes well with the simple singer-songwriter delivery and production.
Check out: Revelation Blues (live version)
6. Carolina Chocolate Drops – Leaving Eden
As mentioned, unlike the last album, there is leaving now… Leaving Eden. I never paid much attention to these darlings of NPR, but I was driving to work one day and a song from the new album came on. I was hooked. I am neither country, nor a girl, but for those three minutes and twenty-two seconds I was. They give you a mix of bluegrass, folk, country and blues and do it all while being really interesting. Innovative and traditional at the same time. Just plain good.
Check out: Country Girl:
5. The Ballroom Thieves – The Devil & The Deep (EP)
If you follow my blog, you might have seen this one coming. Back in march I had the pleasure of having the percussionist of this band as my waiter for a nice dinner out. I came home that night and was immediately hooked. Schedules have not been kind so I haven’t been able to check them out live yet, but I still hope to do so before they make it big. Check out this unsigned local Boston based band!
Check out: Save Me
4. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball
The Boss finally cracks a list. I am a big Bruce Springsteen fan, but I couldn’t bring myself to put 2009’s Working on a Dream on my year end list. If I had been making lists in 2006, the Seeger Sessions album would have made it through. Wrecking Ball is by far his best album since (and those who don’t care for the “hootenanny” that is the Seeger Sessions would probably say his best since The Rising at least). I like this album so much that it caused me to go way over budget to buy tickets to see him at Fenway when all the while leading up to the release I said there was no way I would pay over 100 bucks to go see him this time around.
Check out: Rocky Ground
3. Good Old War – Come Back as Rain
This Philly based folk pop, power pop outfit really caught me by surprise. If I recall correctly, they were played on a Spotify radio station I had playing one day as I sat out on the patio in my back yard. They fit the moment perfectly and I have been keeping them in rotation ever since.
Check out: Calling Me Names
2. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
Did you guess this sister outfit at the other Swedes on the list? No? Perhaps it’s because you never heard of them – your loss, or perhaps it’s because you thought they were from 1960s California. They make you think of Janis Joplin and sun drenched summers. They might have had my song of the year….
Check out: Emmylou
1. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
No shock here I guess. I love the Avetts. LOVE. This album didn’t disappoint. Not one little bit. I was lucky enough to see them in concert this summer, my second time. I can’t wait for the third. Banjo, guitar, double bass and cello, along with stunning harmonies. The polish they have begun to show really makes this album an easy choice for my #1. The still have the frenetic energy live though!
Check out: The whole damn album… The Carpenter – Album Sampler.
Honorable mentions to:
M. Ward – A Wasteland Companion
Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
Ryan Bingham – Tomorrowland
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Chuck Prophet – Temple Beautiful