And away… we… go!
After listening to hundreds of records this year, here are my ten favorites. Again, of course this is subjective AF, by design. And yes it does skew pretty heavily to the mellower side of rock and roll, folk, and singer-songwriter fare. I am who I am, it turns out. First up, the bottom half of the top ten. My commentary for most will be very brief, as I have written about these albums before. Links to those earlier reviews as well as the records on Spotify are included for your reading/listening pleasure.
#10 Tim Heidecker – What the Brokenhearted Do…
Wait, the list starts with a comedian? Well, sort of. The dude makes for a damn fine musician as well – while his songs are simple and musically catchy but unremarkable, his lyrics and delivery are incendiary when railing against trump (see Too Dumb for Suicide or Another Year in Hell as examples) and hilarious here.
This masterpiece is a take on the cliché “breakup album” and it shines, friends. If the album cover doesn’t give away the plot, just check out his Spotify profile picture (priceless!) or, I dunno, listen to the damn record. I stand behind every single track here.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/573YzEr3P3O5XkJEZWmOtP?si=JUbC3Jr0QGWbLYWbClEfNA
#9 The Weary Times – The Weary Times
It makes me sad to think that if I wasn’t a Treasure Valley resident I probably would have missed this gem. Ryan Curtis and his crew are a throwback to a more soulful vintage rock and roll, but in the best possible way. They are doing more than ripping off the works of the old timers, or showing a quick homage – they truly capture the spirit and give us music written and played with blood, sweat, and tears. Some don’t care for Ryan’s vocal delivery, but I find the growly warble a la Tom Waits to be outstanding.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/7mIMO7h6Gp24j7acgqmsGG?si=f7ui2dp4SLejV4FIFLA8xA
#8 Coldplay – Everyday Life
Dear reader, I am as surprised as you are to find Chris and the blokes on this list in 2019 as you are, trust me. After falling head over heels for this band about twenty years ago, I basically wrote them off after their fourth album. Subsequent releases, while at times decent, didn’t change my tune.
On this sprawling, diverse, and fantastic epic, they are back – but older and wiser. The songs are thoughtful, discussing the value of lifelong friendships, the joys in, well, everyday life- and at times confront social issues (especially on the great “Trouble in Town”). If you ever cared for this quartet before they decided their mission in life was to be U2 2.0, I implore you to give this a listen.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2FeyIYDDAQqcOJKOKhvHdr?si=DdF9368VS9297Hwlu55weg
#7 Cage the Elephant – Social Cues
One thing is for certain: I am a sucker for a band that zigs, zags, and keeps me guessing. Cage the Elephant is definitely that, and on their evolution into pop-friendly jams they still haven’t lost me. Sure, their hit single with Beck is one of the weaker moments here (“Night Running”). Trust me, there is plenty here for everyone: songs of love and peace (“Love’s the Only Way”, “The War is Over”), regret and loss (“Goodbye”, “What I’m Becoming”), and even more of their long-standing Pixies fascination (“House of Glass”, “Broken Boy”).
Oh, and I didn’t even mention two of the finest songs of their five-album career: “Ready to Let Go” and the title track.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2VuZJsJBPLwg9BeQFQle8G?si=7uvorUKcSPG8YGekQPkiSA
#6 Nick Waterhouse – Nick Waterhouse
Well, if you are gonna hold off on the eponymous album until your fourth effort, it better be good. Turns out the throwback songsmith knows exactly what he is doing, as this is his best yet. His songs are strong, and the music is rich, deep, and full of soul. If you can’t get down to this blend of guitars, bass, drums, horns, strings, and lovely backing vocals, I guess we can’t (classy) party together.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/6PYi1GrNTxvqhSyBOM3fGD?si=5RzCOYVORRm_yEF3PzOS5Q