When the year began there was much in the way. Family members had passed, and I had lost a dear friend. All of this happened at the end of 2016. The one constant though, and as always was music. I didn’t do any research on when most of these came out in regard to the month, or in some cases the year. As I find myself listening to an array of music spanning many different decades, it is just what I have always done. This year a lot of great albums came out. In fact, any year that sees a Jason Isbell album coming out is pretty much a good year for music, stew over his album The Nashville Sound for a year and you will find yourself enjoying a master class in songwriting. I am getting ahead of myself though, as this year saw me deep dive Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms, Eric B and Rakim on a drive around my hometown of Chicago, and Astor Piazzolla because Tango: Zero Hour is amazing, and Ghoul School who we will dive into in a bit. There is a lot of music out there, and I will not rank any of these in terms of “my favorite” because my library of music would be like my kids, if I had any, each one is my favorite. Each one is part of the story that encapsulates me at many junctures of life, and at the present. Plus, rankings are boring, and overplayed so rather than do that here is a list of albums and why I enjoyed them. There is so much music out there, and so much yet to come. Here it is, enjoy, take a listen, and hope you dig it.
Ruminations by Conor Oberst. For one of my many trips home to Chicago over the late winter, spring, and summer this album was played, a couple of times. I enjoyed the simplicity that he offered up. Himself, his voice, a guitar, a harmonica, and a piano are the only four instruments on the album. I enjoyed the conversations I was having with him while listening in silence, and while the miles ticked off heading north on I-65. This record was all about simplicity. Hearing the song at its rawest moment, I could hear all of the instruments without them being played as if I was having a concert in my head.
A Place Way Back in Time by Jean Dowell: I had the pleasure of interviewing Jean and her story is as great as this album. The album is a snapshot of what she has been through. The album is more of a sitting around the fireplace kind of album. Her effervescent voice brings you into her story, and had me envisioning a quiet place surrounded by trees, rocking on a porch, and simply being.
The Harmed Brothers by The Harmed Brothers: These guys have been doing some pretty great things in terms of albums, and this one was no different. The words escape me to try and describe it, because Ray and Alex do a great job writing the songs. Melancholy mixed with longing, and hopeful for today are just a few adjectives. I enjoyed this album a lot and I would recommend it for any stocking stuffer or birthday present, or for any occasion, or for no reason at all.
The Devil’s Tree: Revisited by Frontier Folk Nebraska: These local fellas have been doing some great things for a long while. This was a reissue of their first album. All I will say is if you haven’t heard this do your ears a favor. FFN rocks, and in so many ways. Also go listen to This is for the Kids in the Back as this too will be a pleasurable listen.
Warrick & Lowell by Warrick & Lowell: This is a late addition as this will be coming to the hungry people on December 30th. I had the pleasure of listening to this, and it contains everything I love about a good album. I didn’t skip a track, the sequence flows nicely, and it finishes splendidly. As I write this I am on my second listen, and still forming my thoughts around it, but this is definitely an album that should be added to anyone’s library. They rocked it, and I love it.
Cost of Living by Downtown Boys: I was introduced to this album via one of many podcasts I listen to, and I loved it. The band is comprised of some interesting folks, and what they are doing as a band is not only interesting but awesome as well. If you don’t mind loud and unpretty music than this is for you, and unpretty music is just what I love. This is just straight up punk rock. Not really sure how else to describe it other than that. The best I can do is just tell you to listen. Victoria Ruiz is incredible, and there is a tubist. That is all I will say.
Ghoul School EP by Ghoul School. These folks are another listen from a podcast. Where they were just casually mentioned, and introduced a guest on said podcast, LA CHEESERIE (for those littles out there.) They remind me of a more electric version of The Moldy Peaches. They have sort of become one of my new favorite bands. I believe they reside in California but I have no idea, I just love their music.
Together At Last by Jeff Tweedy: I listened to this on four and half hour ride to Michigan, and loved it. There are no new songs on this record, which was kind of a bummer, but it was still a great listen. The album was great because it was Jeff, his harmonica, and guitar nothing and nobody else which would have been nice to have at least one new track but was not disappointing. The album kept vigilant as Indiana became Michigan, and “Via Chicago” came on which always hits me in the feels.
The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Any year that has a new Jason Isbell record out is a good year for anyone that loves a poet with a guitar. My brothers and I decided that he gets the crown for being King Songwriter. This album simply proves that, once again. All I can say is not only listen to this album, but specifically “If We Were Vampires.”
This is my list. I’m sure there were some left off that should be on here. Run the Jewels dropped an album this year that was absolutely fantastic, and I suppose this is where we can do some honorable mentions. So, RTJ for sure, The Weakerthans, The Moonglows, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Whitherward’s The Anchor, by The Mountain Goats, and Young in All the Wrong Ways bySara Watkins, which was absolutely awesome and has kind of fallen through the cracks as that I think because it came out late last year.
These were the albums that stuck out for me in this year of 2017. I do myself a favor and listen to as much music as I possibly can. Whether it is recommended to me or if I find it on my own, I simply enjoy listening. Music contains multitudes. It contains about every thought and emotion you can feel whether you know it or not. That’s why I love music. That’s why I love doing what it is that I do. I look forward to music filling my 2018 yet again. You can find me here at CincyMusic, or at my blog. Where next year I am going to try and post on a more frequent basis everything from music to my random thoughts. Give us a like, and from my family to yours Happy Holidays, Merry Christmoose, and a Happy New Year!