I'll be the first to admit that I am not a huge fan of end-of the-year lists. I often find them long, opinionated, and tiresome. All that said, don't think of this as my list or a ranking of records in 2016, but rather as a post highlighting a few albums that came out this year at just the moment I needed.
In truth, these 8 albums (along with a few other single tunes) have been the soundtrack to my life for the last 12 months. They've provided me with the melodies I needed to get through a year that, if I'm honest with myself, has been a bit of a struggle on many fronts. Each of these artists have played my heartstrings in their own way, some more than others. I've listed the albums below, not in any sort of ranking order, but rather in the order I first heard them.
Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life: I first heard Rookie Dreaming in the early months of this year via a pal of mine. This tune hit me. Hard. Courtney is the type of songwriter that makes me want to be a better songwriter. Her lyrics are thoughtful and genuine. I traveled down to Seattle in early May to see her play. Our paths crossed again in September when by happenstance we were playing neighboring venues in Bellingham. Her band of fellas are some of the nicest, wittiest folks I've ever met. Good people making great music; that's pretty much the dream. This album is gold. Favorite tune: Table for One
Margaret Glaspy - Emotions and Math: This little lady came across my radar early this year with the release of her single "Somebody to Anybody." Her full length album "Emotions and Math" was released by ATO records in June. I took my parents to see her in May when she made a visit to Vancouver. My mom and I met her for a quick hello after her set and co-purchased her vinyl (I gave her $5 Canadian dollars and my mom the remaining $5 in USD - thanks again for spotting me, Mom. I still owe ya'). Her growl is like none other and her songs cut straight to the point. As a writer, it's an album I can listen to again and again. Favorite tune: Black is Blue
Logan Vath - In the Presence of the Kingdom: I don't even know where to begin with this fella. After years of musical interweb back-and-forths, our real-life paths finally crossed earlier this year when I was on tour in Virginia. I first heard the entirety of his EP a few months before its release. Logan's songs are heartbreaking in the best way possible. His writing comes across as intentional and experienced. In terms of shaping my 2016 this one has done so. I think my sister Taylor's description of him is my favorite I've heard so far, "He has such a calming and soothing voice. Like a cloud or a fluffy bean bag chair." He's well worth the listen. Favorite tune: The Candidate
Joe Purdy - Who Will Be Next?: I spent a few good weeks in early June really soaking this one in. It can be real political and preachy at times, but overall it makes me smile a little smirk each time I hear it. His voice is steady and that Rhodes piano playing throughout brings a certain feeling of warmth to my soul. Favorite tune: Kristine
Gregory Alan Isakov - Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony: I've been finding comfort in the music of Gregory Alan Isakov for years and years now, however this past January his tunes were there for me when I needed them the most. His was one of the first shows I attended when I moved to Vancouver in 2013. In early August of this year, in a little venue in Washington State, I stood alone amongst the crowd quietly reflecting on all that had occurred since moving to Canada. The highs; the lows; the growth; and the changes. Every last one of my heartstrings was pulled that night. Before I left, I purchased all 4 of his albums on vinyl - the Colorado Symphony one included. This album has been monumental in helping me come to terms with the fact that I am now the sole owner of a record player. Favorite tune: Amsterdam She'll follow me down any street no matter what my crime.
Hiss Golden Messenger - Heart Like a Levee: This album was a much needed late-in-the-year boost. I'm not sure how I would describe this one other than simply great. I find that I don't consciously know all of the lyrics to the tunes, yet I can sing along to each song word for word. My introduction to this was on a 10 mile run in which I downloaded it on my Spotify and set out on my route. I was instantly captivated and lost in the music. This is one of my favorite discoveries of the year. I missed him when he played in Vancouver in October, but he's high on my radar for next year. Favorite tune: Highland Grace
John Moreland - High on Tulsa Heat: I truly am a sucker for the sad ones. John Moreland is the type of storyteller that breaks my heart yet keeps me coming back for more. I honestly haven't given this entire album a fair listen as there are a certain few songs I find myself playing on repeat. Thank the Lord I didn't find him until the late months of 2016. I was far too much of a mess to be able to handle the depth of heartache in his writing any earlier in the year. He's a comforting sorrow, a gentle giant, and a man that I am going to be keeping an eye on for years to come. Favorite tune: You Don't Care For Me Enough to Cry
Dori Freeman - Dori Freeman: This little lady just barely sneaked in on my list. I was driving back from Seattle after a weekend of seeing Courtney Marie Andrews play, when an unfamiliar voice began to fill my car. There are some songs that when you first hear you can't let go of until you know the name of the person singing. One of my favorite things about this album is that I've only given it a cursory listen, but am already loving it. I still have time to get cozy with it, but from what I've heard so far I have a feeling I'll have no trouble at all doing just that. Favorite tune: You Say
And there ya' have it. Though there are a slew of other wonderful tunes that came out this year, I found that each of the 8 artists above have all deeply resonated with me in their own way.
Here's to all of the new music 2017 will bring.