It is well past that time when bloggers everywhere compile the soundtrack for their year. Here are some of the musical sounds I liked in 2015.
If you like any of the artists listed, please support them by purchasing their music. It helps many of them make more music.
Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors – Here We Go
The music makes you feel good, makes you feel understood, like you’re not alone, not a rolling stone, not the only one on the road.
This fun one from Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors landed late last year, ahead of the full album launch in January, and it opens up our list. Music goes with us everywhere. As the language of the emotions, it has power to entertain us, to comfort and to say stuff you can’t say in words. That’s pretty much the theme of the first song here, and that’s what this list is all about.
Animal Evolve // Neulore
While this album was released over a year ago (and recorded a couple of years before that) it features some of my favourite sounds for the year. Neulore’s folk rock vocals haunt the mythic story-telling and ruminations of human nature. My favorite tracks are In the Orchard and Don’t Shy from the Light but The Gathering Chant makes me dream of home.
Of This I’m Sure // Jenny & Tyler
The title track of the new album from Jenny & Tyler showcases everything I like about the duo’s music and direction. I melt every time I hear it. There are so many good things to dwell on and savour in this album. The world needs promises like Walk With You. Check out my quick review here.
The Once and Future Carpenter // The Avett Brothers
We yearn for purpose and for our lives to have meaning and significance. While I believe we ultimately get this from God, The Avett Brothers tell a story of a wanderer, searching for purpose amid the fleeting mystery and absurdity of the human journey, a journey we share in our brief time. Yes, we really are all in this together. As the album goes, we all live and we all die; in that sense, we’re the same (Live and Die). We struggle with our cold hearts (Winter in my Heart). Lots to like here in the musical and philosophical crafting. I also liked February Seven.
Cold Answer // Matthew Perryman Jones
The only thing wrong with this album is that it was just too short! It’s impossible to listen to too much MPJ, who paints scene with sounds and crafts lyrics that feel like you’re listening in on someone’s deepest thoughts, struggles and dreams. Then you realize, if you’re honest, you’ve been there too.
Monterey // Milk Carton Kids
As is so often the case in creating memorable music, less is almost always more. This guitar duo do so much with their semi-classical folk guitar vibe, James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel styles. So literary are their lyrics, every song feels like a chapter of a book. It’s two guys singing and playing guitars. So simple. So captivating.
Making Ghosts // Great Peacock
Sit back and relax to the catchy tunes of this folk pop that would make a rocking indie sound track. Whether you’re a Desert Lark searching for your song again, or longing for security and peace in Take Me to the Mountain, Great Peacock gives us hints of a higher story.
Far Kingdom // The Gray Havens
I must confess I didn’t get to listening the whole way through the entire album but in Far Kingdom, The Gray Havens tell the story of the Christian hope of redemption and future joy in the style of a folk fairytale. Critics of religion call belief in God wish fulfilment. But if the dream is real, it would change everything.
Andrew Peterson // The Dark Before the Dawn
Andrew Peterson invites us to imagine our lives as part of a big story, a story of the universe, cosmic in scope and grandeur, that is being played out in our day to day existence, in trials, in joy, in the grace of God; an existence that may look dark and difficult at times but in the grand scheme of things is on the verge of being changed dramatically. Two tracks here: The Dark Before the Dawn, and Be Kind to Yourself, exemplify Peterson’s ability to create art that is both cosmic in scope and deeply personal.
Didn’t He Ramble? // Glen Hansard
Themes of love, grace and mercy saturate the new album from Glen Hansard giving the album a hopeful optimistic tone, sweet sounds to the brokenhearted and humbled. Highlights include… well, all of it but I like Her Mercy, Grace Beneath the Pines, Wedding Ring, Winning Streak.
Then Came the Morning // The Lone Bellow
Then Came The Morning sounds like a happy uplifting song, the dawn of a new day. When viewed as the album’s opening scene, the final track I Let You Go though, as it is in life, reveals much sadness veiled by apparent happiness. Diners is crazy good fun musically and on another level, empty. On this their second album, The Lone Bellow build on the poetry and energy of their first, and experiment with new instrumental sounds giving them a chance to breathe. I also like Marietta on this album and hearing Brian and Kanene leading on Watch Over Us and Call to War respectively.
All Sons & Daughters // All Sons & Daughters
Saturated with humble, adoring, Psalm-like lyrics, All Sons & Daughters self-titled album opens with a reflective piece on the goodness and character of God with You Will Remain. The duo’s tighter sound, deeper lyrics, and expanded sound canvas is probably best heard in Your Glory & My Good. Just beautiful.
I would be a fool, if I could be made new, come ruin, come ridicule.
For the Taking // Elenowen
Husband and wife duo’s harmonies hit smooth folk pop sounds on a canvas of acoustic guitar, electric licks, organs and strings.
There’s music that reaches where you’re at. There’s music that soothes the soul. There’s music that revels in the pity or sadness of the moment. And then there’s Elenowen who make you want to want to move onwards and upwards, from the present moment to some place better.
For the Taking explores themes of faithfulness through adversity & disappointment, while always looking forward, whatever the circumstances. Rolling Stone Country’s Andrew Leahy says it bridges the gap between seventies folk rock and Americana. That’s quite a gap. Whatever it is, I liked it, particularly the tasteful and judicious use of electric guitars for impact and color in an often melancholy & soulful album.
Some lyrics I liked:
The Place from Where I Fell – building walls behind every step in taking, so I can’t turn back around and doubt my destination.
Saddest Songs – Brother you’re in a bad way. Is there nothing we can say now to bring you home? …the saddest songs always find their way to you, don’t mistake the lonely sound they make for truth.
Losing the Lonely – long shot, we went against the odds in a game you’ll never win if you never go all in. it just took a little time, all I’m holding out is mine. First thing I see in the morning, first dream I have at night…
One by One – “I could never do this without you, an open sky without the blue, I’m not kidding around when I say I need you, but baby, it’s true. ” Lyrics here are so simple and yet so heartfelt, with kind of a soul ballad vibe.
Assorted // Andrew Ripp
Browsing through Spotify yielded some sweet sounds. Andrew Ripp produces some good solid piano-centric pop/rock. Here’s a sweet romantic song (yes, I’m not 100% rational) on the essence of faithfulness and desire in love.
When you fall in love
You lose control
You can’t hang on and you can’t let go
When you find the one
You hold on tight
You weather every storm
Till the sun shines
Even when it hurts, there’s no regret
Every breath you give, is one you get
When you fall in love
There’s also a wonderful live Americana-flavoured (slide guitar?) version here too, which I might even like more than the album recording:
His voice would sound great in any number of genres. Check out Andrew’s superior cover of Justin Timberlake’s Mirrors.
The original JT version almost sounds too nicey-nicey by comparison:
A Hole in my Heart from the new self-titled album was a late arrival but I’m still listening through this album.