Please notice that I said albums. There are a lot of good songs that come out every year; however, I am somewhat old fashioned in that I judge an artist by the entire album. In our singles loving iTunes jukebox culture, I find that the album as a cohesive work of artistry is often ignored. This list represents artists who take their craft seriously. These are albums, a body of work to be taken as a whole, not a vehicle of filler meant only to deliver a single that has been cooked up to push all the right buttons.
The playlist below contains all 8 albums. Please enjoy! For those who are interested, my take on each artist follows.
Brandi Carlile | The Firewatcher’s Daughter
So I may be a decade late in stumbling across the gritty endearing music of Brandi Carlile, but better late than never.
When you are wearing on your sleeve all the things you regret,
You can only remember what you want to forget ~The Things I Regret
If you are short on time, check out: Wherever Is Your Heart, The Eye, The Things I Regret, and Murder In the City (A superb Avett Bros. cover).
Mumford & Sons | Wilder Mind
If you know me, then you knew a priori that this would be here. Alas, many have complained about the lack of banjo in this album. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the banjo; but, I also applaud a band who is willing to evolve and mature. Perhaps if this album had banjo everyone would condemn it for being no different than their first two. Wilder Mind, sans banjo, represents Mumford & Sons’ commitment to artistry, not commercial demands.
And you saw me low, alone again,
Didn’t they say that only love will win in the end? ~Only Love
If you are short on time, check out: The Wolf, Ditmas, Only Love.
Little May | For the Company
This trio from Sydney opened Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road stopover in Sea Isle City this summer. I was impressed by their lyricism and complexity of sound. Two tracks in particular stand out to me: Hide and Boardwalks (yes, I am cheating since these songs were originally on their EP in 2014).
Cause we are not afraid of who we are but of what we have become~Boardwalks
Lord Huron | Strange Tails
This album is honestly one of my favorites. For this one, words will not do justice- just listen. You will not be disappointed.
Yes I know that love is like ghosts,
Oh, few have seen it,
But everybody talks~Love Like Ghosts
If you are short on time, check out: Love Like Ghosts, Fool for Love, Meet Me in the Woods.
Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear | Skeleton Crew
I could not get enough of this band at WXPN’s XPoNential Festival this summer. Mother and son folk duo–what more do I need to say? In all honesty, they are captivating. Madisen’s unique powerful voice carries well over simple melodies and rhythms.
If you are short on time, check out: Live By the Water, Silent Movies, Undertaker and Juniper.
Hillsong United | Empires
Some of the best lyrics of any album in 2015.
My heart beating,
My soul breathing,
I found my life,
When I laid it down~Touch the Sky
If you are short on time, check out: Touch the Sky, Empires, Rule.
Houndmouth | Little Neon Limelight
Out of Louisville, KY, this group, to me at least, has a relaxed California type of vibe. Smooth but energetic, I hope to see these guys live in the near future.
If you are short on time, check out: Sedona, Black Gold, Say It.
The Avett Brothers | Live Vol. Four
This album just made it in at the tail end of the year. If you are not an Avett Bros. fan take a listen. Their live albums help to capture the energy that makes this group worth following. I had the pleasure of seeing these guys live this summer at Red Rocks in Colorado with some great friends. If you ever have a chance to see them live, go! The experience is incredible.
If you are short on time, check out: Rejects in the Attic, Ten Thousand Words, I and Love and You.