As we head into the Labor Day weekend, I thought it would be a good time for the community to assess this year’s album releases to-date. With just one quarter left in 2012, what are your favorite Americana albums? And what have been some of your disappointments? Finally, what have been some of your favorite albums that don’t fit into the Americana/Alt Country genre?
I’ll go first.
My top 25 Americana albums of the year so far (in order of preference):
Disappointing 2012 albums:
- Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
- Beachwood Sparks – The Tarnished Gold
- Bowerbirds – The Clearing
- Shooter Jennings – Family Man
Year’s best in other music genres:
- Sinead O’Connor – How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?
- Jimmy Cliff – Rebirth
- Lost in the Trees – A Church that Fits our Needs
- Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game
- Mark Lanegan – Blues Funeral
- The Jezebels – Prisoner
My faves so far are
First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
Todd Snider - Agnostic Hymns
The Chieftains - Voice of Ages
JT Earle - Nothing's Gonna Change
N. Young & Crazy Horse - Americana
Jack White - Blunderbuss
Willie Nelson - Heroes
The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter
Jay Farrar (and company) - New Multitudes
Besides those listed above ... I would add:
Amy Cook - Summer Skin
River City Extension - Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger
Alex Bevan - I Have No Wings
Yarn - Almost Home
Nice list and discussion ... thanks for starting this thread.
Iris DeMent - Sing The Delta.
A perfect and beautiful album.
- Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg
- Bap Kennedy - The Sailor,sRevenge
- M. Ward - A Wasteland Companion
- The Luminers - The Luminers
- Hardin Burns - Lounge
- Turnpike Troubadours - Goodbye Normal Street
- Fred Eaglesmith - 6 Volts
- Paul Thorn - What The Hell Is Goin On
- Chuch Porphet - Temple Beautiful
- Matt Harlan - Bow And Be Simple
From the top of my head, some of my favorites are...
Doc Dailey & The Magnolia Devil - Catch The Presidents
Rosie Flores - Working Girls Guitar
American Aquarium - Burn.Flicker.Die
Cory Branan - Mutt
Browan Lollar - For The Givers And The Takers EP
Truckstop Darlin' - Hope And The Heart It Breaks
The Pollies - Where The Lies Begin
Lucero - Women & Work
What an amazing year for new music! Here is my list of my favorite 50 albums of 2012 (from any genre). Merry Christmas to everyone!
1. First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
My favorite album of 2012 and my favorite album of the decade (so far). Amazing to me that these young sisters can write such powerful songs full of melodic magic and lyrical insights. Truly great songs that transcend genres and grow more powerful with each listen. A magical album.
2. Rush - Clockwork Angels
My second favorite album of the year. A true grower filled with everything we love about Rush. The boys sound rejuvenated on these songs with great musicianship and great songs. And a concept album!
3. Steve Hackett - Genesis Revisited II
The best year of Steve Hackett’s great career was 2012. This album isn’t perfect but it’s darn close. He’s managed to modernize a batch of Genesis classics, while retaining the core musical and emotional elements of the originals. A truly magnificent achievement. We can only pray for Genesis Revisted III.
4. Marillion - Sounds That Can't Be Made
My favorite band’s latest studio album is certainly one of their best and most consistently strong albums since Brave. Great work boys!
5. Asia – XXX
No doubt this is their best album since their debut album. Great melodies. Great songs. Beautifully produced and performed. It’s not life-changing music (it is what it is ), but it’s excellent melodic rock from four class acts.
6. Train - California 37
So happy to see the San Francisco boys release the best album of their already superb career. Pat Monahan is definitely in the zone here having written one catchy melodic rock song after another. This could have easily been two albums but we were lucky enough to get all of these great songs on one album. One to enjoy and savior.
7. Karine Polwart – Traces
This album is one of the most emotionally riveting albums of the year. Very similar to Suzanne Vega’s best work, these acoustic gems reach a deep place in the listener’s soul and won’t let go.
8. Keane – Strangeland
Like the Train album above, Kean’s new release is chock full of great melodic rock. Keane seems to be hitting their sweet spot with this album having found a sound that works perfectly for them. One of the best albums to play for the drive home.
9. Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls
The best new band for 2012. Alabama Shakes will be putting out great music for the next few decades and this debut only hints at how much wonderful music lies ahead for us lucky fans. Lead singer Brittany Howard is on the verge of becoming a major star and I can’t wait to hear what this amazingly talented band plans for their follow-up album.
10. Big Big Train - English Electric (Part 1)
If we can’t get new material from Genesis then Big Big Train is the next best thing. Incredible songs and no doubt one of the best prog albums of 2012. I can’t wait for Part 2 which is due out in 2013.
11. Of Monsters and Men - My Head Is An Animal
For me, this is the biggest “grower” of 2012. So much emotion and so many spine-tingling moments here. They remind me a lot of the Seattle band The Head & The Heart with their combination of harmonic male/female vocals over acoustic instrumentation. Wonderful stuff.
12. Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
This is Leonard Cohen’s best album in a long, long time – perhaps ever. Powerful story songs that defy a label.
13. The Unthanks - Diversions, Vol. 2
This is my favorite Unthanks album of 2012 (they released three amazing albums this year). Anyone who likes First Aid Kit will love The Unthanks. Gorgeous female harmonic vocals and gorgeous songs.
14. Patterson Hood - Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance
Lead singer-songwriter from Drive-by Truckers released this wonderful solo album in 2012. “Americana” music at its best.
15. Bill Fay - Life Is People
The British legend returned this year with a spectacular album of piano-based masterpieces reminiscent of Roger Waters, Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon. Powerful stuff indeed.
16. Anathema - Weather Systems
One of the best prog records of the year. They've found their sweet spot.
17. Brandi Carlile - Bear Creek
This is yet another great album of Americana rock from Brandi Carlile. Perhaps not as good as her prior album “Give Up The Ghost”, but this is still a very strong album that channels Johnny Cash with heart and passion.
18. The Unthanks - Diversions, Vol. 1
The second best Unthanks album of 2012. Fantastic female harmonies over gorgeous melodies. We can only hope that these ladies will continue to release so many great songs each year.
19. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Many websites have this listed as the best album of the year and I can see why. Great album and reminds me of Arcade Fire meets Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles.
20. Anais Mitchell - Young Man In America
Gorgeous batch of songs from one of the best American songwriters. While this isn’t her best album (Hadestown is her masterpiece), this album is superb and appeals to fans of Cat Power and Sharon Van Etten. “Shepherd” is one of my favorite songs of the year.
21. Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day
Watching and listening to this album/DVD, we are all reminded that Led Zeppelin were/are one of the best rock bands of all-time. The combination of musicianship and emotional power is truly amazing.
22. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Sharon Van Etten came into her own this year with this outstanding album of passionate vocals and slow-building rock vignettes. “Give Out” is one of my favorite songs of 2012.
23. Shovels & Rope – O’ Be Joyful
Phenomenal mix of blues, country, and rock with terrific harmonic vocals. Hard to resist these great songs performed by one of the best American live acts.
24. October Project – The Book of Rounds
October Project appears to have finally righted their ship and are readying their first studio album in nearly 20 years to be released in 2013. This album was released at least in part to get us ready for the full studio album. Although we wish Mary Fahl were still the lead singer, the harmonic vocals of Marina and Julie are wonderful and Emil Adler remains one of the best songwriters in the world.
25. The Wallflowers - Glad All Over
Great to have Jakob Dylan and the boys back in 2012 with a very strong studio album. And Mick Jones (from The Clash) makes several appearances on this album!
26. Lost In The Trees - A Church That Fits Our Needs
This album has a very odd cover, but it’s still a remarkable album full of great songs (and great vocals) very reminiscent of the acoustic work of Shearwater. I expect big things in the future from this very talented band.
27. Avett Brothers - The Carpenter
While not as strong as their masterpiece albums “I And Love And You” and "Emotionalism", “The Carpenter” is still a very strong album filled with trademark Avett melodies and passion.
28. Shearwater - Animal Joy
Shearwater has quietly become of the best American bands. They don’t fit neatly into any one genre as they cross from prog to folk to straightforward rock. This album adds to their superb catalogue of albums.
29. John Mayer - Born and Raised
John Mayer bears his soul on this wonderful album of acoustic gems.
30. Glen Hansard - Rhythm & Repose
Glen Hansard has quietly crafted a wonderful catalogue of great music and this solo album is one of his best. Great songs played with passion and heart.
31. Black Prairie - A Tear in The Eye is a Wound in The Heart
One of the most talented American bands right now, Black Prairie released their best album to date in 2012. Spine-tingling songs reminiscent of Robert Plant’s Band of Joy with great musicianship. The song “Nowhere, Massachusetts” was one of my favorite acoustic songs of 2012 and would have fit perfectly on the First Aid Kit album.
32. The Lumineers - The Lumineers
The band’s commercial success this year shocked me, but their music is never surprising. Great songs tailor made for fans of Mumford, Avett Brothers, Of Monsters & Men, and Fleet Foxes.
33. Cat Power – Sun
Major talent finds her sweet spot with this excellent album. This album is definitely a grower with lots of goose bump moments.
34. Karen Peris – Violet
Karen Peris has one of the most spine-tingling voices in music today. Her band Innocence Mission is putting the finishing touches on their new studio album (due in 2013) but Karen was kind enough to drop her first solo album on us this year. Stripped down acoustic songs of angst and loss. Few do it better than Karen Peris.
35. Tony Banks – Six Pieces For Orchestra
I’ll take anything from Tony Banks – of course, we’d all love a Genesis reunion, but this orchestral album is surprisingly strong.
36. The Tallest Man on Earth - There’s No Leaving Now
Great album. Nice mix of Fleet Foxes and Bob Dylan. Expect bigger things down the road.
37. Aimee Mann - Charmer
Aimee’s new album is another batch of great melodic rock songs. My only complaint is that I feel like these are leftovers from the Smilers sessions rather than songs that stretch Aimee into new territories. She's without a doubt one of the best songwriters on the planet, but I’d love to see Aimee get back to her more harder edged and emotional roots.
38. Rayland Baxter – Feathers & Fishhooks
One of my favorite new artists from 2012. His vocal style is very similar to Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) while the music is a terrifific mix reminiscent of Jackson Browne, Dawes, and Dave Matthews. Rayland is going to be a star before long.
39. Izz - Crush of Night
One of the best prog studio albums of the year and may be the best album of their career.
40. Grace Potter & The Nocturals – The Lion and The Beat
“Stars” may be the song of the year and this album finds Grace Potter growing as an artist. Sort of a Cheryl Crow vibe with more emotion. Wonderful artist.
41. Antje Duvekot – New Siberia
New England singer-songwriter is following in the footsteps of Ellis Paul, Dar Williams, and Suzanne Vega. Gorgeous “stripped down” songs with wonderful accompaniment and lyrics. A talent on the rise.
42. Mumford & Sons – Babel
Their lyrics still have a long way to go (sort of reminds me of early Alarm lyrics) and their songs sometimes tend to sound like each other in musical structure, but their musical sense and emotional textures are wonderful and “Babel” is a step up from their debut record.
43. Squackett - A Life Within A Day
Steve Hackett had quite a 2012. His Genesis Revisted II was one of the best albums of the year while this collaboration with the Yes bassist Chris Squire was also quite good.
44. Sera Cahoone - Deer Creek Canyon
Seattle's Sera Cahoone released the album of her career this year. Wonderful acoustic pieces full of emotion and wonder.
45. The Unthanks - Diversions, Vol. 3
What an amazing year for The Unthanks. They released three (yes three!) incredible albums this year. Breathtaking harmony vocals and gorgeous melodies abound on all three albums.
46. Amy MacDonald - Life In A Beautiful Light
Love this album. Great songwriting, great performances. Amy is a true original and this may be her best album to date.
47. The Prog Collective - The Prog Collective
With the talent involved, this prog supergroup album could have been a top 10 album but it’s still quite good.
48. Beth Orton - Sugaring Season
For me, this is Beth Orton’s best album to date. Very similar to the Cat Power album with great songwriting and great performances. Goose bumps aplenty.
49. Dar Williams - In The Time of Gods
Dar Williams is no doubt one of the most talented artists to emerge from New England over the past twenty years and this album builds her catalogue of great albums. Like Aimee Mann’s new album, one gets the feeling that Dar can do even more and may be on a bit of cruise control. That being said, this is still a great album of acoustic rock songs that send shivers up the spine.
50. Bonnie Raitt - Slipstream
Great to have Bonnie Raitt back with an excellent album of her trademark bluesy folk rock.
My favorite albums of the year ...
1. "Tempest," Bob Dylan
2. "There is a Bomb in Gilead," Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires
3. "Sing the Delta," Iris DeMent
4. "The Grifter's Hymnal," Ray Wylie Hubbard
5. "Ghost of Browder Holler," Chelle Rose
6. "Fear Fun," Father John Misty
7. "Traveling Alone," Tift Merritt
8. "Bhiman," Bhi Bhiman
9. "Women & Work," Lucero
10. "Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance," Patterson Hood
11. "The Carpenter," the Avett Brothers
12. "Apprentice to Ghosts," Wrinkle Neck Mules
13. "Old Ideas," Leonard Cohen
14. "Walking in the Green Corn," Grant-Lee Phillips
15. "Little Victories," Chris Knight
16. "Hymns to What is Left," Greg Brown
17. "Americana," Neil Young
18. "O' Be Joyful," Shovels & Rope
19. "Signs & Signifiers," JD McPherson
20. "Among the Leaves," Sun Kil Moon
21. "Mirage," Band of Horses
22. "There's No Leaving Now," Tallest Man on Earth
23. "From the Ground Up," John Fullbright
24. "The Way We Move," Langhorne Slim
25. "Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables," Todd Snider
More at my blog ...
Good list, lots of good stuff.
I had the Band Of Horses as my "Disappointment Of The Year" , was really underwhelmed by it, not a patch on Infinite Arms although there's 4 songs on it that i love. The slower ones near the start and the end !