A popular trend on Facebook this past month has been posting 10 bands that you’ve seen in concert – 9 of them must be true and one should be a lie. You then ask your friends to guess which one isn’t correct.
I thought it would be fun to share my love of music with my friends by helping them discover new (or “new to you”) bands/artists that I’ve enjoyed recently. Maybe then we can actually go see them in concert and we can add them to our list.
I’m a sucker for tight harmonies and a folky/rootsy sound.
This group reminds me of everything I loved about The Civil Wars.
Lez be honest…I’m also a sucker for cute girls who sing fun, poppy music. Reminds of me of when Tegan & Sara went pop.
Tank and the Bangas
Wildly fun and completely original New Orleans outfit. A little spoken word, hip-hop, and R&B.
Tight harmonies mixed with electronic pop. Can’t go wrong. Think Sylvan Esso, but more fun.
Super chill and fun.
She’s a bad ass guitarist with a super chill vibe and fantastic voice.
Pretty new to me, but I love their poppy sound.
Not gonna lie…this song originally grabbed me b/c it reminds me of ELO. This is a super-group made of folks from Band of Horses and Franz Ferdinand.
A punk/pop group that is unabashedly queer. I love everything about them.
- Bully – Feels Like
This grunge rock band out of Nashville brought me back to high school with their Hole-meets Pearl Jam sound. It doesn’t hurt that they have a bad ass, female lead singer. “Too Tough” was the track that sold me.
- Los Colognes – Dos
Yet another indie Nashville band. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of Dire Straits, but this band definitely has that vibe – with a bit of Grateful Dead added in there. Love the laid back vibe. This album is perfect for a crisp afternoon barbeque.
- Jason Isbell – Something More than Free
Having seen Patterson Hood (also a former member of the Drive By Truckers) live recently, I am reminded of how wonderfully crafted and heartfelt Isbell’s lyrics are. Combine that with the soulful grittiness of his voice and you have a lovely gift on your hands.
- Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon
I just love the simplicity of fun of his music. A modern day Henry Nilsson or even Randy Newman – his songs are effortlessly and expertly crafted pop goodness.
- Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
Some are dismissive of her music due to the Katy Perry-esque campiness. But Kacey is probably one of the most talented songwriters in Nashville. The themes in her music are relatable and compelling. Kacey celebrates authenticity while most acts on current country radio are anything but.
- Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
I actually think this is a more powerful, relevant, and memorable album than Good Kid, m.A.A.d city. Proof that earwormy hooks can carry a stirring, therapeutic message.
- Brandi Carlile – The Firewatchers Daughter
I don’t know why I am trying to explain why I love this album. I love anything this woman does. For this album she rid herself of the boundaries of trying to fit into a label and just did her own thing. It works. “The Eye” is hauntingly gorgeous.
- Leon Bridges – Coming Home
Like many of the retro-soul outfits like St. Paul & the Broken Bones or Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – Bridges’ music treats 60’s soul with reverence but gives it some modern day playfulness. 2016 may be a big year for him.
2. Girlpool – Before the World Was Big
This folk-punk duo packs more into a 25 min. album than most of the albums released this year. The bare-bones, simplicity of the music (it’s just a guitar and bass), the innocence and nostalgia in their songwriting, and the fact that you sometimes can’t tell either singer apart had me playing this on a loop for almost the entire summer.
1*. Chris Stapleton – Traveller
Such an amazing “diamond in the rough” story. Chris has been writing songs and being a studio musician for years and he finally decided to show the world what we’ve been missing. That soulful/bluesy voice brings me to my knees. In the chorus to ‘Tennessee Whiskey” when he sings “you’re as warm as a glass of brandy” – that run he does on “warm”…dear heavens!!!
*A note on Adele. Although “25” was released in November, I really think this will be on the list for the biggest/best album of 2016. It still has a lot of life in it. I’m going to let it seep in some more.
**Honorable mentions include Ritual in Repeat by Tennis, Currents by Tame Impala, The Waterfall from My Morning Jacket, and Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes and Just Sit by Courtney Barnett
Girlpool – Before the World Was Big
This “sparse, stoner punk duo reminds me of high school. I love the lazy guitars, the slacker vocals, and tight harmonies between the two vocalists. Rolling Stone describes them as “raw, minimal, yet emotionally fierce” and they couldn’t be more on point. love adding a third harmony!
Leon Bridges – Coming Home
I love Leon Bridges for the same reason I love St. Paul & the Broken Bones. Just as Paul Janeway gets compared to Wilson Pickett, you’re definitely going to get the Sam Cooke references when talking about Leon Bridges. He’s the new kid on the block when it comes to the neo-soul movement. Perfect melodies combined with elvety vocals, and a kick-ass horn section. What else is there?
Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
A saving grace when it comes to the shit pile state of country music right now. More Kacey & Sturgill, less bros. I love everything about Kacey’s campy style, lyrical quips, and simple story-telling. The fact that she’s a bombshell that doesn’t take her self seriously won me over forever. This album is pure and simple fun.
Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon
A combination of Randy Newman, Henry Nillson, and Burt Bacharach on a cloudy & sad day. This guy knows how to tug on your heat strings with melodies that Paul McCartney would sit up and notice.
Muse – Psycho
Muse is probably one of the most polarizing bands out there. People either really love them or really hate them. I happen to be on the “love them” side and those on this side have been wishing for an album the reminded us why we fell in love in the first place. Another “Origin of Symmetry” of sort. Well, this is it. Muse is for those of us that like a bit flare and drama with our rock & roll. This doesn’t disappoint. Also, someone I know said Muse was just like Radiohead and that I couldn’t not like Radiohead and like Muse at the same time. False.
I haven’t listened to the new Florence & the Machine album enough, but it could be a contender for my final list. Others on my list for the year are new albums from Dawes, Bully, and Miguel.
9. Lily and Madeleine – Acoustic Sessions
The harmonies from these sisters are gorgeous. I love this acoustic album more than their album releases. Simplicty works for them. Such gorgeous melodies, too. Check out “I’ve Got Freedom“.
8. Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time
Although I think O’ Be Joyful is a much better album, I cannot dislike anything this gritty/rootsy/Americana/folky-rock band does. They are such a joy to see live – they’re coming to Little Rock in January. Here’s the standout track, “The Devil is All Around“.
7. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
I love the “poppier” direction they took on this album. I can’t believe it hasn’t gotten more attention. “War on the East Coast” and “Brill Bruisers” are standouts.
6. Taylor Swift – 1989
Somebody get me some Swiftamine. I am hooked. I love this album. “Blank Space” (awesome video!) and “Bad Blood” are outstanding. Although, “Style” is one I would get rid of. The beginning guitar lick sounds like the soundtrack to a bad boy character from Beverly Hills 90210. Right as he’s about to either swallow a lot of pills or down a bottle of whiskey. Listen to it – you’ll see what I mean.
5. Spoon – They Want My Soul
Spoon always delivers. And this album does not disappoint. “Do You” is probably the track that stands out the most.
4. Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour
I am in love with this guy’s voice. So smooth and soulful. His falsetto is incomparable. The lyrics to the songs are that of a 21 yr. old…simple lyrics mostly about loving someone that doesn’t love you back. Classic. Try not to be emotionally moved when he sings “Lay Me Down” live on SNL. All of the tears.
3. St. Paul & the Broken Bones – Half the City
I got to see this incredible band at South on Main in Little Rock. Paul Janeway’s Baptist preacher style delivery took my soul to another place. “Broken Bones and Pocket Change” and “Call Me” are standouts. Just watch this entire live performance (20 min.) on KEXP and you’ll get it.
2. Ages & Ages – Divisionary
This Portland based folk collective has brought the most happiness to me this year. A perfect blend of tight harmonies, compelling lyrics, and sing-along/stomp-along melodies. Key tracks are “Divisionary“, “Our Demons”, and “I See More“.
1. Hozier – (self-titled)
“Take Me to Church” is only the beginning of the brilliance of this album. So glad the world is finally catching up this Irishman’s greatness! His velvety voice and homage to American blues is enriching and inviting. Other stand out tracks are “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” and “Cherry Wine“.