- 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