It is hard as hell ranking your top ten-to-fifteen albums. So, as you move into the top 15, keep in mind that an any given day one might be a little better than another, depending on the mood and if it’s raining. But these are definitely all keepers, all great records from this year.
15. To the Sunset by Amanda Shires (indie/Americana)
Shockingly good lyrics (but I guess you might expect that from the wife of Jason Isbell), great music, a wonderfully consistent collection of smooth Americana and rock.
14. Cocoa Sugar by Young Fathers (experimental electronic hip hop dub)
The picture on the cover is weird and kind of gross. I’m really not sure what that is. A fingerprint? A piece of shit in a hat? But I can’t stop looking at it. And the music is about the same–it’s very weird, and I cannot turn it off. One of the best eclectic albums I’ve heard in years.
13. Nostaligia Kills by Jill Sobule (acoustic folk rock)
Maybe the sweetest album of the year, one that should move your heart up and down and back and forth. A true emotional ride. It’s my new favorite Jill Sobule album.
12. Cruel Magic by Satan (Heavy Metal)
This isn’t just a token metal album for my end-of-the-year list. It’s a genuine thrill ride. Blazing guitars, relentless drums and basslines, and vocals that combine high screams and serious depth. This album fucking rocks.
Plus, in a year where most of my picks for best albums are either male rappers or female folk singers, it’s nice to have some big, red, hairy balls!
11. The Tree by Lori McKenna (Americana/Folk) )
I’m the first to admit this was a rough, emotional year for me—maybe the hardest I’ve ever faced—so that’s probably why there are so many moody Americana women on my list. But Lori McKenna’s lyrics…There’s so much wisdom here.
10. Book of Ryan by Royce Da 5’9″(O.G. rap)
One of Hip Hop’s New Jack OGs (i.e., those who rose after Ice T), Royce offers his autiobiography–full of pain, reality, depth and cool. This is a career-making album by a guy who already has a career, so call it a lifetime achievement.
And what a year for Royce da 5’9″! His second album with DJ Premiere, was an authentic, complete tribute to the hip hop diaspora. Lots of rappers name drop Biggie and Pac, but few can hold their own with the legends they’re calling out.
9. By the Way I Forgive You by Brandi Carlile (country folk)
A complete tearjerker of an album. It will break your heart and build it back again.
8. Redemption by Jay Rock (West Coast hip hop)
7. Mountain by Dierks Bentley (country)
Pure and wholesome, powerful, inspirational. Everything country should be, without any of the corn.
6. DiCaprio 2 by J.I.D. (major label mixtape)
A dense collage of everything hip hop has to offer. This album came out after I’d already made my top 20. J.I.D. made me redo the list.
And now, the top 5…