BEAR’S DEN - READ EARTH & POURING RAIN
Stephen Orr tipped me off to this one too late for it to get in the 20. This might have been very high in my favs indeed BUT I had heard that they’d gone electric and it had put me off. Electric guitars for sure but only in order to give their sound a shimmer and more even surface. Beautiful stuff in the direction Gary Lightbody goes in when he gathers his Tired Pony.
BURNING CODES - HOPE IS OUR LIGHTNING
I wrote in my review…
“Archer’s brother Iain, who guests on guitar, was up for a Grammy for his co-write with James Bay, Hold Back The River, but if he writes anything more hypnotically beautiful this year than She’s The Only One For Me or Got Love he’ll be a happy songwriter. When Gary Lightbody tries to make amends for stealing his drummer and endorses the album with “Breathtaking it kicks redemptive ass” He ain’t wrong!”
PETER CASE - HWY 62
Missed this one in 2015 and though I heard it in 2016 it didn’t qualify for the Fav Chart. It is a blinder of a songwriting project. I wrote…
“The best way I can describe HWY 20 is that I feel the whole way through it that I am right bang bang in the middle of what Jesus spoke about when he told us that his followers would be visiting prisoners, feeding the hungry etc. Pelican Bay is about the ridiculous amount of people in American prisoners, mostly black. The deep slow blues sadness of Living Water, with one of many sneaky Biblical images, has a 6 year old refugee in front of a judge being turned away from America. These are songs for the least of these.”
THE DARKLING AIR - UNTAMED AND BELOVED
Again, just heard this one slightly too late for it to make its impression. By mid January I think I will be thinking it should have been in there. Michael Keeney’s piano and production and Rachel McCarthy from Farriers conjure a hypnotic beauty of a record. Belfast again producing stunning music.
NICK CAVE - SKELETON SKY
I know. How did this one not make it?!?! Hard to define myself. Probably simply as a result of not being able to give the density of the piece enough time to let it seep into my soul. Stripped and haunting lamentation, I will regret it exclusion I am pretty sure!
DAWES - WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE
Love Taylor Goldsmith’s songs. Dawes are prolific and usually drop into my annual Top 10s. This didn’t dent my Favs because I didn’t get o give it enough time and it was a little more obtuse in sound than my favourite Dawes template.
JOSEPH - I’M ALONE, NO YOU’RE NOT
Sisters from the cool city that is Portland with fabulous harmonies. Very First Aid Kit they add a little spiritual intrigue which draws me in of course. Again… should have been in there!
MATTHEW MAYFIELD - RECOIL
Love this young Alabama man’s voice and have followed his musical accomplishments since I met him in Nashville back in 2007. This is the fullest expression of his art since his one major label outing with his former band Moses Mayfield. Matthew is a deep writer. God’s Fault is a gem here.
HOTHOUSE FLOWERS - LET’S DO THIS THING
Fabulous to hear these guys back int he studio. This is a long way from their big anthem songs of the late 80s but all their maturity has conjured a tender piece of near meditative rock. Hippy thoughts to gentle vibes. Late night reflective relaxation with a candle on the hearth.
WILCO - SCHMILCO
Again, I have no defence for this not being top 10. Jeff Tweedy back in laid back American groove. A few more listens and…
CHRISTY MOORE - LILY
Another good collection of folk songs by Ireland’s poet laureate. Maybe not just as convincing as recent albums but always a treat to hear his musings on Irish life. Oblivious does just that with his go at the bankers… “What will it take to make us angry…”
ROMANTICA - SHADOWLANDS
Now, you see. This was challenging the No 1 spot… and then they decided to give it an official release in February 2017… so this is the bar that everyone else needs to reach for in the year ahead. Ben Kyle’s songs and acute spiritual observational depth charges on top of that near Whiskeytown sound. Then there are mentions of Belfast… and Shandy Bass! It’s the one to beat…