J. Tillman has been releasing albums on his own for a better part of the last half of the decade, but it’s been his recent gig as the drummer for fellow flannel wearing folk-rockers the Fleet Foxes that has helped to give his career a major boost. Year In The Kingdom, Tillman’s second full-length release this year, captures his sparse and haunting, slow-developing folk sound that at times channels the spirit of Nick Drake. If there was a list made of “sensitive beard rock” albums this one would surely be included.
Who said a break up record has to sound sad? With her knack for crafting bouncy rhythms and catchy hooks, Thao Nyguen’s latest proves that you can make an indie-pop record that contains as much heartbreak as say something like Blood On Tracks and yet still somehow sound cheerful doing it. It’s hard not to get sucked in by Nyguen’s quirky and endearing vocal style and heartfelt confessional lyrics that by the end make you somehow want to give her a big reassuring hug.
While we haven’t gotten a new studio album from Gillian Welch in six years, fans of the folk singer got the next best thing with the release of the debut record from her longtime musical collaborator David Rawlings under the slightly tongue-in-cheek moniker the David Rawlings Machine. Backed by Welch, Old Crow Medicine Show, Benmont Tench and Nate Walcott – the album features a mix of Rawlings originals, alongside smartly chosen covers of both traditional and contemporary tunes that showcase not only his fantastic guitar playing, but tender vocal delivery and sweet as honey harmonies.
The heyday of Laurel Canyon sound ended sometime in the mid ’70s, but over the last few years there has been a new generation of bands have embraced the area’s sun-baked, country-folk tradition including Dawes who recorded their ATO debut live to tape there. Full of lilting pedal steel, high harmonies and dusty laments, North Hills is the template for modern sounding quintessential California country rock record in the vein of The Eagles, The Byrds and Jackson Browne. Give a listen to When My Time Comes and see for yourself.
When three of my favorite artists of the decade – Conor Oberst, Jim James and M. Ward, got together to make an album under the name Monsters Of Folk, there was little doubt that it wasn’t going to end up at the top of my list. While there may be a couple of clunkers, the majority of this collaborative effort brings together the best of what these guys do separately – wordy songs via Conor, sepia-tinged Americana courtesy of M. Ward and Jim James fondness for Southern soul music – often times all within the course of one song, turning them into the 21st century’s equivalent of The Traveling Wilburys.
So what are you favorite albums of the last six months of the year? Leave your choices in the comments section.
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