The B List: Top 6 Of The First 6

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5) Gillian WelchThe Harrow & The Harvest

It’s been a long wait for Gillian Welch fans, but after after eight years in the making the folkie singer-songwriter finally released her long-awaited follow up to 2003’s Soul Journey. It’s no surprise that Welch’s fifth studio album is steeped in the sounds of traditional music, with styles seemingly handpicked from Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music. Woody Guthrie inspired Dust Bowl Ballads, country laments, front porch blues, plucky bluegrass and Appalachian murder ballads are all represented and expertly pulled off by Welch and her longtime musically collaborator David Rawlings.

4) The Low AnthemSmart Flesh

There will never be another act like The Band, but I’d like to make a strong argument that The Low Anthem are certainly coming close by channeling those same spirits that Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel did while hunkering down at The Big Pink. With their latest studio album, recorded in a former pasta sauce factory, the Providence-based act has made their case to become the the new face of Greil Marcus’ Old Weird America. Smart Flesh is a contrast of eerily beautiful ballads and foot stomping folk-rock numbers all bathed of their brand of patina-drenched sounds.

3) Middle BrotherMiddle Brother

Nearly a year after making their public debut at SXSW under the moniker MG&V, John McCauley (Deer Tick), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) and Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit) released their highly anticipated eponymous debut, not before first officially changing their name to Middle Brother. The three rising stars of the roots-rock movement contribute equally to this jukebox collection combining the signature sound of what these guys do best: boozy folk-rock and rockabilly, So-Cal blues and soul and California country-rock with songs about unattainable crushes, devastating heartbreaks and lovelorn laments.

2) Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues

In 2008 the Fleet Foxes helped usher in the age of beard rock with a pair of releases full of the band’s brand of pastoral folk rock that are equally as influenced by CSN and the Beach Boys, as they are by the British psychedelic-folk acts like Fairport Convention and Pentagle. The band’s sophomore effort picks up where the Seattle-based band left off on their debut, upping the production value for a much fuller sound, thanks in no small part to Robin Pecknold who had the band re-record the entire album after being unhappy with its initial mix. The sounds of Helplesness Blues may be best summed up as something that could be playing at a hipster Renaissance Fair deep within a mystical forest of evergreens somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

1) The DecemberistsThe King Is Dead

I came very close to writing The Decemberists off after their dalliance into the world of prog-rock with The Hazards Of Love. The bloated song-cycle, while certainly ambitious, strayed away from what they did best: the rollicking thesaurus rock of  smartly-written sea shanties and history-referencing story songs. Their latest is a return to form and arguably the band’s best album to date, as they deliver an exquisite set of bouncy Americana-tinged tunes while recruiting the Queen of Americana herself Gillian Welch to sing on seven of album’s tracks to give even more of an authentic feel.

So what are you favorite albums of the first six months of the year? Leave your choices in the comments section.

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7 thoughts on “The B List: Top 6 Of The First 6

  1. Neddy Reply

    Nice list, Jeff!

  2. Jeremy Reply

    James Blake
    Thurston Moore
    My Morning Jacket
    Panda Bear
    The Sea and Cake

    Just some off the top of my head . . .

  3. Lucas Samuels Reply

    Knock off The Decemberists and replace with Yellowbirds – The Color and then I could get on board with this list.

  4. DaveO Reply

    Today I’d put my 6 at:

    TV On The Radio
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
    Smith Westerns
    Fleet Foxes
    Kurt Vile
    Bon Iver

  5. AK Reply

    My 6

    TV on the Radio
    Bon Iver
    Fleet Foxes
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
    White Denim

  6. DJ Kucinich Reply

    that list is for sleepy time…fuck all the boring shit-people think they are supposed to like that crap, but nobody does

    album of the year- jeff the brotherhood-we are the champ..
    thee oh sees-castlemania
    moon duo-mazes
    all four of the flaming lips eps
    ty segall-goodbye bread
    sic alps-napa asylum
    unknown mortal orchestra
    ….that white denim does kick ass, though

  7. JBL Reply

    My Morning Jacket – Circcuital
    The Oh Sees – Castlemania
    Meat Puppets – Lollipop
    Akron/Family – S/T II
    Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee
    Timber Timbre – Creep on Creepin on

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