Matt Kelley plays mandolin in The Legendary Trainhoppers and runs The B-Side at One Lucky Guitar.
Hiss Golden Messenger: Heart Like a Levee. Sometimes music is just right time, right place; this album (and its bonus collection, Vestapol) felt like a harpoon shot into my soul, to staggeringly beautiful results.
The I Don’t Cares: Wild Stab. Paul and Jules, sand-paper and daffodil, as they say (and said). Wild ’n’ wily, Westerberg is sharper than ever here; funny, heartbreaking, snide, out of tune and bled out, yet still believing, still rising. My hero.
Sam Evian, Premium. Started listening because he/they were opening for Teenage Fanclub, got lost in it. Saw them open for Teenage Fanclub (and, prior to that, Whitney), and didn’t just get lost IN it, but rather, I lost it altogether.
Paul Burch, Meridian Rising. I’m in a band; I wouldn’t mind if that band sounded like this. In other words, a concept album about Jimmie Rodgers’ life and death, ramshackle and loose and bawdy and boisterous.
Drive-By Truckers, American Band. Or this. If Joe Strummer were to write an album about America in 2016, it would sound pretty much just like American Band. I know you think you know the DBT’s; go listen again.
Whitney, Light upon the Lake. Pop album of the year; beautiful to just drop the needle on, and go about your day, well, unless you listen a little more closely, that is…
Teenage Fanclub, Here. This album is really terrific—better than Wilco’s, which came out the same day—but the real highlight of the Fannies and me this year was finally getting to see ‘em live, after desiring to do so for 25 years…
The Avett Brothers, True Sadness. Hey now, I, too, started running from Rubin. I ran like hell, I really did. But this album is pure brills. Redemption, despite the tape loops.
Slow Dakota, The Ascension of Slow Dakota. I was talking to PJ Sauerteig about this and he’s like “You’re in a band too?” and I said, “Yeah, we’ve got songs about cars AND girls” and he was like, “Oh. My songs are about existentialism in a post-ironic past-modern society, that come to terms with the bars that keep all of us privately in a struggle against an outside world that’s actually an internal monologue…” PS It’s shockingly enjoyable to listen to, too.
Warpaint, Heads Up. Slinky and atmospheric, out all night, whiskey on an ice cold tongue.
Mike Adams at His Honest Weight, Casino Drone. Tremendous, but if only Mike had picked the best here, and combined it with last year’s unbelievable Preparation Age EP, he’d been top three of the year.