There was a top 20 and then @danmumbleson released an album on 8 December. So, 20 became 21.

St Vincent – Masseduction

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The promo campaign did nothing for me, neither did the outfits, nor a couple of the über-pop tunes, but, fundamentally, behind all the post-modern irony and the major-label production values, this was an old-fashioned St Vincent album in all its glory.

Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life

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Lana Del Rey is one of my favourite artists. A woman who has beaten corporate musicality and has been able to make the music she wants. Respect. Don’t tell anyone, though, but without the collaborations this would have been an even better album.

Ryan Adams – The Prisoner

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Maybe it was the Flying V, but from the very first chords Prisoner hit the spot.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

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My gig of the year. But Jason Isbell didn’t just deliver a fantastic show in 2017. He also delivered a top-class album with songs about beating alcohol, managing anxiety, and living in Trump’s America. All the more remarkable when you think that you’d need the first to manage the second caused by the third.

Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface

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Truly a mad-cap project. But an album that at a certain point of the year I simply could not stop playing. And it had the effect that all great albums have. It made me reacquaint myself with the back catalogue. Revisiting Simple Math was an almost equal pleasure.

Holy Holy – Paint

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Holy Holy delivered their ‘difficult’ sophomore album with great panache. Better even than their debut, Paint was full of good old fashioned rock songs (but for a modern age).

I was over the Uncut website and I came across John Mulvey’s list of his favourite albums of the first six months of 2017. I like John Mulvey and his writing. This time, though, I was struck by the fact that the list included 60 albums, now increased to 66. With 26 weeks in the first six months of the year or just over 180 days, he has included on average about 2.5 favourite albums per week or one about every three days. Now, let’s assume that he has left the same number of albums off his list. This means he has devoted quality listening time to about five albums a week, or one for every day and a bit. In fact, this figure is a little generous, because there aren’t very many releases in the first couple of weeks of January. Now, John Mulvey is a professional music journalist. He listens to music for a living. It’s his job to spot good music quickly and he’s good at it. All the same, my guess is that he has devoted at most about a day’s listening to the albums he’s calling his favourites of the first half of 2017. That’s not very much.

Here are my top five albums of the year so far. They are all cherished listens. And quite some time has been spent with them. What’s more, last weekend saw the release of three albums – Fleet Foxes, Jason Isbell, and Kevin Morby – that are all candidates for a top five spot. But I’m still getting to know them. So, I’m not going to include them here. Maybe they’ll feature in December’s end-of-year list? In the meantime, here’s my summer solstice favourites.

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Conor Oberst – Salutation

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Ryan Adams – The Prisoner

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Holy Holy – Paint

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Frontier Ruckus – Enter The Kingdom

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Jesu & Sun Kil Moon – 30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth

Happy New Year. Surely, 2017 can only be better than 2016. But who knows at the moment? What’s for sure is that music will always be a comfort. In that spirit, highly anticipated 2017 releases include confirmed albums from Elbow, Fleet Foxes, Foxygen, Grandaddy, Grizzly Bear, Horse Thief, Nadia Reid, Nikki Lane, Real Estate, Ryan Adams, The Shins, Son Volt, Strand of Oaks, and Sun Kil Moon. And then there’s always the H-LM wish list. This year, it includes Adrian Crowley, Alela Diane, Anaïs Mitchell, Bill Callahan, David Vandervelde, Feist, Field Report, Fionn Regan, First Aid Kit, Israel Nash, Jason Isbell, Jim White, Laura Veirs, Lewis & Clarke, Noah Gunderson, and Phosphorescent. Mind you, some of these artists were on my wish list this time last year. So, fingers are tightly crossed. Whatever happens, let’s start the new year with some good news. Word is in that Kramies is recording new demos. I can’t wait to hear the end result. In the meantime, here’s Kramies (feat. Jason Lytle) with ‘Clocks Were All Broken’.

This is always a really exciting time. A whole year of new releases to be anticipated. We know there’s material forthcoming from Villagers, Eleanor Friedberger, Andrew Bird, Dylan Leblanc, Shearwater, Tindersticks, Lucinda Williams, Sun Kil Moon, and Damien Jurado. There are also rumours of albums from Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket, Robert Ellis, and PJ Harvey. That’s a good start. But there’s much more to hope for. Last year, I was really lucky. Right at the top of my 2015 list was music from Elvis Perkins and Sufjan Stevens and both were kind enough to oblige. So, artists, if you are listening, here’s my wish list for 2016 – Bill Callahan, Phosphorescent, Richmond Fontaine, Anais Mitchell, John Vanderslice, Bon Iver, Kathleen Edwards, Kate Bush, Grizzly Bear and/or Department of Eagles, David Vandervelde, Neko Case, Emmy The Great, Ryan Adams, Feist, Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s, Fionn Regan, Fleet Foxes, and, of course, Kramies. Do please oblige. In the meantime, here is the great one with his classic ‘Sea Otter Cottage’.

‘Tis the season to divulge one’s end-of-year lists. Here’s part 1: Great albums by big names.

Big names often disappoint. Oh, how I once looked forward to the latest release from Sting. Well, in an alternate universe anyway. Sometimes, though, the big artists continue to deliver great work. Here’s a selection from 2015. (Spoiler alert: Adele is not included in the following list.)

Neil Young + Promise of the Real – The Monsanto Years

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Following Neil Young is like being on a rollercoaster ride. After a couple of duds – Storytone, A Letter Home – he came back with a scorcher. A little preachy, to be sure. But with some fine tunes and playing that hits the heights of the great Crazy Horse, The Monsanto Years was so good it almost made me want to eat GMO food. Did I miss something?

Björk – Vulnicura

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I shall lay my heart bare. Indeed, I shall portray it as such on the cover of my album. There wasn’t much subtext on Björk’s album, but it was certainly raw and confessional. This was a Björk sans affectation, sans happening, sans the usual Björk. And all the better for that.

Don Henley – Cass County

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Don Henley isn’t a huge name in his own recording right, but the point is that he delivered a really nice album this year. The version of Tift Merrit’s ‘Bramble Rose’ was worth the price of admission on its own. Overall, there was a sense of an artist who wasn’t afraid to show that he was in the latter stages of his career. That’s refreshing. Especially when the tunes are as good as these.

Ryan Adams – 1989

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In my world, Ryan Adams is the biggest artist. This year he surprised us with a full cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Great cover songs transform the originals. And here was a whole album of same. It raised the idea of Taylor Swift covering Heartbreaker in its entirety. Oh be still my beating heart.

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Unable to listen to anything other than Ryan Adams’ cover of 1989 over the last couple of days, I got to thinking why I like it so much. Here’s five reasons I came up with:

  1. Because the trick of all great cover songs is that the new version transforms the well-known one, creating something genuinely original and Ryan Adams manages to pull off this trick no fewer than thirteen times;
  2. Because we’re reminded that even though they’re now all smothered in pop, Taylor Swift is still a great songwriter who pens poignant relationship songs that are up there with the best of them;
  3. Because it sounds like a 100 per cent bona fide Ryan Adams album and one that’s pretty much as good as anything he’s ever done, which is saying something;
  4. Because listening to a man singing songs written about a woman’s experience plays nicely with gender roles, even when the pronouns are sometimes changed around;
  5. Because it puts 1989 back on Spotify!

What only five? Surely it’s impossible to choose just five from so many great releases? Well, it’s been difficult alright. But here goes. In reverse order.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cold Roses

Chock full of great songs and with the Cardinals at their peak, what could be better? Well, maybe the next four.

Ryan Adams – Gold

Ah, the big time.

Ryan Adams – 29

The third release in a single calendar year. Predictably ignored by the record company. This is a real treasure.

Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

Neither the first nor the last argument concerning Morrissey, I’d wager.

Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell Pt. 2

Not being the greedy sort, I’m happy with just Pt. 2. For now.