Regular visitors to this site will know that I have a weakness for psych-tinged, country-flecked, resolutely indie, rootsy Americana, preferably with a lap steel thrown in somewhere along the way. It was a good year for this particular genre. Here are my five favourites.
Israel Nash – Israel Nash’s Silver Season
With or without his Gripka, Israel Nash is the current king country psych. He’s willing to give time to let themes develop, but never gives in to longueur or excess. That’s a winning formula.
Dawes – All Your Favorite Bands
“And may all your favorite bands stay together”. A lovely sentiment to match a fine album. And with it, Dawes consolidated their place as one of the bands that I’d like to see staying together for a very long time.
American Aquarium – Wolves
Wolves was a little less frenetic than some of American Aquarium’s previous releases and it was no worse for that. This was a masterclass in mature songwriting and playing. And with a certain southern sadness thrown in as well. What could be better?
Deerhunter – Fading Frontier
Even Deerhunter’s most restrained offering of recent times still left them slightly out there. But that’s what was so good about Fading Frontier. Think of it as Radiohead’s Americana album.
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
Jason Isbell is pretty much East Nashville-tinged musical royalty by now. Something More Than Free cemented his reputation as one of the best songwriter’s around. And ‘Children Of Children’ was one of the great songs of the year.
American Aquarium – Wolves
For the slightly world weary, the permanently lonely at heart, the pathologically self-deprecating, and those for whom the sight of a half empty glass would represent a really good day. Put the bunting up. Because American Aquarium have renewed their membership of the club. After threatening to call it a day with 2012’s magnificent Burn. Flicker. Die., BJ Barham and the boys have heaved a heavy sigh, raised themselves slowly up, and delivered another great set of songs. From the start, we’re left in no doubt as to how things stand. “I ain’t gettin’ any younger, Every day’s an uphill battle, Staring down the barrel of choices I’ve made”. Oh boy, that’s track 1. “‘Cos it’s a certain kind of despair that hangs heavy in the air, … And there’s a southern sadness that won’t let go of this heart of mine”. Oh my, that’s track 2. And so it goes on. Not that there’s no redemption. There’s often comfort at home. And even if we learn that BJ’ll “never be an acrobat flyin’ high on the trapeze”, there’s solace in the thought that he’s “just a singer struggling to stay on key”, because, he tells us, “That’s the man I’m supposed to be”. It’d all be just a little too much if the songs weren’t almost perfectly composed. Jason Isbell produced Burn. Flicker. Die. and there are times here when the songwriting is just as precise as anything on Southeastern. This time it’s Brad Cook of Megafaun at the helm. He’s done a fine job. Even at first listen, it’s like coming across a bunch of songs you’ve grown up with. At this point in their career, American Aquarium are a band who seem like they’re still unsure of themselves, but who sound like they know exactly what they’re doing. And that’s a really nice mix.
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