Most years there is one record that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Things were different this year as three albums vied for the top of my favorites list. I gave up trying to pick one – I’m declaring it a tie.
Carlile recorded her latest release in a converted early 20th century barn near Seattle. The atmosphere infuses the songs and performance, anchored by Carlile’s powerful voice and her strongest songwriting yet.
Additional Twangville coverage of Brandi Carlile: Mayer’s Playlist for June 2012
What it lacks in twang it more than makes up for with high energy and massive hooks. This is my feel-good record of the year.
Additional Twangville coverage of Archie Powell and the Exports: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring, Part 3
Pug continues his transition from acoustic singer-songwriter to band leader on his latest release. At the core, however, are songs that are striking and personal set against sublime melodies.
This year’s breakout release came from a Colorado trio whose deceivingly simple acoustic arrangements pack a potent emotional punch.
This year there were Democrats, there were Republicans and there was Chris Knight. While the others focused on politics, Knight vividly captures the day-to-day struggles of rural life, vividly portraying characters approaching it with a hard-nosed self-reliance. As the man sings, “Times are tough, but they ain’t got nothin’ on me.”
Afie Jurvanen serves up an album of mesmerizing pop music that is immediately warm and comfortable. Part of the charm is the luxurious sound created by the singer-guitarist, ably backed by a drummer and the beautiful harmonies of two female singers.
The restraint of Ryan’s vocals and the musical arrangements do little to mask the raw intensity of these songs. Ryan demonstrates yet again why he is one of the unheralded elite songwriters performing today.
Additional Twangville coverage of Matthew Ryan: Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2012, Part 3.
Fullbright is a welcome new voice on the folk and Americana scene. The young singer-songwriter from Oklahoma writes songs and sings with a weathered maturity that defies his age.
Husband and wife duo Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland write pop songs that are sometimes edgy and frayed, other times stunningly gorgeous. They are always, however, melodic and engaging.
Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent sure know how to make a glorious racket. Their dirty blend of Southern country, blues and folk is a whole mess of fun.
Additional Twangville coverage of Shovels and Rope: Mayer’s Playlist for July 2012, Part 1.
Click here for more Twangville Best of 2012 coverage.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.