#1 Courtney Barnett
Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
Best Album, Best Lyrics and Best Character Development: Barnett writes the best lyrics out there for the past two years running. Her guitar playing is nimble and inventive. Not a song I don’t love (see Modern Trader, July 2015).
Best Female Fronted Band: Treads the perfect line among being a tight three piece, rowdy rock, melodic and a fat crunchy sound. This album works at any time to get the blood pumping. Blake Babies run through a Nirvana blender that cuts with some of the best hooks from the mid-1990s (see Modern Trader, September 2015).
#3 Split Single
Best 2015 Album Released in 2014: While technically released in 2014, this one has been a slow burner. Front man Jason Narducy is an underappreciated indie rock journeyman, who has played with Bob Mould, Superchunk, Guided by Voices and Telekenisis. He also is credited with inspiring Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters/Nirvana) with deciding to become a musician. All songs are strong front to back. Not sure why no singles were heavy rotation for radio, because there are at least six on here that are better than 95% of what you can hear. BUY IT!
Weird Little Birthday
Best Sparklehorse Album That Was Never Released: Title track sums it up nicely, “It’s a weird little birthday/It’s a weird little song/She’s a weird little girlfriend/We don’t really get along.” Most songs are pretty mellow electric guitar, bass and brushes on drums with keyboards anchoring the tracks. Odd sounds are thrown in that wouldn’t be out of place on Halloween (See Modern Trader, July 2015).
#5 Leon Bridges
Best Retro Soul: Is this 2015 or 1959? With all of the talk in 2015 of Back to The Future, this guy was back to the past. His band could have been the one Marty McFly sat in with at the school dance. Leon Bridges looks as if he stepped out of a movie and sounds like God dipped his voice in honey.
Best Rap If You Are a Prince Fan: Wildheart forms a perfect union between hard core rap and soul bursting R&B. If you can forgive the misogyny in the lyrics, there is real beauty in his music and turns of phrase. Miguel creates an atmosphere where his voice is the star but the sound is the circus giving it strength, (see Modern Trader, November 2015).
Best Indie Rock Female Solo: Georgia native Mackenzie Scott graduated from Belmont University last year with a degree in songwriting. Sounds whirl under her sultry yet powerful voice. These songs sound well beyond her 23 years. Scott does not communicate her feelings well in person; rather, her music is her canvas for unleashing her emotions. Sprinter does not fall into the sophomore slump, but picks up the pace from her 2013 debut.
#8 Anderson East
Best Rockin’ Soul: Muscle Shoals pours out of these songs. You can almost smell the studios in the songs. There is just enough grit in East’s smoothness to hint at an underground history. His sweetness tinged with a bit of gravel and experience punctuated with horns.
#9 Tobias Jesso Jr
Best Paul McCartney’s Album in 30 Years: When I first heard this album I thought, “How brazen for him to rip off McCartney like this!” When I finished listening, I thought, “How did this kid do it?” Every song sounds like I had heard it on the radio forever – like the piano riffs had been sitting right there for everyone to hear, but Jesso was the one who found them in the ether and got them on tape.
#10 Sam Outlaw
Best Country Album: Country from Los Angeles that doesn’t sound like what you hear coming out of the Nashville machine. If you want to record a heartfelt sincere album of country songs that could have been made in the 60s or 70s, enlist Ry Cooder to produce and Sam Outlaw to write the songs. Filled with $1,000 couplets, while avoiding $10 words, I sincerely hope this is the first of many to come (see Modern Trader, October 2015).