That much closer to Christmas and that much more good music. Here are my top albums of the first part of 2016.
Richmond Fontaine “You Can’t Go Back if You Have Nothing to Go Back To”Songwriter Willy Vlautin brings broken-down characters to life in a soft yet sonically large album. There’s a story in each song, rich with tales that feel like each beat character could be played by Harry Dean Stanton. Richmond Fontaine is one of the great alt-country/No Depression magazine acts from the early days of alternative country, and this is a fitting farewell as they hang up their hat.
Jack Oblivian and The Sheiks“The Lone Ranger of Love”Memphis is chock-full of musical institutions, and at the top of the garage rock punk pile has been Jack Yarber aka Jack Oblivian. This one screams with fuzz and feedback yet packs in a load of great Memphis groove.
Margo Price “Midwest Farmers Daughter”Holy Tammy Wynette and every other country gal who came before her. Comparisons aside, Price has lived the downtrodden life she sings about, and comes out on the other side with one of the best country releases of this or any decade. This is a tough record, void of any over-produced polish but coming across like gold with its at times brutal lyrical honesty.
The I Don’t Cares“Wild Stab”Paul Westerberg has taken all that is great from his time leading The Replacements and all that is great from his lighter side found within the Mats and on solo efforts and put it together in his duo with Juliana Hatfield. It’s a jangly and lo-fi collection of songs that are bratty and tender, funny, loose and reckless. Which is what Westerberg has always been.
James Hunter 6“Hang On!”This record is so goddamned cool. Its like Sam Cooke met up with J.D. McPherson and they decided to blow the roof off whatever city club or back-room dive bar they were in. This is a record that walks a fine line between classic Detroit Motown and rhythm and blues while daring to perhaps even dabble in a roots vibe. Daptone has never been one to put out crap, and this continues their collective streak of great releases.
Car Seat Headrest “Teens of Denial”Car Seat Headrest honcho Will Toledo has put out a wealth of self-released, Bandcamp albums, with this being his label-backed debut via Matador Records. Start with the lyrics that run the gamut from funny stream of conscious observation, to bold statement of self-reflection. There’s lo-fi balladry found among straight up indie rock riffs; it’s a guitar album, and its audible similarities are found in everything from ’70s power pop to the indie movement of the last 20 years.
The bottom half of 2016 is looking to be as stacked as the top, with forthcoming releases by Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and The Handsome Family, along with punk veterans The Descendents and Dinosaur Jr. Throw in records from Okkervil River, LCD Sound System, Drive-By Truckers, Charlie Hunter and Grizzly Bear, and so much more.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]