After our first full year here at EarToTheGround Music, I’m really excited to bring you a full year’s worth of albums. This year was a really interesting year and one that was really different from last year. Last year, we saw the release of a bunch of high profile sophomore albums that dominated the folk and indie rock genres. This year, we saw an explosion of new acts and incredible debuts. Without further ado…
#10 – Feathers & fishHooks Rayland Baxter
Rayland Baxter burst on to the scene this year with a unique blend of electric guitar sounds and acoustic, singer-songwriter style. His debut album, Feathers & fishHooks, is a near perfect collection of thoughtful introspective songs. With a voice that stands on it’s own, a unique style and the ability to write a song that is layered and reveals more on each listen, I expect to hear much, much more from Rayland Baxter. If you get the chance to see him live, do not hesitate, the emotion and brilliance increases in person.
Best tracks: “The Mtn Song”, “wiLLow”
#9 – Broken Brights – Angus Stone
Angus Stone is a prolific musician. He’s been making music as a solo artist and with his sister, Julia, and he’s made the jump from Australia to the US with his new album, Broken Brights. It’s folk music, plain and simple. It’s brilliantly orchestrated, minimalist, atmospheric folk music. Sometimes it feels like Angus in the studio by himself, sometimes it’s got a full band sound, but it always sounds good.
Best Tracks: “Bird on the Buffalo”, “Apprentice of the Rocket Man”, “Be What You Be”
#8 – Stars and Satellites – Trampled By Turtles
Trampled By Turtles has become, with Old Crow Medicine Show, the face of popular, mainstream bluegrass music. With mandolins, banjos, and instrumental songs, Trampled By Turtles has created an album that is both bluegrass in its most traditional form and immediately accessible to all kinds of music fans. Harmony is what makes this album work best and, when combined with instrumentalists that are among the best at their respective instruments, it goes from good to great and becomes one of the best of the year.
Best Tracks: “Walt Whitman”, “Alone”, “High Water”
#7 – Babel – Mumford and Sons
The sophomore slump is one of the most intimidating things about the music industry. Recently, we’ve seen some big names make us forget about this curse, namely Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, and we can add Mumford and Sons to that list. It’s difficult to remember that all the fame and recognition this band has received has been because of one record. This album takes Sigh No More and turns the volume up a little, plugs in, and produces more of the familiar sound we’ve come to love. The lyrics seem both more personal and more universal. The music is both bigger and more refined. It’s more of what we’ve come to love.
Best Tracks: “Hopeless Wanderer”, “Not With Haste”, “Below My Feet”, “I Will Wait”
#6 – The Golden Age and The Silver Girl – Tyler Lyle
It takes a lot for a singer-songwriter to best a band like Mumford and Sons and even more for them to distinguish themselves from all of the others. Tyler Lyle managed to do that immediately with this album and his song “The Golden Age and The Silver Girl”. It’s an album and song that betray his solo act and make him sound bigger than one man should. With songs that range from “Love is Not Enough” to “For love to come, love has to go”, this album has every emotion and feeling you can think of. His rawness and depth, along with his range in songwriting, make this one of the best albums of the year.
Best tracks: “The Golden Age and The Silver Girl”, “The Winemaker’s Love Song”, “I’ll Sing You a Song”
#5 – Lonesome Dreams – Lord Huron
Lord Huron has crafted this year’s best “concept” album. It’s an album that is, from top to bottom, an example of perfect execution. It’s self-contained and shows a vision that none of the other albums on this list showed. Based on the books written by an author/persona created by frontman Ben Schneider, Lonesome Dreams has a sense of scope and common thread that permeates every song and makes this an album that’s difficult to break down into individual songs. It’s an album that deserves to be experienced as a whole.
Best Tracks: “Time To Run”, “Lonesome Dreams”, “She Lit A Fire”
#4 – Under Fire – Green River Ordinance
They just don’t make indie rock like this anywhere else. Green River Ordinance, a band from Fort Worth, TX, has developed one of the cleanest, most spot on rock styles anywhere. There’s no extra noise, no extra notes, no extra instruments. This band sounds exactly like you want rock to sound. With songs like “Heart of the Young”, they’ve also written some anthemic, generational songs that sound more like fight songs than rock songs. From “Heart of Me” to “Dancing Shoes”, the range of this group and the perfection of their sound is here. Think NeedToBreathe, but cleaner.
Best Tracks: “Heart of Me”, “Home”, “Dancing Shoes”
#3 – The Lumineers – The Lumineers
Well, this one certainly isn’t unexpected, is it? The Lumineers and their self-titled debut took the world by storm and went from unknown to Grammy nominations in a few short months. They’ve shared the stage with OCMS and DMB and blog favorites, The Milk Carton Kids. This album is the perfect example of minimalist folk, with a guitar, some drums, and a cello/mandolin and incredible songwriting. “Big Parade” is one of the best songs of the year, perfectly capturing what it’s like to grow up in a small town. “Ho Hey” may be the catchiest song in years. “Slow It Down” and “Flapper Girl” will be songs we’ll be talking about for years. And “Classy Girls” is almost laugh out loud funny.
Best Tracks: “Big Parade”, “Classy Girls”, “Slow It Down”
#2 – Carry the Fire – Delta Rae
I haven’t been more impressed with a band in a long time than I have with Delta Rae. As a group of 6 people, there is entirely too much talent in this group to not make incredible music. With literally 4 different lead vocalists, this band can do spirituals, they can do Broadway style tunes, they can do rock music, they can do acapella, and they do all of them better than bands that can only do one. If you haven’t heard this album or this band, stop what you’re doing and listen to this over and over and over.
Best Tracks: “Morning Comes”, “Bottom of the River”, “Dance in the Graveyard”, “Hey, Hey, Hey”
#1 – A Long Life of Living – Goodnight, Texas
A Long Live of Living is an album that snuck up on me and never went away. When I first gave this album the attention it deserved, I was surprised by how diverse and clean the album was. It hits every style of folk music and throws in some original styles as well. “I’m Gonna Work On Maggie’s Farm Forever” is a revenge song, done spiritual style. “Jesse Got Trapped in The Coal Mine” is thematically and sonically old school folk. “Railroad” is an amazing exercise is creating a sound based on an idea and way of life that have disappeared. “Car Parts and Linen” and “Chapel Hill” are perfect, classic, lyric heavy folk songs. “Harmony” was my song of the year, a song that feels like two different songs perfectly merged and one that takes the most difficult feeling and makes it beautiful.
Best Tracks: “Harmony”, “Chapel Hill”, “Meet Me By The Smokestack”