5. Lake Street Dive – “Godawful Things”
Okay, so these guys are not exactly “emerging” artists any longer. I get it. But this tune stuck with me throughout the year in a way few did. Off their refreshingly fun LP Side Pony, this album opener showcases everything the band does well. An original opening combined with the deep vocals of lead singer Rachel Price, leads to a memorable, energetic, and soulful track. Personally, this particular tune was good enough to use in my own wedding this year. To say I love it, is an understatement.
4. Dreamers – “Sweet Disaster”
This was one of those songs that we heard months before everyone else did. We previously covered Dreamers’ EP and knew about their penchant for writing songs that rock with an unparalleled mood of cool detachment. When their LP This Album Does Not Exist dropped, this was the standout track. Rock royalty shout outs are made complete with just the perfect amount of guitar and drum machines. A song about longing and excess, it is easy to see why it found heavy rotation on rock playlists. These guys have a solid future in that indie rock/eclectic pop genre.
3. The Avett Brothers – “True Sadness”
There is some sharp division on the new Avett Brothers album. I personally love it. Of course it is a bit of a different sound, but it still manages to have all the elements that make them America’s sweethearts. The longings and theological insight in this one is spot on. A song about the brokenness in all of us, it still manages to offer hope in a way that only this band can. While I fought about which track to include on this list, this one won me over with the lines detailing the objectification of women and the laments of a greater kingdom. It is truly a great song.
2. Mondo Cozmo – “Shine”
This one is unexpected in every glorious way. One part Dylan and one part Arcade Fire, the mix is a perfect blend of indie gold. It seems like every part of the track gives flight to even the most stubborn of souls. Mondo Cozmo is the name for LA based singer/songwriter Joshua Ostrander who was previously in Laguardia, before striking out on his own. This sounds like a modern, sweeping, and epic song you would find on an experimental Bob Dylan album. This is the first track he released and it is enough. We found it on a whim and weeks after sharing it with our friends; we found it on the radio. It is truly a great piece of Southern lament and hope. The Dylan comparisons are sure to continue, and for good reason, however he is definitely his own artist. If he keeps pumping out rock ballads like this one, then we are all better for it.
1. Car seat Headrest – “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”
Teens of Denial, the newest release from the overly prolific Will Toledo, has found it’s way on more than a few top album lists for this year. It is much deserved. It is rare to come across a rock album like this that so easily grabs and holds the mass attention of fans from all genres. It is self-deprecating and hopeful and has some of the best lyrics we have heard all year. Each song is an exploration of mood and melancholy and I cannot think of a better track on the album than this one. While it was difficult, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” flirts with greatness while not being afraid to conform into a three-minute jam. Toledo finds a way to balance seemingly hopeful instrumentation with a story of someone trying to get home after drinking too much. He speaks as someone who has many inebriated conversations with himself. It is a beautiful track that will make you sing along with it’s building ending.