These are our favorite listens from 2016, ranked because why not but for the most part really in no particular order.
2. Fruit Bats, Absolute Loser: Catchy, spacey, just one hell of a listen. If you can’t smile while listening to ‘Birthday Drunk’ there is definitely something wrong with you.
3. Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth: He produced his own record, about his infant son, made it sound like Aloha in Hawaii Elvis and ended up nominated for the Record of the Year Grammy against Beyonce and Justin Beiber. Just the way he drew it up.
4. Hayes Carll, Lovers & Leavers: This may have gotten the most spins out of us this year, a beautiful record from one of the best (and funniest) songwriters working.
5. The National & Friends, Day of the Dead: 50+ Dead covers with the National guys backing most everyone from the likes of Jim James to Courtney Barnett to Hiss (yep there it is) Golden Messenger to Mumford & Sons.Long Live the Dead.
6. Drive-By Truckers, American Band: The anti gun, anti redneck record that we all deserve. You can never doubt their sincerity and passion, even in the face of criticism from their own fans. And the songs are their most timely ever. Pissed off Cooley is my favorite Cooley.
7. Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial: Not quite a teen but this dude, Will Toledo, is only 24 and this record is one of the most original you’ll every hear.
8. The Dexateens, Teenage Hallelujah: Didn’t even know these guys were back together, and here they are with their best record ever, tracked in lead singer Elliott McPherson’s BARN. Only the Dexateens could make a barn work for them. It would great if the Tide replaced Sweet Home with Alabama Redneck in the third quarter.
9. Mudcrutch, 2: No big deal, just Tom Petty making incredible records with his first band, just for fun. And of course it’s terrific.
10. Natural Child, Okey Dokey: These Nashville cats are one of our favorite finds this year. They kinda sound like the Dexateens!
11. Hard Working Americans, Rest in Chaos: The first original album from the Todd Snider, Dave Schools, Neal Casal, Duane Trucks collaboration. No one writes burnout tunes like Mr. Snider. Pants on the ground.
12. Wolfmother, Victorious: Andrew Stockdale, he of the amazing hair and better riffs, triumphs with more hard rock awesomeness.
13. Brent Cobb, Shine on Rainy Day: Dave Cobb’s cousin writes great tunes, like South of Atlanta. We’ve all made that drive.
14. MusicBand, Wake Up Laughing: More Nashville dudes! Friends with Natural Child! From their bio: “MusicBand is NOT a group of sour-faced millennial cry-babies wearing fedoras and Beatle Boots, trudging through their live performances, looking like they can’t wait to get off stage and hit their vape pens.” So there’s that! Also, this record rocks.
15. The Lumineers, Cleopatra: You know, I must admit that thought these guys were one-hit Hey Ho bunch of dirtnapping hee hee boys and girls with depression strings to hold up their guitars, pants and attitudes. But I was wrong! Haven’t been so happy about being wrong since the Strokes turned out to be good. Anyway, this is a really melodic, excellent record.
16. Wheeler Walker Jr., Redneck Shit: What do you want from me? Sure, it’s juvenile but it’s also the countriest country record that anyone released this year.
17. Band of Horses, Why Are You Ok: These Georgia/Carolina boys are so consistent, and this is their best since Infinite Arms.
18. Tedeschi Trucks Band, Let Me Get By: An American Treasure. Stick around for their Keep on Growing cover in the bonus tracks.
19. Jack Ingram, Midnight Motel: Been seeing this dude since the 90’s when he used to come play Ole Miss frat parties. And here he is with his best record ever.
20. Radiohead, Moon Shaped Pool: It’s a Radiohead record- so yeah, it’s pretty fucking good.
Honorable Mention: The Rolling Stones, Blue & Lonesome: honestly, let’s just celebrate that this thing EXISTS. The Stones playing the blues covers that inspired them. Sign me up. And Jagger steals the show with his harmonica playing.
Honorable Mention II: The Cult, Hidden City: Did you know The Cult was still around, and making killer records? They played Variety this year and it was badass.