Top 20 Albums 2018

It’s been a minute! This is not a New Years resolution or anything, just life has finally calmed down since we last spoke. Anyway, more about that some other time - as is tradition (outside of last year, which was swallowed by wedding planning, moving, starting a new job, etc) here are my top 20 albums of the year 2018, spotify playlist at the bottom of the list or you can access here.

now now

20. Now, Now – Saved

RIYL: Daughter, Eisley, Tegan and Sara

Standout Track(s): “MJ”, “Set It Free”

The Minnesota duo perfected their electro-indie sounds with Saved, providing a big step from their emo-pop sound to a more polished, sonically-pleasing indie blowout as if Daughter went left of center towards Imogen Heap will a sprinkling of Eisley and Stars. The 6 year wait between their debut and this album was worth it with this finalized product. (Label: Trans Records)


Wealthy West

19. The Wealthy West – The Right Regrets

RIYL: Paper Route, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, The Rocketboys

Standout Track(s): “Wasting Time”, “I’ll See You Again”

From the opening chords of “Wasting Time”, you can tell The Wealthy West went all-in with a more formulated, alt-indie sound without losing the signature soft vocals. There are a few songs that don’t resonate with me like the others, but minor footnote in the scheme of things and not something to take away from a really great, carefree listen. (Label: Independent)


Juice WRLD

18. Juice WRLD – Goodbye & Good Riddance

RIYL: Lil Uzi Vert, Post Malone, Travis Scott

Standout Track(s): “Lucid Dreams”, “I’m Still

Well… couldn’t say I saw emo rap becoming something mainstream, but Juice WRLD helped make that happen. As my wife can attest to, “Lucid Dreams” was spun on the regular around our house the last few months. Certainly one to keep an eye on moving forward. (Label: Interscope)



17. Mitski – Be the Cowboy

RIYL: Japanese Breakfast, Alvvys, Car Seat Headrest

Standout Track(s): “Nobody”, “Two Slow Dancers”

Read any other EOTY lists? Chances are you saw this on that list. This one didn’t click with me as quickly as a lot of the others on this list, but a few months with it, I understand the hype and understand the praise of this album. It’s good. Really good. Mitski should be on the shortlist for the fest circuit this year, and on the ‘must watch’ list of everyone. (Label: Dead Oceans)



16. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

RIYL: Real Estate, The Strokes Room on Fire era, Cloud Nothings

Standout Track(s): “Cappuccino City”, “Talking Straight”

The confidence and self-assurance of this debut album is incredible. 2017’s EP The Fresh Press was a warm up and introduction for how good these guys could be. The indie surf rock vibes slay, and these Aussies have a bright future ahead of them. Consider this an auditory vacation. (Label: Sub Pop)


Wind Wave

15. The Wind and the Wave – Human Beings Let You Down

RIYL: Jamestown Revival, The Lone Bellow, Shovels & Rope

Standout Track(s): “Human Beings”, “Neon Prayer Flags”

Austin’s own The Wind and the Wave continue to do what they do best: fuse indie-alt sounds with catchy pop-driven hooks and flowing vocals primed for the radio. “Human Beings” is just a down right catchy song, and the album is a solid listen from start to finish for the indie pop lover. Also - is it just me or do I hear some Kacey influence? (Label: Independent)


Middle Kids

14. Middle Kids – Lost Friends

RIYL: Maggie Rogers, HAIM, Angus Stone

Standout Track(s): “Edge of Town”, “Tell Me Something”, “So Long, Farewell, I’m Gone”

This is one of the most essential indie albums released this year for my money. Ballads, anthems, singalongs – it’s got a bit of everything you could hope for with little-to-no filler. The Sydney trio have opened for Ryan Adams and Bloc Party both, and elements of this disc reflect the influence of those artists. (Label: Domino Records)


Beach House

13. Beach House – 7

RIYL: Grizzly Bear, Angel Olsen, Animal Collective

Standout Track(s): “Lemon Glow”, “Pay No Mind”, “Drunk in LA”

If Middle Kids released one of the most essential indie albums of the year, Beach House released the most essential indie album of the year. Teen Dream in 2010 will be an album that is always hard to beat in my eyes, but 7 gets awful close, and with time could surpass it as a discography favorite. It’s sonically spacey, but in all the right ways. Enjoy the float. (Label: Sub Pop)



12. Shawn Mendes – Self-Titled

RIYL: Justin Timberlake, John Mayer, Charlie Puth

Standout Track(s): “Why”, “Where Were You in the Morning?”, “In My Blood”

This one surprised me. Previous hits like “Mercy” caught my attention, but this album as a collective was brilliantly done. I know him and John Mayer are friends, but I get a lot of JM vibes (Timberlake too) off this disc, especially “Where Were You in the Morning” and “Like To Be You”, which Mayer helped produce. His segment on CBS Sunday Morning was also a delight, as an added bonus. At 19, Mendes is the next big thing in pop music who’ll be around for a while. (Label: Island Records)


11. Gregory Alan Isakov – Evening Machines

RIYL: Iron & Wine, Damien Rice, The Head & the Heart

Standout Track(s): “Chemicals”, “Too Far Away”, “San Luis”

“Was it just… chemicals…” From the second I heard Gregory Alan sing that on the aptly titled “Chemicals”, I knew I was in for a treat and my folkish songwriter loving heart would be filled by this album. Needless to say, it did not disappoint. It’s a very easy, chilled out listen, but I would expect nothing less from GAI. Take a night drive or a long road trip and let this fill the air. (Label: Dualtone)


10. The Carters – Everything is Love

RIYL: Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Blue Ivy

Standout Track(s): “Summer”, “Apeshit”, “Friends”

There is so much to like about this album. However, it was “Summer” that hooked me. The simple beat, the floating vocals of Beyoncé – from there I was hooked. Beautifully crafted album with elements to please both the Beyoncé fans and the Jay-Z fans, and even the casual listener who doesn’t tend to gravitate towards either artist. The best of all worlds. (Label: Roc Nation)



09. Glorietta – Self-Titled

RIYL: Shakey Graves, Noah Gundersen, Jason Isbell

Standout Track(s): “Lincoln Creek”, “Sinking Ship”, “Golden Lonesome”

The rootsy supergroup comprised of Matthew Logan Vasquez (of Delta Spirit fame), Noah Gundersen, Dave Ramirez, and a plethora of other rotating artists dropped this gem on us in Q4, picking up steam to wrap the season with NPR and spotify alike. If you haven’t given this folk fancy a spin, do yourself a favor now. (Label: Nine Mile Records)



08. Family and Friends – Felix Culpa

RIYL: The Oh Hellos, Caamp, Judah & the Lion

Standout Track(s): “Shivers”, “PRSM”, “Ouroboros”

From start to finish, I enjoyed every single song on this album. It’s not overly new, but just the way Family and Friends executed was perfect to my ears. Elements of heaviness, male/female vocal duals, stripped, raw, horns, riffed-up guitars – it has it all. Indie folk goodness with dashes of genre bending. A mirepoix of sound if you will. (Label: Independent)



07. boygenius – Self-Titled

RIYL: Julien Baker, Soccer Mommy, Lucy Dacus

Standout Track(s): “Stay Down”, “Me & My Dog”, “Bite the Hand”

The trio of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus formed an all-mighty triple threat of indie female power to release one of the best works of the year. All queens in the spectrum of the indie world on their own, the combination of three talents into one was showcased on this mini album, 6-song release. All we can hope for now is that we get a full length sooner rather than later with how good this one was. (Label: Matador)


06. Saba – Care For Me

RIYL: Noname, Ab-Soul, Chance the Rapper

Standout Track(s): “Smile”, “Prom / King”, “Fighter”

Chicago’s own Saba crafted one hell of an album out of grief. The concept album itself is one that hurts, and for anyone who has lived in Chicago and has seen a beautiful city split with gang and racial tension, the paradox of feeling is enormous. “Prom / King” struck me on first listen and is still incredibly difficult to listen to, with “Smile” and “Fighter” both being tremendously penned. In those moments of difficulty – the result blossoms something beautiful. (Label: Independent)


05. The Teskey Brothers – Half Mile Harvest

RIYL: Anderson East, Leon Bridges, Charles Bradley

Standout Track(s): “I Get Up”, “Pain and Misery”, “Hard Feeling”

Take some of the guitar wails of old school blues and mix it with a gritty voice somewhere between the rocky Anderson East and the smooth Amos Lee, and you have The Teskey Brothers. The Aussie’s carry the rootsy blues sound that is raw, untamed, and downright stunning. If you don’t listen to any other album on the list this year, this is the one I’d suggest. It’s that impressive of a debut. (Label: Glassnote)



04. MuteMath– Voice in the Silence

RIYL: Joywave, Twenty One Pilots, Switchfoot

Standout Track(s): “Work of Art”, “Distance”, “Kings”

Look – is this the best MM “album” released? No. But, is the presumably the last MM album? Yes. What was released as a “B-Sides” type album spanning the bands entire career, for the fan in me this is a proper goodbye to a chapter that spans nearly 10 years with many emotions, concerts, and memories attached to them. Hearing reworked pieces from songs that have been floating around for years made this album worth it and a true retrospective. While the vinyl was released with 4 additional tracks to make it an 8-track album, the digital release was kept to 4 to give true fans a true farewell gift, listened to the way Paul wanted them presented. Here’s a toast to MuteMath – wherever life leads you next. (Label: Wojtek)


03. Dermot Kennedy – Mike Dean Presents

RIYL: Glen Hansard, Dean Lewis, Lewis Capaldi

Standout Track(s): “Young & Free”, “Power Over Me”, “Couldn’t Tell”

If there is one artist that made a meteoric rise in 2018 coming off hype in ’17, it’s none other than Dermot. Doves & Ravens was a masterpiece of an EP, and Mike Dean Presents carries the torch for what is to come for Dermot. Swelling, strong vocals in the same vain as Irish songwriters before him like Foy Vance and Glen Hansard, the raw power in the vocals carries this album/EP (note: I’m technically considering ‘Power Over Me’ and the cover of Kanye’s ‘Heartless’ in with this album) along with the undertones of hip-hop production producer Mike Dean (best known for his work in hip-hop recording/mixing everyone from Kanye West, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Travis Scott to Jay-Z and 2Pac), which cultivate in something uniquely special. Dermot took a batch of songs that he didn’t see as being final products on his upcoming album and dropped this little ditty, followed by many festivals this summer (including Lolla) and a sold-out US tour. Dermot is on the cusp of breaking out. (Label: Riggins Records/Interscope)

The 1975

02. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships

RIYL: The Neighbourhood, Sir Sly, Bleachers

Standout Track(s): “Love It If We Made It”, “I Like America & America Likes Me”, “It’s Not Living”

If you know me, you know I have been an advocate for The 1975 dating back to their time as BIGSLEEP. The potential has always been there, soaked in the heavy British accent and whirling, floating synth-guitars. I Like It When You Sleep… was a near perfect album for me, that I was a bit nervous to hear how they could possibly top it. While A Brief Inquiry is still very much growing on me, with it being a late November/early December release, it’s clear the elements of this being another banger are there. The album is overwhelming yet essential to the direction indie-alt driven pop rock is heading. At times manic, it’s the beauty in the sum of its parts that add up as each song stands on its own uniquely, but altogether blossoms a wonderful, smart disc. Lyrically, if you can turn Trump tweets (Thank you Kanye, very cool!) into a song, you deserve my ear. Give “Love It If We Made It” a listen and find the entire verse about Trump quotes. (Label: Polydor/Interscope)


01. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

RIYL: 90s era Sheryl Crow, Maren Morris, John Mayer

Standout Track(s): “Oh, What A World”, “Lonely Weekend”, “Slow Burn”

If you have read any EOTY list and it did not contain this gem, then you should stop reading immediately. East Texas’ own queen of kaleidoscopic textured, shimmery, country pop fusion. So where does Golden Hour fit into the spectrum of modern-day country? SPIN summed it up nicely with saying “At times it recalls the aquatic haze of Madonna’s Ray of Light, and at others the open-highway rumbling of the War on Drugs.” It’s the psychedelic bend met with the retro soul of her idols with splashes of that country twang she rose to fame with. Musgraves noted the thought for this album of: “If Sade made a country album, what would it sound like?”

 Exactly like this.

If the Grammys aren’t about Musgraves this year, then I have lost hope in the organization I am a part of. This album is special, truly a career-defining listen that I’ve spun upwards of 50 times from front to back since its March release. The slowburn of the album is magical, and as captivating now to me as it was those first few listens. There is always something new to hear, to explore, and to become enthralled with. (Label: UMG)

Top 20 Albums of 2015

It's been a looooong time coming. When I made this list early in January, I kept pondering on if I actually wanted to release my yearly write up on it. Weeks passed, I became busy, and then the new year and the reflection of the past suddenly lost its place in my everyday life. Just the other day, while cleaning up some files I had been saving that I no longer need, I ran across this and figured, "it's never too late". A great life motto, yes, but also a key to sharing the past year in music for me. It's been a whirlwind, and i've seen my taste in sound continue to grow. I welcomed jazz back into my life early in 2015, and I began to finally come around on vocal tracks over electronics. Not quite to the EDM level yet, but hey... small steps. Sadly, neither of those genres appear on this list (let's be real... the best jazz revolves around the classics and/or Afternoon In Paris) but, there are a few albums that might surprise you on here. So here it is, my favorite 20 albums of 2016.

20. Leon Bridges Coming Home
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Label: Columbia Records
LIYL: Sam Cooke, Bill Withers, Michael Kiwanuka

Soul made its return to the mainstream this year, and it was carried on the shoulders of Grammy-nominated Texan Leon Bridges. I found the same type of hope in a soul revival that I did when I first heard Michael Kiwanuka a few years back -- but Bridges takes it a step further. With sounds that could fit right in with the best of the 50's or 60's, I can only hope that Bridges continues to shape the new-soul era the way that D'Angelo has come to define neo-soul. Leon... you might just be the saving grace for a genre lost. My only complaint is how short the album is. The songs, some of which are hard pressed to hit 2:20, just tend to blend some, but I guess the feeling of wanting more can be construed as a good thing. Develop, grow, and album two could be the official soul revival tour.

19. Bryson Tiller T R A P S O U L
Release Date: September 25, 2015
Label: RCA Records
LIYL: Travi$ Scott, Miguel, PARTYNEXTDOOR

T R A P S O U L is an album that kind of blindsided me and came out of nowhere. Not that I consider myself a R&B aficionado by any stretch, but most of the time I can say i've at least heard of an artist. Bryson literally came out of nowhere and was like a Phoenix rising from the ashes of shitty R&B for me, and I quickly jumped on the bandwagon of praise for the crooning, soulful R&B blended with moments of hip-hop. "Don't" became a hit towards the end of the year and early into 2016, but for me it's "Exchange" that highlights the album. One of the better debuts of any genre this year, and i'm excited to watch what Bryson does with a new found fame and fanbase.

18. Braids Deep in the Iris
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Label: Arbutus Records
LIYL: Sharon Van Etten, Purity Ring, Future Islands

A shockingly heavy-yet-uplifting album. With songs that deal with rape/rape culture ("Miniskirt"), that ghostly feeling of missing someone/something that you shouldn't miss ("Taste"), and even moments of gender equality and women's rights. Oh, and there is a song that deals with getting a dog to ease loneliness. Are you sold yet?  Know that this is an album that, at times, can be uncomfortable to listen to due to the lyrical nature. But it's a welcome step outside of comfortableness. Do you enjoy CHVRCHES and indie synth glam pop strung with powerful messages and solid musicianship? Pitchfork gave it a mildly strong review, which says something because Pitchfork never gets anything a good rating. I think if you give the song below a go and you enjoy it, you will truly enjoy the uniqueness of Braids and the messages that they're sharing.

17. James Bay Chaos and the Calm
Release Date: March 23, 2015
Label: Republic Records
LIYL: Hozier, Passenger, Milky Chance

James Bay, sir, you made a pretty rad album. An album that, yes, reminds me of Hozier at times, but an album that is impressive and addictive nonetheless. The roots revival is in full effect, and it's great to see the blend of folk/americana/roots rock all churn into one, and Hozier and Bay are leading the pack to mainstream success. Now if we can just get the unknown Kaleo into the mainstream this coming year, we'll be doing well. The reason Bay and this album finds itself higher on the list is merely because a lot of the songs I love on the album were actually released on EPs in 2014 - so the polish and shine of "new" has worn just a bit. But even those songs, like "Move Together" and the mega hit "Let It Go" still strike my fancy. Which is partly why this album even made the list. The other reason is on the strength of songs like "Incomplete" and "Need The Sun to Break", which are vulnerable songs that any hopeless romantic can relate to. I'm thinking Bay and Hozier need to collab. Might I suggest HoBay? Or JaHo? No? Ok.

16. The Brilliance Brother
Release Date: February 17, 2015
Label: Integrity
LIYL: Young Oceans, Paper Route, I Am They

Powerful album. I have been keeping an eye on the "other" Gungor brother since 2012 and the Lent album, and to finally hear the finished product of Brother was well worth the wait. Polished, well-crafted, and a true testament to the powers of music and faith. "Does You Heart Break", the song that made me a fan back in 2012, makes a triumphant return on this album, revamped a bit from the Lent days. The song pairs nicely with the powerful "Brother", the awe-inspiring "Yahweh", and the very Paper Route-esq "Make Us One". This is an album that I know I will revisit for years on in, and I know it's an album that will continue to bless me and others with every listen. Thank you, The Brilliance, for a brilliant album.

15. Amber Run 5AM
Release Date: April 20, 2015
Label: RCA Victor
LIYL: Racing Glaciers, Bastille, Kodaline

Amber Run did something that is quite difficult: they gave me my favorite song of the year. There were some truly great competitors (Wombats "Greek Tragedy", Volunteers "Somebody's Everything", and 28 others that can be listened to on my EOTY Top 30) but Amber Run's "5AM" takes the crown. I don't know what it is about the song, but just something about it resonated so profoundly with me and I remember binging on the song numerous times throughout the year. Which, if you know me, isn't something I typically do. The remainder of the album is strong, and the Brit indie rockers showcase their sound and are poised to make waves with follow up. We can only hope that it's chalked full of songs in the vein of "5AM".

14. Foals What Went Down
Release Date: August 28, 2015
Label: Warner Music UK
LIYL: Bloc Party, Young The Giant, Two Door Cinema Club

Foals have always been a band that I have strange fascination with. I remember hearing "Olympic Airways" back when and a year or so later "Spanish Sahara" and loving them both, and then I remember hearing songs like "Inhaler" and going crazy because of how awesome it was. However, each and every time i'd check out the album this hit or miss feeling would resonate. So when What Went Down was released, I didn't expect much. Turns out my expectation was blown away. "Mountain at my Gates", "London Thunder", "A Knife in the Ocean" are all standout tracks that bring about a sense of maturity and, for the first time, a sense that "their sound" has been discovered in full. Indie rock fans, eat your heart out with this album.

13. Alabama Shakes Sound & Color
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Label: ATO
LIYL: The Black Keys, Benjamin Booker, Gary Clark Jr.

Look, criticize me for being influenced by others on this one. The first album, Boys and Girls, is a fun listen, but for me it wasn't anything amazing. Unique and fresh, sure. I heard the potential in their sound, but I never thought this band would have mainstream success. Sound & Color dropped in April, and I took an entire 180 on the band. Brittany Howard is one of those talents that comes about every blue moon, and I guess the potential for success was lost on me a bit with the first album. However, it's impossible to miss with songs like "Don't Wanna Fight", "Sound & Color", and "Miss You". The entire offering that Sound & Color gives is a sense of unabashed joy. This is band primed to stay around for some time and to be the trendsetters in blues rock.

12. Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly
Release Date: March 15, 2015
Label: Top Dawg/ Interscope Records
LIYL: Kendrick?

A cliche album to have on an EOTY list? Maybe. But it's deserving of every single list it's on. I don't have much to say that hasn't already been said by critics who are way better with words than I am, but I will echo the praise that this album is pretty brilliant. My buddy, Ryan, will forever remind me of this since I like to claim a lot of lesser artists are better than KDot. In reality, though, Kendrick is truly the king of the game at the moment and if Good Kid set the table, Butterfly brought everyone around it to say grace and thank the music gods above for this rap savior. Yes, i use those words loosely, but King Kendrick is bringing something new to the rap game that the game has been lacking for years. To quote the one and only DJ Khaled - "they don't want us to have Kendrick. LLLLLLIIIIIOOOOOONNNNNNN"

11. Coldplay A Head Full of Dreams
Release Date: December 4, 2015
Label: Parlophone
LIYL: Non-Depressed Coldplay

Ahhhh Coldplay, how I love you. Even if you take a lot of crap during the Super Bowl halftime show, I still love you. I remember hearing you on MTV one day circa something like 2000/1 as a "artist to watch" when the "Yellow" video was released/MTV still had something even remotely to do with music, and i've been hooked since. You have written some of my favorite albums and songs, and you continue to spark my interest album after album. Ghost Stories was a rebirth of our love after you let me down with Mylo, and you showed me that I can trust you fully again with A Head Full of Dreams. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, it's just so lovely to hear that mixture of traditional Coldplay and the visionary side of Coldplay. Not much to say other than this is a great, joyful album that makes my heart happy every time I spin it. That is usually a great sign of a lasting album.

10. Avalanche City We Are For the Wild Places
Release Date: July 3, 2015
Label: WM Australia
LIYL: The Oh Hellos, Angus Stone, Ben Howard

I swore up and down a few years back that Avalanche City was poised to be a breakthrough after the release of Our New Life Above the Ground. While the album propelled him to great heights in his native Australia, the album never saw the actual light of day in the US outside of a few songs appearing in TV shows. Fast forward a few years and it's another tragedy of epic proportions that this guy is not getting love in the US. His sound is infectious, with notes of Ben Howard styled guitar playing and hints of indie folk singer/songwriter. The excitement I have for this guy reminds me of that feeling I got for Mumford prior to Mumford becoming what we all know Mumford as today. We Are For the Wild Places is an empowering journey of happy-go-lucky songwriter pop. "Rabbit", "Wild Places I", "The Midnight" are all gems that could stand their own ground as a single. "Inside Out" has that radio-ready sound, but from here all we can do is watch from afar, because it appears Avalanche City isn't going to start making waves in the US just yet. But, hop on the fan train now for when the time comes.

09. Dustin Tebbutt Home
Release Date: September 18, 2015
Label: Narvik Records
LIYL: Bon Iver, James Vincent McMorrow, Jose Gonzalez

What a perfect fall album Home is. Tebbutt had a big 2015 opening for the likes of Missy Higgins and Hozier and doing some international festival shows, but the real bright spot was his offering of Home, a mini album that was inspired by a move to back to his hometown of Sydney, Austrailia. Listening to this album is like taking a worldly adventure without ever putting the headphones down or leaving the comfort of a warm blanket. "Harvest" was written during his travels through Norway, "Home" and "Wolves Are Waiting" take a look at the journey one takes back home, and "Silk" deals with intricately weaving vulnerable moments together in a relationship to make something uniquely powerful. Don't be afraid to curl up on a couch with this album and just let it seep into your soul. If you love the minimalist-indie-folk genre or the likes of the artists listed above and/or others like Ben Howard, Asgeir, London Grammar, Vancouver Sleep Clinic, you will surely love Tebbutt and this album. For me, this was the perfect fall-into-winter album, and I spent many of nights sipping on coffee and amaretto with this disc playing.

08. Chris Stapleton Traveller
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Label: Mercury Nashville
LIYL: Jamey Johnson, The Steeldrivers, the movie Crazy Heart

I once heard this random song that a friend of mine played for me, who is a well-known songwriter in Nashville and in the country music scene, and was blown away. This was probably three years ago and I remember it to this day because, lyrically, that song was so powerful. Turns out, years later, it would become one of the songs on Stapleton's debut album, Traveller. That song, "Daddy Doesn't Pray Anymore", stuck with me from the early demos and when I rediscovered it years later, I was floored by how perfect of a story it still was. Country music has always, for me, been about storytelling. With the bro country epidemic, those stories are at a premium nowadays, but thank goodness for Stapleton and his old soul. About a year ago, I also became fascinated with a cover of "Whiskey and you" by an artist named Jason Eady. As I began to learn how to play it and, as I often do with song that impact me, research it, I discovered that Stapleton was actually the songwriter behind it when Tim McGraw cut it all those years ago. While Eady's version still moves me and is my favorite, i'm thankful for the offering that Stapleton provided, and i'm thankful that the dark, old school country sound is back. We need more Jamey Johnson's and Stapleton's in country music today. Plus, if it's good enough for JT to back, it's probably good enough for me to give a fair shake. Here's to Stapleton, and may we all toast a bit of Tennessee Whiskey to him and his excellent 2015.

07. Folly and the Hunter Awake
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Label: Independent Release
LIYL: Bear's Den, Lord Huron, Seryn

Here is another one of those albums that you more than likely haven't heard, because it never a proper US release. However, the Canadian band released one hell of an album in 2015. If you enjoy the sounds of Sigur Ros, that atmospheric mid-tempo sound, there is a good chance you'd dig this album. While that can play as a strength or a weakness, I find that, at times, sparseness relaxing. Why rewrite the cinematic tones and formula for a great sound when you've perfected it? Give "Science" a listen and be moved, or take in the addicting sounds of "Arrows". Whichever avenue you take, I hope you find as much joy in this album as I did this past summer.

06. Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Label: Asthmatic Kitty
LIYL: Andrew Bird, Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes

For the first time since Illinois, Stevens came through with an album I love. The Age of Adz was a nice listen but, for me, nothing more. It wasn't Illinois or Seven Swans, two albums I grew up loving in high school/college. Needless to say, I was excited to hear Stevens newest offering, but I didn't expect it to be so good. I didn't expect it to rival Seven Swans. But when you dive deeper into the backstory of the album and begin to understand and see that this was an album Stevens wrote about the passing of his mother who had many mental health issues, the outlook of the album truly takes a new light. In the same way that William Fitzsimmons made me fall in love with him all those years ago singing about his mom and her guide dog, Stevens made me rediscover the pure joy his music brings to me, even with songs that carry heavy subject matters. Do yourself a favor and listen to this album closely. Listen to the words, understand the songs, and don't be afraid to have a gut check and to step into Stevens world for a bit. Trust me, you will appreciate the album a lot more.

05. The Bros. Landreth Let It Lie
Release Date: January 26, 2015
Label: Slate Creek Records
LIYL: The Brothers Osborne, Anderson East, Paradise Valley-era John Mayer

Take a bit of blues influence of Anderson East, some of the country grit and grime that The Brothers Osborne carry, and the guitar sound of John Mayer and you have Let It Lie. I remember talking to a friend about this album last year and telling them that it was the album John Mayer wishes Paradise Valley would have been, but alas, it's The Bros. Landreth and their Canadian blues americana (can you stylize americana if you're from Canada?) that succeeded in that sound. Nashville is starting to take notice, and big things are to come, but for now, get in early while you can and enjoy the beautiful "Greenhouse", the sensual, bluesy "Made Up Mind", or even their twangy version of Calvin Harris' "How Deep Is Your Love". One of the most talented groups i've encountered of late, they have multidimensional written all over them, and I truly believe there is something for everyone with this album and with their sound.

04. Johnny Rain 11
Release Date: January 20, 2015
Label: ODD Dream Republic
LIYL: Frank Ocean, House of Balloons-era The Weeknd, JMSN

11 was an album that truly came out of nowhere for me. I had never heard of Johnny Rain until he appeared in my inbox one day. On a whim, I gave it a go and since that day have been so moved by this offering. It's a bold album, one that draws on Frank Ocean and borderlines on The Weeknd pre-pop-superstar-status. "A World of 100" and "TEN" have some of the best R&B sounds over a looped guitar i've heard in a long time, "22 Halo" has an atmospheric haunt to it that is perfectly balanced by the Ocean-like vocals, and "Harveston Lake" has a heartbreakingly beautiful vibe that is carried through with a choral-like echo, and "Tea and Thoughts" reminds of Miguel while delivering a spoken word element that everyone should hear. Watch out for Johnny Rain in 2016, he's dropping singles and mixtapes left and right, and before long might be on top of the game. Not to mention, he turned down an offer to join Drake's OVO. Mad respect for a guy who wants to be self made and is going about it the right way.

03. Ben Rector Brand New
Release Date: August 28, 2015
Label: Aptly Named Records
LIYL: Mat Kearney, Dave Barnes, Sleeping at Last

One of those feel good albums that you can put on with any mood. Rector has always had that songwriter niche on lock down, but Brand New is exploding him to new heights. The title track is finding its way onto radio airwaves, iTunes charts, and TV shows. There is no one musical artist that deserves the success more. And for Rector and Rector only will I drop this next line: woo pig sooie.

 The album is a testament to years of touring, honing a craft, and the process of writing the most addicting piano pop songs alive. "Paris" is easily my favorite song, and if you've ever been in love you can surely relate to the story of young love. "30,000 Feet" takes a surprising look at the story of a airplane encounter, and "Almost Home" channels Dave Barnes and acts like a part deux to "Hotel Keys", dealing with the struggles of the road, touring, and being away from home. One of my favorite memories of the year was laying on the couch with the girl, just talking about life and listening to this album one summerish fall night. Memories can often shape our favorite albums, and some of my favorite albums/songs all have memories tied to them. I can now add Brand New to that list.

02. Glen Hansard Didn't He Ramble
Release Date: September 18, 2015
Label: Anti/Epitaph
LIYL: the movie/play Once, Damien Rice, Alexi Murdoch

The Irish swooner does it again. Another simple-yet-extravagant album. If you've ever seen the movie Once, you've seen and heard of Hansard. Yes, he is the red head hoover sucker fixer guy. Didn't He Ramble delivers a gut punch to every time I revisit it, and it usually starts with "Wedding Ring". The reminder of true love is powerful, especially when the song is written from the perspective of a guy who loves a girl who might be a tad crazy. Or "Stay the Road", a song written while Hansard was living in New York in a woman's refuge (yes.. you read that correct) and how he would say a prayer for these women nightly, and he wrote an ode to that experience and to those women. The album is so delicately put together that it's a great retreat for anyone who needs to disconnect and just be engulfed by the simplicity of a truly crafted songwriter. It's been a staple for me this year, and as hard times happen, it's an album that calms my heart, it's an album I can reflect upon, and it's an album that I just sit and ponder life to. Not many albums offer that type of friendship to you over and over.

01. MuteMath Vitals
Release Date: November 13, 2015
Label: Sony Music
LIYL: Music

There is no secret about it that MuteMath is my favorite band making music today. Everything they've released I am a fan of, and it's no different with Vitals. One of the things I love about the band is their ability to continually grow album after album, but pull influence from previous albums as well. Always something new and fresh with a toast here and there to the previously traveled sonic highway. While the previous album, Odd Soul, took me some time to get into, Vitals just came so natural from the moment I heard it. From the upbeat "Joy Rides" and the amazing beats (and story) of "Light Up", to that blood rushing feeling when "Stratosphere" starts out. Then you add on the haunting "All I see" and "Remain", the latter being the closest thing i've heard to the bands self-titled album. These songs formulate something special and are intricately woven to make this a stunning listen with a little bit of everything for everyone. Dare I say, with time, this will move into the second slot on my MuteMath favorite discography list? Easily my favorite album of the year, and i've only had a few months to actually spend with it. That should tell you something.

I hope you find something new and something that you can fall in love with on this list. These albums have impacted me over the year, and many continue to be staples in my listening rotation. Check out the EOTY Spotify playlist below to listen to more from (most) of these artists.

Change Pt. I: Where I'm Going/Where I've Been

As I set out on this new journey of a blog, I do so with a theme in mind for a two part series all about change. Change is a notion that intrigues me. Everyone goes through it in this crazy life, but we all handle it so differently. Change happens in so many different forms, and often times change can happen without us truly knowing it's happening until its already taken place. 

I try my best to live a life that is reflected upon love and respect to my fellow man and those I love, but I am so beautifully flawed. I am human, and I fail all. the. time. It stings a bit when you say that out loud or type it, but it also provides a certain feeling of freedom from human regulations. I had a conversation recently with a friend where I was asked, "where are you going in life?" We'll get to that, but for now I am here to tell you the opposite. I want to share where i've been. The change brought about life lessons and a story that I hope can encourage others. Here's to vulnerability, healing, and a crazy twisted sense of thankfulness for life lessons and provision.

Music has always been an interracial part of my life for as long as I can remember. On my previous blog years ago, I remember sharing a story of riding in my dad's old car in our tiny coastal Texas town, passing the chemical plants and being enthralled by the sounds of Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor. The story leading to the now is a familiar one to many of you, so I won't dive into that again. If you haven't heard it, i'd be happy to share it with you someday over a cup of tea or an ice cold beer. So for the sake of advancement, we'll pick it up in Chicago, post graduate school when the itch came back to chase my dream. After much thought, prayer, and discussion with my family, my close friends and mentors, and of course Elise, I decided to take a jump and get back into the industry full-time. I have never been one to shy away from a challenge and a new destination. I went to London on a whim and I moved to Chicago without ever stepping foot in the city prior. I thrive on new adventure and opportunity. The nomad lifestyle has always intrigued me. The adventure I felt like was leading me to Nashville.

As I set forth on my journey, I connected with friends who were in the know/connected to the Nashville music scene. All the while, I was struggling deep down. I remember driving a uhaul from Chicago back to my mom's house in Oklahoma City and pondering everything. I remember unpacking boxes and then packing again, to transition my life from 20 boxes, a guitar, and a closet full of clothes to 5 boxes and some essential clothes. I was caught between a feeling of excitement and struggle, thinking "did I make the right decision? Is this really what is planned for my life?" I made the move, kissed the girlfriend goodbye and possibly cried a tear or two to have to leave her (again) and start distance (again). I took up residence in a place with two guys on the south side of Nashville (shout out to Mikky), and begin to feel the pressures of life. The change was a lot harder than I had imagined in my head months earlier. I became fickle at times, flip flopping between a fear of failure and solitude and a sense of optimism and hope.  I struggled with pride and with the process. Little did I know these little battles were preparing me for a change that I never could have seen coming.

Long and short... I ended up taking a marketing job with a very prominent record label. Out of respect for them, I won't dive into the nitty gritty, but my time there was not the change that I had envisioned. From the second I started, my morals and my wisdom were challenged in numerous different ways. I tried my best to deal with it and to be a sense of light in a darkened world, but it was difficult. I was seeing my personal life take a drastic hit. I wasn't acting like the same happy-go-lucky guy i've been my entire life. I found myself wrestling with the thought of what to do. Do I learn to live with it, give it time, and maybe arc my morals a bit and for the sake of the dream? Or do I bid adieu to the fantasy for the time being and walk away proud of the decision i've made, knowing that it would put me back at square one? The funny thing is, the original plan for change had changed

It had been some time since I stepped foot inside a church, but for some reason I felt the calling to get up one Sunday and go to some random church in downtown Nashville. I'm a believer and i'm someone who would consider themselves a non-conforming Christian, a advocate for a personal relationship over unified bulletpoint terms that separate you from someone else. However, on this day, the pastor share a sermon about detours. He talked about pivotal circumstances as faith catalysts, and how the hard times, the detours are a driver for growth, among obvious other attributes like teaching, disciple, and relationships to name a few. We looked at the story of Joseph in Genesis and the detours in his life, starting with being sold into slavery by his brothers, to being seduced and falsely accused of rape and tossed into prison. And that is just the start of it. Joseph is literally living a life of constant detours. If you're a reader and a seeker of stories, I encourage you to start with Genesis 37 and read all about Joseph, it's such a powerful lesson. It was like I was living in a parallel universe to Joseph (in a much more minor way) and for the first time during this process I was cognizant of detours. Maybe it didn't start out that way, as a detour, but somewhere along the road my eyes were being open to a message and a lesson. And it was up to me on how I was going to respond, how I was going to let change influence me. 

I remember talking with a friend one night shortly after and pouring my heart out to him, and I remember the look on his face so vividly and how he just reiterated a saying to me that rang volumes: 

"We are more than conquerors." 

As the week continued , I sought refuge in that daily. I told myself this line so many times it branded itself on my heart. I shared my fear with those closest to me, and through that I felt a since of alienation from some who just didn't understand the moral and personal struggle I was up against. And to be fair, I completely understand where that came from. Unless you were in the situation and knowing the in's and out's of it, it's hard to sympathize with. Thankfully, I was not seeking sympathy or any sort of empathy, merely support and love. 

The following week, after one final straw at the office, I parted ways with the label. I was scared to death to do it, but I knew deep down that something else would be there for me. I knew that in my heart of hearts, it was the right thing to do. I was no longer prideful and any sense of fickleness I had struggled with before had vanished. The change I bargained for early on in the journey was not the endgame. It was merely a chance to learn a life lesson, and an opportunity for me to listen and be a student. Three days later, I was offered an amazing opportunity back home in Dallas. Is it music? No. But is it a chance to adapt to change? Certainly. I'm now surrounded by my biggest support system, my family, and i'm in the same town (literally 8 minutes away!) as Elise, for the first time in 6 years. Damn!

Maybe someday I will get another chance to chase my dream of the music industry. If so, i'll be happy and ready to take it. Until that day when I know, "The timing is right... now is time for that change", I will continue to be grateful for the life lesson in change.

So... where am I going? Quite simple: Where life takes me.