Tag Archives: country music

LHG’s Top 14 Albums of 2014!

Okay, so I’m a week late, but hey, better late than never, right? It was once my all-time dream to write for SPIN Magazine and be the female Chuck Klosterman (okay, it still is my dream) but sometimes I realize that when I write about music, I am anything but objective. I’m usually emotional and my own feelings stem into the songs I love the most, so I guess what I’m really getting at is that if you’re looking for an unbiased report of the “best albums in 2014” you might want to click away. Below is the list of tracks that I loved, unashamedly, and probably obsessively talked my friends’ ears off about while they politely nodded.

Anyway, let’s get to the good stuff! Because I was raised in the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation, I have to start by saying that there were a few albums that just missed my countdown, and are as such, “honorable mentions” of my year. In no particular order, they are:

All were excellent, and yes, all are linked to Spotify for your listening pleasure- but remember, vinyl is best!

What really went into permanent rotation and obsession in 2014? To the countdown!

14. Lake Street Dive, Bad Self Portraits

These are the kids who were actually successful music majors and had fun while they were at it. Play this album at a dinner party, play this album in the car, but mostly play this album when you’re alone, because your attempts to singalong to Rachel Price and try to master her smooth, incredible voice might be in vain, but it’s still an amazing mix of songs to make you feel like you’re living in your own personal modern jazz club. (But seriously, when do I get to sound like her?)

Key Tracks: You Go Down Smooth, Seventeen, Bad Self Portraits, Rabid Animal

13. Bleachers, Strange Desire

Take the best things about the 80s- power rock, singalongs, John Hughes-esque scores, Yoko Ono, and whoa-whoa’s- and put them with the sharpest indie songwriter producer on the block currently and you’ll get Jack Antonoff’s baby: this album. Just reread that sentence, say yes, and play it.

Key Tracks: Wild Heart, Rollercoaster, I Wanna Get Better, You’re Still A Mystery

12. Miranda Lambert, Platinum 

There’s a reason this girl can do whatever she wants and is at the top of her game, and that’s song selection and vocal range. Miranda can do twang mixed with powerhouse guitars mixed with major harmonies and it all comes out perfect. Her clever songwriting has only gotten better, too, and I’m forever a fan.

Key Tracks: Platinum, Priscilla, Bathroom Sink, Old Sh!t, All That’s Left, Hard Staying Sober

11. Shakey Graves, And The War Came

A little local Austin love that’s going to be big this year. I can’t wait to see how 2015 treats him. You know that artist that weird indie kids who go to art school and your Dad’s best classic-rock-inclined friends both love? Oh, you don’t? Put on this album and find out.

Key Tracks: Only Son, Dearly Departed, The Perfect Parts, Hard Wired

10. Lee Ann Womack, The Way I’m Livin’

Hello country music and a woman- two things I have desperately missed out on seeing together in the same sentence. Lately the genre hasn’t put many women at the forefront, but Lee Ann Womack is leading the charge without even campaigning- just on the laurels of this album alone. If nothing else, I am convinced that she has the hands-down best voice in country music and that she is also a vocal angel sent here to save us all. Moreso, this album lets her take us to church (more on that metaphor later, though) with bluegrass-y goodness and sassy lyrics. What a lady.

Key Tracks: Chances Are, The Way I’m Livin’, Tomorrow Night in Baltimore

9. Noah Gundersen, Ledges

Warning: you might cry. This may not be the soundtrack to any sunny days, but when it rains it pours, and Ledges is a good flood to be caught in. Noah Gundersen writes honest songs that cut deep, but isn’t that why we love music? To help us express things, or at the very least, give us the means to say, “me too” to any revealing lyric? I hope so. Crack open a bottle of whiskey before you start this one, but don’t make any immediate plans, because you’ll need to digest feelings of love lost, worn childhood, addiction and bleak hope. Also, maybe turn your phone off to avoid that temptation to text your ex.

Key Tracks: Ledges, First Defeat, Liberator, Cigarettes

8. Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else

It’s so hard for me to find women songwriters that I love, but when I do, I love them with the ferocity of a mother lion protecting her cubs, since I feel like the music industry doesn’t do a good job keeping them around. Fiercely so, Lydia Loveless earns her place in my heart and in this list as an all around badass. She and I are the same age, and for better or worse, her lyrics feel like I could have come out of my own journal, so for that fact I love her like she’s my own personal, darker and more relevant Taylor Swift (although, I have to admit that even though I’ve never been a T.S. kind gal, I actually liked 1989.) Regardless, hooray girl power! She’s the type of girl who’ll shoot a gun (and some whiskey) with you. She’s the type of girl with a killer record collection. She’s the type of girl who can make a song about drunkenly calling your ex sound almost romantic, and for that, I applaud her (and also realize drunk texts/calls are becoming a theme in this list? Oops.)

Key Tracks: Really Wanna See You, Wine Lips, To Love Somebody, Head, Somewhere Else

7. Eric Church, The Outsiders

If you didn’t know better, someone might try to tell you that Eric Church was a major country star. While that’s partially true, he’s also apparently a fan of every other genre, as he mixes them in this gem of an album. There’s nods of Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, AC/DC and yes, even some Hank Williams Jr in these tracks, but mostly, there’s a man who just loves music and songwriting and can’t stay in one place, and trust me when I say that I’m so thankful he doesn’t.

Key Tracks: Cold One, Talladega, Broke Record, That’s Damn Rock & Roll, Give Me Back My Hometown

6. St Paul & The Broken Bones, Half The City

Get ready for your ears to be rocked and taken back to a time when vocals and horns married together for a big-band-whoa-is-this-real-music-or-what moment that lasted. I dare you to not be blown away by the raw vocal talent of Paul Janeway (like how he completely nailed this Otis Redding cover!) Oh, and when his band joins in? Mm. HMM. You just go ahead and try not feel something. You feel it, don’t you? Feel it in your soul? That’s what this album does. Every song is a ride of funk mixed with fun that hits you in the insides. SPATBB mix lighthearted flirting in Call Me with pure, tear-me-in-half heartache on Broken Bones and Pocket Change, and  you’ll thank them for both. You’ll love this album, your Mom and Dad will love this album, and anyone nearby while you play it might just start dancing, so be warned. Oh, and seeing them live? You’re not even prepared.

Key Tracks: Like A Mighty River, Call Me, Broken Bones & Pocket Change, I’m Torn Up

5. Shovels & Rope, Swimmin’ Time

If you don’t know, you might think this married couple has an entire backing band, but it’s just the two of them, consistently making music that’ll knock your socks off. This album is an instant classic (along with their 2012 release O’ Be Joyful) mostly because they mix the love of Johnny and June with the unhinged nature of Sid and Nancy, and the result is music that makes me so happy we don’t have to pick one genre. Go ahead and have em all: swamp, americana, rock, country, singer-songwriter, comical, sincere, and just simply, Shovels and Rope, preferable banging on drums and guitars all day long.

Key Tracks: The Devil Is All Around, Evil, After The Storm, Mary Ann & One Eyed Dan, Coping Mechanism

4. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

If you know me at all, it’s that I’m tired of apologizing for my love of country music, and I’ll be damned if this album didn’t help me overcome that. This album (literally) sounds like Waylon is living inside of every song, so of course I love it,  but it’s the way that Sturgill just did the whole thing- big labels be damned and released it independently. It sounds like old mixed with new, from lyrics about drug trips to  You don’t have to work on a farm to be authentic to the style, but the truth’s in the delivery and the sentiment, and Sturgill’s songwriting and musicianship proudly seal him with the title of “country” – a word that’s been tarnished and stepped on and redefined all the time. This new title is one that he won’t apologize for and I think it fits pretty damn well (not to mention the fact that it’s also a kickass album musically and his voice is a near-perfect gravel to tell you about the hard life he’s lived.)

Key Tracks: Turtles All The Way Down, Life of Sin, Living The Dream, Long White Line, The Promise

3. Ryan Adams, Ryan Adams

If you’ve loved Ryan Adams even a little, then this album is for you (and since I love him like a lot, I’m still preaching on its perfection). He’s struck several chords between rock and roll to Americana to sad-drunk-guy-serenading you and this album has all of them mixed together. I finally got the chance to see him live this year, too, so hearing these on stage mixed with “My Winding Wheel” and “Oh My Sweet Carolina” and “Magnolia Mountain” along with his sincerity and excitement to be playing in Austin also makes this album a sentimental pick. But more than that, it’s always amazing to see someone who’s been around so long still make consistently great music, and this collection of tracks makes me just as excited for whatever he puts out next. Plus, ask any fan of Tom Petty and/or sound-engineer friend you have and they’ll rave about this one for a while. (Oh, you didn’t know all sound engineers loved Tom Petty or you don’t have sound engineer friends who talk about gear all day? Lucky you.)

Key Tracks: Kim, Shadows, My Wrecking Ball, Feels Like Fire

2. Damien Rice, My Favorite Faded Fantasy

Ahh yes. For 8 years, 8 LONG YEARS, I have waited for this day. I have blogged multiple times (embarrassingly) about how much I wanted a new Damien Rice album to happen. I have set @damienrice’s tweets to be delivered to my phone in case he announced anything new, partly in fact that I am overcoming a 9th grade fangirl love of him, and partly because his old albums meant so much to me that I could hardly imagine a new one, and this one….well, sigh. It wasn’t the same—but that’s what made it even more perfect! It was Damien 8 years later, broken up with his longtime collaborator Lisa Hannigan, and I was me 8 years later, also having broken up with a few people and habits since he last gave me an album to love in 2006. This album was new for both of us, short but sweet, packing honest-to-a-fault lyrics with sweeping instrumentals and gorgeous vocals and sentiments that put him on the map in the first place. You feel like you could crush the sincerity of this album with its delicate moments, but at the same time, it’s so comfortable to fall back into his emotionally-charged world that you might not leave. Maybe someday I’ll stop loving sad music, but probably not.

Key Tracks: ALL OF IT! But, if you make me choose: The Greatest Bastard, I Don’t Want To Change You, Colour Me In, It Takes A Lot To Know A Man

1. Hozier, Hozier

It takes a lot of soul and goosebumps-inducing sounds to steal the top spot as a new artist from all my other favorites, but this album did it in a huge way. Besides my obvious crush on Hozier, his voice and his man bun, these tracks all hit me right in my heart and ears and didn’t leave. Before the world caught on to Take Me To Church (and yes, I admitedly sound totally hipster with that sentence) I was living in Nashville and uncomfortable with my life, relationships and job, and I remember the local radio station started playing this amazing song that bowled me over the first time I heard it, driving down 8th avenue to work at 4 AM. It swelled and it felt emotional and it felt like something brand new,  and has stuck with me since. There’s a joy in getting wrapped up in an album and this one did it for me from start to finish, and well into all the live performance videos I researched on Youtube, too. Hozier’s the real deal, putting everything into live performances while also making artful albums with both rock and soul, and I have a feeling 2015 is going to be good to him and to my new obsession with him.  Speaking of, if any of you know of any cute single guys with man buns and guitars, well…

Key Tracks: NO, SERIOUSLY, ALL OF IT. but if you make me pick: Jackie and Wilson, Someone New, Work Song, To Be Alone

Whew! Since you made it this far- 2 things:

1. Here’s a playlist of my key tracks as a reward:

2. I want to hear from you! Surely I can’t be alone in my music snobbery! What were your favorite albums of 2014?

Hello, Dolly! (Literally!)

(Note: I highly suggest you read THIS POST to get a better grasp on just how much I am trying not to use a ton of exclamation points in excitement after every sentence in today’s post.)

Dolly Parton and I were in the same room.

I met my idol yesterday and I’m still not over it!!!!!

Since interning for SiriusXM, I’ve been around several musicians, all of whom have proved talented and generous and for the most part, personable, and I’ve gotten over being ‘starstruck’ to a certain extent. However, I’d be lying if I said that my heart didn’t soar and my hands didn’t shake a little bit when we got the news that my favorite female country artist was going to be waltzing into our studio.
In case I haven’t made myself clear, I absolutely LOVE Dolly Parton. I wrote extensively about my love for her HERE and well, my intern desk has been displaying the inspirational message, “W.W.D.D.?” for a while now:

  • Did I spend more time than usual picking out the perfect outfit and accessories Tuesday night?

  • Did I proclaim the day to be a holiday that we would refer to as “D-Day”?

  •  Did I freak out slightly when I remembered that my current ringtone is “Jolene”?

  • Did I run down Broadway and dash into several record stores searching for vinyl and books by Dolly herself the morning of?

  • Did I send my mom and best friend text messages with waaaay too many exclamation points describing what was happening?

Shamelessly, all of the above!

I’ll admit- I was afraid that maybe she just wouldn’t measure up. I didn’t think she’d be horrible but with so much publicity, you never really know how an artist will be in person. But I’m here to tell you that if I didn’t already love Dolly, I do now, tenfold! She was gracious, quick-witted, excited and well-spoken and the whole time I kept trying not to bust out into a huge goofy grin. However, ‘trying’ is the key word in that last sentence, because when she’d start to talk about her songwriting, I’d just beam in the corner. She spoke about her new album and her inspiration behind it, but then she started to tell stories about the songs in her catalog and I think I may have done a little somersault in my seat. The stories behind I Will Always Love You, Love Is Like A Butterfly, Two Doors Down, Coat of Many Colors, Light of a Clear Blue Morning and MORE graced my ears. I know I’m just a little intern in a big pond and while I didn’t conduct an interview with her myself, sitting in and hearing one was like the answers to my own little fan questions. She talked and joked, but the best part was these little moments when she’d sing the first line of a song when talking about it and her voice would fill the studio for just a few seconds and I got to hear the woman I’ve idolized perform a few words in the closest makeshift concert setting I could imagine. And yes, of course I started smiling again like a goofball.

(And now- I’ll do a little plug and tell you that this Dolly goodness will air on SiriusXM’s various channels, specifically The Highway! Don’t miss out!)

You know, I would have told you that you were crazy if you had told me that the woman I described as “Queen Of The Lion Hair” would be standing right next to me, a self-described lion-haired fangirl, but for good reason, I was proven wrong.

And for the record, yes, she smelled like sunshine and dreams that have come true!

George Michael Might Not Approve

If you’ll allow me two seconds of name-dropping- I had a ticket to the CMT Music Awards last week! This, of course, was courtesy of the internship I’m enjoying this summer, blah blah blah, I know, just get to the picture already-

(HI MOM!)

Not surprisingly, I’ve never been to an award show before, so the format was super interesting. The crowd was taught line dances during commercial breaks, encouraged to applaud every five seconds and most of the ‘stars’ weren’t even in their seats for more than 5 minutes and were instead running around the arena the whole time with far-too-large entourages. It’s sort of crazy but subdued at the same time. I mean, all the dialogue is scripted and read off teleprompter, all the set pieces are moved around in a choreography that has been rehearsed for weeks and every joke or ‘surprise’ moment doesn’t really all seem that suprising. I mean, growing up in the generation that sees second-graders carrying and using iPhones, I guess ‘tv magic’ not being all that magical doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me anyway.

However, what does come as a surprise to me is Kid Rock.

Did I miss something big? Because for some reason I cannot see much to any appeal in this man. He was the host for the evening and I kept wanting someone with a cane take him offstage. I don’t think he’s a horrible human being or anything, but I just think as an entertainer, he fails to do just that; ENTERTAIN. The hats, the almost-inappropriate jokes, the goatee that refuses to leave his chin- all of it just confuses me. When was all of this combined supposed to make a satisfying end result? He’s not rebellious enough to be edgy but not safe enough to seem particularly family-friendly, and that place is just not suitable for most anyone. It’s…..kinda sad. He’s like a rodeo bull that used to buck everyone off and now he’s been tied to fence post and subjected to just eating grass all day.

(….was that last simile too “Texas” for you? Apologies. Anyway, moving on-)

My debate with Kid Rock, however, does not involve his music. While this may seem like the easiest battle to pick, if he wants to be all over the map, I completely support it! If he wants to make several duets with Sheryl Crow and call them ‘country’, I say go for it! If he wants to make explicit angry rock, then give him a microphone! I don’t have to like all or even any styles that he tries his hand at, but I do get a kick seeing artists trying something new that might be out of their comfort zone. It seems weird to make this point now, but I think that experimenting with different instruments and genres is important, and usually yields interesting results. I say ‘interesting’, but they might even end up spectacular! I mean, who knows, maybe if we handed Kid (is the proper title ‘Kid’? ‘Rock’? ‘Krock’?) a saxophone, he could put his own spin on “Careless Whisper” and as much as it pains me to admit this, that might actually be something I’d pay attention to……if only to provide sarcastic commentary.

And yes, internet, someone, somewhere is shedding a tear right now because of me comparing Kid Rock to the incomparable George Michael, but it simply had to be done. After all, you gotta have faith.

TN Adventures (First Week)

I’m in Nashville now.

I could hype this post or use a lot of words to tell you that, but rather, plain and simple, I’m out of Texas and in Tennessee. But with those four words come so many more things, internet. I started interning at a wonderful place called SiriusXM exactly a week ago, but it feels like it may have been years already.

The CMA Music Festival is a crazy event that happens once a year in Nashville, for 40 years now, where essentially, country music invites its biggest players and myriads of fans to the city for four days of crazy crowds and crazy-good concerts. It seems almost too-perfect that it also coincided with my first week of interning at SiriusXM which means my first week was probably the most chaotic I’ll ever have. But, and I can say this strongly…I LOVED this first week.

I loved it because hey, there are a few dozen or so memories, and, coincidentally, photos, that I’d never have gotten anywhere else!

I loved it because of the events that happened! (I know, “DUH!”) Yes, there was lots of meeting artists, attending fancy press conferences, standing in photo pits and using media passes to get in different shows, but it’s the little things that stick out to me, like editing and voicing audio snippets and then hearing them on the air, crying laughing while trying to learn how to pronounce “Aldean” correctly in a locker room, instantly bonding with everyone I work with and skipping out on seeing the final Taylor Swift performance for the sake of coming back to the office and having a mini ice cream party in the conference room.

I loved it because every bit of the chaos was all directed towards music, which is my first love. This town is easy to get distracted in when every single bar has melodies trailing out of its doors at all hours of the day and night, but I couldn’t ask for anything more exciting, really! Music takes on such an importance to me, and  instead of the usual “oh, well that’s nice” response, the people I work with are the same! We’re all musically obsessed together! Every last detail of albums, tours, lyrics is all considered vital and of course, this could be considered a plug, but our office is always playing something great on the radio!

I don’t usually fall in love fast, as I’ve said before, but this love for my ridiculously-all-of-the-sudden Nashville life happened in just one week.

So, at this rate…who knows what two weeks in this town might bring?!!

(Most photos all provided by my homegirl Kathrine Brock– she is a rockstar!)