2018 Top 10: Folk and Americana

Top 10 Folk and Americana albums

  1. Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour

  2. Damien Jurado - The Horizon Just Laughed

  3. Glenn Jones - The Giant Who Ate Himself and Other New Works For 6 & 12 String Guitar

  4. Haley Heynderickx - I need to start a Garden

  5. Laura Veirs - The Lookout

  6. Alela Diane - Cusp

  7. Jeff Tweedy - Warm

  8. Neko Case - Hell-On

  9. Anna St. Louis - If Only there was a river

  10. Ray LaMontagne - Part of the Light

This list is a little less significant to me this year than it usually is, but it still has two of my top 10 albums overall and some great music in general. This music is all directly connected to traditional American music and most if not all of the artists have or will play the Newport Folk Fesitval at some point (I'd love to go, I still haven't been). You'll notice that all 10 albums are the artists' birth names - not a necessary aspect of making the list, but an interesting note about the branding of these artists. There are a couple younger artists on the list, but mostly this list is comprised of veterans who have at least 6-7 albums under their belts. Of those though, a few are relatively new to me! Also, many of these artist shave strong 

Kacey Musgraves had to be at the top of some list of mine for being the dreamiest and making the dreamiest country album I've ever heard. It's my introduction to Kacey, and it feels like it was made just for me. I hope everyone feels this way, though. It's written well, performed well, and so many nice studio touches are applied. This may represent where I overlap with critical consensus most - enjoy it while it lasts, on this list! 

If you know me, you know I'm a big Damien Jurado fan and I've been following him more and more closely throughout this decade. This album represents a turning point for him, as it is self produced and often more-or-less about him leaving Washington and his family there, his long time home. It's therefore sad, as usual, but also hopeful of new things on the horizon. The second half feels more about finding his new home, not too far away in Northern California. The sad songs about missing Washington might be the best part, though.

Glenn Jones is relatively new to me, and this is the first time I've dug in to one of his works. I haven't heard a better guitar player in quite some time, which doesn't actually mean that much to me. Much more important is that this album tickles the ears like really good electronic music can - the melodies and specificity can stick with you and worm their way in slowly over time. Imagining him playing the songs is really fun too, though. 

Haley Heynderickx is new to me and everybody else, and I'm pretty excited to see where she goes next. I Need to Start a Garden feels slight and barely finished, but still great, so that's really exciting. Speaking of current Portlandians, I just got into Laura Veirs as she was my favorite part of Case/Lang/Veirs, and I was looking forward to hearing a full album of hers and this met my pretty high expectations. In the same vein of Portlandity is Alela Diane, and just like most things Oregon, it is equal parts ordinary, brilliant, and enchanting. Similar to the Veirs album, it is understated but consistently good.

Jeff Tweedy is the most prolific artist on his list, which is a word I try not to use as a value judgment and it certainly isn't with him. I've really liked his recent forays into dad rock, or in this case, (dad) folk. Because of his past, it can be hard to approach Warm with the right expectations, but it's lack of grandiosity really works for me. Speaking of a weird relationship with grandiosity, Neko Case's Hell-On might be something I return to a lot, or not at all. It's more great than grating, but it has moments or entire songs that I have a hard time with, stylistically and content-wise. This might be an expectations game for me, though, time will tell!

Each time I came back to Anna St. Louis's LP I'm pleasantly surprised with how much I like it. In between listens I seem to remember it as overly simplistic and lazy, and then I remember that these aren't really bad things. It's really quite enjoyable! Rounding out the list, I have to include Ray LaMontagne's Part of the Light - an album that both me and ABC news recognize as: pretty good! It's not nearly as good as Ouroboros from a couple years ago, but it's satisfying and shows his current range of interests and sounds.