Tommy’s Top 50

The Top 50 Albums of 2015

by Tommy Beauford

1. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear // favorite track: Chatueau Lobby #4

Absolute perfection. Smart and funny lyrics, beautiful production, adventurous and diverse instrumentation, and just really fantastic singing throughout. Video link

2. Built To Spill – Untethered Moon // favorite track: Some Other Song

Rock-solid songs without any filler included. Doug’s at the top of his game in my opinion, but I was late to the BTS party. Video link

3. Barrence Whitfield & The Savages – Under the Savage Sky // favorite track: I’m A Full-Grown Man

Reminds me a bit of the Ty Segall album from last year, Manipulator. It’s raucous, catchy, and groovy all at once. Crunchy loud guitars and horns mix well. Best Barrence album to date. Video link

4. Chris Stapleton – Traveller // favorite track: Fire Away

This debut album is sounds like a greatest hits collection. Each and every song is well-written. Despite some country-fried Nashville flourishes, it’s not over-produced at all. This guys got chops for days. Video link

5. Langhorne Slim & The Law – The Spirit Moves // favorite track: Bring You My Love

Intensely good songs. This album is brash and raw. It’s emotional. It’s tender and achingly honest. He’s getting better with each album I think. Video link

6. El Vy – Return to the Moon // favorite track: No Time To Crank the Sun

Where did this come from?! This album is full of ultra-catchy songs. The beats are fun, and Matt’s singing fits well with them. It gets better and better each time I listen to it. Video link

7. The Fratellis – Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied // favorite track: Imposters

1st Fratellis album I’ve ever really loved, but man is it a doozy! This is modern pop-rock at it’s finest. The production isn’t too slick, and the songs are so much fun. I defy you to find a catchier song this year than the one below. Video link

8. Two Gallants – We Are Undone // favorite track: Some Trouble

This record is all over the place. There are several different unique styles represented here, but they pull it off brilliantly being a duo. Mostly it’s just really refreshingly original rock and roll. Video link

9. The Tallest Man On Earth – Dark Bird Is Home // favorite track: Fields of Our Home

Pretty, catchy, and emotionally strong songs throughout. Not a clunker in the bunch. The album is very well crafted, and it shows in each and every track. Video link

10. Patty Griffin – Servant of Love // favorite track: Made of the Sun

This record is like a master-class in singer/songwriter-ing. She’s singing and writing as good or better than ever. The songs are thoughtful, and delivered with Griffin’s trademark confidence and sincerity. Video link

11. Pokey LaFarge – Something In the Water // favorite track: Wanna Be Your Man

Didn’t truly appreciate the sound that permeates this album until I saw them pull it off live. These guys are making new songs that sound old, and they’re not cutting any corners. The instrumentation is epic, and the songs are nothing if not fun. Video link

12. Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color // favorite track: Future People

Sounds like Brittany and the boys have completely reinvented themselves with this album, and they pull it off so very well. They sound so much deeper and bigger here. The new sound is much more unique, and that’s sorely missing from today’s landscape. Video link

13. Caitlin Canty – Reckless Skyline // favorite track: Southern Man

Sparse production makes the songwriting and vocals standout here, and the sound blends country and folk remarkably well. The songs are diverse in a great way. The record is never boring. Video link

14. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit // favorite track: Pedestrian at Best

Everyone’s already written about how great Courtney is. This record is fantastic from front to back. Her style is almost like a rock and roll Hayes Carll. Video link

15. Lord Huron – Strange Trails // favorite track: Fool For Love

Lord Huron is a band that I haven’t paid attention to until this year, but I can attest to their genuinely fun live show as well as how good this album is throughout. They’ve got a catchy pop infused folk sound, that comes off as very polished and pleasant. Video link

16. The Deceberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World // favorite track: Anti-Summersong

Not their best album, but very strong nonetheless. Lots of standout tracks to be found. Pretty typical style and content from The DecemberistsVideo link

17. Glen Hansard – Didn’t He Ramble // favorite track: McCormack’s Wall

A very strong solo album from Hansard. This record is full of heart, and it shows in nearly every track. Wonderful production and instrumentation as well. Video link

18. Will Johnson – Swan City // favorite track: Vampires Pulleys

It’s too bad that I couldn’t find a link for this specific song because it’s one of my very favorites of the year. This album is so strong throughout. Johnson is so so good at what he does, and what he does is make magically emotional rock songs without one iota of fluff. This might be his most refined work yet. Stream full album on American Songwriter

19. James McMurtry – Complicated Game // favorite track: You Got To Me

This one is ultra-sincere, and very raw. Wonderful story-telling with a country/rock soundtrack. McMurtry shows off his songwriting and guitar chops together, on his most consistent record that I can remember. Video link

20. Torres – Sprinter // favorite track: Strange Hellos

Dark and personal are the words that this album brings to mind. It’s just raw and fresh in the best way, and she’s got a unique style. The lead track is especially outstanding with a bit of an Oleander vibe. Video link

21. Jill Andrews – The War Inside // favorite track: Cannibal

This is what I wish all female pop sounded like. The songs are light and creative and fun, without being over-produced and too slick to listen to. The former Everybodyfields front-woman has come into her own with her solo career, and these songs are catchy as hell. Video link

22. Kopecky – Drug For the Modern Age // favorite track: Quarterback

This album sounds like the catchiest possible mashup of 80’s and 00’s pop-rock. It’s light, but each track is more fun than the one before. Video link

23. JD McPhereson – Let the Good Times Roll // favorite track: It Shook Me Up

Retro-rock but with minimal production, which leaves it sounding more authentic and less like a rehash. Great vocals as well, and the songs are just fun as hell! Video link

24. Heartless Bastards – Restless Ones // favorite track: Gates of Dawn

More of the same from Erica and the boys, but this record sounds a bit lighter than the last few. Still a great set of songs with several standouts. Video link

25. Ben Folds – So There // favorite track: Phone In a Pool

Less jokes and more gorgeous orchestral music make this record a return to form in my book. There’s still the “effed in the a” song on there because Folds can’t help himself, but it’s greatly out-shined by the other better songs. Video link

26. Doug Burr – Pale White Dove // favorite track: When the Arrow Hits the Sparrow

Doug has been one of my very favorite songwriters of the last 7 or 8 years, and he continues to put out Grade A material with this album. It’s heavier sounding, louder, and more electric than previous records, but that plays like an improvement more than a departure for him. Video link

27. Leigh Nash – The State I’m In // favorite track: Dreaming Out Loud

I had never heard of Leigh Nash before stumbling across this record, but she’s the former frontwoman for Sixpence Nonethericher. This sounds nothing like that though. It’s a straight up retro country album, and it sounds lush and vibrant. The songwriting is solid, but it’s mostly overshadowed by the fantastic musical arrangements here, as well as Nash’s strong and aching vocals. Video link

28. Ana Egge – Bright Shadow // favorite track: Rock Me (Divine Mother)

Ana Egge has been off of my radar for a few years, but this is her best release in a very long time. Not a bad song on it, and the record sounds bigger than on previous attempts without changing her style too much. The sound on Bright Shadow is fully realized. True songcraft, from a true artist in every sense of the word. Video link

29. Daniel Martin Moore – Golden Age // favorite track: Golden Age

I think this is the first solo album I’ve heard from Daniel Martin Moore, so I wasn’t sure what to expect since I’ve only heard him do collaborations with other artists. His voice is angelic, and he’s an accomplished multi-instrumentalist so the arrangements all sound crisp and beautiful. Several standout tracks make this one a great addition to the singer-songwriter field. Video link

30. Joe Ely – Panhandle Rambler // favorite track: Early In the Mornin’

I thought the last Ely record was totally unlistenable, so I was very hesitant to check this one out. But I’m glad I did because it’s one of the most solid country records I’ve heard in years. His storytelling is equal to James McMurtry, and the prodcution on this record matches it in quality. Video link

31. Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi // favorite track: Binary Sea

Death Cab has been putting out good records for decades now. This one isn’t their best, but it still sounds consistently good throughout. The tempo ranges up and down, as is par on DCFC records, and they sound almost as strong since Walla’s departure. Video link

32. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats // favorite track: Howling at Nothing

Rateliff has been on my radar for a few years now, but I haven’t followed him closely enough to tell if this record sounds completely different than the rest because of a new band sound or if it’s a return to former brash retro-soul days. In any event, this record is chock full of dirty and loose sounding rockers. The horns match Rateliff’s tattered screams in their intensity, and it plays like these guys know how to throw a live show party. Video link

33. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material // favorite track: Late to the Party

Musgraves’ most mature and consistent album to-date is one of several bright country gems in 2015. She’s always had a really enjoyable retro-country sound to play off of her modern and witty songwriting, but the consistency was never there until Late to the PartyVideo link

34. Anderson East – Delilah // favorite track: What a Woman Wants to Hear

If brooding blue-eyed soul is your thing, then look no further. East works on a mostly slower tempo than others like Nathaniel Rateliff or JD McPhereson, but he sure can belt out a slow jam with the best of them. Video link

35. Letts – Hold Fast // favorite track: Boxing Day

Hold Fast is the first Letts album I have ever come across, but it drew me in right away with it’s beauty as a whole. The songs are mostly quiet and downtempo, but they fit together very nicely to make a very relaxing and pretty album. Video link

36. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Travelling Kind // favorite track: Bring It On Home to Memphis

These two could sing whatever they wanted, and they would still sound great together. Their massive chops are put to good use on this record, and the production and song selection is top-notch. Video link

37. Widowspeak – All Yours // favorite track: Girls

Funky beats paired with a slow psych-groove make this album a lot of fun to listen to. As a whole, this record plays out pretty mellow, but it shows consistency and is a step up for WidowspeakVideo link


38. Beirut – No No No // favorite track: At Once

Another strong effort from Zach and the boys. Not many standout tracks, but they fit together quite well and the album as a whole is solid. Video link

39. Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Ruffian’s Misfortune // favorite track: Chick Singer, Badass Rockin

RWH is still a very strong songwriter even in his later years. He sticks to his tried and true swampy and bluesy sound, and it still sounds great. Video link

40. Rebecca Jozwiak – Mechanical In Nature // favorite track: With You Around

Jozwiak’s three biggest talents are on full display throughout her solo debut. Her strong and beautiful vocals pair with her effortless piano playing for a haunting mellow vibe throughout the record. The production is sparse, which shows off her voice and piano, as well as letting her lovely songwriting shine. Video link

41. Gill Landry – Gill Landry // favorite track: Waiting For Your Love

Pretty typical singer/songwriter sound, but the songs are stronger than average. There are several standout tracks here which elevate this record to the top of the very crowded genre. Video link

42. Steve Earle – Terraplane // favorite track: Baby’s Just As Mean as Me

Similar to the Ray Wylie Hubbard album from this year, Earle is a master songwriter that is showing no signs of slowing down. His new(ish) backing band does this crop of new and excellent songs proud, giving them the traditional twangy sound they deserve. Video link

43. Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart // favorite track: Liar

Yet another aging country icon that refuses to stop putting out very solid new material. This record is full of upbeat rockers, and Yoakam and his band show no signs of slowing down. Video link

44. Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful // favorite track: What Kind of Man This record is huge. The standout tracks here sound absolutely epic. Florence seems to be getting better and better with each album, and this one’s her best yet. Video link

45. Matthew E. White – Fresh Blood // favorite track: Fruit Trees

Matthew E. White’s newest album is a study in slow deep grooves. He’s got a new sound, and it both surprises and impresses. White is certainly on to something great here, and I hope he sticks with it. Video link

46. Patrick Sweany – Daytime Turned to Nighttime // favorite track: Long Way Down

Sweany is a soulman, and this record is a bluesy collection of downtempo lovesongs. Video link

47. Brent Best – Your Dog, Champ // favorite track: Aunt Ramona

First solo album I’ve ever heard from Best, and it’s a doozy. The songs play out like deeply personal stories, and they’re very well executed on this record. The sound is less rocking than his other material, but it blends very well with the personal story approach. Video link

48. White Buffalo Woman – White Buffalo Woman // favorite track: Green Vine

Love the keys, horns, and harmonies all over this sparkling debut from the Ohio group. Kinda like Beach Boys meet Hacienda. Video link

49. Gary Clark Jr. – The Story of Sonny Boy Slim // favorite track: Our Love

Almost more R&B in places than blues, this album is very big and a giant improvement from his last one. The song styles here are varied, but they flow together well. They’re catchy and groovy as can be, and Clark’s vocals shine throughout even moreso than his guitar slinging. Video link

50. Houndmouth – Little Neon Limelight // favorite track: Gasoline

Houndmouth’s newest is a very solid follow-up to their debut. It showcases their pop sensibilities, but with a much less polished approach than their contemporaries like The Lone Bellow. The record is a whole lot more loose and fun because of it. Video link


The Top 50 Albums of 2014

by Tommy Beaford

1. Water Liars – Water Liars

2. Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time

3. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

4. Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy

5. Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker

6. Lee Fields – Emma Jean

7. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

8. Ty Segall – Manipulator

9. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams

10. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

11. Lucinda Williams – Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

12. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

13. Tweedy – Sukierae

14. Beck – Morning Phase

15. Ben L’Oncle Soul – A Coup De Reves

16. Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain

17. Centro-Matic – Take Pride In Your Long Odds

18. Jack White – Lazaretto

19. St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Half The City

20. Band of Skulls – Himalayan

21. Don Williams – Reflections

22. The Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress

23. Sarah Jaffe – Don’t Disconnect

24. Robert Ellis – The Lights From The Chemical Plant

25. Saintseneca – Dark Arc

26. The Men – Tomorrow’s Hits

27. Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours

28. She Keeps Bees – Eight Houses

29. Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers

30. Real Estate – Atlas

31. Jenn Grant – Compostela

32. Temples – Sun Structures

33. Vance Joy – Dream Your Life Away

34. Spoon – They Want My Soul

35. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Give The People What They Want

36. Bass Drum Of Death – Rip This

37. Spanish Gold – South Of Nowhere

38. Old 97’s – Most Messed Up

39. Kasey Chambers – Bittersweet

40. Ethan Johns – The Reckoning

41. Sallie Ford – Slap Back

42. Hozier – Hozier

43. Horse Feathers – So It Is With Us

44. The Jack Kerowax – Kerowax

45. Sam Amidon – Lily O

46. Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy

47. Goodnight Ned – NED

48. Generationals – Alix

49. Nikki Lane – All Or Nuthin’

50. Woods – With Lights And With Love

The Top 50 Albums of 2013

by Tommy Beauford

1.        Ludovico Einaudi – In A Time Lapse

2.        The Civil Wars – S/T

3.        Patty Griffin – American Kid

4.        Water Liars – Wyoming

5.        The National – Trouble Will Find Me

6.        The Head and the Heart – Let’s Be Still

7.        Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

8.        Holly Williams – The Highway

9.        Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

10.     J. Roddy Walston – Essential Tremors

11.     Black Joe Lewis – Electric Slave

12.     Fossil Collective – Tell Where I Lie

13.     Houndmouth – From the Hills Below the City

14.     Dr. Dog – B-room

15.     Papa – Tender Madness

16.     Wild Belle – Isles

17.     Mikal Cronin – MCII

18.     The Steeldrivers – Hammer Down

19.     Quaker City Nighthawks – Honcho

20.     Charles Bradley – Victim of Love

21.     Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

22.     Jason Isbell – Southeastern

23.     Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

24.     Daughter – If You Leave

25.     Amos Lee – Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song

26.     Hanni El Khatib – Head in the Dirt

27.     Shouting Matches – Grownass Man

28.     The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law

29.     Shearwater – Fellow Travelers

30.     Leagues – You Belong Here

31.     Pokey LaFarge – S/T

32.     Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium

33.     Possessed by Paul James – There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely

34.     Midlake – Antiphon

35.     Generationals – Heza

36.     Charlie Patton’s War – S/T

37.     Cayucas – Bigfoot

38.     Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound

39.     Courtney Jaye – Love and Forgiveness

40.     Hollis Brown – Ride on the Train

41.     T. Hardy Morris – Audition Tapes

42.     Thao & the Get Down Stay Down – We the Common

43.     Lindi Ortega – Tin Star

44.     White Denim – Corsica Lemonade

45.     Moondoggies – Adios, I’m a Ghost

46.     Bass Drum of Death – S/T

47.     Ha Ha Tonka – Lessons

48.     The Thermals – Desperate Ground

49.     Laura Stevenson & the Cans – Wheel

50.     Paper Kites – States