Let me start by saying that 2014 was a great year for music and that once I sat down to make this list I didn’t want to. You see there was so much amazing music last year that I feel like any attempt to sort it all out in to some sort of arbitrary ranking wouldn’t do justice to any of it. So I’m not numbering these, nor will I say anything more than what follows are my favorite releases of 2014. Hell I honestly don’t even know how many there’ll be when I finish!

matt-brushyMatt Woods is one of my favorite people, bar none, on the planet. On top of that he makes amazing music. With Love From Brushy Mountain came out way back in May, 2014 and it hasn’t left my rotation since. It was Michelle’s first and only Essential Listening review and I agree with her assessment. Seriously, if you wrote a top list and this wasn’t on it then I think your list was, at the very least, lacking. On top of all that, Matt is reason I finally got to meet Larry Fulford in real life and, while not an album, that was one of the Top Things that happened to me all year.

calebcoverCaleb Caudle is an artist that I overlooked for way too long. I remedied that this year when I wrote up the initial review for Paint Another Layer On My Heart and I’m glad I did. One of the things that you find when you listen to and write about as much music as we do here is that some albums are good but in a few months they lose something and drop out of your daily rotation, sure you may queue them up sometimes but it’s the harsh truth that there is only so much time in a day to listen to music. For me what shows the true strength of an album, over time, is how long it stays in regular rotation. Well, Mr. Caudle’s record is still my daily rotation seven months later. I’m, pretty sure that says more than I did in my initial consideration.

leebains-dereconstructed-1425pxDereconstructed, in my opinion, was the most important album of 2014. The argument that Lee starts on this release is one that needs to be had. It is no longer time to couch the debate in niceties, we’ve moved beyond that. The attitude that comes through in these songs is how the issues involved need to be addressed. On top of that, because I’m hesitant to say an album is my favorite because I like its politics, I love the production on Dereconstructed. It was divisive and loud and everyone had an opinion on it which brought more ears to the party than a safe approach would have. This one will have a spot in rotations for years to come.

americanthreadI have often said I don’t like politics in my music but I’m thinking I’ll have to revisit that thought. While there aren’t overt politics on this album the plight of the working man is chronicled on Songs Before The War and that honestly shouldn’t be political but is in this country so that makes this a political album whether it was intended to be or not. And I don’t think it was intended to be, I think this was meant to be an album that people could relate to and find some solace in and it succeeds in that very well. The way Brendan writes songs reminds me of some advice that Rilke gave in “Letters To A Young Poet”: If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. Brendan is quite capable of taking every day life and turning in to art and I think that’s the highest praise I can give any artist.

coverThere are times, and I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in my review, that one just needs some goddamn rock and roll in their life and We Are Already Dead fill that need quite well. This is music you can knock back a tall boy of your favorite beer to and get to that point where you don’t feel any pain. The songs here would be at home on the jukebox in any dive bar that I’ve darkened the door of and some days that’s just what you want to be listening to when your coworker taps you on the shoulder to complain that, even with you wearing your headphones, he can still hear your music.

CAR061Lost & Rootless came in almost under the radar for a lot a people and I even managed to not write about it in a timely manner and that’s a damn tragedy. On this release we get to witness a shift in Tim’s life through the lens of his music. It’s obvious that the changes in his life have shifted his perspective. There are more ditties and fun to be had here than in the past and things are little less dark on this album than on his others. I think this shift started on 40 Miler and I like that it continues here. Even if you’ve never met Tim it’s easy to feel like you know him through his music because he puts so much of himself in to these records, and so as long he keeps releasing them I’ll keep writing about them and I have no doubt they’ll make the year end list every time!

Cory_Branan_-_coverAt this point I think we can refer to Mr. Branan as venerable without being ironic. The No Hit Wonder is just plain good. Cory isn’t one to limit himself, in any aspect, and that quality really shows in his studio work. If you’ve seen him live then you only have half the picture as it’s more than likely you’ve seen him solo as he usually doesn’t have a band with him on tour. To capture the full genius of this man one must listen to his studio work. I know there are some of you out there that wish he’d release an album where all the songs are what you’ve seen at the shows but let’s face it, it ain’t in the cards. I’d love to see that as well but only if we get them with his full vision for the songs as well. I’m really excited to see this one released on Bloodshot and see them supporting his vision for the music. If I had a crystal ball I think it’d predict a live album sometime in the next little bit, that’s nothing official or even from Cory, it’s a just a feeling.

timThat’s right, Tim Barry makes the list twice! I am not always a fan of live albums as a lot of them fail to capture what makes live music so special but Raising Hell & Living Cheap does a fine job of doing what so many other live offerings fail to do. If you’ve never seen Tim live then you this is pretty damn close to the real experience. There’s just something about being able to hear him ramble on about the songs, life, or whatever pops in to his head that makes the live experience special. That goes for most every songwriter, but once you’ve seen Tim, or listened to this one, you’ll understand why it goes double for him.

coverI almost missed Columbia and I’m damn glad I didn’t. The kids in My Life In Black And White didn’t think it would the sort of thing we’d cover. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for a good punk rock album and that’s exactly what this is. I don’t care if you don’t like middle-school punk or if you get in to all the BS of sub-genres and that rot. I’m just going to call this punk and be done with it. I’m also going to listen to it way too loud and make no apologies. I’d advise you to do the same.

TCR_-_coverTo Hell And Back is a screaming rock album that demands one get their ass in gear and it does it with style. This is what and Americans metal band should sound like. It’s only metal in the way that a lot of Americana is punk, by that I mean you can feel the metal roots in the music but these kids have added their own Kentucky take to everything and made it something completely different. Since AIV wrote about these kids I’ve been able to see them live twice, their bassist, Cory Hanks, has married our interviewer extraordinaire Michelle, and I got to hang with Brian Minks at Holiday Hangout. I think it’s safe to say these kids are as much a part of the 9B family as any of the folks that are on staff.

coverNo Salvation is another one of those albums that deals with every day life but this time it’s one that comes from a punk perspective. And as I make this list I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe I’ve just drifted in to a different perspective. I came up on country music and in that era there was a lot of working class themes in country so it’s no surprise that I’ve never really stopped liking those themes, even if I see them from a different perspective than I did when I was young. This is definetly a darker perspective both musically and lyrically but it’s a perspective that needs to be recognized and The Devil’s Cut does a fine job of putting it in front of us without doing anything more than making kick ass music.

Looking back at a year is always a pain in the ass. I know there are other albums that should be on this list, stuff I’m missing, which is why I always hate doing these. But there you have it, my Top Albums of 2014 in no particular order. I always feel like I’ve screwed up these lists because I already told you about these albums, I’ve already written the reviews, called them Essential Listening, or someone on here has, and now I have to say which ones are better than the others. Yet every year I feel obligated to make one of these. Some years I resist and some years I don’t. I failed to resist this year so you get a list…


When you gather a group of sad bastard malcontents, like we have done here at 9B, you can’t expect that they’ll agree on everything. In past tears some albums stood out enough to take the top spot all on their own but last year there were just so many amazing albums that the crew couldn’t agree on a single album. I made a call and narrowed it down to two. So without further ado I present 9 Bullets album(s) of the year for 2014:

Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound – Self Titled

By: Charles Hale
What makes the self-titled debut of Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound the Nine Bullets album of thetheir Bandcamp page year for 2014? A little bit of everything. One of the missions of Nine Bullets is to bring high-quality music to more people. Outside of Cincinnati there probably wasn’t a lot of people listening to this beautifully sad record before we ran our review. NB had a relationship with Sarah from the Lonesome Sound thanks to her work with Alone At 3AM and when this record was finished she sent it to AutopsyIV. His ears were pleased and excited and he shared the record, first with the other writers here and then with our readers. We like to think that started a snowball.
This Damn Town
What strikes me most about this album is how complete it is, how well it rests within itself. This ten songs complement each other on the way to creating a mood, a mood many of us here at Nine Bullets are drawn to. Sad but beautiful, contemplative yet well spoken, down but far from out. These songs are highlighted by the sound of a well-worn fiddle and instantly hum-able choruses. It is clear these are the first ten songs that these musicians wrote nor are they the first ten recorded. It takes patience to create an album so complete, so self-aware but unconscious.
Sad Country Song
If you haven’t taken the time to delve into this record there is no better day than today. Go over to their Bandcamp page and pick yourself up a copy.

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – Dereconstructed

By: Romeo Sid Vicious
A lot of people were put off by this album, the production is jarring, the music is loud and in your face, and the lyrics aren’t designed to make you comfortbale, but in my opinion this was the most important album released in 2104. From the first notes of this album it is apparent that these kids are out to start an argument about the current state of affairs in the US and especially the Southern states. Whether he’s referencing the Occupy Movement or Alabama’s ridiculous HB 56 there is a thread to Lee’s lyrics and it’s that the time for conversation has passed and now it’s time for an argument.
We Dare Defend Our Rights
In person Lee is a soft but well spoken as well as one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. If you had never seen him and met him on the street you would never guess that he spends his nights on stage perfomring some of the most lyrically aggressive songs around. Before a show you might catch glimpse of him walking around with a gallon of water talking to the fans, genuinely happy to see every one at the show. Then the album comes to life on stage with Lee and the rest of the band putting every bit as much energy in to the show as you feel when you put on this record. Watching them live is almost a religious experience and it’s obvious that each and every one of them believes in what they are doing.
The Kudzu and the Concrete
This record is full of life, anger, and energy. It is, at its heart, a protest record and at the same time it’s the sort of record that you put on and can no longer sit still. The energy is contagious and I’ve watched it work its magic on even my youngest kids, who aren’t old enough to understand the frustration and anger in the lyrics or the struggles described. On this record Lee Bains is the incarnation of the angry young man and it’s an absolutely beautiful thing to behold! If you don’t already own a copy of Dereconstructed you can pick it up on SubPop’s MegaMart.

There are still a couple of top lists coming your way and I’ll personally be catching up on some albums I missed from last year. I’d like to thank all of you for supporting 9 Bullets and I know each and every one of us on staff is looking forward to regaling you with new music and our opinions on it.

Scott Fuchs' Top 14 of 2014


It was truly an incredible year for new music. Creating a list this year was a challenge and I’ve probably missed a few but here are my Top 14 Albums of 2014:

14. The Afghan Whigs, Do To the Beast – Not for the uninitiated, but so very welcome after a 16 year wait for the faithful.

13. The Hold Steady, Teeth Dreams – A forceful return to form and a handful of tracks they will be playing live for years to come.

12. Sylvia Rose Novak, Chasing Ghosts – Fans of Amanda Shires or classic ’70’s era Country Music should check this one out. Murder, deceit, and obsession can sound so very sweet.

11. Josh Nolan, Fair City Lights – This one hooks you from beginning to end with excellent rock and roll songs that sound more Asbury Park, NJ than Lexington, KY, but undeniably, American.

10. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music – I have nothing to add that hasn’t been said before. You know the deal about this one.

9. Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues – A creative and commercial success that stands up with with the very best of their deep catalog.

8. Scott H. Biram, Nothin’ But Blood – Blues, Gospel, Country, Metal, this one has it all. Ranks up there with my favorite Biram albums. You should see him live because he’s amazing but you may want to refrain from requesting songs. You’ve been warned.

7. Adam Faucett, Blind Water Finds Blind Water – Shame on me but I didn’t know who Adam Faucett was until this year. After hearing this album I was blown away. Mesmerizing, haunting, and compelling; pour a glass of whiskey, listen, and prepare to go on a musical and damn near spiritual journey.

6. Matt Woods, With Love From Brushy Mountain – Deserves the praise that Sturgill’s has rightfully receive. They don’t make Country Music like the old days? F*ck you. Listen to this. Matt Woods is a badass.

5. Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else – Loveless is a boss. This is her best album and you should listen to it as you do bad things.

4. Those Crosstown Rivals, Hell and Back – This record melted my face in 2014. The best, pure, rock album of the year. I’ve probably drank more beer while listening to this record than any other in the past 12 months.

3. Robert Ellis, The Lights From the Chemical Plant – I wrote the review of this on 9B. I wrote “seamlessly blending country, folk, jazz, and rock”. I will stand by that. I will also add that it is an incredibly rich and rewarding journey. Splendid.

2. Caleb Caudle, Paint Another Layer On My Heart – No album has been played more in my house in 2014 than Caleb’s. As comfortable as the pajama jeans you got for Christmas but with none of the stigma, this album stole all of our hearts in the last 12 months. My wife’s favorite record of the year.

1. Kierston White, Don’t Write Love Songs – Somewhere between Joni Mitchell and Neil Young lies Kierston White. My favorite song of the year is “Ride On” from Kierston’s stellar debut and this is, undoubtedly, my most loved record of the year. Her voice is simultaneously vulnerable and strong, inviting and defiant, bittersweet and beautiful. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Stunning.

Charles Hale's Favorite of 2014





























Peter-Buck (1)













Another excellent year for music, friends. Here’s a list of my favorites from 2014 and I hope you find something that you missed earlier. If you’d like to hear songs from these records and more from 2014 tune in to my radio show tonight (Monday) and I’ll play you the goods. The show starts at 10pm Eastern Standard Time and you can stream it at


Adam Faucett, Blind Water Finds Blind Water – There’s nothing else that sounds like this one.

John R. Miller, Service Engine – Bare arrangements & stellar songwriting, reminds me of Killers & Stars.

Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound, Self Titled – My favorite record of the year. Sad and beautiful.

Benjamin Booker, Self Titled – Worth the hype, I can’t wait to hear what the next record is all about.

Charlie Parr, Hollendale – A wild instrumental record that has grown on me.

Curtis Harding, Soul Power – A soul album that sounds at home in 1974. Listen.

Drive-By Truckers, Modern English Oceans – A dense rock record.

Kierston White, Don’t Write Love Songs – A great debut with excellent songwriting and stellar singing.

Bobby Charles, Self Titled – A vinyl reissue that’s swampy soulful with members of The Band.

Glossary, How We Handle Our Midnights – A vinyl reissue of the Glossary album that started them on an amazing run.

Lucero, Live In Atlanta – A gigantic Lucero experience. I hope you picked up the 4 LP set.

Maggie Bjorklund, Shaken – A seductive record that’s grown on me in the last few months.

Matt Woods, With Love From Brushy Mountain – Matt’s best work yet and totally fulfilling on the promise of Deadman’s Blues.

McDougall, Self Titled – This dude’s music is first rate.

The Old 97’s, Most Messed Up – The most fun record of the year and their best in a good while.

Otis Gibbs, Souvenirs Of A Misspent Youth – 10 new songs by a modern-day troubadour.

Peter Buck, I Am Back To Blow Your Mind Once Again – Greasy garage rock from a rock’n’roll heavyweight.

Various Artists, Parchman Farms – Field recordings from the notorious Mississippi prison. Must listen.


Dear sweet readers: Thank you for all of your awesomeness this year. And thank you for sticking with us through this doldrum. We’ll be back in fighting shape soon.

Dear sketchy colleagues: Thanks for writing so well and making me double-down on writing well. Thanks for the Ninebullets party. Let’s all secure the employment and living arrangements we dream of and get back to saving the world.

Dear wonderful bands and labels: Wooooooo!

Remember what Lou Reed says, WHAT COMES IS BETTER THAN WHAT CAME BEFORE. Here’s my favorites that came around this year. Join me in looking forward to the unimaginably impressive future that is 2015.

Albums, Best of the Best:

  • jenny lewisHuber-400x400brodskyeatfeelingscayetanaprotomartyrhardgirlsdelaycirclechangeBenji  Cory_Branan_-_coverposseealvvays









Albums, Rest of the Best:


EP’s, 7″s, Demos:



archival turn

Reasons to Stay Alive Next Year:

Full lengths from Jeff Rosenstock, Shinobu, Carl Barat from the Libertines, Meredith Graves from Perfect Pussy, Courtney Marie Andrews. Albums from Waller and my hero Samantha Jones’ (Bitchin, Crustaceans, Rumbleseat, Cassette) new band Guts came out at the end of this year, but I haven’t gotten them yet. I bet that Guts album alone will be worth the whole year.


I’ve never been to SXSW. This tends to surprise people. I often get, “You seem like someone who would go to SXSW,” or “You look like someone who belongs in Austin,” whatever either of those mean. Thing is, I’ve never had a strong desire to go. I’ve seen most of the musicians that have played there (the ones I wanted to see, in any case), and I don’t particularly like crowds. I know, I know, it’s an “experience,” and my work will likely bring me there one day. I’m not bashing it. I think it’s a great thing for everyone involved – fans, musicians, labels, etc. I’m just not eager to throw down the dollaz to travel just to sleep on people’s floors and immerse myself into crowds, when I am not a crowds-type person. I’d much rather see my favorite bands play in a dark bar or venue with booze, where I can drink until I’m gregarious and charming. Until I have to go to SXSW, I probably won’t, especially when there’s CXCW. And while I am super-duper sorry I missed Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls at SXSW…

…I thought I’d round up a few of my favorite submissions to this year’s CXCW.

The first one’s a brand new song called “Oh Julia” by John Moreland, and y’all know how much I dig him. I love his voice, and his songs tend to be somber and melancholy, which I also dig:

Next up is Todd Farrell, Jr., who submitted a new song called “Pawn Shops,” as well as an Iron Maiden cover, “Wasted Years.” He’s a little wasted in these, so it makes them extra-special, in my opinion. (Sometimes I likes ‘em extra sloppy!) He even took home the runner-up award for the “Best Performance: Drunk” for it.

“St. Mary’s” by American Aquarium was another treat:

And, last but certainly not least, “Rainbow Connection” by Have Gun Will Travel (recorded by our own Autopsy IV):

What were some of your favorite submissions this year?

Charles Hale's Best Records of 2012

16.Cory Branan – Mutt

It seems like every review of Mutt talks about there being this style, then this style, then another, and what they never say is that every song on Mutt is incredibly well written.  Every song on Mutt is incredibly well written, I said it twice to make up for other’s neglect.


15.The Sparklers – Crying At The Low Bar

The review of this album generated a good bit of positive feedback.  I was surprised people liked it as much as they did.  It’s a really good record and because of the reaction I ended up listening to it more than I probably would have otherwise.  Thanks y’all.

Weren’t For Bars

14. Justin Townes Earle- Nothing Can Change The Way You Feel About Me Now

This record has grown on me over the course of the year.  Earle has talent and he’s not afraid to mix things up.  I don’t think this record has as much Memphis on it as most people do but it’s damn fine nonetheless.

Movin’ On

13. David Wax Museum – Knock Knock Get Up

The songwriting seemed to take a bit of a backseat on this release, compared to the two previous DWM records, but the sounds and the rhythms are top notch.  The band has seemed to receive a ton of recognition from this record and I’m confident they deserve every word written.

A Dog In This Fight

12. Todd Snider – Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables

One of the nice things on this record is that because Todd plays a lot of electric guitar his bitter venom on a couple of songs is more deadly than usual.  It’s a rough record by design and I’d march up the pyramids with Todd if he told me to.

In Between Jobs

11.Dinero – Sheep

I’m listening to this record as I type this, for the gazillionth time, and it’s still strange and beautiful and kind of makes me feel the way last year’s Cave Singers record made me feel.  Word is there is a shortish LP coming from Dinero coming in the early part of 2013.

Daddy’s Money

10.Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Live In Alabama

Yes it’s a live record and without any new originals but it’s so damn good.  I feel like I just wrote the review of this record a week ago so I don’t have any new thoughts.  Just listen to it and find the video from their appearance on Letterman, old David was pretty pumped up it.

Heart On A String

9.John Fullbright – From The Ground Up

The more I listen to this record the more I dig it.  Fullbright is young to be composing music the way he is.  He isn’t afraid to be understated and restrained but there’s plenty of punch on this Grammy nominated album.

Me Wanting You

8.4H Royalty – Where UFOs Go To Die

Their sophomore effort is such a huge step up from album one and word from the 4H Royalty headquarters in Byers CO is that another record is nearly finished and songs are being written for the follow up to that one.  When listening to UFOs pay attention to the subject matter, nobody is writing songs about the kinds of things these guys are writing about.

Virtues, Spices, & Liquor

7.Andrew Combs – Worried Man

Another debut album on my list.  His four song EP was such a teaser and Worried Man lived up.  Combs is another one of those songwriter who is compared to Guy Clarke but he’s better than all the others being compared to Clarke.  I truly hope he’s a prolific writer and that this album has found enough success that more albums come on a yearly basis.  If they do I suspect Andrew Combs will be on my best of list for years to come.

Take It From Me

6.Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

I firmly believe that these kids can make a record that can be much higher on my list.  They are so damn good already, hopefully all the success they’ve had helps them make a great record, and not the other way around.  I’m ready for whatever’s next.


5.Lucero – Women & Work

Women & Work is Lucero’s most danceable record.  It’s just fun, damn it.  It’ll never be my favorite release from them but it’s the best album they’ve made for dancing with women instead of moaning about them.

It May Be Too Late

4.Patterson Hood – Heat Lightening Rumbles In The Distance

Long gone are Patterson’s days of writing brash in your face rockers.  He’s developed into a literary rocker unafraid to present his work in calm and understated recordings.  I dig it so much because my listening preferences have happened to shift with his output.  God, I need to own this vinyl.

Better Than The Truth

3.American Aquarium – Burn.Flicker.Die

I often think of AA as the little band that could.  When I first saw them The Bible & The Bottle was fresh out and three studio albums later they’ve put out their best yet.  Does Jason Isbell turning the knobs help?  Probably, but more importantly the band has gotten tighter and tighter as the years have passed and BJ’s songwriting gets more and more consistent.  Most likely you’ve heard about AA but if you haven’t picked up Burn.Flicker.Die you’re late to the party so drink fast.

Saturday Nights

2.McDougall – A Few Towns More

I heard about this record in the Nine Bullet offices for a while before I listened to it.  Holy shit I’m glad I did.  This record is what Nine Bullets is all about.  Here’s a guy making phenomenal music that not enough people know about.  It’s not that the whole world knows about him now, but if it wasn’t for Nine Bullets I wouldn’t know about him.  Do yourself a favor.

Ask That Pretty Girl To Be My Wife

1.Spirit Family Reunion – No Separation

Their first full length is rugged but uplifting. Their songs are delivered with such fervor and unrestrained joy.  If you still believe music can make a bad day good then check out their Tiny Desk Concert. I love it, love it, love it.

I Am Following The Sound


Most years, this is a much greater presentation from myself and I’m sorry that this year isn’t the same. It’s been a shit year and that fact combined with the depression that comes with it has sapped my entire motivation to sit down and do all the HTML formatting to make this list as beautiful as (i feel) it normally is.

Presentation aside. I stand by this list wholly. I may not have been able to muster the ambition to format it like years past (I am taking pills that are intended to get me back there) but the list was as brooded, mulled and fussed over as any other year.

So. Without any further ado. Here are, in my opinion, the best albums of 2012 (with links to the original review):

10. Tin Horn Prayer – Grapple The Rails (not yet reviewed)
09. Andrew W. CombsWorried Man
08. Alone At 3AMMidwest Mess
07. The Great UnknownsHomefront
06. JKutchma & The Five FifthsPastoral
05. Lee Bains III & The Glory FiresThere Is A Bomb In Gilead
04. OFF!OFF!
03. American AquariumBurn.Flicker.Die.
02. Arliss NancySimple Machines

And my album of the year is:

01. Scott McDougall – A Few Towns More


There were so many good albums this year that I couldn’t make the decision to rank them, and I know that’s not the most important decision anyway, so this year’s best-of list is in groups with no internal order. This is the art I spent my cherished/wasted time consuming this year. Hope everybody’s upcoming year is full of growth.

Albums, Best of the Best:

Albums, Rest of the Best:

EPs, 7″s, Demos:

Reissues, Lost Albums

  • Tony FlaminioThe Grim Repair – from the head of the Failures’ Union, reissue of 2003 cd-R
  • Karen Dalton – 1966 – haunting voice and banjo recorded over porches and kitchen tables at her cabin in Boulder CO
  • Michael Hurley – Back Home with Drifting Woods – unreleased 1964 sessions from the freak folker and gorgeous yodeler
  • Jawbreaker – Bivouac – the glory

  • Padgett Powell – You & Me – nothing has to be as shitty as everything is; read this for energy
Reasons to Stay Alive Next Year
  • Drag the River, Lenny Lashley, Billy Bragg, Sebadoh,Tin Armor, and Failures’ Union full-lengths. Freakwater playing shows again.
Stay free,



Listening to hundreds and hundreds of albums every year sometimes makes it hard to enjoy single albums.
That’s why my top list for 2012 will consist of the albums I enjoyed most. Albums that got extended play. Albums that demanded so much attention it sometimes made me miss out on other albums.

These are MY favorites from 2012. I’ll split this in two, “foreign” (to me) and Norwegian. And the order is (almost) random.

Norwegian albums:

Rune Berg – Hølå (The Hole).
Rune Berg has been the guitarplayer and main songwriter in two of my favourite norwegian bands, The Margarets and Number Seven Deli, collecting several nominations for Norwegian grammy, and numerous other awards. At one point he suddenly realised that all his band-mates had opted for their plan B, and gotten families and “real” jobs.
Rune never had any planB. He wanted to make music. And decided he had to make his first solo-album.
He wrote songs, recorded them in his own studio, produced the album, played several instruments (mainly guitar) and sang the songs. And it turned out to be one of the best albums of the year. Delicious popmusic with roots going back to The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Jeff Lynne & ELO and all that good popmusic released before popmusic turned evil.
You can find the album at Amazon or iTunes.

Rune Berg – No Other Way Out

De Musikalske Dvergene – Tunge Steiner.
My all time favorite Norwegian band De Musikalske Dvergene (The Musically Apt Dwarves). You won’t understand any of this, as they sing in Norwegian – but I promise you that the lyrics singer and songwriter Helge Grønhaug delivers are absolutely magnificent.
This album is the album they always have had in them, and Ole Reinert Berg-Olsen (ORBO  from ORBO & The Longshots) has done a masterful job of producing this – pulling out a musical direction from The Dwarves, that they have always had in their bones.

DMD – Tunge steiner

Robert Smith-Hald – Thou Mayest.
Robert’s album “Thou Mayest” is another ORBO-produced gem. Robert Smith-Hald visited  his old homeland for the first time in 20 years to record this album in Nashville.
The album turned out to be outstanding, and filled with excellent lyrics and great music. Really a piece of music to pick up and enjoy.


“Foreign albums”:

American Aquarium – Burn. Flicker. Die.
While there is no order to this list, American Aquariums “Burn. Flicker. Die” is my top pick for 2012.
It’s the album I’ve played the most, it must have gotten at least 100 plays since it was released.
I was a part of the Kickstarter campaign for this, and that bunch of digital $$ is by far my best investment of 2011. The album that almost never was, as the band was ready to call it quits when BJ Barham got them to give it one last try to make THAT album. And they did. The lyrics are brilliant beyond anything else released this year, and the job Jason Isbell did to structure the band, their sound and these songs can not be rated highly enough.
I just plainly LOVE this album.

Andrew Combs – Worried Man.
I had waited for this release since I discovered Mr. Combs through Ninebullets. And he does not disappoint. Strong songs and fantastic lyrics that just keep growing on you. A real country record like it should sound and should be made, but not just country – he throws some blues and rock into the mix to keep it really interesting – and it sounds really fresh. In part a break-up album, this is one of my most played albums this year.

Bob Dylan – Tempest.
Being a monumental Dylan-fan, this album really impressed me. His Bobness still writes songs like nobody else, and kicks so much combined ass that it’s sometimes a mystery to me why anyone else bothers to even make music. His best in years!

Otis Gibbs – Harder Than Hammered Hell.
We’ve been so lucky to have Otis Gibbs visiting Norway over the last two years. He is one of the best songwriters out there, and his concerts are always good. Both live and on this albu, Otis takes you for a ride through his life, and merges both true stories, stories from the road and pure fiction like any masterful writer. “Harder Than Hammered Hell” has songs that’ll stop and make you think (Never Enough, Made To Break, Detroit Steel, The Land Of Maybe) and songs to make you smile and laugh. (Second Best, Big Whiskers). The production is the best I’ve heard on any of his albums, and the instrumentation puts a lot of bluesey guitar into the mix. And “Big Whiskers” is Otis Gibbs own “Tweeter and The Monkey Man”. Storytelling that would make Dylan smile and hum along.

Brock Zeman – Me Then You.
I’m not sure if Brock Zeman has made his best album with “Me Then You”, as his albums are so incredible it’s hard to choose.
From this list it’s easy to see that lyrics is what’s important to me, and Brock Zeman is one of the best writers out there. Of course the music has to match and hit me, but if the words are indifferent or just thrown together, I quickly lose interest. Nothing like that happening with this album. It’s rock solid, and really one of my all time favorites.

John Murry – The Graceless Age.
I’ve tried reviewing this album, and I’ll probably give it another try at some point. It’s just too hard to put into words how this album makes me feel.
But just to summarize, this holds some of this years strongest songs – and perhaps THE strongest in “Little Colored Balloons“. Open your mind to this song of of his fight with drug abuse, it will call for tears, goosebumps and heavy thoughts.
NOT to be missed (you’ll find it on Spotify or on Soundcloud), it’s a hard listen – but give it time and you will be forever rewarded.

Skyline Drive – Topanga Ranch Motel.
I love this album from Derek Thomas and Erik Kristiansen. Great songs, catchy melodies and a unique sound that will give any lover of pedal steel guitars a reason to play air-pedal-steel. This is real alt. country like it’s just not made anymore. And why I haven’t written about this is beyond me…
Check out the songs at Skyline Drives Bandcamp.

Cold Chisel – No Plans.
Another album that I need to write about. Cold Chisel is Australias best and most legendary band. Period. This just rocks. Get it at Amazon.

Cold Chisel – No Plans

And last, but by all means NOT least:
Patterson Hood – Heat Lighting Rumbles In The Distance.
Pattersons best solo-album, filled to the bursting point with his fantastic lyrics and showing us what a master storyteller he really is. And the song “(untold pretties)” is one of his best songs to date. Go get it!

Other stuff I’ve really enjoyed:

McDougall – A Few Towns More.
Debonzo Brothers – One Damn Heart.
Number Seven Deli – Toxteth.
The James Low Western Front – Whiskey Farmer.
Arliss Nancy – Simple Machines.
Hellbound Glory – Damaged Goods.
Tift Merritt – Travelling Alone.
Jason Isbell – Live From Alabama.
American Aquarium – Live from Raleigh.
Sons Of Bill – Sirens.
Michael McDermott – Hit Me Back.