... somewhat ranked. Sorta.
- Local Natives: Sunlit Youth. I can't believe this band isn't getting more attention. They burst onto the scene with Gorilla Manor in 2010, followed up with Hummingbird in 2013, then Sunlit Youth in 2016, and this summer they released Violet Street.
Every one of these albums is wonderful, but Sunlit Youth is somehow my personal favorite. I've gotta figure out a way to see them live, but their 2019 tour didn't come anywhere close to my part of the world, sigh.
- Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell. This is probably the most heart-breakingly perfect 40 minutes of music you will ever hear. Honest, intimate, tragic, compelling, unforgettable: all of these apply to Carrie & Lowell, an album which largely consists of Stevens trying to come to grips with his feelings about his mother and her premature death.
The only hesitation I have about this album is that, each time I play it, there is a recovery period. I have to rest, and contemplate, and reflect.
- Lord Huron: Vide Noir. What is it about Michigan's Ben Schneider that is so compelling to me? I'm not sure, but he certainly has me hooked. Lonesome Dreams was marvelous, Strange Trails just as good, and Vide Noir builds on those successes to find something richer and more nuanced. He can somehow capture the essence of sitting around the campfire, listening to stories told by those wandering cowboys of yore.
- Lumineers: III.
I've been a Lumineers super-fan since their break-out debut in 2011, and, like everyone else in the world, I've been waiting eagerly for III since it was announced last winter.
But, when it finally arrived, it just blew my mind. With III, they have taken their phenomenal musicianship and married it with a deep and introspective voyage into their souls.
I suspect that there will be many people who find III to be the wrong album for them.
But for me, I'm thrilled.
- Joseph: Good Luck, Kid. Since their monster self-titled debut in 2016, Joseph have been near the top of my Bands To Watch. It was going to be very, very hard for them to top that debut album, but Good Luck, Kid is very, very good.
- Dave Matthews Band: Come Tomorrow. For nearly 30 years, The Dave Matthews Band has been producing magnificent work. Even if Come Tomorrow isn't their strongest album ever, it's been good enough for at least 2 dozen listens this summer.
- Elephant Revival: Break In The Clouds. I, sadly, had the bad luck to stumble upon Elephant Revival just as the band had decided to call it quits and go their separate ways; life got in the way, I guess? This is an enchanting band, nicely incorporating bluegrass, jazz, and folk influences into a lovely ensemble. I've only listened to half of the music that they managed to record during 10 lovely years. Why, oh why didn't I learn about them years ago?
- Gregory Alan Isakov: The Weatherman. Oh, everybody knows about Isakov, I'm not telling you anything you haven't already heard elsewhere. Can a musician be both dependable and revealing simultaneously? Everybody compares him to Van Morrison, which is a bit audacious because he isn't quite there, yet. Yet.
- Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?. A little bit funky, a little bit smooth. A little bit edgy, a little bit elegant. But really: how can a 17-year-old possibly be this good already? Where will she go from here?
- Tame Impala: Innerspeaker. I actually got both Innerspeaker and Lonerism this summer, and, honestly, I can't tell which one I prefer. They're both atmospheric and fascinating. Tame Impala are some sort of blend of The Beatles and Pink Floyd. I guess. Or something.
- Whitney: Forever Turned Around. Whitney were another band whose debut album just captivated me. Light Upon The Lake was a collection of hook after hook, sing-along-lyrics ("I wanna drive around/with you with the windows down/and we can run all night"), and some sort of energy that just grabbed me.
So my expectations for album number 2 were a bit too high. Still, Forever Turned Around is growing on me. So I keep moving it up and down in my Summer 2019 list.
- Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats: Tearing at the Seams. I love the term, "rock and soul". Rateliff is full of energy and emotion and heat. Lots and lots of heat. GREAT driving music.
- Shakey Graves: Can't Wake up. Again, this is a sophomore effort, after his very promising And The War Came. I really like this album, but I feel like Shakey Graves still hasn't produced his best work, and I wonder if he somehow needs something to challenge him.
- Brett Dennen: Smoke and Mirrors. This is a strong work by Dennen, who has found his groove and delivers a lovely album here.
- Young the Giant: Home of the Strange. "Cough Syrup", the stratospheric hit from Young the Giant's debut album, was such a wonder-song that it is no surprise that whatever happened next was a bit of a letdown. I skipped Mind Over Matter and went straight to their 3rd CD. And now I'm confused. What will happen next?
- Indigo Girls live with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. If you're a super-fan, like I am, this is lovely stuff. I need to catch up with their more recent music. But, every time I think about that, I just go put on Strange Fire or Rites of Passage, and I remember when they changed the world.
- Better Oblivion Community Center. Conor Oberst loves to go make music with other musicians. Phoebe Bridgers is a HUGE talent who is just getting started. I think it was a good experience for her to perform with him, but she's going to make much better music in the future.
- Santana: Africa Speaks. WTF? Well, it's not boring. Half the tracks I was fascinated by; the other half I couldn't hit "next track" fast enough.
- Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars. Urk, what? Somebody told me that his daughter is going through a "horse phase". I guess that maybe explains this? Darkness on the Edge of Town this sure ain't.