My favorite albums of 2017

At the end of every year I go back through my iTunes library and try to make a list of the new records that were the most meaningful to me. Here are those records for 2017 - the ones that were played on repeat, the ones whose lyrics have found a way into my heart, and the ones that I'll keep close for a long time. They're in no particular order.

Taylor Leonhardt's new LP "River House" was the biggest musical surprise of my year. Taylor's songwriting is thoughtful and earnest, her voice is powerful yet gentle, and Jess Ray's production is subtly intriguing. I LOVE the drums on this record. Mason Self has such a unique way of creating groove, and I don't think I've heard close mic-ed drums smack in the way they do on tunes like "Deja Vu."   Favorite Track: "Would You Be Well"

Taylor Leonhardt's new LP "River House" was the biggest musical surprise of my year. Taylor's songwriting is thoughtful and earnest, her voice is powerful yet gentle, and Jess Ray's production is subtly intriguing. I LOVE the drums on this record. Mason Self has such a unique way of creating groove, and I don't think I've heard close mic-ed drums smack in the way they do on tunes like "Deja Vu."

 

Favorite Track: "Would You Be Well"

Chris Thile's "Thanks For Listening" came so late in the year I almost missed it. I've been a fan of Chris's music ever since the Nickel Creek days, and I've ridden the exhilarating wave of his musical evolution - sometimes wishing he'd return to the pop sensibilities of his youth. I got my wish and more with "Thanks For Listening" - a wonderfully accessible, yet musically intriguing, commentary on Trump's America. Chris explores contemporary issues like social media and polarizing politics with the grace and empathy of a poet - sharp and clear, but understanding. "Thanks For Listening" is a record for these times.    Favorite Track: "I Made This For You" (I literally yelled with excitement the first time I listened...)

Chris Thile's "Thanks For Listening" came so late in the year I almost missed it. I've been a fan of Chris's music ever since the Nickel Creek days, and I've ridden the exhilarating wave of his musical evolution - sometimes wishing he'd return to the pop sensibilities of his youth. I got my wish and more with "Thanks For Listening" - a wonderfully accessible, yet musically intriguing, commentary on Trump's America. Chris explores contemporary issues like social media and polarizing politics with the grace and empathy of a poet - sharp and clear, but understanding. "Thanks For Listening" is a record for these times. 

 

Favorite Track: "I Made This For You" (I literally yelled with excitement the first time I listened...)

I love old hymns and was thrilled to find out that Sara Groves, one of my favorite songwriters, was working on a new record of retuned and reimagined hymns. "Abide With Me" introduced me to several new texts and a handful of lovely new tunes. I never thought I'd like a retuned version of "Fairest Lord Jesus," as the original tune is so beautiful, but I was pleasantly surprised. Sara's understanding voice is met with John Mark Nelson's delicate production to create a timeless collection of sacred music. These tunes have already been with me on anxious drives, red eye flights, and rainy afternoons. One day I'd love to make my own hymns record, and I will surely revisit this one for inspiration.    Favorite Track: "Fairest Lord Jesus" (those strings!) 

I love old hymns and was thrilled to find out that Sara Groves, one of my favorite songwriters, was working on a new record of retuned and reimagined hymns. "Abide With Me" introduced me to several new texts and a handful of lovely new tunes. I never thought I'd like a retuned version of "Fairest Lord Jesus," as the original tune is so beautiful, but I was pleasantly surprised. Sara's understanding voice is met with John Mark Nelson's delicate production to create a timeless collection of sacred music. These tunes have already been with me on anxious drives, red eye flights, and rainy afternoons. One day I'd love to make my own hymns record, and I will surely revisit this one for inspiration. 

 

Favorite Track: "Fairest Lord Jesus" (those strings!) 

I confess: I know nothing about Neil Finn, except for this album. I should probably change that. By the last verse of "Love Is Emotional," the opening track, I had chills. The story telling on that song in particular, and throughout the whole album, is adept and stirring. I was surprised to find out that it was recorded almost entirely live. If you're interested, you can find YouTube videos of the recording session.     Favorite Track: "Love is Emotional" (I listened 20+ times in a row the first time I really heard this lyric. That last verse!) 

I confess: I know nothing about Neil Finn, except for this album. I should probably change that. By the last verse of "Love Is Emotional," the opening track, I had chills. The story telling on that song in particular, and throughout the whole album, is adept and stirring. I was surprised to find out that it was recorded almost entirely live. If you're interested, you can find YouTube videos of the recording session.  

 

Favorite Track: "Love is Emotional" (I listened 20+ times in a row the first time I really heard this lyric. That last verse!) 

A few years ago I discovered Andy Gullahorn's music and my songwriting world widened considerably. His music introduced me to storytelling-through-song and I've approached my own songwriting differently ever since. All of his albums work me through a full range of emotions - from laughter one minute to tears the next - and this acoustic pre-release of his upcoming record is no exception. The pre-release is only available at shows, so you may have to wait a few months to hear the record when it is officially released. But trust me, it's full of stories worth hearing.    Favorite Track: "Everything's As It Should Be"

A few years ago I discovered Andy Gullahorn's music and my songwriting world widened considerably. His music introduced me to storytelling-through-song and I've approached my own songwriting differently ever since. All of his albums work me through a full range of emotions - from laughter one minute to tears the next - and this acoustic pre-release of his upcoming record is no exception. The pre-release is only available at shows, so you may have to wait a few months to hear the record when it is officially released. But trust me, it's full of stories worth hearing. 

 

Favorite Track: "Everything's As It Should Be"

Weezer was one of the bands that got me into music back in the 7th grade. They're fun, ironic (though singer Rivers Cuomo claims he's not trying to be), melodically adventurous, and lyrically intriguing. After a few underwhelming records, "Pacific Daydream," and its predecessor, "White," feel like a return to form. I love blasting this record in the car, dancing to it in the living room, and dissecting the wonderfully bizarre lyrics. If you haven't already, I recommend learning about Rivers' interesting way of approaching songwriting.    Favorite Song: "Happy Hour" (grooviest first verse I've heard in a long time) 

Weezer was one of the bands that got me into music back in the 7th grade. They're fun, ironic (though singer Rivers Cuomo claims he's not trying to be), melodically adventurous, and lyrically intriguing. After a few underwhelming records, "Pacific Daydream," and its predecessor, "White," feel like a return to form. I love blasting this record in the car, dancing to it in the living room, and dissecting the wonderfully bizarre lyrics. If you haven't already, I recommend learning about Rivers' interesting way of approaching songwriting

 

Favorite Song: "Happy Hour" (grooviest first verse I've heard in a long time) 

Caroline Cobb is a new friend of mine from Dallas and a fabulous songwriter. I've played her new record, "A Home & A Hunger," many times and keep finding new lyrical gems. Caroline has a great way of telling Biblical stories faithfully - never sugarcoating or glossing over the edges. Her songwriting is better than ever on this record, and the catchy melodies and thoughtful lyrics are clothed in Gabe Scott's lush production.  A few months ago Trisha and I got to sing with Caroline on a couple live performance videos. Check out Only The Sick Need a Physician and There is a Mountain.    Favorite Track: "Emmanuel (Every Promise Yes in Him)"  

Caroline Cobb is a new friend of mine from Dallas and a fabulous songwriter. I've played her new record, "A Home & A Hunger," many times and keep finding new lyrical gems. Caroline has a great way of telling Biblical stories faithfully - never sugarcoating or glossing over the edges. Her songwriting is better than ever on this record, and the catchy melodies and thoughtful lyrics are clothed in Gabe Scott's lush production. 

A few months ago Trisha and I got to sing with Caroline on a couple live performance videos. Check out Only The Sick Need a Physician and There is a Mountain. 

 

Favorite Track: "Emmanuel (Every Promise Yes in Him)"