Folk Alley's Best of 2011 - Matt Reilly
January 5, 2012
by Matt Reilly, host on FolkAlley.com M-F midnight to 5:00am; Sat 2:00 to 5:00 pm; and Sun 2:00 - 7:00pm (ET).
It's always tough to whittle a best of list to just 10. Someone always gets left out. With that in mind, I came up with my top 10 by asking myself what albums do I listen to most frequently in my free time? Which artist has stepped up their game or created something that will stand the test of time within their body of work? What have been my favorites to share with the listeners? Now that you know my process and the votes have been tabulated, ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Matt Reilly Top 10 Folk(ish) Albums of 2011.
Willie Nelson and George Jones had a baby and they named him Robert Ellis. This Houston native, who is only in his early 20's, has basically crafted a two sided album: the first half is introspective singer songwriter fare with a twang, and the second is full blown honky-tonk that reminds us that real country ain't dead.
Iron & Wine
Kiss Each Other Clean
Sam Beam continues to evolve sonically by adding production elements that most artists who are labeled folkies eschew. Modern and retro all at the same time.
So Beautiful Or So What
Not content to look backwards, Paul Simon continues to amaze with his sharp songwriting and melodic and intricate song structures. While this album certainly harkens back to his late 80's 'Graceland' work, it feels like it belongs in the 21st century.
Justin Vernon has scored again. His earlier work made him a mainstay in hipster Ipods, but his new self-titled release has seen Vernon fleshing out his haunting sound and filling the holes in our hearts that careless lovers have callously carved. He does the suffering so you don't have to.
The King Is Dead
The current indie folk kings have cast off the Victorian concept album cloak that has made some of their earlier work seem pretentious and heavy handed. By teaming with guitarist Peter Buck, the new collection has (perhaps unsurprisingly) a jangly, pop-laden sound that is quite accessible and gives the material room to breathe.
Follow Me Down
There's always been a darkness to the songs of Sarah Jarosz that appeals to me. Her day job as a student at The New England Conservatory has paid dividends as well. You can hear a more sophisticated artist and while here playing has always been extraordinary, here songwriting is getting better all the time and when you put the two together it's enough to make you ask for her birth certificate. No college kids are this good! A choice Radiohead cover never hurts either.
The Harrow and the Harvest
Gillian Welch could release an a cappella record and it would be captivating because that voice! Nobody sounds like her. With spare arrangements and playing from her musical compadre David Rawlings, you feel like you're lamenting the loss of a lover that has left you standing in a winter cornfield crying your eyes out with a shotgun in your hand.
The Head and the Heart
The Head and the Heart
At first listen, I was unimpressed. However, after seeing a live performance and giving the record a few more spins, I found myself with several of these songs stuck in my head. That's the mark of good songs: they stick to your musical ribs. Onstage, they have a youthful energy that is infectious yet calming.
Bad As Me
A return to form from an American treasure. Alternating between beautiful, heartfelt ballads and growly, vaudevillian rockers, Tom Waits has crafted an album that stands among his finest work.
A Creature I Don't Know
Laura Marling is just one of those young artists with an old soul. As one of the new torchbearers of British Folk, you can hear forebears like Nick Drake and Donovan in her songs. We are going to be hearing here name for years to come.
Posted by Linda Fahey at January 5, 2012 5:31 PM