Signup for a folk alley account


Folk Alley's Best of 2016 - Cindy Howes' Top 10 Albums

December 17, 2016

Cindy Howes headshot 300x300.jpgby Cindy Howes, FolkAlley.com

2016 was a rollercoaster of a year that ends with many vowing to better themselves and their community and to reach outside of their comfort zones. I wanted to express my desire to be better in my year-end list. I don't think it's out of the question to assume that we want harmony through a unified, diverse and loving world. The best thing I can do is listen to people whose experiences are different than mine. Music is a starting point and this practice definitely includes, but is not limited to folk music, whether it be Kaia Kater, Frank Ocean, Anohni or Mitski. I have been attempting to slow down, buy more records, stay off Facebook and take in the messages these songwriters are sending us. I will be reaching out and looking for faces and experiences that do not look like my own.






01_22,_A_Million_cover.jpg1. Bon Iver - 22 A Million (Jagjaguwar)

Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) has again reinvented their sound on their third record, but the core of emotional, infectiously heartbreaking melody remains. Vernon uses religious imagery and numerology to convey a study of deep self-exploration. Using samples galore (Paolo Nutini, Stevie Nicks, Fionn Reagan just to name a few), Vernon's experimental and digital approach marvelously captures the human heart on this exceptional album. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "33 "GOD""



02_Michael Kiwanuka Love and Hate.jpg2. Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate (UMGRI Interscope)

Although not an outright folk record, UK singer Michael Kiwanuka's second LP deserves to be set alongside the great soul music songwriter Marvin Gaye. Love & Hate is an epic listen that leaves an impression on the first song (Cold Little Heart) that runs almost 10 minutes. The striking "Black Man in a White World", demands your attention. Sonically, this record lives in that classic 1970's lushly produced soul records, thanks in part to producer Danger Mouse. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "Black Man In A White World"




03_Case Lang Veirs.jpg3. Case/Lang/Veirs - Case/Lang/Veirs (Anti/Epitaph)

Super groups make me nervous, so I tamped down my expectations when I heard Neko Case, kd Lang and Laura Veirs were making a record. Well, turns out I'm an idiot. These three monster talents did not call it in. It sounds like they are aiming to make the record of their lives together. Sweeping harmonies, lush production (thank you Tucker Martine) and poignant songwriting make this collaboration one of the top super groups of modern music. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "Atomic Number"



04_Aoife O'Donovan In the Magic Hour.jpg4. Aoife O'Donovan - In The Magic Hour (Yep Roc)

Aoife O'Donovan's profile has been rising for over a decade and In The Magic Hour is taking her to the next level. Best known for fronting Crooked Still, O'Donovan's phrasing is her own, but encompasses the best in Olde English and Irish folk of yore. Produced by Tucker Martine (who worked on her last album Fossils), this record has expanded experimentation with a little bit more (good) weirdness not heard from her output previously. It seems as though, no matter how much dissonance Martine tosses in there, Aoife's lead is strong, steady and completely captivating. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "The King of All Birds"




05_Mavis Staples.jpg5. Mavis Staples - Livin' on a High Note (Anti)

Oh my God, do we need Mavis Staples now! Her spirit, her history, her voice, her energy are all gathered on this beautiful album. Produced by M. Ward (She & Him) it includes songs written specifically for Mavis by a new generation of songwriters. Ben Harper, Valerie June, Neko Case and Justin Vernon are a few of the musicians who have thoughtfully written songs for the legendary Staples, whose lively interpretations make it clear that this great woman has more to say and thank God for that. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "High Note"




06_For A Song Erellicolor1hires 500sq.jpg6. Mark Erelli - For a Song (Mark Erelli)

C'mon! "I am just a Yankee boy/born and bred in Boston" is your record's opening line!? Mark Erelli, I love you. It doesn't get more classic New England folk-nostalgic than Mark Erelli singing about being in Boston, trying to get home Boston or just being reminded you're from Boston. He can do that with his magic voice and songs, which are among some of the finest he's written. Erelli has spent the last six years as a member of Barnstar and playing sideman for Lori McKenna and Paula Cole. The influence of those side projects have pleasantly made themselves in his own music making For a Song his strongest release to date. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "For a Song"



07_Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker.jpg7. Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker (Columbia)

Leonard Cohen's final album is perfect. Cohen, who died the week of the U.S. Presidential Election, gave us one final gift of morose, haunting and beautiful poetry. His magnificent words are accompanied by sparse instrumentation, which, of course, includes a monk-like choir. Leonard's musician son Adam Cohen produced the album and followed his father's wishes in terms of musical direction. What a hell of a goodbye. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "You Want It Darker"




08_Kaia Kater-nine-pin-cover-high-res.jpg8. Kaia Kater - Nine Pin (Kingswood Records)

Kaia Kater is sharp young woman who creates meaningful folk music with a message. Nine Pin, her second LP, centers on the experience and struggle people of color face daily in North America, both from personal experience and from current events. Her roots lay in the folk music of Canada (she grew up in Toronto) and West Virginia Appalachia where she spent time studying the music of the people. Kater's style is strongly grounded in traditional folk banjo accompanied by her deep beautiful tenor voice. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "Paradise Fell"




09_the-lumineers-cleopatra-album.jpg9. The Lumineers - Cleopatra (Dualtone Music)

The Lumineers are not a college-bro band. They were just as surprised as everyone when their "Ho Hey" song ended up being a big radio hit for the Denver based folk band. Cleopatra serves as a reaction to that success by showcasing the depth and seriously smart side of the band. Who better to guide them into the world of deep dark feelings than Simone Felice (formerly of The Felice Brothers)? Felice, who produced the album, has almost died at least twice and it often reflects in his work. The Lumineers signature hooks and snappy percussion still shines through on the first few songs. The second half proves to be mostly Wesley Schultz playing solo acoustic with just touches of Jeremiah Fraites' percussion. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "Cleopatra"




10_Andrew Bird.jpeg10. Andrew Bird - Are You Serious (Loma Vista)

My most re-visited album of 2016 is Andrew Bird's first traditional pop release since 2012. This is Andrew Bird post-marriage, post-child and post-spouse-living-though-cancer, which is a lot to process, so it takes a lot of listens to soak in. Luckily, at least for an Andrew Bird record, it's easy to digest and this a musician who is not always so straightforward. This record changes every time you put it on: the lyrics pop, the strings pluck and sway and the beats are sweet where they need to be. I don't want the smart and experimental Andrew Bird to make such an easy record every time, but it feels so good when he does. iTunes . Amazon.com

Song: "Roma Fade"



Posted by Linda Fahey at December 17, 2016 6:46 PM


Support Folk Alley During Our Spring Fund Drive!

 

Recent Topics

 

 

July 2017
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
                  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31               


July 2017


May 2017


April 2017


March 2017


February 2017


January 2017


December 2016


November 2016


October 2016


September 2016


August 2016


July 2016


May 2016


April 2016


March 2016


February 2016


January 2016


December 2015


November 2015


October 2015


September 2015


August 2015


July 2015


June 2015


May 2015


April 2015


March 2015


February 2015


January 2015


December 2014


October 2014


September 2014


August 2014


July 2014


June 2014


April 2014


March 2014


February 2014


January 2014


December 2013


November 2013


October 2013


September 2013


August 2013


July 2013


June 2013


May 2013


April 2013


March 2013


February 2013


December 2012


November 2012


October 2012


September 2012


August 2012


July 2012


June 2012


May 2012


April 2012


March 2012


February 2012


January 2012


December 2011


November 2011


October 2011


September 2011


August 2011


July 2011


June 2011


May 2011


April 2011


March 2011


February 2011


January 2011


December 2010


November 2010


October 2010


September 2010


August 2010


July 2010


May 2010


April 2010


March 2010


February 2010


January 2010


December 2009


November 2009


October 2009


September 2009


August 2009


July 2009


June 2009


May 2009


April 2009


March 2009


February 2009


January 2009


December 2008


November 2008


October 2008


September 2008


August 2008


July 2008


June 2008


May 2008


April 2008


March 2008


February 2008


January 2008


December 2007


November 2007


October 2007


September 2007


August 2007


July 2007


June 2007


May 2007


April 2007


March 2007


February 2007


January 2007


December 2006


November 2006


October 2006


September 2006


August 2006


July 2006


June 2006


May 2006


April 2006


March 2006


February 2006


January 2006


December 2005


November 2005


October 2005


September 2005


August 2005


July 2005


June 2005


May 2005


April 2005


March 2005


February 2005


January 2005


December 2004


November 2004


October 2004


September 2004


August 2004


July 2004


June 2004


May 2004


April 2004


March 2004


February 2004


January 2004


December 2003


November 2003


October 2003


September 2003


August 2003