As host of WUMB’s “Local Folk” I was recently asked to put together my top 10 releases of the year by New England artists. 2015 was a banner year for artists from the Northeast with career highlights from veterans like Jeffrey Foucault and roots supergroup Session Americana, alongside breakout records from artists like Darlingside and Caitlin Canty (not to mention heralded new albums from former Bostonians like Josh Ritter, Della Mae, etc.) so it was a difficult task to say the least. After much internal debate and re-listening here are my top 10 for 2015:
10. Krista Baroni – The Alabaster Girl
Who knew there was so much Laurel Canyon in Central Massachusetts? With help from producer Eric Lichter, Krista’s album mixes lush West Coast arrangements with dense wordplay that reward multiple listens.
9. Tall Heights – Holding On, Holding Out
The album this duo has been hinting at with their live show for years. Atmospheric, catchy, and deeply haunting.
8. Barnstar – Sit Down! Get Up! Get Out!
Sophomore effort picks up right where these guys left off. Originals play nice with a wide range of covers from Josh Ritter to The Faces and The Hold Steady in this rollicking affair.
7. Darlingside – Birds Say
Dropping the indie rock notions of 2012’s Pilot Machines, Darlingside has crafted a rootsy and vibrant album that is the highlight of their young career.
6. Session Americana – Pack Up The Circus
Finally a Session Americana album that captures the potency of their incredible live show. No disrespect to 2012’s Love & Dirt but Pack Up The Circus is a true portrait of the band at their strongest.
5. Caitlin Canty – Reckless Skyline
Produced by Jeffrey Foucault, this breakout album wraps Caitlin’s sultry voice in just the right amount of grit punctuated by great guitar work from Foucault himself and pedal steel from Eric Heywood.
4. The Grownup Noise – Stewing
A number of groups spent the historic Boston winter tucked away in recording studios when gigging became a crap shoot. The Grownup Noise uses that claustrophic feel to great effect on Stewing, and the addition local legend Dana Colley (Morphine) on sax perfectly compliments the group’s intricate arrangements.
3. Brown Bird – Axis Mundi
A powerful testament to the songwriting of the late Dave Lamb, the urgency of these songs is palpable and they provide a glimpse of new directions and sounds Dave was exploring until the very end.
2. Jeffrey Foucault – Salt As Wolves
I’ve been a fan of Jeffrey’s ever since his debut album Miles From the Lightning, and this record is a perfect mixture of sparse haunting ballads (“Paradise”) and driving numbers like “Rico” which features producer Bo Ramsey’s economical, gritty, and soulful guitar playing.
1. The Suitcase Junket – Make Time
As we counted down our favorites of 2014 I predicted this would be in my list for the following year, but I didn’t know it would come in #1! It came out in Janaury and I can honestly say at my house we’ve played this album all year long. When you hear this sonic masterpiece from one man band extraordinaire Matt Lorenz you’ll swear there are more people playing … until you see him do it live.