I have to admit, I was slacking on my non-metal intake this year. I usually try to keep up on other genres I like but this year there was just so much incredible music, everything else sort of came second. That’s not to say there weren’t some incredible albums this year. There was. There always is. I’m hoping to be more rounded next year, musically. Probably physically too if you take this article’s picture into consideration. Anyway, here’s my favorite non-metal albums from the year, in no particular order except for Lucero which easily takes the spot of my favorite non-metal album.
Lucero – All A Man Should Do
God damn this new Lucero album makes me so happy. As far as Lucero is concerned, their first six albums are all incredible while I prefer the old, sad, heartbreak songs on Tennessee I’m also a big fan of their more raucous, Springsteen-like stylings of their later albums like 1372 Overton Park, where they started adding the horn section and more soul style sounds. It pained me to say that their last album, Women & Work was a misfire and an album I rarely listen to. They went to far into the soul aspect and lost the focus. Well, they’ve found it again and it fills me with delight. They’ve finally found a good marriage of the sad bastard country songs, rock anthems, and horn infused soul, dancing songs. There’s a good mix of all represented on this album. Mournful, down on your luck songs that would have fit perfectly on Tennessee, rock and roll boogie, happy love songs like the ones that were done so well on the Texas and Tennessee EP, some new explorations and of course, the later era soul, horn infusion, upbeat songs. Damn I love Lucero, welcome back boys.
Dorthia Cottrell – Dorthia Cottrell
Dorothia Cottrell is better known as the front woman of the doom metal band Windhand (a band I only know by name, but I may have to change that soon). This, however, while covered with a sort of “doom” fog, is a country/blues/folk album, and a damn good one at that. Dorthia’s voice is mesmerizing. There’s a slight country twang in it but mostly it sounds sorrowful and honest. Like good country should.
William Elliott Whitmore – Radium Death
I first became away of Whitmore through his excellent cover of the Bad Religion Song “Don’t Pray On Me” confirming what I’ve always suspected, that Bad Religion are writing folk protest songs with punk music. Whitmore is not punk, at least musically. Maybe in approach. His music is folk/country, drawing from the best of the old school with a modern sensibility. The songs are quick, cut and draw with no fluff. Just well-written and well executed, passionate at times, straight forward and wonderful.
Strung Out – Transmission.Alpha.Delta
A perfect blend of Strung Out’s heavier side with their infectiously catchy pop punk side.
Lonesome Wyatt and Rachel Brooke – Bad Omen
I’m a fan of the Those Poor Bastards and their weird, horror, gothic, old-timey take on country music but I’ve got to say I’ve really enjoyed Lonesome Wyatt’s and Rachel Brooke’s collaborations, maybe more so then the Poor Bastards. Her voice lends a sense of beauty and loss to the already dismal and forlornness of Wyatt’s music. It’s less horror and more misery. The two compliment each other perfectly.
Sharon Van Etten – I Don’t Want to Let You Down EP
Simple yet beautiful indie rock. Wish it was another full length but this’ll do for now.
Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
Kacey Musgraves plays pop friendly country music but unlike that bullshit that passes for country music on the radio and beer commercials, Musgraves actually has some heart and passion, two staples of excellent country music. Her songs are catchy, uplifting, insightful and all spun through a country take on what it means to be a woman, a stranger in a strange land of country bro mentality.
Pioggia Nera – Danze dei Miserabili
I’m not well versed on the history of Italian hardcore punk or death rock. It seems Pioggia Nera are. This band is described as a throwback to the late 70’s and 80’s era of Italian “cemetery” punk. To my ears it sounds like a combination of The Misfits, The Damned, The Germs, early Anarcho stuff like Crass and some crust stuff like Amebix with some Killing Joke, filtered through a thin lair of early Norwegian black metal vocals. It’s worth a listen just for that alone but it’s also fucking killer.
Red City Radio – Red City Radio
I’m a sucker for this sort of punk. Super emotional, melodic, poppy at points. When it comes to newer pop punk I just really want to hear catchy songs. Red City Radio borrow a page from the Nothington handbook, which is sort of a more harmony driven play on Social Distortion’s past couple albums. Good hooks and lyrics. No complaints.
Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss
I enjoy Chelsea Wolfe’s dark and dreamy, indie rock(?) pop(?) hybrid. There’s been a lot of talk about how even though she isn’t a metal musician, her music is metal. It’s a fairly heavy album, tonally and emotionally but I’m not sure calling it metal does it any justice. I read she’s a fan and has covered a Burzum song but I think she’s confident enough in her writing that she can stand on her own without having to be lumped into another genre just to make her seem credible to a different audience.
Calabrese – Lust for Sacrilege
Oh Calabrese. You string me along so well. Calabrese is a horror punk band from Arizona. Their first two albums are classics (in my opinion) of the genre but ever since their third album The Traveling Vampire Show they’ve steadily been decreasing in quality culminating with 2013’s forgettable Born with a Scorpion’s Touch. It seems they are back with a new album Lust for Sacrilege which I missed because they’ve changed their awesome bright colored, EC horror, greaser look to a very Sisters of Mercy sort of look. The album however is a step back in the right direction. They’ve gotten a bit darker and less humorous but the music is solid again. This album was a grower for me and after a couple times through I could barely stop listening to it. Not as good as they used to be but damn close.
Elway – Better Whenever
A more aged approach to pop punk. More thoughtful than their previous and more mature. Dig these guys.
King Woman – Doubt
This isn’t my usual cup of tea but I found something about this album so captivating. There seems to be a sense of post doom/black metal in the sound and visuals with a bit of Neko Case’s vocal power but I would hardly describe this band as one of those genres. It’s metallic in nature, maybe in the same way Katatonia are metal. It’s a bit heavier though, in music, tone and theme. A good word to describe it is sweeping.
Chris Stapleton – Traveller
More off the beaten radio friendly path of mainstream bullshit country. A little long but great, soulful, country music. Stapleton’s voice might be a little bluesier or southern rock-ish but overall I dug a lot of what he was putting down.
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
While I’ve never been a Drive By Truckers fan I have been a fan of Jason Isbell and was completely enamored with his 2013 album Southeastern. This is more of the same of that: folky, country infused music. This one is less of a downer than Southeastern, but I do like me some sad songs. Regardless, it’s beautiful.
Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds
I’m not well versed in Peters back catalog but I was fairly taken with this new album of hers. The album is full of morose tales about the darker side of life and death but with such a beautiful and plain, stripped down poetic way. Incredible songwriter with an incredible album.