11) Lori McKenna “Massachusetts”
Finally, Mark Erelli gets to be in the liner notes of a Lori McKenna album. “My Love Follows You Where You Go” ended up being my least favorite, which is a song she co-wrote for Allison Krause. It’s telling and a sign that she’s best on her own and not corrupted by the Nashville garbage.
12) Soilwork “The Living Infinite”
This was my surprise metal favorite of the year. A double album that doesn’t grow tired. What really helps is the guest vocalists, especially Mikael Åkerfeldt. Disc Two starts strong with Entering Aeons, but I can’t help but think of Black Diamond by Kiss.
13) Dark Tranquillity “Construct”
This was a Dark Tranquillity album. That’s about the best review I could give this. What made it interesting for this project is there was no simple or slow song to chose to make a solo piano arrangement for. It represents the first time my playing represents the growling death metal vocals.
14) Sound of Contact “Dimensionaut
No review of this album can be written without mentioning that the singer in this band is Phil Collins son. I doubt I would have purchased this album has that not been the case, but the album is good enough to stand on its own.
15) Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer “Child Ballads”
This album was less challenging to get into than the last few solo Anais albums. However, the simple melodies were made extremely interesting by this duo.
16) Black Sabbath “13”
I didn’t like this album before I listened to it. Everything about Ozzy’s career since his MTV show has been tainted with something that doesn’t seem very metal. It doesn’t help that all of his solo material in the past decade has been rather bland, at least what I’ve heard on the radio. I incorrectly put this release into the bland Ozzy bucket and didn’t have faith in the other masters of darkness. This is an album I listened to far more than expected and was a commendable attempt at re-creating their 70s sound and glory.
17) Civil Wars “Civil Wars”
Like their first album, their self-titled 2nd album has brilliant songs mixed in with songs that drag a bit. I may be in the minority here, but I think they are at their best when they are rocking. “Oh Henry” and “From This Valley” are some of my favorites. Their cover of The Smashing Pumpkin’s Disarm sounds almost nothing like the original, which isn’t a bad thing on its own, but it is when it’s just made to be boring. The lyric “The killer in me is the killer in you” just sounds like it was written by a 14 year old girl when sung by them. It’s the same type recursive nonsense lyric that plagued their song “To Whom It May Concern” (I’ve missed you but I haven’t met you).
18) Suidakra “Eternal Defiance”
If there’s one album on this list that’s not deserving of its position it’s this one. The sound quality was odd and there was little originality. The song that became most painful was “The Mindsong”, which is odd that it’s also the song that I chose to play. The lyric “Empire of rose…” just repeats endlessly and at times it sounds like the sound engineers did a sloppy job cut-and-pasting in the chorus multiple times. Even the band didn’t feel like singing this lyric over and over again.
19) Ghost “Infestissumam”
There was something off about this album. I knew it was musically interesting and as unique as the first album. However, I wanted to play it loud, as I would any good metal album. But something was off. It just didn’t sound right. It was as if the album took a lesson from the Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” and mixed the whole album too hot. While this was the first album I heard since Death Magnetic to be plagued by this issue, the second would be the Queensryche album already mentioned.
20) The Winery Dogs “The Winery Dogs”
Of all Mike Portnoy’s post-Dream Theater projects I’d rank this one second (behind Flying Colors and well ahead of Adrenaline Mob). When an album is described as straight-forward rock I’m often skeptical but there’s something that kept my interest about this album. It’s as if Soundgarden gained a bit of a proggy-edge to them. I hope they do release a second album.