Archive for Music

My 5th Annual Music “Year In Music” Review: Top 20 & 35 Honorable Mentions

I feel like every end-of-year list should begin with a series of apologies. I’m sorry for not listening to everything. And for not listening closely enough, for not fully attending, for not hearing what’s there, for not being enough to do any of this justice.

In other words, I am not worthy. 

And then there’s the second thought which is: Lighten up, Jimmy. Stop dithering. Nobody cares. So, yeah, these are just albums from the year that hit me, that stood out, that seemed distinct and fresh and different and valuable.

Mostly, it’s my hope that this annual exercise helps you find something that you like, just as it helps me clarify my own listening umwelt. What I hear within the confines of my particular bubble. 

I am struck, often, by how negative (and infuriating) some people are about music. So narrowly dismissive, closed off and elitist. It breaks my heart. So if, on the other hand, you arrive to this list as a springboard for checking out something you haven’t heard before, or if it prods you to listen again, maybe with fresh ears and an open heart, then . . . thank you. You are my kind of listener.

And third: Every list I read includes a too-long preamble that I almost invariably skip. So: more apologies for lacking the strength to resist that temptation.

Quickly about my process: I keep track of every full album I listen to, a practice I started five years ago. I listened to 131 (& counting) full-length albums that were released in 2023. Not nearly everything. 

This year, I listened to 505 (& counting) full-length albums overall. That number used to be in the 700s. Two factors: I’m more committed than ever to repeated listens, and I’m quicker to abandon an album that isn’t working for me. 

If I wait another week, or six more minutes, the contents here would likely change. There will be mistakes. Things I’ve missed or over- or under-rated. That’s why I embrace the “nobody cares” aesthetic. It’s liberating. I’m free. I’m not going for perfection. It’s all for fun, folks.

Here goes . . . 

TOP 20 (in alphabetical order)

Ahnoni, Antony & the Johnsons: My Back Was a Bridge

Ambrose Akinmusire: Beauty Is Enough

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society: Dynamic Maximum Tension

Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die ((world war)) 

Julie Byrne: The Greater Wings 

Margo Cilker: Valley of Heart’s Delight

Feeble Little Horse: Girl with Fish

PJ Harvey: I Inside the Old Year Dying

Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light

Jason Isbell: Weathervanes

Lankum: False Lanky

Lydia Loveless: Nothing’s Gonna Stand in My Way

Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Five: In the Garden

Jeff Rosenstock: Hellmode

Ryuichi Sakamoto: 12

Sufjan Stevens: Javelin

Veeze: Ganger

Wilco: Cousin

Yo La Tengo: This Stupid World

Youth Lagoon: Heaven Is a Junkyard





Altin Gun: Ask

Daniel Bachman: When the Roses Come Again

Blue Lake: Sun Arcs

Lonnie Holley: Oh Me Oh My

Blake Mills: Jelly Road

Tirzah: Trip9love . . . ?



Natural Information Society: Since Time Is Gravity 

The Necks: Travel

Gogo Penguin: Everything Is Going to Be Okay

Mette Henriette: Drifting

London Brew: s/t



Bar Italia: Tracy Denim 

Beirut: Hadsel

Bully: Lucky for You

Margaret Glaspy: Echo the Diamond

Hotline TNT: Cartwheel

The Lemon Twigs: Everything Harmony 

Mitski: The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

Palehound: Eye on the Bat 

Ratboys: The Window 

Joanna Sternberg: I’ve Got Me

The Tubs: Dead Meat 

Water From Your Eyes: Everyone’s Crushed 

Wednesday: Rat Saw God



Meg Baird: Furling

Shana Cleveland: Manzanita 

Cut Worms: s/t

Iris DeMent: Workin’ On a World

Margo Price: Strays

Paul Simon: Seven Psalms

Kassi Valazzi: Kassi Valazzi Knows Nothing

Jamila Woods: Water Made Us


Janelle Monae: The Age of Pleasure

Noname: Sundial

Cleo Sol: Heaven

RAYE: My 21st Century Blues


My 4th Annual “Year In Music” Review: Top 20 & 35 Honorable Mentions


I listened to 114 (& counting) full-length albums that were released in 2022. So: Not everything. It’s a dopey endeavor to try to select the ones that were freshest, most distinctive & original, best.

And so for the fourth year, I continued the project where I try to listen to (& keep track of) every complete album I hear, regardless of release dates.

I love the album format and recognize that most listeners no longer access music this way. We are a singles, playlist-oriented society. And even then, who has the time & inclination to listen anyway?

This year, my total diminished markedly. In 2019, flush with enthusiasm, I reached 778 full albums. Then down to 711 and 702 over the next two years. In 2022, it’s way down to 515 & counting)).

What’s happening here?

Could be that I was listening to less music overall. But there were two other contributing factors: 1) an effort to repeat listens more often, less content to listen once and move on; 2) on the flip side of that same coin, I more easily gave up on the “full album” task, more willing to ditch an album halfway through if it wasn’t working for me; I didn’t push to completion the way I had in the past, eager to check off some box. Maybe that’s a positive thing. The whole concept is Schrodinger’s cat anyway, altered simply by being observed. I think I’ve gotten better at that, not thinking about the result as much as the moment, though a pure record of what I listen to will never be possible so long as I keep track of it. 

Here goes . . . 


TOP 20 (in alphabetical order)




Big Thief: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

Binker and Moses: Feeding the Machine 

Bill Callahan: Reality 



Danger Mouse, Black Thought: Cheat Codes 

Dehd: Blue Skies 

Delines: The Sea Drift  



Alabaster DePlume: Gold 

Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork

Alex G: God Save the Animals 



Hurry for the Riff Raff: Life on Earth 

MJ Lenderman: Boat Songs 

Kevin Morby: This Is a Photograph 

Beth Orton: Weather Alive



Sadies: Colder Streams 

The Smile: A Light for Attracting Attention

Spiritualized: Everything Was Beautiful 



SZA: S.O.S. 

Kurt Vile: (watch my moves) 

Wet Leg: s/t 

Immanuel Wilkins: 7th Hand






Caterina Barbieri: Spirit Exit

Laura Cannell: Antiphony of the Trees

Caroline: s/t 

Floating World Pictures: Twenty-Three Views 

Johann Johansson: Drone Mass

Carolyn Shaw/Attaca: Evergreen

Sean Shibe: Lost & Found



Sam Gendel: Superstore 

Makaya McCraven: In These Times 

Simora Pinderhughes: Grief 

Daniel Villareal: Panama ’77



Black Country, New Road: Ants from Up 

Elk City: Above the Water

Ethel Cain: Preacher’s Daughter 

Enumclaw: Save the Baby

Father John Misty: Chloe & the Next 20th Century

Florist: s/t 

Aldous Harding: Warm 

Momma: Household Name 

Tomberlin: I Don’t Know Who

Weyes Blood: And In the Darkness . . . 



Nora Brown: Long Time to Be Gone 

Jake Xerxes Fussell: Good and Green Again

Nina Nastasia: Riderless Horse

Orville Peck: Bronco 

Plains (Waxahatchee, J. Williamson): I Walked With You a Ways

Joan Shelley: The Spur

Twain: Noon 

Wilco: Cruel Country



Yaya Bey: Remember Your North

Little Simz: NO THANK YOU

Saba: Few Good Things 

Earl Sweatshirt: SICK! 

Pusha T: It’s Almost Dry

Nilufer Yanya: Painless


After too much consideration, Big Thief’s Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is my album of the year.


Hopefully you find something enjoyable here that you might have missed otherwise.



The Fire Hydrants of Knoxville: Joy in a Time of Heartbreak

In late March I traveled down to Knoxville, TN, for the Big Ears Music Festival. It’s one of the world’s great music festivals — “wonderfully weird,” according to Spin Magazine — famed for celebrating a wildly diverse array of music. Seriously, you can see and hear anything there, and sometimes, euphorically, for the first time in your ever-music-loving life.

For me, it was a beautiful experience, an expression of something we’ve missed during the pandemic: a sense of belonging, of togetherness. Most of us have managed to stay connected with our family and close friends, the inner circle, but it’s been those expansive concentric rings that I’ve missed, the outer spheres of our diminished community. In Knoxville, I talked to a lot of strangers, good conversations with people from all over. Across four days, I didn’t see one openly drunk person, didn’t witness a single example of bad behavior. The attendees came with ears and hearts and minds wide open. We listened, hard; we participated, gratefully.

One crucial feature of the festival is that music is going on simultaneously at a variety of venues. A Scottish bar, a cozy theater, a church, a dingy club, on and on. Attendees wander the streets of downtown Knoxville, seeking out a percussive string quartet in a church, a hot jazz band in a club, an exploration of ambient drone somewhere else, or, hey, Patti Smith in the Tennessee Theater. It’s all there. From the familiar to the experimental.

While I wandered from venue to venue, I kept noticing the blue-and-yellow fire hydrants of Knoxville. They made me think of Ukraine, each one a metal flag bringing to mind the unforgivable slaughter. The brutality of Putin’s attack, the senseless cruelty and inhumanity and suffering of our world.

A disturbing dissonance droned through my skull, plucked at the strings of my heart. I was happy, thrilled with a feeling of joy and discovery and community, encountering good people and magnificent art at every turn. Yet those fire hydrants of Knoxville kept reminding me of dropped bombs, toppled buildings & innocent blood, our sad & broken world.

And I guess that’s the challenge we face. Finding the joy, the deep pleasures and satisfactions, the reasons why life is so worth living — and yet not forgetting the heartbreak, the devastation, the important & necessary work that still needs to be done.

Oh sweet ravaged world, we need to do so much better if we hope to live, together.

My 3nd Annual “Year In Music” Review: Top 20, Honorable Mentions


End-of-year lists help me find music I missed, or prod me to listen again, more closely, to albums I may have dismissed too quickly. I heard 127 full albums that came out in 2021. It’s a challenge to pick out the albums that were fresh, distinctive, original, best. I enjoy the process of puzzling it out for myself. What am I saying? I guess I’m a cliche.

For the third consecutive year, I continued the project in which I try to listen to at least one complete album a day. Often twice through. In 2019, I got to 778 full albums, in addition to all the other random-scattered listening I do. Last year the number was 711. In 2021, I listened to 702 complete albums, starting with “Truth Walks in Sleepy Shadows” by SF Seals and concluding with “Living in the Material World” by George Harrison. For no rhyme whatsoever.

It was a pandemic year in music and many albums felt scaled back, smaller in ambition, more intimate and modest. Logistics played a role. And, also, context: people were dying; the world in general felt more introspective. For whatever reason, I don’t think this was a year when many truly “great” albums came out. 

Jimmy Fun Fact: When I got my iPod in April, 2008, I started making a 30-song monthly playlist. Part of that was a response to having nearly everything available instantaneously. Each month, I created a little home base full of new music as well as old reminders. I have now kept that up, switching to Spotify in 2017, for 165 straight months. Maybe that tells you something scary about me? As always, I don’t pretend that my taste is any better than anyone else’s.


TOP 20

Floating Points, Pharaoh Sanders: Promises

Julien Baker: Little Oblivians 

Helado Negro: Far In 


Black Country, New Road: For the first time 

Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime

Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert: The Marfa Tapes


Vijay Iyer, Tyshawn Sorry, Linda Oh: Uneasy

Cassandra Jenkins: An Overview of … Nature

Madlib: Sound Ancestors

Katy Kirby: Cool Dry Place


Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg @ 2021

Yes/and: s/t

Arooj Aftab: Vulture Prince 


Arlo Parks: Collapsed in Sunbeams

Hayes Carll: You Get It All

Indigo De Souza: Any Shape You Take

Bonnie Prince Billy, Matt Sweeney: Super-wolves


Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future 

Michael Hurley: The Time of the Foxgloves

Myriam Gendron: Songs of Love, Lost & Found



Note: Ditching categories here because they give me such trouble. In alphabetical order . . . 


Rodrigo Amarante: Drama 

Amyl and the Sniffers: Comfort to Me

Marisa Anderson/William Tyler: Lost Futures

Bachelor: Doomin’ Sun

Courtney Barnett: Things Take Time, Take Time

Adrian Crowley: Watchful Eyes of the Stars

Lana Del Rey: Chemtrails Over the Country Club

Dinosaur Jr.: Sweep It Into Space

Felice Brothers: From Dreams to Dust

Les Filles de Illighadad: At Pioneer Work 

Flock of Dimes: Head of Roses

Hand Habits: Fun House

Illuminati Hotties: Let Me Do One More

Pokey LaFarge: In the Blossom of Their Shade

Langhorne Slim: Strawberry Mansion

Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be an Introvert

Lorde: Solar Power

Low: Hey What

L’Rain: Fatigue

Midwife: Luminol 

Mountain Goats: Dark In Here

Navy Blue: Navy’s Reprise

Robert Plant, Alison Krauss: Raise the Roof

Gavin Preller: There Is Wonder

Allison Russell: Outside Child

Sturgill Simpson: Ballad of Dood & Juanita

Sonny & The Sunsets: New Day New Possibilities

Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales

Tyler the Creator: Call Me If You

Adia Victoria: A Southern Gothic

Villagers: Fever Dreams

Nick Waterhouse: Promenade Blue

Yasmin Williams: Urban Driftwood

Faye Webster: I Know I’m Funny haha

Wolf Alice: Blue Weekend



Steve Earle: JT (covers album)

A beautiful tribute to his son, Justin Townes Earle, who died from a drug overdose. The last song, the only original, “Last Words,” slays me every time.



Because I’ve now got this large file on my desktop, and I’m insane, I noted the not-necessarily-new artists I listened to most widely (by the arbitrary measure of at least 5 different full albums over the past three years). This list also reflects little jags I went on, where I’d get inspired and go deep on, say, Warren Zevon or Rickie Lee Jones, for extended periods. 


5X: Don Cherry * Bill Evans * Ahmad Jamal * Laura Cannell * Grouper *William Tyler * The Byrds * Hot Tuna * Bruce Springsteen * Steely Dan * Tom Waits * The Who * Bruce Cockburn * Joe Henry * Paul Simon * Jeff Tweedy * Courtney Barnett * Beach House * Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst/Better Oblivion Community * Death Cab for Cutie * Decemberists * Giant Sand * Robyn Hitchcock * Microphones/Mount Eerie * Silver Jews * Sufjan Stevens * Sun Kil Moon * Teenage Fanclub *Hayes Carll * Jason Isbell *Laura Marling/Lump * Alasdair Roberts * 6X: John Coltrane * Charles Mingus * Nick Lowe * Lou Reed * R.E.M. * Leonard Cohen * Joni Mitchell * Alex G * Yo La Tengo * Jayhawks * Lucinda Williams * Sam Amidon * 7X: Thelonious Monk  * Brian Eno * Frank Zappa * Rickie Lee Jones * Ryan Adams * Lambchop * Drive-By Truckers * Magnolia Electric Company/Songs:Ohia * 8X: Beatles * David Bowie * Kinks * Van Morrison * Bonnie Prince Billy/Palace Music * Mountain Goats * Steve Earle * Willie Nelson * 9X: Warren Zevon * Elliott Smith/Heatmiser * Kanye West * 10X-plus: Grateful Dead * John Prine * Wilco * Miles Davis * Rolling Stones * Neil Young * Bill Callahan/Smog * Bob Dylan.

Yes, I listened to 49 different Dylan albums over the past three years, often more than once.

CONCLUSION: It’s an impossible task, a fool’s errand, keeping track of things. It’s Schrodinger’s cat. Altered simply by being observed. I think I’ve gotten better at that, not thinking about the document as much as the moment. Screw it, I want to hear The Steve Miller Band right now and I don’t care what that does to the list. Nobody cares what I like or dislike, whether I have “good taste” or bad. The best part is the music itself, and the artists who put it out into our world. Always grateful for that.


My 2nd Annual “Year In Music” Review: Top 20, Honorable Mentions, and 100 Songs

For the second year in a row, I continued my album project in which I try to listen to at least one full-length album a day. In 2019, I got to 778 full albums, in addition to all the other random-scattered listening I do. This year the number is slightly lower, 711 (and counting). 

I enjoy reading lists like this, though haven’t used this blog to share my own until recently. I don’t pretend that my taste is any better than anyone else’s. End-of-year lists help me find music I missed, or prod me to listen again, more closely, to albums I may have dismissed too quickly. I heard 146 new albums that came out in 2020, up from 125 last year. I liked most of them, and really liked a lot. 



TOP 20

 Microphones in 2020

Waxahatchee, Saint Cloud

Run the JewelsRTJ4

Taylor Swiftfolklore

SAULTUntitled (Black Is)

Fiona AppleFetch the Bolt Cutters


Bob Dylan, Rough and Rowdy Ways

Mac MillerCircles

Laura MarlingSong for our Daughter

Cut Worms, Nobody Lives Here Anymore

Adrianne LenkerSongs/Instrumentals

Oliver Coatesskins n slime

Alasdair RobertsSongs of My Boyhood

Rose City BandSummerlong

Low Cut ConniePrivate Lives

Ambrose Akinmusireon the tender spot of

Flaming LipsAmerican Head

Drive-By TruckersThe New OK

Shabaka and the Ancesters, We Are Sent Here








Nubya Garcia: Source

Mary Lattimore: Silver Ladders

Gia Margaret: Mia Gargaret

Makaya McCraven/G. Scott-Heron: We’re New Again

Yves Tumor: Heaven to a Tortured Mind

Max de Wardener: Music for Detuned Pianos



Ryan Adams: Wednesdays

Sam Amidon: s/t

Bonny Light Horseman: s/t

Bill Callahan: Gold Record

Jeff Tweedy: Love Is the King

Bill Fay: Countless Branches

H.C. McEntire: Eno Axis

Brigid Mae Power: Head Above the Water



A Girl Called Eddy: Been Around

Beach Bunny: Honeymoon

Fontaines D.C.: A Hero’s Death

Habibi: Anywhere But Here

Blake Mills: Mutable Set

Eve Owen: Don’t Let the Ink Dry

Peel Dream Magazine: Agitprop

Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire

Frances Quinlan: Likewise

Jeff Rosenstock: No Dream

Andy Shauf: Neon Skyline


 Country/ Americana

Courtney Marie Andrews: Old Flowers

Sam Doores: s/t

Jayhawks: Xoxo

Chris Stapleton: Starting Over

Gillian Welch: All the Good Times

Jaime Wyatt: Neon Cross



Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia

Freddie Gibbs, The Alchemist: Alfredo

Lianna La Havas: s/t

KeiyaA: Forever, Ya Girl



Amelanchier, Sparrow Inside

Amelanchier, Is This the Doorway?


Amelanchier is the name that my son, Gavin Preller, recorded under earlier in the year. These were his first two homemade albums, available on streaming services. He has a proper vinyl album coming out next summer under his own name, put out by Shimmy-Disk/Joyful Noise. Every year it’s the same for me: I listen to Dylan more than anybody else. But I gotta say, there’s nothing in this world quite like listening to your own kid. Move over, Bob, make some more room at the table.


Also for fun: Here’s a Spotify playlist of 100 best, new songs I really liked that represented 2020 for me, the only rule was only one song per artist. Feel free to follow. Again, of course, your mileage will surely vary.





Because I’ve now got this large file on my desktop, I noted the not-necessarily-new artists I listened to most widely (by the arbitrary measure of at least 3 different full albums). This sub-list reflects little jags I went on, where I’d get inspired and go deep on, say, Giant Sand or Lambchop, for extended periods. Surprisingly, this part of my list — the supposed staples —  varied quite a bit from 2019.

Those included this year: Don Cherry, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Keith Jarrett, Ahmad Jamal, Pharoah Sanders, Radiohead, Brian Eno, William Basinski, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, John Prine, Nick Lowe, Freedy Johnston, Bill Callahan, Smog, Adrianne Lenker, Mount Eerie, Elliott Smith, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Silver Jews, Andy Shauf, Khruangbin, The Go-Betweens, Big Thief, Wilco, Jeff Tweedy, Waxahatchie, Lambchop, Stew, Liminanas, PJ Harvey, Fiona Apple, Mountain Goats, Badly Drawn Boy, Alex G, Sufjan Stevens, Yo La Tengo, Bright Eyes, Flaming Lips, Giant Sand, Shelby Lynne, Drive-By Truckers, Jayhawks, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Ry Cooder, Willie Nelson, Jason Molina (Magnolia Electric Company), Bonnie “Prince” Billie (Palace Music), Jason Isbell, Neil Young, Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, Grateful Dead, Lou Reed, Kinks, Steely Dan, Jefferson Airplane, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Bert Jansch, Michael Chapman, Sam Amidon, Alasdair Roberts, and Kanye West. 

From 2019, but not listed in 2020: Aimee Mann, Arcade Fire, Avishai Cohen, Beach House, The Beatles, Beth Orton, Big Star, The Byrds, Cass McCombs, The Clash, Courtney Barnett, David Bowie, Death Cab for Cutie, Elvis Costello, Elvis Presley, Florist, Frank Zappa, Genesis, Gillian Welch, Hayes Carl, Hot Tuna, James Blake, Joe Henry, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon,  Laura Cannell, Laura Marling, Leonard Cohen, Mitski, Pavement, Penguin Cafe,  R.E.M., Ryan Adams, Stevie Wonder, Sun Kil Moon, Teenage Fanclub, Thelonious Monk, Tom Petty, War on Drugs, Waylon Jennings, William Tyler, an Van Morrison. 


CONCLUSION: It’s an impossible task, a fool’s errand. Forget what I like or dislike, whether I have “good taste” or bad. The best part is the music itself, and the artists who put it out into our world. Thanks goodness for music.