That’s a good start to a vinyl collection (or a re-start, if you already had a collection)! My wife and I think of vinyl as having a sort of threshold to cross before we purchase one. We really need to enjoy the entire album, start to finish. So I think of our vinyl collection as the most distilled possible version of our musical tastes. And every Christmas, we try to buy the other the albums on vinyl that we think the other liked the most that year. (This year, she got albums from The Chicks and Taylor Swift, and I would have gotten her the Kesha album if they had pressed it).
I ping-ponged between country music and vaporwave-y stuff all year long. For me, in no particular order, my favorite albums from this year were:
Cuttin’ Grass, Vols. 1 and 2 - Sturgill Simpson
It seems lame to love a cover album so much, but does it less lame when it’s an album full of covers of that artist’s own songs? I don’t know, but I love this collection for a few reasons. One, it’s eminently singable in a way that Simpson isn’t always - he likes his growls, his emotion, and his dirty (for lack of a better word) instrumentation, but everything here is clean vocals, fiddles, banjoes, guitars, and pianos. Two, it’s a wide studio release of a lot of songs from Simpson’s previous band, Sunday Valley. “Jesus Boogie” is fantastic, so getting a version that doesn’t sound like it was recorded on someone’s phone is the tops.
The Horror and the Wild - The Amazing Devil
A single from this album was mentioned in one of our threads here. I think it’s easy to look at “a band with the guy from The Witcher in it” and assume it’s a vanity project or a gimmick, given the popularity of “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher.” But the band came first, and they don’t fuck around on this release. “Welly Boots” and “Fair” both routinely bring tears to my eyes. It’s the most dramatic folk music I’ve ever heard. I love it.
Western Swing and Waltzes, and Other Punchy Songs - Colter Wall
Colter Wall trades in his low-down Johnny Cash voice for something a little less gruff, and he trades in his sparse instrumentation for a full band. Several covers and traditional songs here, but the execution is great.
Paradise Killer Original Soundtrack - Epoch
I’m not very good at Paradise Killer. It’s not hard, I just feel like maybe games that require focus and concentration don’t really jive with my attention span anymore (the same thing happened with poor Obra Dinn). The game has been discussed here and there, and the soundtrack is almost always brought up at the same time, for good reason. It’s this distillation of city pop, vaporwave, and jazz that is so danceable it hurts. The soundtrack will live on long after the game has left my hard drive.
Show Pony - Orville Peck
Orville Peck is kind of odd, even putting the whole “masked” persona aside (which I will always be into, for what it’s worth). I think his schtick of “country music by way of Lana Del Rey” sounds better on paper than it did in reality on his debut release last year. This one is a shorter EP, but I think it delivers much better on his promise than the previous album. It’s all sparse, reverby instruments and long vocal notes. I think it goes in the bin of “perfect music to listen to while playing Red Dead Redemption” (reinforced by this music video, which is basically a RDR2 cosplay).