It’s that time of year again! This year brought us several astoundingly brilliant releases (especially my #1-5), a shockingly pleasant surprise from a formerly disliked artist (#18?!?) and even more shocking disappointments from formerly beloved ones (Charlie XCX, Foxygen, Leela James, Lia Ices, Gerard Way). Here are the 20 albums I enjoyed most this year. Click the album titles for my original reviews. And you can listen to the albums in this Spotify playlist.
Queen Esther‘s new album, The Other Side, is unlike anything else you’ve heard in recent years…or possibly ever. Queen Esther calls it her “Black Americana album,” often setting her soulful vocals atop classic country-inspired Americana melodies replete with rustic strings.
The album’s first single “Oh, Sun” and especially the track “I’ve Come Undone Again” are prime examples of Queen Esther’s signature “Black Americana” sound. An alternative take of the latter song is included as a bonus track.
Queen Esther’s cover of “My Big Iron Skillet” is by far my favorite track. A bluesy, classic country contemporary of Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” the Wanda Jackson song is the perfect fit for Queen Esther’s voice and musical style.
The album also features two covers of the Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner” – my favorite being the funkier bonus track version.
The beautiful finale “I Feel Like Going Home” is another standout track. As I said when Queen Esther first released the song two years ago, hers is the most moving cover of the song I’ve heard since the Inner Voices choir performed it on My So-Called Life twenty years ago.
Queen Esther is one of those singers that should be heard by everybody everywhere. Seriously, she should be booked on Mountain Stage, guest singing with The Roots on Jimmy Fallon, have a cameo singing in the Bluebird Café on Nashville and performing on every other tv and radio show that features music. If nothing else, there should be more than just my blog sharing her sound on Hype Machine since 2007. Sigh. Hopefully the long-awaited release of her new “Black Americana” album, The Other Side, will wake more people up to her talent. That voice with that music? Just too good. To prove my point, here’s her new lyric video: