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david ramirez

Records of the Year: 2017

I love looking back at a year and rediscovering the music that carried me and inspired me through the year. Here are some of the favorites.


ONE. The War on Drugs.  A Deeper Understanding.

One of the best rock bands that currently exists is putting out really special work. When your record includes an 11-minute experience  that seemingly transcends time and space, you know you have a winner.

There are so many amazing sounds on this record. I'm still blown away with the tones I hear in each listen.

TWO.   John Mayer. The Search for Everything

The consistent quality in the    songs  John Mayer has been putting out for so long now is incredibly impressive.

This collection is extremely solid and grows with each listen.



THREE (tied). Phoebe Bridgers. Stranger in the Alps.

This record came out of nowhere this year.  The lyrics are poignant, and her voice is a strong whisper of delight.

Sonically, she breaks a lot of barriers of what a singer/songwriter should sound like and it's a treat for the listener.



THREE (tied).   Ethan Gruska. Slowmotionary.

This is definitely my favorite collection of songs from a new artist. I had seen Ethan's  name online, but I hadn't listened until I saw him open for Asgeir in the summer and his voice immediately won me over. (The exact song that did is featured in the video below.)

I went home that night and listened all the way through twice. It was so smooth and  unique, and even cinematic.


FOUR. Feist. Pleasure.

Feist is always pushing the envelope and I really enjoyed what she did with this record. And while the songs are really cool, it is mainly her voice that I am obsessed with. I can't get enough.

FIVE. Fleet Foxes.   Crack-Up.

The return from their 6-year  hiatus was strong, and the live show accompanied it so well.   Robin Pecknold's return to songwriting after his time at Columbia  University  and not being sure that he wanted to make music anymore  really pushes the envleope in the best way. I am glad he decided that making music was worth it!

I especially enjoyed the Song Exploder episode with Robin talking about "Mearcstapa."


And in no particular order:

  • Leif  Vollebekk. Twin Solitude.  Leif has a rich voice and tells great stories with his songs. (Bonus: some of the instrumentals of these songs are used in  The Heights.)
  • Hiss Golden MessengerHallelujah Anyhow. Hiss Golden Messenger came on my radar this year for the first time via "Cracked Windshield", and it came out just in time to turn me onto the light Americana goodness that is his new record.
  • Upper Room Music. Center of Your Love. This really special group of people from Dallas drove out to Ranch Land Studios and made an incredibly heartfelt work - and Pete really nailed the production.
  • The National.   Sleep Well Beast. Simply loved it.
  • Sleeping At Last. Atlas.  Ryan has long been one of my favorite songwriters, and his Atlas project continues to push the boundaries. It was one of the coolest honors for me to be a part of his song, "Two," based on the Enneagram. (Bonus: Listen to his  fantastic podcast about his process for "Two.")
  • David Ramirez. We're Not Going Anywhere.  A really raw and special new effort from David.
  • Noah Gundersen. Bad Noise.  Directionally a lot more pleasant noise, and it worked really well.
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The Nashville Sound. A master class in songwriting.
  • Blond Piano. Piano Tribute to Frank Ocean. Keiran posted this at some point early in the year and  I was intrigued enough to give it a shot and it became a working staple of the year for me.
  • Colony House. Only The Lonely. Getting more heartfelt with lyrics and impressive musically.
  • Madi Cunningham. Love, Lose, Remember. In my opinion, Madi is one of the best new and clear  voices in music, and  Tyler Chester did a killer job producing this.
  • Taylor Swift. reputation. The production and those tracks are SO good.
  • Sufjan Stevens. The Greatest Gift. A spin on some already released songs, but Sufjan can do no wrong.
  • Gangs of Youth. Go Farther In Lightning.  A fresh batch of songs that I stumbled into and really enjoyed this year.
  • Kendrick Lamar. DAMN.  Kendrick takes some really exciting and daring steps with this.
  • HAIM. Something To Tell You. Synth pop dreams.
  • Slow Meadow. Costero. My favorite  ambient compositions.
  • Joseph. Stay Awake. Really special collection of B-sides. Their  harmonies don't get old.  
  • Tyson  Motsenbocker A Kind Invitation / Almira. These are some of my favorite songs of the year. Carefully crafted - and I love playing bass on some of them live.
  • Wild PonyEncinitas. Another really excellent collection of instrumental music.

Honorable Mentions: Liza Anne, Vulfpeck, Joey Dosik, The Belonging, U2

Also of note:

  • This Khalid video VEVO / Ryan / Micah / Contrast did was really a highlight for me.

Records of the Year: 2015

ONE.  Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell. There was so much anticipation for this record and it delivered in a huge way as well as massively exceeded expectations. His faint voice and light instrumentation is perfect.

Note: in becoming a continued student of the relationships of music and spirituality, Sufjan's words and songs are especially intriguing. This article is worth a read.

TWO.  Leon BridgesComing Home. I'm a fan. I love the fresh soul he brings and tribute to Sam Cooke.

THREE.(tied) David RamirezFables. David's work has always resonated well with me. I am a fan of David as a person, as a songwriter, and as a performer. For him and Noah to team up to make this record was a really great gift this year gave.

THREE.(tied) Noah GundersenCarry The Ghost. Haunting, beautiful, arresting, tasteful, art. That's all I got.

Note: This record had PHENOMENAL album art. Philip Harder's work on this cover is really incredible.

FIVE. MutemathVitals. I knew that Mutemath was coming out with a record, but I honestly did not expect for it to be so good. I have listened to it so much, and this song is one of my favorites of the whole year.

And in no particular order:

  • Ryan Adams1989. I love that he did this. I love that he didn't care. And I actually really enjoy it.
  • Sandra McCrackenPsalms. Sandra infused so many beautiful melodies into the Pslams - so thrilled for her and how this turned out.
  • Jon ForemanThe Wonderlands. Jon's writing shines so brightly through this series of EPs
  • Adele25. I am not the only one who liked this record a lot.
  • Matthew Perryman JonesCold Answer. This record seemed to fly totally under the radar, but has some gems on it.
  • Brandon FlowersThe Desired Effect. "Between Me & You" is one of my standout tracks of the year.
  • Rayland BaxterImaginary Man. Rayland has a super fresh voice and a lot to say.
  • Chris StapletonTraveller. There are only a handful of people or guideposts that I personally look to for music recommendations. Seth posted about Chris Stapleton right when the record came out and I gave it a gander then and immediately thought "What a voice!" America has also caught on and that is fun.
  • LoveliteHopeful Strangers. Always solid.
  • The Japanese House. All releases. TJH is one of the greatest surprises of the year. Cool vocals, some heavy emotional distortion. I love it.
  • Oh WonderOh Wonder. Simple and pretty. Some great piano riffs.
  • BeirutNo No No. I never gave Beirut a listen before this year and my interest was piqued when I saw their new record released. The sonics and melodies on this record are phenomenal. 
  • James BayChaos & the Calm. Zero to hero in a seemingly short time and he deserves it.
  • Justin BieberPurpose. This is an amazingly catchy record.
  • Julien BakerSprained Ankle. Last "JB" of this list and a pretty important record as far as faith + music is concerned.
  • Hillsong UnitedEmpires. Standard greatness.
  • Tobias Jesso JrGoon. Feels old-timey and I dig it.
  • Matthew E WhiteFresh Blood. Just enough groove to keep it fresh.
  • ColdplayA Head Full of Dreams. Getting slightly better with every listen.
  • Joy WilliamsVenus. New Joy & new songs made a great combo. Some solid tracks, but "Sweet Love of Mine" is a standout.
  • Ben RectorBrand New. Ben is a kind man and consistently putting out great work. Stoked on how this record came out.
  • Slow MeadowSlow Meadow. The best instrumental music out there at this point.
  • Ivan & AlyoshaIt's All Just Pretend. Simply solid.
  • Lord HuronStrange Trails. Continuing down the trail they blazed.
  • LapsleyUnderstudy. Quite the arresting voice.

Thanks for getting this far. A Spotify playlist of some of my highlights from these records has been compiled for you here.

And I want to hear about your favorite records. Tweet me! @p_dodd

P.S. Interesting graphic Spotify gave me this from their Year In Reviewfunction:


Weekend Links

Happy Friday!

  • Ryan's new work on this video for "On Your Side" with David is really exciting.
  • Stoked on how this On An On track turned out:
  • Sat on this quote from A.W. Tozer's "The Pursuit of God" this week:

We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.

I hope it can be an encouragement to you this weekend. Enjoy!

Weekend Links