This sort of overlaps a little bit with the Pop category, but not really. This is more of a singer-songwriter category, except that 2 of my 5 picks are not solo artists. Well, that’s not entirely true. Young Gun Silver Fox is essentially one person, but there are other musicians involved too. Either way, these songs should be perfect for playing before sleep, or when you want to unwind after a long day. Hopefully you have an affinity for such artists as Hall & Oates, Seals & Crofts and Jim Croce (like I do!) as those are my touchstones for choosing these 5.
Blind Pilot – Joik #3
I don’t know if this song adheres to the rules of the Joik (which I just learned is a Nordic traditional music style of the Sami people), but if it does, I’m gonna have to go out and find some Joik records, stat. “Joik #3,” by Blind Pilot is simply lovely and has a sweet melody and lush harmony vocals that get me all teary-eyed every time I hear it. My natural cynical self gets suffocated when it plays. Blind Pilot gets lumped into the pseudo-Americana genre of bands like Of Monsters and Men and Mumford & Sons, which I normally can’t stand, but a good song is a good song and so it makes my list.
Ben Watt – Fever Dream
Ben Watt (formerly of Everything But the Girl) has been on a roll lately. He’s released solo records since EBtG broke up in the late 90s, but with 2014’s Hendra and now this year with Fever Dream, Ben has hit a new stride, having paired up with Suede guitarist Bernard Butler for these past two albums. I guess you could call this soft rock for Gen-Xers. Which is all good with me. I could have chosen any song on Fever Dream to pick here, but the self-titled track captures Watt’s sound as good as any other, so here you go.
Young Gun Silver Fox – You Can Feel It
YGSF is Shawn Lee and Andy Platts, and if they really wanted to get noticed for their spot-on Seals & Crofts meets Christopher Cross late 70s soft-rock sound, they would have called their project Lee & Platts. But they will surely never reach their true heights with the YGSF name. Shawn Lee has been playing keys for another 70s style band (AM – resembling a softer ELO) that I have been a fan of for years, so I have kept up with his side projects, which this one might be his best. “You Can Feel It” when you listen to this, the perfect soft rock song of 2016. If you have been longing for a new Seals & Crofts album, or maybe a Michael McDonald album, wait no longer and go get the Young Gun Silver Fox album. They could use the money.
Eleanor Friedberger – He Didn’t Mention His Mother
Eleanor Friedberger released her latest album, New View, back in January, but it has remained in my regular album rotation all year. No other 2016 album has felt so genuinely of a whole for me; I rarely just play one song at a time. Friedberger captures the Laurel Canyon sound and feeling but imbues it with a modern twist. The songs here sound comfortably familiar and yet at the same time musically surprising.
RY X – Deliverance
I actually thought this was the artist Rhye when I first heard this song. Then I thought maybe it was the XX. So it makes sense that the name of this artist (Australian singer Ry Cumming) is RY X. I doubt he chose that name because I think he sounds like a combination of those two other singers, but one never knows how things are decided in this wacky world. I love the atmospheric vibe to this song…the moody keys, the metallic sounding percussion…it’s a great song to chill to, to play before bed, to end a 5 song post with….