by Julian Spivey
I’ve never really been a fan of mid-year or quarter-year favorite songs lists as they often seem to be done for clickbait purposes and more importantly I do a year-end best songs of the year post and I don’t want to spoil anything that might be on that list. But, there are many songs I’ve been a fan of this year and wanted to highlight some of them. Here’s what you should listen to if you …
Want Something to Stick in Your Head: “Good Kisser” by Lake Street Dive
I promise you that Lake Street Dive’s unique take on cheating “Good Kisser” will get stuck in your head with its infectious soul and Rachael Price’s powerhouse vocals. The narrator has become the source of rumors from the man she cheated with, but if he’s going to talk about her being a homewrecker the least he can do it tell them everything, including about how she’s a good kisser. Price’s vocal might be one of the best of 2018.
Want Something Fun: “Road Crew” by Mike and the Moonpies
One of the best albums thus far in 2018 has been Mike and the Moonpies’ Steak Night at the Prairie Rose (likely the best title of the year), which captures the Texas barroom sound brilliantly. “Road Crew,” the opening track of the album, is a fantastic ode to hard-working roadies, the unsung heroes of touring bands, that hums along at breakneck honky tonk speed and will keep a smile on your face throughout it’s brisk runtime.
Want Something Mainstream, But Good: “Shoot Me Straight” by Brothers Osborne
It’s no secret that a lot of people don’t want anything to do with mainstream country music lately and I’m one of those people. However, every now and then there’s an artist that can manage to be both played mainstream and beloved by outsiders and lately Brothers Osborne has been one of those acts. I enjoyed the infectious fun that was “It Ain’t My Fault” last year and this year they’re back with another catchy tune, the unique breakup tune “Shoot Me Straight,” which compares a breakup with drinking straight whiskey. Now, that’s country.
Want to Hear Something Sexy: “Hands on You” by Ashley Monroe
You don’t get a whole lot of sexy songs in the country/Americana genres, at least not the good type of country, but Ashley Monroe’s “Hands on You” is sultry as hell. It’s not the first time Monroe has gotten sexually provocative in song, something you certainly don’t see much from the ladies of country music. The track about wishing you hadn’t let a one-night stand get away from you has a nice soulful quality to it, culminating in a good little keyboard solo toward the end.
Want to Laugh: “Earthly Justice” by Western Centuries
This song, written by Western Centuries’ Cahalen Morrison, really makes me chuckle every time with its description of a bar fight and the back-and-forth dialogue inserted into it like, “See that barrel over there’ll come flyin’ through the air/I’m gonna put your head right in it” and “Don’t, don’t you do it/See that bar that holds the beer that’s a-sittin’ right here/I’m gonna put your head right through it.” I can just see that taking place in a light-hearted Western movie moment.
Want to Cry: “Cabinet Door” by Anderson East
I don’t think there’s anything more tear-inducing this year than Anderson East’s “Cabinet Door,” a ballad with an older gentleman having a conversation with his deceased wife. It’s as raw as it gets and proof that something so sad can also be incredibly beautiful – in much the same way Randy Newman’s fantastic “Lost Without You” was last year. One lyric that really gets me as a baseball fan of the Atlanta Braves is about how he misses watching Braves games with his wife. That’s as heart wrenching to me as missing holding hands with a loved one at church on Sunday.
Want Something Political: “Oval Room” by Hackensaw Boys
I know a lot of people are turned off by politics in music – though I’ve never really understood why people believe musicians should be unopinionated beings and “stick to music.” In today’s world music is getting political and opinionated again, after many years of not being that way, and I believe it’s good for public discourse. One of my favorite political songs of the year is actually a cover from the Reagan-era of Blaze Foley’s “Oval Room” by the Hackensaw Boys. If you’ve never heard the song though you’d think it’s about our current President, which is why I believe it’s a great time for the Hackensaw Boys to release this gem. If you’re OK with the way things are going in the Trump White House you’re probably going to want to avoid this one though.
Want Something That’s a Throwback: “Mr. Jukebox” by Joshua Hedley
When Joshua Hedley’s album Mr. Jukebox came out a few weeks ago I was a bit critical of it’s throwback sound because it seemed a little unnatural to me for someone to release something so completely of a different era, but despite my opinion of the album, I have always liked the title track. “Mr. Jukebox” is everything that’s good about that countrypolitan sound it’s paying tribute to and has one of the best old-timey sounding lyrics you’ll hear.
Want Something Old New: “Father’s Gun” by Miranda Lambert
Many may not know this, but Elton John has gone country before. In fact, one of his earliest albums 1970’s Tumbleweed Connection was a concept album based on country and western themes. That album didn’t spawn any of his greatest hits, but it was fantastic. As part of this year’s country-flavored Restoration: Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Miranda Lambert has taken Taupin’s tale of a son taking up his father’s gun and cause in the American Civil War and made it shine as something you could easily hear on one of her own albums. Sometimes the best covers are stuff that you weren’t all that familiar with before and this is certainly one of those cases.
Want a Collaboration: “Better Hope You Die Young” by Hellbound Glory & Tanya Tucker
Hellbound Glory and Tanya Tucker just seem like a natural fit for a collaboration and “Better Hope You Die Young” is a fitting piece for them with its tale of living a ragged life that’ll take its toll on you if you die tap out early. The raspy, rugged vocals of these two fit the rebellious spirit of this song perfectly.