Best of...

Burgo’s Top Albums of 2023

Yes, I’ve been absent again. 2 years since my last post. Sorry about that.

I did actually put together a “Burgo’s Top Albums of 2022” with all the intent of posting here last year, but life got in the way. If you’re interested in what made the cut, you can still find the playlist on Spotify here. It was actually a pretty good year, and Anaïs Mitchell’s self-titled album was a thing of friggin’ beauty. Listen to it, if you haven’t already.

But… time, she waits for no man, and the next thing you know, it’s 2024. Your kids are growing up, both at school now. You find yourself smoking meat overnight in a weber kettle. You’re really getting into perfecting your neapolitan pizza bases. The arthritis in your hands is starting to play up, but you’re trying to ignore the fact that it might spell the end of your guitar playing. You’re having to come to terms with the fact that your best friend, your sidekick, your shadow… your little puppy dog… is slowing down and entering her last few years. You’re coming to terms with your own mortality, and thinking about your own legacies. You’re…

Oh. That’s just me?

Anyway, here’s my top albums of 2023… even if a couple of months late.

16. Bill Orcutt – Jump On It

I find Bill Orcutt endlessly fascinating. One-time member of the ever-noisy Harry Pussy, his path to becoming one of the leaders of traditional American guitar is just bizarre, but wonderful. 

This is an album of contradictions. It’s quiet; but loud. It’s soothing; but dissonant. It’s airy; but urgent. It’s all of these things, but none. Make of that what you will. 

And I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better album closer than the snap of the guitar string on “Before I Go”.

Standout track: What Do You Do With Memory (but honestly, this is an album that needs to be listened to in its entirety)

15. Lori McKenna – 1988

Just a beautiful, beautiful album. Lori McKenna is a songwriter’s songwriter, and whether you like country or not, I defy you to not feel something, identify with someone when listening to this album.

Jangly guitars abound throughout, and I am here for it.

Standout track: Letting People Down

14. Fenne Lily – Big Picture

An album you can just sink into. The vocals here are comforting, soft, soothing. But there’s a bite to the lyrics that you won’t catch, if you aren’t paying attention. My favourite track off the album, “Lights Light Up”, is just this mass of the conflicts that come in relationships, and it’s heartbreaking but oh-so pretty.

Standout track: Lights Light Up

13. The National – First Two Pages of Frankenstein

I’ve had a long love-affair with The National, going all the way back to 2005’s “Alligator”, but I’ll admit that 2019’s “I Am Easy to Find” left me wondering where our relationship would go next.

“First Two Pages of Frankestein” brought me right back. Sparse, hushed, weathered and full of that “National glow“, I just love this.

Standout track: New Order T-shirt

12. Wilder Woods – FEVER/SKY

Bear Rineheart has one of my favourite voices in music today (and that’s been the case for over 15 years now!) and FEVER/SKY showcases his absolute roar of a voice throughout. Standout track contender, Patience, in particular. Man, I love hearing Bear just let loose like this.

Just an album of rollicking tunes.

Standout track: Be Yourself

11. Jess Williamson – Time Ain’t Accidental

Alt-country? Indie-country? I suck at labels. I’ll just say this is a very, very good album.

And honestly, anyone who writes lyrics like “My love is pure as the universe/ Honest as an ashtray” has me captured.

Standout track: Hunter


Cheating, because here’s our man Bear again in his main outfit, NEEDTOBREATHE.

To my ears, this is probably their most radio-friendly album that I’ve heard from the band; it’s certainly one of the catchiest. While some listeners might be put off by that comment, I’d still urge you to give this album a listen. It’s chock-full of stadium-sized barn burners.

Standout track: When You Forgive Someone

9. Darlingside – Everything is Alive

Just a beautiful, pretty album. Almost every song on here is gorgeous. Lush arrangement and (as always) beautiful harmonies… although the band are stepping out on their own on individual tracks, more and more.

I just wish it made me feel something more. But for execution alone, “Everything is Alive” makes it pretty darn high on this list.

Standout track: How Long Again

8. Gregory Alan Isakov – Appaloosa Bones

Despite the fact that Gregory Alan Isakov was born in South Africa, it’s hard to deny that his music has become synonymous with his home, Colorado. This album was made to listen while under big skies, gazing up at the stars at the foot of the Rockies.

Of all the artists on this list, GAI is the one I’d most like to hole up for an evening with and share drinks over an old wooden table as we talk about life. His albums are always so richly textured, so full, but at the same time so unhurried, understated and patient. I think we could all learn a lot from that.

Standout track: Before The Sun

7. The Gaslight Anthem – History Books

The Gaslight Anthem made one of my favourite albums of the 00’s decade, and certainly one of my top 2 albums from 2008, with absolute classic “The ’59 Sound”. I can hand on heart say that, nearly 20 years later, I’m still not sick of that album.

Which is why I was nervous about this, the band’s first album in the nearly decade since 2014’s pre-break up “Get Hurt“. And I won’t lie, the album took a few spins for me. But the more time I spend with it, the more I find myself singing along with some old friends.

Standout track: Positive Charge

6. Gracie Abrams – Good Riddance

I’ve pretty much only seen snarky reviews of this album, with adjectives like “derivative”, “cliched” and (in one particularly mean case), “Not Reinventing the ‘Indie Sad Girl’ Wheel” being thrown around.

Which boggles my mind. This is such a good album, particularly when you consider it’s Gracie Abrams’ debut full-length release (?!). Honestly, I feel like Gracie fell victim to the almost impossible “hype to live up to” that comes from personal endorsements from Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo.

Anyway. I really enjoyed this.

Standout track: I should hate you

5. Noname – Sundial

Just effortless flow. Wry. Angry. Frustrated.

No one is safe from Noname. Not even Noname herself.

Takedowns have never been so eloquent.

Standout track: namesake

4. Zach Bryan – Zach Bryan

Although I never published the post, Zach Bryan’s 2022 release, “American Heartbreak”, was one of my favourite releases of that year, and made my Spotify “Albums of 2022” playlist. The dude is so serious, but also so sincere. And when his voice breaks, as it so often does in its plaintive tones? I break, each time.

Is this album without faults? Nope. Does that matter? Nope. Because then Zach Bryan lets loose with one of his heart-breaking lines, and everything else fades away. Bryan writes the songs you feel in your heart, the stories you wish you could tell.

Standout track: Such a tight call on this one, and it ended up a coin-flip between spoken word opener “Fear and Friday’s”, “I Remember Everything” and “Tourniquet”… with “Tourniquet” winning by a hair.

3. Ilsey – From the Valley

For the last decade of so, Ilsey Juber has been a pretty major force in the music world, although most would have no idea. That’s because, until the release of “From the Valley”, Ilsey was mostly known as the writer behind major hits like Beyonce’s “All Night”, Miley Cyrus’s “Midnight Sky”, Panic! at the Disco’s “High Hopes” and more.

All that has changed with “From the Valley”. Ilsey steps into the spotlight, and man, does she do it in style. An album full of longing for something more, somebody else, this is breezy road trip music… and I mean that in the best way.

Standout track: No California

2. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Weathervanes

Regular readers may not be surprised by this choice… after all, Jason Isbell has had a few appearances on my “Best of the Year” roundups.

Over the years, I’ve named two artists as my favourite lyricists of our generation: Josh Ritter and John Darnielle. Jason Isbell has skirted around that line before, but with Weathervanes I think he’s firmly expanded my previous views into a solid triumvirate.

Such great, great writing on this album. Isbell wrestles with the world around him, and his own place in it… and while there’s not necessarily a resolution, there’s a distinct sense of raging against the light here.

And the 400 unit are just so tight, it’s ridiculous.

Standout track: Save the World

1. Tommy Prine – This Far South

It was always going to be Tommy Prine’s “This Far South” for me. Ever since I came across Tommy Prine back in 2022, the dude has been soundtracking much of my life. While I viewed “Ships in the Harbor” (about the passing of his father, John) as a definitive declaration of a legacy continued, wow was I unprepared for the songwriting that would follow it.

Blending genres from folk, country, americana, punk, southern rock and grunge and more… Tommy Prine’s songwriting capabilities are just sublime. It is absolutely wild to think this kid is 28.

In that short life though, Tommy’s been through a lot. The album seems a reflection of this, with a lot of introspective writing and, yes, anger.

In album opener, “Elohim“, Prine pretty stridently declares that there is no God… and while that’s something most who know me will know is not something I subscribe to, it’s also easy to see the plaintive cry of frustration from an angry young man who’s lost not only his father, but best friends in a relatively short amount of time.

Throughout the album, Prine talks about personal experiences on a songwriting level that is just truly gut-wrenching. I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

Standout track(s): Honestly, I couldn’t pick. Elohim, the aforementioned rage against the loss he’s endured; or By the Way, another heartbreaking song dealing with his father.

And there you have it, folks. See you in a few years, maybe?

Full album playlist below…

Best of...

Burgo’s Top Albums of 2021

Oh. Hi.

Yep, it’s been four years since I last posted here. Man, that’s sad.

Anyway, here’s a “Best Albums of 2021” post. 21 albums for 2021.

21. Luca Brasi – Everything is Tenuous

Dependable melodic-punk, for when your inner 16-year-old needs to come out, and remind yourself that you’re not dead yet, dammit.

I can only speak for myself, but my inner 16-year-old needed to come out a lot, this year.

An album of bangers. Luca Brasi know how to write 3.5 minute songs that get you jamming, and that’s what this album does.

Standout track: Dying to Feel Alive (but honestly, the whole album bops)

20. Nas – King’s Disease II

Nas embracing Nas. Fully. Both who he is, and who he was. And it’s about time.

An album of killers. EPMD 2 (featuring Eminem and EPMD) has Em sounding the most fire he’s been in a while, and then the beautiful “Nobody” features the one and only Ms Lauryn Hill giving a lyrical masterclass; but the revelation of the album is Death Row East, where Nas gives an insight into his view of the East Coast/West Coast war, and his personal fallout with 2Pac (and the reconciliation that never had the opportunity to happen)

Standout track: Death Row East

19. The Hold Steady – Open Door Policy

The Hold Steady continue their renaissance, following 2019’s “Thrashing Thru the Passion“.

Sometimes, The Hold Steady sound like Craig Finn. This time around, Open Door Policy sounds like a band album. Once named “America’s Best Bar Band”, the “everyman” motifs are still there; but this certainly seems, to me at least, to be the most delicately textured of all of The Hold Steady’s albums. And it’s richer for it.

Standout track: Unpleasant Breakfast

18. Parquet Courts – Sympathy for Life

Parquet Courts head further into “Talking Heads” territory, and I love it.

Standout track: Walking at a Downtown Pace

17. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – The Future

Soul, R&B, Blues, Rock, Folk, Americana – yep, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats have always been a versatile outfit, but this album definitely shows it off to full effect. A vintage outing into warm nights and swinging tunes. Coming from the past, but absolutely looking into the future. Sometimes uneven in pacing, its still buoyed along by Rateliff’s trademark soulful bark, killer horns and absolute joys like “Survivor” and “Love Don’t“.

Standout track: Love Don’t

16. Hayden Calnin – What it Means to be Human

Australian electro-folk artist, Hayden Calnin is an aural technician. Seriously. His albums are auditory experiences, best listened to through headphones that immerse you in the intricacies. On What It Means to be Human, Hayden appears to have found himself. There’s a natural flow to this album that his previous double-album debut seemed oh so close to, but didn’t quite achieve.

Standout track: Oh What a Mess I’m In

15. Emily Scott Robinson – American Siren

Emily Scott Robinson absolutely devastated me last year with her tune “The Time For Flowers“, which came at just the right time for me in 2020. Even so, I wasn’t ready for American Siren, which welcomes in the lost and lonely with open arms from the very first tune, “Old Gods“.

For the life of me, I can’t listen to Emily Scott Robinson without thinking of Dolly Parton, and I mean that in the absolute best possible way. This record explores the ups and downs and roundabouts of life, faith, loss and new loves. It’s a journey.

Standout track: If Trouble Comes a Lookin’

14. Valerie June – The Moon & Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers

A wistful record, taking in past pain with a faint… pride? Fondness? Honestly, I’m not sure how to describe the mood of The Moon & Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers, but I can tell you this: it’s a beautiful, beautiful record full of acceptance and killer vocals that race up and down delicately, before slamming you with power. And Carla Thomas makes a feature! What else do you need?

Standout track: Call Me A Fool (feat. Carla Thomas)

13. Josiah and the Bonnevilles – Motel Mayday

I find Josiah and the Bonnevilles — and particularly frontman, Josiah Leming — just fascinating. The dude’s been a working, travelling muso for years now. On leaving school at 16, he took his first full-time job in a fruit and vegetable packing plant in Texas, and then headed across the States in search of gigs and open-mic nights. But despite the drive, determination and clear talent, he’s just never seemed to get the recognition I feel like he deserves. I wondered if this album would change that, but it seems to have passed pretty much under the radar, again.

Standout track: Oh No!

12. Sun June – Somewhere

Somewhere is certainly an apt name for this album. There is a yearning that pervades Sun June’s latest release… someone else, some place else, sometime else. The band produces “regret pop”, in their own words… but despite that framing, there’s an upbeat, airy quality to these somewhat weighty tunes.

Standout track: Everything I Had

11. Big Red Machine – How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?

HLDYTIGL is a divisive album; you either like Big Red Machine, or you don’t… and if you don’t, you really won’t like this album. It’s not that the songs are indescernable, but — particularly in the second half of the album — the songs seem to meld into a mashed song somehow. You begin to miss ebbs and flows… there’s just no tension and release, and it starts to feel like there could have been some more ruthless editing on the album.

That’s if you don’t like Big Red Machine.

Fortunately for me, I do… so I could put up with that lull; although even I catch myself skipping a fair bit there. With all that said, I just feel like this is a pretty, pretty album, and if you like what Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner “do”, you’ll like this. The highlights come from Dessner himself, finally fronting songs like The Ghost of Cincinnati and Brycie (a very touching ode to his twin brother), and the copious crew of frequent collaborators that join the album, like Robin Pecknold from Fleet Foxes (featuring on certified bop, Phoenix), Anais Mitchell (who pens some of the best lyrics on the album) and, of course, Taylor Swift.

Standout track: Renegade (feat. Taylor Swift)

10. Amythyst Kiah – Wary + Strange

Wary + Strange is an intensely personal record, as Amythyst Kiah tries to work through her own feelings and past; without a care for what others think, mind you, as opener (and closer) track “Soapbox” warns the listener:

“Don’t wanna hear your soapbox speech / Don’t wanna know how you would do it / Don’t wanna know how it should be / ’Cause I don’t care what you think”

Kiah melds folk, country, southern blues and alt-rock effortlessly, as she explores her… self? There’s pain. Anger. Defiance. And progress.

Kiah’s multi-instrumental prowess is only matched by soaring vocals that rage and growl and dare. But it’s the introspective “Wild Turkey“, a song that deals with her mother’s suicide, that gets me every time. Opening with delicate finger-picking, it’s a slow burner of a song that slowly builds to wall of sound that totally sneaks up on you.

Standout track: Wild Turkey

9. Holy Holy – Hello My Beautiful World

An album of the pandemic, but just so… hopeful? Heading far further into electro-pop territory than I’ve yet heard from duo Holy Holy, this is an album of acceptance, but not resignation. Accepting that things may never be the same again, but being aware of the fact that the only way forward is to leave the past behind us. Tim Carroll spoke about how he became “quite obsessed” with an essay by author Arundhati Roy, “The Pandemic is a Portal”, which argued that:

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

… and man, this album soundtracks that sentiment perfectly.

Standout track: The Aftergone (feat CLEWS)

8. Tyne-James Organ – Necessary Evil

Man, this is an album of ups and downs. Raw emotion (Heal You), and certified bops (Sunday Suit). Gritty rock vocals (Hold Me Back) and pop sensibilities (Stranger). Such is the range and versatility of Australian artist, Tyne-James Organ. Totally blows my mind to think this is his debut album. The confidence is staggering.

Standout track: Sunday Suit

7. Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams

The album that we needed in 2021. This is the aural equivalent of a warm hug, comforting you that things will be ok again; or at least, “won’t hurt so much, forever”, as Parks repeats in the albums second song, “Hurt” (which is followed just two songs later by the aptly named “Hope”… see a theme here?)

Another debut album where I just can’t believe it’s a debut album. I can’t recall a single previous debut album that sounds this polished.

Music to watch the rain hit your window to, as you get lose in memories.

Standout track: Hope

6. The Killers – Pressure Machine

Brandon Flowers has never been shy about wearing his Springsteen-influence on his leave, but this album might be the most overt. The Killers’ “Nebraska”, Pressure Machine sees the band examining small-town lives, loves and losses in Flowers’ own hometown of Nephi, Utah.

Big stadium concerts are no longer a thing in the age of COVID, but honestly, I think that in some ways that’s freed up The Killers to explore parts of themselves outside of stadium pleasers. There’s a vulnerability here… and grief, and acceptance… that we haven’t seen before from the band.

Yet, despite all the pain that exists here, there’s a hope, too. Songs are punctuated by interviews with real residents of the town of Nephi. Before the second song – stunner “Quiet Town“, which deals with a death on the train tracks – kicks off, a resident talks about the train that winds its way through the town:

“I think the train is a way to find your way out of this life, if you get hit by it”

But in the final moments of album closer, “The Getting By”, we hear that train horn passing us by, and then another resident comments about the train:

“Twice a day it comes through — my grandkids, when it comes through, they run out and they look down the road, because they like to see it go by.”

Maybe that train is a way out of this life. But it depends on how it takes you.

Standout track: Sleepwalker

5. Strand of Oaks – In Heaven

Tim Showalter, the mastermind behind Strand of Oaks, just gets to me. The dude sings, and I feel it. Seven years since I heard Shut In, the guy is still soundtracking my feelings.

In Heaven is an album full of heartbreak and loss, but also hope. Showalter rails, rails against the dying of the light, and it gives us strength.

Standout track: Galacticana

4. Claud – Super Monster

An album made for day-dreaming to while staring out the window and thinking wistfully of past relationships. Claud may predominantly be known as a “bedroom-pop” artist, but this, their debut album released under Saddest Factory Records, is slick. And I mean that in the best possible way. This is an album that you can listen to from start to finish, and feel the cohesion throughout. That’s a pretty rare thing these days, and a welcome change in 2021.

An unflinching examination of relationships, Super Monster offers relatable, wry, and gut-punch observations from start to finish. If you listen to this album without bopping your head along at least once… well, check your soul.

Standout track: On Or In-Between (but such a close toss-up with opener, Overnight)

3. Cassandra Jenkins – An Overview on Phenomenal Nature

I honestly can’t quite describe this album. There are airy, floating, delicate vocals. Spoken word pieces. Buzzy guitars, wafting sax, flutes, strings, tight snares… there’s just so much happening over the course of 30 minutes, but all of it is touching.

Perhaps I’ll just try, by calling it a dreamscape in music. Cassandra Jenkins observes people (and art, and beauty) that enter her life, and leave (the gut-wrenching “New Bikini” deals with the sad loss of David Berman, and the all-too-relatable process of healing).

Healing, in particular, comes across strongly throughout this album. And there’s this line, towards the end of album centrepiece, “Hard Drive”, where Jenkins’ talks about healing hearts, that’s been living rent-free in my head for months now. Softly, barely there, the song ends with words that you can just hear the twinkle in the eye for…

“All those little pieces / One, two, three / We’re gonna put ’em back together now
… Are you ready?”

Standout track: Hard Drive

2. The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore

Now, this makes me feel old, but it’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since I first wrote about The War on Drugs on this site. It’s a 14-year love affair that’s still going strong, with the release of I Don’t Live Here Anymore.

I just get lost in this album. Completely foot-tappingly, head shakingly-lost.

We’re all growing up with Adam Granduciel, and I love it. 

Standout track: Harmonia’s Dream (but such a toss-up with the understand opener, “Living Proof”)

1. The Mountain Goats – Dark in Here

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… along with Josh Ritter, I view John Darnielle as one of the best lyricists of our generation.

As with other Mountain Goats releases, there’s a tension that simmers in Dark in Here… a desolation and ruin, balance with wry ruefulness. Religious fury abounds, and heartbreak and futility (I’ve never heard helplessness as beautiful as “Before I Got There“) and catastrophe. But perhaps, more than all of that, walking through the darkness with you… there’s empathy. While the songs here address the gloom, they never fall to it. As Darnielle sings in album closer, “Let Me Bathe In Demonic Light“:

“Swim right through the night / Break the surface and rise like a geyser / When my time is right / There I’ll be / And who among you is coming with me?”.

I just find this such an enjoyable listen.

Standout track: Mobile

2017 Releases Best of...

Burgo’s Top Albums of 2017

Well yes, here I am.

I know, it’s been a while.

In fact, it turns out last year was the first year since this blog’s founding that I didn’t do a “Best Albums of the Year” post, and – even though I haven’t posted on this blog at all since my “Best of 2015” post – I was determined to get something out this year.

For a couple of reasons, really. Firstly: this blog is now 1o years old. And I know I haven’t written on it much in the last few years, but 10 years seemed… worth celebrating. Secondly, this post is officially the 400th post on this blog… again, something worth celebrating.

Anyway, long story short… I’m back for this post. Then I’ll probably disappear again for a while.

Actually, while I have you here, indulge me, if you will. I have a theory a little bit about music bloggers, and how pretty much all of my favourite music blogs died out.

You see, 10 years ago or so, we music bloggers were really the taste-makers, of a kind. Before streaming services were popularised, and back when RSS readers were all the rage, loading up your favourite music blog to download an MP3 because a blogger who just got you had recommended it was pretty much the best part of your day.

You’d listen all day to the tune with that kind of euphoria that can only come from a well-matched, personalised mixtape.

But then streaming services came along.

Streaming services, obviously, devalued music bloggers. We traded in (sometimes) illicit substances that weren’t (easily) available otherwise. Then, suddenly, they were at your fingertips, available at an instant’s notice.

And, probably the biggest factor?

Before streaming, downloading MP3s was an investment. You invested your time, on your slow dial up modem. You invested your data, on your capped downloads. You trusted music bloggers to ensure you weren’t wasting these valuable commodities. That they had vetted the hundreds of emails they received in a month, and they were only posting the very best songs, and culling the duds. But suddenly, when you could stream any album for just a few seconds in seconds, the “opinion” of a music blogger wasn’t important anymore. You didn’t have to invest anything, or risk anything. It became… zero calorie snacking.

We became commodotised. We became… irrelevant.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m not whinging. I’ve been a Spotify premium subscriber since well before it officially expanded to Australia. I think it’s a great thing that taste-making is now democratised. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a little part of me missed the old days, when I was motivated to do this whole music blogger thing.


Ok, that’s enough indulgence. Thanks for your time. Now, onto the real stuff. Without further ado, here is Burgo’s Top Albums of 2017.

15. Aimee Mann – Mental Illness

You guys, I’ll be honest. I fell in love with Aimee Mann 15 years ago, when she performed a cover of “Shed a Little Light” on the West Wing episode, “College Kids”.

I mean, just listen to this:

Her voice then just absolutely killed me. And it continues to, today.

Back in January, Mann called “Mental Illness” her “saddest, slowest, most acoustic, if-they’re-all-waltzes-so-be-it-record” that she’d ever created, and man, she wasn’t kidding. Mann leans into the cliched view of her as a “depressing songstress” completely with a sly wink, and the result is just stunning.

Standout track: Lies of Summer

14. Portugal. The Man – Woodstock

Hard to believe it’s been 10 years since I first wrote about these guys. But in all that time, Portugal. The Man have never failed to impress. People will complain they sold-out. Heck, the band clearly foresaw that, and started selling “I Liked Portugal. The Man Before They Sold Out” t shirts before the album was even released!

So yeah, I know I’m in the minority here. But, I dunno… allow me this one conceit, as someone who has written about them for the last 10 years. Their dive headfirst into pop sensibility is something to behold, in my opinion; and, if nothing else, makes for an interesting listen.

Despite all that, when I had to pull out a standout track for this post? It had to be “Feel It Still”, which is easily their closest approximation to their previous tunes. So perhaps I’m a little conflicted too.

Standout track: Feel It Still

13. Mountain Goats – Goths

An opus on Goths? Why yes, thank you. I’ve said on multiple occasions that I view Josh Ritter to be the lyricist of our generation, but I tell you what… John Darnielle is 100% up there, and nowhere is it more evident than on Goths. The flow is just effortless, the melancholy too casual, the details too… alive. No one breathes life into their characters with the little details like Darnielle.

Charting the life of a goth moving from the UK to the US to make it big in a band, playing for cocaine (“Paid in Cocaine”), refusing to open for Trent Rezor (“Shelved”), to dealing with being an aging goth, and all the realities that come with becoming… irrelvant. It’s heartbreaking, if it weren’t so bittersweet funny.

Standout track: We Do It Different On The West Coast

12. Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy

Ever since Yonkers, I’ve been waiting for… something, from Tyler, The Creator. I didn’t have any idea what that “something” was, mind you, which was frustrating for me… so I can only imagine how frustrating it could have been for Tyler.

That something came with “Flower Boy”.

It’s an album about finding yourself. Accepting, despite the otherness, which previously Tyler had always played up as being a “radical”. Here, Tyler confronts… well, himself.

In the album opener, “Foreword”, Tyler asks “How many cars can I buy ’til I run out of drive? How much drive can I have ’til I run out of road?”, and then goes on to question his relationships with, “Shout out to the girls that I lead on / For occasional head and always keeping my bed warm / And trying their hardest to keep my head on straight”; and those relationships, later, are even more confronting when you get to the songs, “Garden Shed” and “I Ain’t Got Time”, with its line “Next line will have ’em like “Woah” / I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004″.

I don’t want to say anything as trite as “with this album, Tyler, The Creator has found himself”; but, I will say that he’s looking clearly in the mirror, and that self-reflection has made for an amazing album.

Standout track: 911/Mr Lonely

11. The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

Another case where it’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 10 years since I first wrote about The War on Drugs, and their debut album “Wagonwheel Blues”. Since that time, Adam Granduciel has been a fair regular on this blog, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that “A Deeper Understanding” finds a place on this list.

These are long, meandering tunes full of texture. Granduciel played half the instruments on this album, and he weaves together a tapestry of fuzzy sonic lines that somehow come together into something coherent.

This album takes its time. On a warm summer’s night, go out into an open field overlooking the surrounds, and watch the sun set to this soundtrack.

Standout track: Thinking of a Place

10. Hollow Coves – Wanderlust 🇦🇺

The first of quite a few Australian releases on this list, “Wanderlust”, the debut EP from Brisbane folk-duo Hollow Coves is short, at just 21 minutes… but man, does it win you over quickly. From EP opener, “Coastline”, Ryan Henderson and Matt Carins have you completely hooked.

You’ll lose yourself in these tunes, guaranteed. Here’s to more of this.

Standout Track: The Woods


9. Alex the Astronaut – See You Soon 🇦🇺

Another EP? Hey, it’s my list, I can do what I want.

So, most Australians would be familiar with this release, thanks to the stunning tune, “Not Worth Hiding”, which was a timely release, coinciding with Australia going through a national survey on whether same sex marriage should be allowed (yes, seriously… we had a national survey on that).

The tune itself was premiered on Triple J, and I remember the text line just going (justifiably) absolutely mental when it was played. The entire EP is well worth a spin though.

Standout track: Not Worth Hiding


8. Polish Club – Alright Already 🇦🇺

14 songs. 39 minutes. And in that time, Sydney duo Polish Club lay out an album so accomplished, it’s like nothing I have ever heard from a debut. In their first release, “Alright Already”, Novak and John-Henry have released an honest-to-goodness guitar and drums, garage-rock blues album in a year that seemed to overlook these kind of tunes.

And oh man, is it fun.

This album, quite simply, rocks, and you need to get it into your earholes.

The first 11 tunes barrel along like no one’s business… and then track 12, “Divided” throws a curveball… a stripped-back tune that comes at just the right time, before “My Delight” and “Red River Rock” really turn things on their head. Listen… you’ll see what I mean.

Man, I love this album.

Standout track: Divided

7. Gang of Youths – Go Farther In Lightness 🇦🇺

If you’re feeling slightly lost; if you’re feeling… flat. This is the album you should listen to right now. Seriously. Stop reading this post, and listen to “Go Farther In Lightness”.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a long album at 76 minutes, but you really need to listen to this in its entirety. It’s a cathartic process, and one that explores loss, heartbreak and confusion, but somehow with a purpose and optimism that, quite frankly, we all need right now.

You will lose yourself in this album. You will well up with tears. Your heart will swell. After listening to this album, you’ll feel like you can take on anything. And, you can, you know. It’s all just a choice.

Standout track: What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?


Bonus: Like A Version

Dave and Co. also gave us one of my favourite “Like A Version”s this year, with their cover of the Middle East’s “Blood”. Every time they kick into the instrumental outro around 3:30, I get goosebumps.


6. Ryan Adams – Prisoner

If you’ve read this blog at any point in the last 10 years, you’ll know my love for Ryan Adams. Of the now 400 posts on this blog, I’d hazard that Ryan makes up at least 30-40 of those posts. He remains, through thick and thin, “my” songwriter… the one who it seems will always get me, no matter how old we get or the fact that he has no idea I exist.

Dissecting his 6 year marriage to Mandy Moore which ended in 2015, “Prisoner” finds Ryan back in breakup territory… and, let’s not kid ourselves, Ryan (as a musician) is on familiar ground here. But that doesn’t mean that the album isn’t gorgeous, regardless. There is an element of honesty here that you just can’t help but admire, that makes these songs hit hard: there’s the internal monologue of “Shiver and Shake”; the heartbreak of “Breakdown”; the admission of things always wrong in “Broken Anyway”, and then the hopeful moving on of “We Disappear”.

Standout track: Shiver and Shake

5. Alex Lahey – I Love You Like A Brother 🇦🇺

In 2016, Alex Lahey had one of the absolute tunes of the year, with her single “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me”, which was eminently hummable. Her full-length debut, “I Love You Like A Brother” thankfully delivered on that promise. 35 minutes long, it’s a rollicking good time, full of relatable tunes packed full of witty observations, that are just made for singing along to.

Standout track: So, so many… but I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself

4. Lorde -Melodrama

Ella Yelich-O’Connor just turned 21 last month.

Let that sink in for a bit.


Standout track: Perfect Places

3. Future Islands – The Far Field

Oh man. Such a tender, fragile record.

“Catch me laughing / Catch me drinking past the dawn / Catch me singing / Catch me beaming—open armed” Samuel Herring sings, followed by “Don’t watch me weeping / Don’t watch me weep into my palms”, and it’s absolutely heart-breaking.

For such a sad, intimate album, it propels you along, particularly driven by the bouncing bass lines (see “Time On Her Side” below for an example)… this record never once gets boring in its 45 minutes.

And when Debbie Harry, at 71, steps in on the penultimate song, “Shadows”, to pull Herring out of the shadows and into the light? Just… wow.

Herring speaks of the heartache, with “A melody that trails and falls, yet never fully blooms / Plays like an old song / That’s just out of tune” and the wiser, older Harry retorts “Why can’t you just break free? / Is it the heat dreams, that fevers brought you?”

Finally, Harry turns Herring’s plaintive cries of “These old shadows” back on him with the refrain “They’re just shadows!”.

What an experience.

Standout track: I’m cheating and including two… “Time On Her Side” and “Shadows”

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Holy… you guys. You GUYS.

From the second track, DNA., you just know this album is special. The rhymes come blistering, effortless… it’s like Kendrick doesn’t need to breathe, he just flows.

I find it hard to write about this album. It’s just a visceral experience. Right from opener “Blood”, where Kendrick’s protagonist dies, to the backdrop of Geraldo Rivera’s criticism of Lamar’s take on police brutality on his 2015 track ‘Alright’, Lamar is pissed. And man, it’s amazing to listen to.

Standout track: FEEL.

1. Gordi – Reservoir 🇦🇺

A couple of years ago, I saw Sophie Payten (aka Gordi) open for The Tallest Man On Earth at QPAC in Brisbane, and I described it at the time as “something special”. Which sounds terribly mundane, but that’s because I was seriously lost for words. It was one of those gigs where the crowd stayed silent, holding their breath, the entire set, for fear of ruining that “something special”. At the time, Gordi was laying herself bare in front of us, and that vulnerability (particularly during her cover of Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardener”) just floored me.

Thankfully, her first full-length release, “Reservoir”, continued that trend.

This album is complicated. It’s layered. It’s nuanced. It is… something special.

And it’s my album of the year.

Standout track: Heaven I Know

Bonus: Like A Version

Gordi also provided us with one of my other favourite “Like A Version”s of this year, with her cover of Linkin Park’s “In The End”. Chills.

2015 releases Best of...

Burgo’s “Best Albums of 2015”

Wow. This is the first year since this blog launched back in 2007 that I haven’t posted during the year; my last post was a “Best of 2014” roundup. Oh well, life gets in the way. Let’s jump straight into 2015’s round up, shall we?

2015 was a strange one for music. There was an absolute flood of great releases, with one or two titans standing head and shoulders above the rest. I think that’s pretty evident by the alarming conformity in most of the other round ups I’ve seen so far. But it was probably the year I found myself listening to the least “new releases” in recent memory. Below are the tunes from this year that did make it onto my rotation.

15. James Bay – Chaos and the Calm

Errrybody be hating on this album. But screw you guys, it’s fun.

Standout track: If You Ever Want to Be in Love

14. Hop Along – Painted Shut

I don’t really know what it is about this album, but it makes me feel like I’m watching “Empire Records” again. This is a good thing.

Standout track: Horseshoe Crabs

13. Garrett Kato – That Low and Lonesome Sound

Originally from Canada, now calling Byron Bay home, Garrett Kato’s “That Low and Lonesome Sound” was the perfect album for this year. It sounds like Australian summer, which is why I’m listening to it right now, on holiday in Scott’s Head, overlooking the blown-out surf as the afternoon breeze cools the day off.

Standout track: UFOs

12. Leon Bridges – Coming Home

This is a completely comfortable album, and while that may not be what every artist wants to hear, it’s meant in a complimentary way. Bridges is utterly of the past, recalling Redding, Cooke and co. In that way, it’s both surprising that a 25 year old can pull this off in 2015, while at the same time being a completely familiar sound. Something that you can slip into after a long day at work, that shirt that feels just right against your skin.

Standout track: Better Man

11. Kyle Lionhart – Keep in Mind

Ok, seriously? Another Byron Bay artist? Why, yes. Kyle Lionhart needs to be heard by more people. “Keep in Mind”, his debut EP, was released in February of this year, and since then it’s been on pretty much constant rotation for me. I’ve seen him called “neb-folk/soul” before; I just think it sounds like heaven.

Standout track: Sleep by Rivers

10. Tame Impala – Currents

Kevin Parker can pretty much do anything, and I think at this point validation is the last thing on his mind. “Currents” sees him at his most precise yet, and even though he’s not trying to, this album is showing off; soul, R&B, psych-rock, dance-hall, pop… it’s all here.

Standout track: Eventually

9. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday

Strangely, didn’t hear much about this release online this year (outside of the NME, that is). Which is a shame, because “Chasing Yesterday” is a cracking release from Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds. “Chasing Yesterday” is, obviously, a self-aware title from Noel, and “We Can’t Go Back” is probably the most Oasis-like tune he’s written in some time, a gentle reminder to those after a reunion that it’s not something that’s going to happen any time soon. But there are other things he’d like to reflect on though, and he does it to great effect here.

Standout track: Riverman

8. Sons of the East – Already Gone

Yet another Australian release, which makes me inordinately proud. “Sons of the East” are an indie-folk band out of Sydney, and their EP release, “Already Gone”, absolutely blew me away. Basically a bucket of good times, you’d be hard-pressed not to tap your feet along to these tunes.

Standout track: Into the Sun

7. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

When “Boys & Girls” came out, Alabama Shakes were very quickly placed into the “retro-soul” box, because that was nice and easy. “Sound & Color”, however, is a rock album, although not a simple one. There’s hints of The Strokes and The Stones, but also Otis Redding. There’s strings, synths and organs. It’s an interesting mix that warns you not to pigeonhole the Shakes, because this crew have so much more exploring to do.

Standout track: Don’t Wanna Fight

6. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I sit and think and sometimes I just sit

Laconic, stream-of-consciousness, wry… call it what you will, but “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” is the ultimate “vignette” album, with observations of the mundane somehow combining to become something more as a whole. Barnett is playful and cutting at the same time, and the punk/grunge guitar is something I didn’t realise I’d been missing until I heard it.

Standout track: Elevator Operator

5. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down…

There’s something about Kurt Vile that’s that little half-step out of sync with things, and I’ll never stop loving it. “b’lieve i’m goin down” finds Vile at his absolute sharpest lyrics-wise, with lines that can be at the same time goofy but absolutely terrifying. The existential crisis of “Pretty Pimping”, for example, can be light-hearted on the one hand, but also scarily accurate, with lines like:

“I couldn’t tell you what the hell it was supposed to mean
But it was a Monday, no a Tuesday, no Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
Then Saturday came around and I said “Who’s this stupid clown blocking the bathroom sink?”

Standout track: Pretty Pimping

4. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

If you’re hankering for a return to 80s hip hop, Vince Staples has you covered. “Summertime ’06” is stripped down, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. Staples is weary, and full of truth in this album. He talks about crime, but examines the reality rather than the theatre. It’s a difficult, and at times, depressing album to listen to, but it’s interestingly the title track, “Summertime”, that allows some vulnerability in.

“My teachers told me we was slaves
My mama told me we was kings
I don’t know who to listen to
I guess we somewhere in between
My feelings told me love is real
But feelings known to get you killed”

Standout track: Might Be Wrong

3. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Of course this was going to make this list. It’s been called a “masterpiece” by almost every music publication out there, and for once it’s not blogger hyperbole. “TPAB” is a complete and utter triumph, a release where Kendrick is questions not only himself, but an entire country in an unflinching way. Albums often have this symbiotic relationship with time; they are both defined by and define the time in which they are released, and TPAB (along with D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah”) is completely defined by, and simultaneously defines, 2015.

Standout track: King Kunta

2. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Sad, dark and completely beautiful, Sufjan Steven’s autobiographical tribute to his late mother, “Carrie and Lowell”, finds Stevens at his absolutely minimal best. Stripped back (to the bone), it’s an unflinching look at his history with his largely-absent mother, that somehow manages to be heartbreaking yet accepting at the same time. An absolute standout in 2016, and in any other year, would have been my album of the year.

Incidentally, Pitchfork sat down for a really powerful interview with Stevens to discuss his mother, his memories of her struggles, and her time with Lowell here. It’s a really worthwhile read.

Standout track: Should Have Known Better

1. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf

A hip-hop/jazz fusion record as my album of the year? For those that have experienced “Surf”, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Name one other album that had the heart of “Surf” in 2015 – I don’t think it exists. When Chance the Rapper released his “Acid Rap” in 2013, you knew it was something special. His “follow up” this year is different yet again, because it’s not really a follow up at all – instead, it’s a collaboration with friend Nico Segal (aka Donnie Trumpet) that sees everyone from Jamila Woods to Busta Rhymes contributing.

It’s an album that’s full of humour, heart, life, freedom and youth. It is 2015.

Standout track: Slip-Slide

Honourable Mentions:
Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Joanna Newsome – Divers
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah
The Internet – Ego Death
Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

2014 releases Best of...

Burgo’s Top Tunes of 2014

So it’s Saturday, 3 January 2015 today, and I’ve just realised that 2014 was the first year since 2008 that I didn’t post a “best of the year” post. That kind of talks to how much I get to write on this blog these days (sorry about that), but I really didn’t want to break that streak this year. So, better late than never, here are my top tunes of 2014.

The usual caveats apply. The below are in playlist order, rather than ranked. I’ve embedded the spotify playlist below, but you can also listen on Soundcloud (although some tunes are missing there due to their catalogue).

The War On Drugs – Red Eyes
Broods – L.A.F
Ryn Weaver – OctaHate
Jungle – Busy Earnin’
MisterWives – Reflections
Spoon – Inside Out
Sylvan Esso – Coffee
The Preatures – Somebody’s Talking
Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting On You)
Snakadaktal – The Sun II
Woods – Leaves Like Glass
St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Call Me
Raury – God’s Whisper
Strand of Oaks – Shut In
Twin Forks – Cross My Mind
Many Things – Dear One
First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining
Angus & Julia Stone – Heart Beats Slow
Kim Churchill – Window to the Sky
Austin Basham – All Is Well
Old Man Canyon – Wiser
Calan Mai – We’ve Got Love
James Bay – Let It Go
Noah Gundersen – Dying Now
Noah Gundersen – First Defeat
Candy Robbers – 1000 Miles
Robert Francis – Love Is A Chemical
Ryan Adams – Kim

If you’re interested in looking through the archives, here’s a few other “best of” posts to catch up on:

2014 releases

HOWQUA – Fishing for Gold

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, I know. But I had to come back out of this hiatus to talk very quickly about Melbourne-based artist, HOWQUA.

Put simply, this dude is exciting. In this gig, you kind of lose that excitement that music brings. You become a bit jaded, I guess… there’s this funk that’s all too easy to slip into, where you don’t realise until too late that you’ve lost the thrill for a new discovery. Everything always seems like it was better, or more meaningful, a few years ago. That new music just isn’t making you sit up and pay attention anymore.

I’ve been in one of those. For a while now. And so it was, that when I was sent this video a while back by HOWQUA’s publicist, I’m actually kind of surprised I clicked the link at all. But I’m so, so glad I did.

This live take of HOWQUA’s “Fishing for Gold” made me sit up. The dude’s honesty is killer disarming, and his rawness just untouchable. Listen to it below, but please – click replay at least 3 times. It just gets better with each listen.

For those of you in Melbourne, listen up: HOWQUA’s officially launching his EP, “Naked”, tonight at Howler in Melbourne. Doors open at 7.30pm.

If I was you, I’d totally be there. You’ll sit up in your seat, I promise you. And that’s becoming increasingly rare.

2013 releases

Will Varley – Weddings & Wars (An 8-Bit History Of The World)

Really, really digging this tune from Will Varley.

Weddings & Wars is off Will’s second album, As the Crow Flies, which came out late last year.

2013 releases

Candy Robbers – 1000 Miles

This tune from Candy Robbers, “1000 Miles” has got me all kinds of excited. It’s a little… I don’t know… restrained, maybe? But definitely hints like there could be lots of awesomeness to come from these guys. Keep an eye out for them in the future.