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Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM


Best of 2015 | Daniel Rayzel


If there’s one thing I’ve learned while deejaying over the past year, it’s that music taste is incredibly relative to the listener. Humanity may someday cure every type of cancer, cease war with diplomatic peacemaking, and even find a sustainable way to prevent massive college loan debt (are you reading this, President Simon?); but I assure you no one will ever be happy with a “10 Greatest Albums of All Time” list or any variant thereof. That being said, I still had the guts to publish a list of my 10 favorite albums of 2015.

As the host of The Progressive Torch and Twang here at the station, my personal selection favors everything under the realm of Americana.

  1. River by Daniel Bachman, Three Lobed Recordings

The first time I heard a song by Daniel Bachman (“Pig Iron” off of Orange Co. Serenade), I checked the liner notes to see the names of guitarists who joined him. He was playing by himself. Bachman proves himself worthy once more with River, getting another step closer to going down in history with names like Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton – without even using his voice. Catch this young instrumentalist while he’s still at smaller venues and posting his cell phone on Facebook to text “if you need info” for tonight’s show.


  1. Tomorrow Is My Turn by Rhiannon Giddens, Nonesuch Records

Ms. Giddens has an outstanding catalog already with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and The New Basement Tapes, but went on and released her solo debut this year. Tomorrow Is My Turn features 11 tracks, 10 of which are favorites of hers that she covered. Using her soul-stirring voice (check out the vibrato on “She’s Got You”), she manages to take these covers and transform them into near originals. The album’s closer, “Angel City,” is the only track completely written by Giddens on this album, yet it blends so smoothly with the others that one can only hope for more timeless, original compositions on her next release.


  1. Let The Good Times Roll by JD McPherson, Rounder Records

This whole LP is an ode to the kids who still buy flasks and impress girls with their switchblades. As soon as you hear the opening snare roll on the title track, you know you’ve gotta get off the couch and get moving. Once you’re ready for a quick breath, tracks like “Bridgebuilder” and “Precious” show up to make your hips sway and your heart swell, all before the closing track pushes you back on the dance floor. I saw him in concert in Detroit and a fight broke out – nothing else could have made for a better soundtrack.


  1. With A Lampshade On by The Dustbowl Revival, Signature Sounds

Sassy and brassy NOLA jazz gets in bed with roots and bluegrass. The Dustbowl Revival introduced their first (mostly) live album this year, featuring 14 all-new tracks from the Californian band. If you’re lucky enough to catch the group in concert, you’ll understand why the crowd is going nuts with every performance on this record. Any track with the band’s only female member, Liz Beebe, is an instant winner. You can practically hear the whole crowd swoon on “Doubling Down On You” when she sings, “You hear that clock ticking, shouldn’t you be pickin’ me out a rock?”


  1. Something In The Water by Pokey LaFarge, Rounder Records

LaFarge’s voice sounds like it’s being fed through the warm tubes of your dad’s old AM radio. The quick punches of vibrato from his voice are reminiscent of the woodwind section of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. “Goodbye, Barcelona” is a prime example of this, but the vocal styling can be found throughout the LP mixed in with a mean barrelhouse piano, soaring clarinet, and more. The album’s closer is a tribute to the life of a showman and our beautiful home here in the Midwest. And on top of all that, he’s a fan of Bob Dylan as well.


  1. Delilah by Anderson East, Elektra Records

If a glass of brandy could sing, you’d have Anderson East. This is the third release from the Alabama singer, and he’s gone above and beyond to prove that third time really is the charm. Filled almost entirely with originals (including a song co-written with Chris Stapleton), East proves that his songwriting is coming along as nicely as his voice. The band covered “Tupelo Honey” when I saw them open for Brandi Carlile this summer. That was the first version (besides the original) to have brought me to tears. The Muscle Shoals sound it alive and well, thanks to its new caretaker.


  1. Shadows in the Night by Bob Dylan, Columbia Records

I’ll cut to the chase. My eyes began to well up with tears when I first heard this album. Good tears. Happy tears. Those tears you get when you hear from an old friend for the first time in years. I’ve been a Bobcat for a few years now, and I can never get enough Dylan. I’ll admit that I wasn’t thrilled when I first heard he would be releasing a covers album of stripped-down standards, but don’t let it scare you like it did me. His aging voice floats in the air, gracing every note alongside a gorgeous pedal steel guitar. Dylan is known to be quite the Frank Sinatra fan (who sang these same songs), which became a huge factor in selecting which songs to uncover from his youth. Perhaps it’s the man’s way of dropping us off where he first picked us up.


  1. Fools by Wild Child, Dualtone Records

Never underestimate the power of great track sequencing. Fools is an album that takes those sounds that float around in your mind when you get your heart broken, or those sounds when you’re driving on an empty city road at 2 a.m., and puts them into 12 pieces of art to make one of the most front-to-back listenable albums I have ever heard. I always dig a mean string section, and Wild Child delivered generously on their new LP. Kelsey Wilson, the lead female vocalist, rolls from peaceful tones on “Reno” to Adele-like belting on “Take It.” Her voice, matched with harmonies from Alexander Beggins, brings a dreamy quality to the whole LP – the kind of dream that you wish you would never have to wake up from.


  1. The Firewatcher’s Daughter by Brandi Carlile, ATO Records


Brandi Carlile has mastered a style that few musicians will ever be able to claim they’ve done themselves – channeling your roots into a genuine and definitive sound of your own. You can hear traces of everything from Fleetwood Mac (“The Eye”) to Johnny Cash (“The Stranger At My Door”) being done by Carlile and her band. Note: Get the tissues ready for the album’s closer, a cover of “Murder In The City” by the Avett Brothers. Carlile first publically identified herself as lesbian in 2002, making the lines “Make sure my wife knows that I loved her / make sure my daughter knows the same / and always remember there’s nothing worth sharing / like the love that let’s us share our name” especially poignant.


  1. The Spirit Moves by Langhorne Slim & The Law, Dualtone Records

Where do I even begin? I’ll never be able to describe my thoughts on this album in writing, considering that I struggle enough to explain them in person. I almost feel like I’m doing this album a disservice by writing about it, so all I can do is encourage you to truly listen to it. The trumpets sounding off during the opening track pry open the barbed wire to your soul to let it escape for a short while. It’ll hear the tossing and turning you feel in your bed at night. It’ll hear the cool breeze brushing your seat on the front porch. Most importantly, it’ll hear the soul of someone who has spent years honing its sound and needs ears to listen. The second time I saw Langhorne Slim & The Law in concert, I heard a guy yell “It’s The Great Spirit!” as Slim commanded the stage. This album serves as the proof of how Slim brought The Spirit to the people.

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