Jess' Favorite Music: 2018

I didn’t do my usual music zine best-of-list listen-thrus this year. I tried the more organic (read: less compulsive) approach of just letting Spotify and my friends recommend stuff. It felt a little lazy, but, man, Spotify really did a good job pointing me toward a bunch of great music, and my friends always have great taste. Here’s what played most:

Favorite Albums Released in 2018

  • Alina Engibaryan // We Are

  • Hablot Brown // Soulection Black Label: Hablot Brown

  • Louis Cole // Time

  • My Brightest Diamond // A Million and One

  • Parker Louis // All Good Things, Pt. 1 and 2

  • Snazzback // Hedge

  • Snowpoet // Thought You Knew

  • Tom Misch // Geography

  • Vulfpeck // Hill Climber

  • WILKES // Sam Wilkes

Favorite Albums Discovered in 2018 (Released Earlier)

  • Aaron Taylor // Better Days (2016)

  • Adult Jazz // Gist Is (2014)

  • Andrew Ashong // Andrew Ashong EP (2014)

  • Boom Clap Bachelors // Mellem Dine Laeber (2011)

  • Clarinet Factory & Alan Vitous // Out of Home (2010)

  • Dave Buker & The Historians // For Every Heartbreak (2015)

  • Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment // Surf (2017)

  • F.S. Blumm & Nils Frahm // Tag Eins Tag Zwei (2016)

  • Funkmammoth // Night Shift (2017)

  • Hobo Johnson // The Rise of Hobo Johnson (2017)

  • Joon Moon // Moonshine Corner (2017)

  • Kiefer // Kickinit Alone (2017)

  • Knxwledge // Hud Dreems (2015)

  • Lambchop // FLOTUS (2016)

  • Nico Muhly & Teitur // Confessions (2016)

  • Noam Pikelny // Universal Favorite (2017)

  • Nomo // Upside Down / Nocturne EP (2010)

  • Steve Hauschildt // Strands (2016)

  • Stoop Kids // Already Out of Time (2015)

  • Stro Elliot // Stro Elliot (2016)

  • WONK // Castor (2017)

Jess' Favorite Albums of 2017

Here's the playlist.

Here's the list in alphabetical order:

After Laughter // Paramore
All Flowers // Space Captain
Amar Y Vivir // La Santa Cecilia
Beyond the Years EP // Diggs Duke
Dayyyyyyy // Diggs Duke
December Avenue // Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet
Drunk // Thundercat
Echolocations: River // Andrew Bird
Elevate // 30/70
Everybody Works // Jay Som
French Kiwi Juice // FKJ
From Deewee // Soulwax
The Gold String // Devon Sproule
Good for You // Aminé
Halo // Juana Molina
I // Niia
Jardín // Gabriel Garzón-Montano
Joan Shelley // Joan Shelley
The Kid // Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Kõrvits: Moorland Elegies // Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Ladilikan // Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet
Laila's Wisdom // Rapsody
Last Leaf // Danish String Quartet
The Lonely, The Lonesome, & The Gone // Lee Ann Womack
Métropole // Anomalie
Mr Finish Line // Vulfpeck
No Shape // Perfume Genius
Onism // Photay
Out of Land // Emile Parisien, Vincent Peirani, Andreas Schaerer, Michael Wollny
Painted Ruins // Grizzly Bear
Palabras Manuales // Danay Suáres
Passin' Thru // Charles Lloyd New Quartet
Planetarium // James McAlister, Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly
Process // Sampha
Pure Comedy // Father John Misty
Remembrance // Diggs Duke
Twin Solitude // Leif Vollebekk
Villains // Queens of the Stone Age
Yes Lawd! // NxWorries

Heavy Rotation: Spring 2017

Hey guys! Here's what I listened to a lot this Spring. As always, songs on these playlists may be explicit. The link:


I heard "Slow Rider" live when Mountain Stage came to Peoples Bank Theatre here in Marietta. It was my favorite tune of the night. Bridget Kearney (member of Lake Street Dive and Joy Kills Sorrow) and Benjamin Lazar Davis pulled in some African influences, including a special African guitar and a great mid-song meter-perception shift.

Some of my favorite artist discoveries this Spring were Lawrence, Sarah Jarosz (who will be touring with Punch Brothers, another favorite), Sampha, and Shuggie Otis.

I love knowing what people are listening to, so please feel free to share a playlist of your current faves in the comments!

Also, if you want to join in, I'm doing the #30daymusicchallenge on Twitter. Follow me there @jesskbaldwin

Jess' Favorite Music of 2016


  • "Awaken, My Love!" • Childish Gambino
  • Cloak • Jordan Rakei
  • Do Hollywood • The Lemon Twigs
  • Echo Chamber • Ash Walker
  • I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it • 1975
  • Let Them Eat Chaos • Kate Tempest
  • Malibu • Anderson .Paak
  • A Mineral Love • Bibio
  • Nonagon Infinity • King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
  • A Seat at the Table • Solange
  • See Us Through • Michelle Willis
  • Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit • Royal Canoe
  • Stateless • Tangents
  • Utopia Defeated • D.D Dumbo
  • Yes Lawd! • NxWorries
  • Zigzagger • Takuya Kuroda

EP's and Singles

  • Bad Hopes • Dead Horse Beats
  • For Marmish, Pt. 2 • Floating Points
  • Game Winner • Joey Dosik
  • In Memory • Space Captain
  • Sadie • Photay
  • Spec and Bubble • Bells Atlas
Read More

Jess' Favorite Albums of 2015

Here are my favorite albums (so far) from this year. The list is very eclectic, and some things are easier to digest than others. I like all of them, so I don't see any sense in ranking. Instead, they're in alphabetical order by album title. 

While I think it's good to dissect and talk to other people about individual musical elements that influence what I like, each album on this list is ultimately chosen based on my gut reaction, so I'm leaving out any commentary and letting each album speak for itself. 

I'm always fascinated by the way my gut will respond very differently to two albums that have very similar individual elements, or respond differently at different times of life...or even time of day. My gut reaction changes as I change. I can only speak for what I'm drawn to at this moment and reserve the right to change my mind at any time. :) 

If our lists have some common albums, I'd love to know. If you think I might like something that you don't see, I'd love to know that, too. Comment away. If we don't like each other's favorites, no hard feelings. I still think you're super-cool.

I've included embedded playlists whenever I could so you can preview the tracks right here. Consider buying what you like so that artist can afford to make another album next year.

Fair warning: there's a few explicit tracks in here. 

Jim O'Rourke - Simple Songs

Jim O'Rourke - Simple Songs

Live Music: Punch Brothers Concert

My college buddy Chris turned me on to the Punch Brothers a year or so ago. Chris is one of those guys who adds artists to his music library with great deliberation, which makes his collection rather small but extremely high in quality. I love it when I get his recommendations. Chris: I can't thank you enough for turning me on to these guys. Sunday night may have been the best concert I’ve ever seen.

Before Chris told me about them, I was already familiar with their mandolin player Chris Thile (pronounced thee-lee) through his early success with Nickel Creek. Since then, Thile has gone on to work on various projects, including The Goat Rodeo Sessions, Thile and Daves, and an entire album of Bach partitas with more to come. He was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 2012 at age 31. 

My fiancé Andy, a fabulous drummer, discovered Punch Brothers independently and was excited to tell me about this band whose rhythms were outta this world. So, when I saw they were coming to the Clay Center in Charleston, WV (about 90 minutes from Marietta), I snapped up tickets, and some friends decided to join us. 

As we walked into the Clay Center, which is a huge, beautiful space worthy of large musicals and operas, I looked at the stage and saw a few rugs, 5 mics, and a minimal pedal board at each mic. You don't need spectacle with music this good.

Aoife O'Donovan

Opener Aoife O’Donovan (pronounced “ee-fuh”) charmed us with one of the easiest, sweetest, most free voices I’ve heard in a long time. Beautiful melodies, great rhythmic and harmonic surprises. I quickly added her to my music library during the break before the Bros. came on.

When the lights went back down, the guys entered dressed in sharp suits. They went straight to their mics and began weaving together their haunting cover of Josh Ritter’s song “Another New World.” Every instrument contributed to the texture with such technical and expressive prowess. As each tune that followed was played, it quickly became clear that every player (each of whom also sang) was just as good as the next. Their collective performing, composing, and arranging skills blew me away song after song. 

The shape of the concert itself was expertly crafted. We were taken up and down and everywhere in between through a synthesis of stories, meters, genres, harmonic structures, and melodies. Nothing was overused. The balance between head and heart was masterful. Some song highlights for me included "Hundred Dollars," "Movement and Location," their note-for-note arrangement of Debussy’s “Passepied,” and the song “Heaven’s a Julep On the Porch,” which took me to another space entirely. 

While the interaction between the band members was consistently fun to watch, I especially loved watching Chris Thile embody the music. I've always struggled with that as a singer, and it was beautiful to see someone do it so naturally. His body was perfectly partnered with the sounds I was hearing, seemingly rooted in sheer bliss. The music and the body were one. I was taken back by just how much that elevated my experience as an audience member.

My favorite things about Sunday night? (1) Seeing a group play an old country and western tune with the same joy and mastery as a Debussy piece, and (2) being part of an audience who loved all of it, too. That won't be my last Punch Brothers concert. 

Any thoughts or experiences about the Punch Brothers? Leave them in the comments.