Last week I shared my ten best albums of the year, and now it’s time for the songs. Where possible, I’ve included a link to video clips of the songs. Enjoy!
10. Patty Griffin, “Truth #2”
I almost feel like I’m cheating including this song on the list, because I’ve known this song for years through the Silver Bell bootleg – plus the Dixie Chicks covered it on their amazing 2002 Home album. But Silver Bell finally saw the light of day this past fall, so it’s officially a Patty Griffin song – and it’s one of her best.
9. Green River Ordinance, “It Ain’t Love”
I’ve been a fan of these guys for a few years now, and they never cease to amaze me with their talent and songcraft. If you haven’t heard the pop-rock stuff that’s been their bread and butter for so long, you’d swear that they had been playing nothing but country all their lives. Sweet harmonies and acoustic instrumentation dominate this song and lift it above all the other songs on an already stellar EP.
8. Hayden Panettiere, “Nothing In This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again”
On ABC’s Nashville, Hayden Panettiere plays Juliette Barnes, the reigning country-crossover queen (think of a cross between Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, but with a diva’s attitude). She’s got the record sales and teenybop following to make any pop star jealous, but she wants more than anything else to be accepted as an artist. After her mother’s tragic death, Juliette debuts a heart-wrenching new song at the memorial service. That song closed out the Season 1 finale.
For a bonus, here are the songwriters performing an acoustic version of the song.
7. Amy Grant featuring James Taylor, “Don’t Try So Hard”
We all need encouragement from time to time, and this song hits me where I need it. As a people pleaser, I tend to forget that the only One I need to please is God, and that’s the point of this song. Amy sings the lyrics as if she has lived them every day of her life, and James Taylor blends in with her so well that his appearance doesn’t feel like yet another celebrity cameo.
6. Aubrey Peeples, “Gonna Get Even”
In the second season of Nashville, Aubrey Peeples plays Layla Grant, the runner up of a TV talent competition. The head of Juliette Barnes’ and Rayna James’ label signed Layla, and at the big party for the stockholders, Layla sings one of Juliette’s hits – which just happens to be “Gonna Get Even.” She treads a fine line between country and pop in the best possible way on this song, and her vocal performance leads you to believe that she just might be serious about revenge. I can’t get this song out of my head.
5. Scott England, “Alive”
Even if we hadn’t started singing this song at Eastridge a few months before Redeemed & Brave’s release, I think I’d love this song just as much. I’m a fan of high energy, intense worship songs, and this one fits the bill lyrically as well as musically. The only video I could find is this live recording of the song, but I think it captures well what makes this song work.
4. The Crash Years, “The Way We Were”
The Crash Years’ Disposition was my second best album of the year, and the opening track, “The Way We Were,” epitomizes everything that makes the whole album great – thoughtful songwriting, a sophisticated sound, and a genuine accessibility to the music. Here’s an acoustic version of the song.
3. The Civil Wars, “Eavesdrop”
For a duo with no ties other than music to struggle with dysfunction at the height of their success is a tragedy. The odd thing is that most of their songs deal with heartbreak and relationships in trouble. This song is about one couple’s last ditch effort to be together, and it’s a standout moment on a standout album.
2. Wire Method, “Brighter Days”
When I first heard Wire Method’s EP, I was taken aback by how polished and professional their sound was. But the last song on the record grabbed me the hardest and wouldn’t let go. “Brighter Days” rocks pretty hard, but carries with it a pop sensibility and appeal. I’d hold this song up to anything on radio these days. Check out the last 30 seconds or so of this sampler video.
Here’s an acoustic version of the song. It’s pretty raw and doesn’t quite convey the power of the original version, but it comes close.
1. Clare Bowen & Sam Palladio, “Change Your Mind”
Nashville’s Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) started writing songs together in the first season and almost signed a record deal as a Civil Wars-type duo. Their relationship has taken more than a few twists and turns in a season and a half, but this song is the best moment of all of them – and it’s the best song of the year!