Sean Moeller Illustration by Dave Leiberg for the Time & The Mystery Podcast

I’m a glutton for these year-end wrap ups. They’re fascinating and ultimately demoralizing because as you’re reading all of them – taking that finger down the rankings – it doesn’t take you very long at all to see a pattern, and you wonder why everyone’s lying. You know damned well that there can be no consensus for this activity – especially across so many publications and outlets. But there is almost always a consensus, and I call BS on it. Don’t fall for these lists. Each one should be startlingly different and ranging. They should be the result of tightening the beautiful shambles that music does to you and your daily life.

When writing and recording Sleeping Jesus’ debut EP, Perennial, Nick Elstad took the opportunity to explore his life through songwriting like never before.

If you hear that Flint Eastwood’s Small Victories was written after the 2013 death of leader Jax Anderson’s mother – and that it’s about that passing – you might make a couple of assumptions: that its creation was a solitary process, and that it’s sullen and pensive.

“I’ve always had this dream of pop music that’s a Trojan horse for radical ideas,” said Keith Brown – songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, bassist, and keyboardist for Trails & Ways – in a recent phone interview.

After making music for the better part of a decade, change was bound to happen for Chicago-based soul band JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound – starting with an alteration to its name.

When cellist/vocalist Kate Wakefield and drummer Daisy Caplan – now known as the band Lung – first started playing music together late last year in Cincinnati, they didn’t plan on touring for a very simple reason.

John Darnielle specializes in bringing the humanity out of unexpected places, from professional wrestling to nearby Midwestern towns.

The Mississippi River brings to mind images of steamboat travel, devastating floods, and Huckleberry Finn on his raft.

The tuba conjures visuals of marching bands, Oktoberfests, and the mother ship making contact at the end of Close Encounters. (Okay, that last one might just be me.)

Audience members for the Quad City Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening Masterworks concerts, however, might find that, from now on, whenever they think of either the Ole Miss or the tuba, they’ll immediately also think of the other.

During the process of writing and recording their 2015 album Dealer, two members of Foxing shared experiences that would shape the direction of the music.

The three Quebe sisters – Hulda, Sophia, and Grace – had played the violin before they attended their first fiddle competition back in 1998. But something clicked with the Texas-style music they heard at the event, and within a year they were themselves competing.

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