Top Tunes ’19: Megan Wren

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Every year WOUB Culture spotlights what music-centric folks in the region have been listening to all year round right in time for the holidays in our annual Top Tunes feature. 

Megan Wren is a local musician, songwriter, and recording engineer. She released her debut EP, “Sympathetic Vibrations,” in April of 2018. She spent the last year dividing her time between playing gigs, recording for Ohio University’s School of Music, and reading music biographies. 

Megan Wren
(Photo by Emma Sulfsted)

This year I did most of my music consuming in my car, usually traveling between gigs. The music I loved the most was often that which inspired my own creative thought; I would make up new lyrics and harmonies overtop what I was listening to. The list I’ve compiled here made up the soundtrack of my drives this year.

Easily my most-listened-to album this year. Sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell deliver perfect harmonies, driving riffs, and masterful slide guitar that altogether make a fantastic roots album. The track “Honey Honey” was made for road trips. Venom & Faith just earned Larkin Poe their very first Grammy nomination, for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
I was somewhat familiar with Grace Potter from her work with her former group the Nocturnals, but happily discovered this album as it was released at the end of October this year. Many tracks on Daylight feel raw, vulnerable, and honest. I recommend “Release,” “Every Heartbeat,” and “Please.”
I’m lucky to have gotten to know Angela the last few years and to watch her awesome musical trajectory. I believe this album, which features her beautiful and poetic songwriting paired with Chris Connor’s expert guitar playing, is her best work to date. My current favorites are “4:30,” “Let Go,” and “Dangerous Love.”
The former Alabama Shakes front-woman Brittany Howard brings immense soul and truth to her solo debut, Jaime. Each song feels completely different, yet altogether intertwined. It is difficult to decide which songs stand out the most – I love “Georgia,” “Stay High,” and “13th Century Metal.” But I love the rest of them as well.
I’m late to this party, but I absolutely fell in love with Brandi Carlile this year – and I am so, so glad. Knowing that she was 1/4th of the country super-group The Highwomen (with Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby, and Maren Morris) essentially sold me before I had heard their album. I wasn’t disappointed; this album is full of strong songwriting and fresh perspectives. The stand-out song to me is “If She Ever Leaves Me,” written by Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell, and sung by Brandi. I have covered it at every gig I’ve had since I first heard it.
Each of the three songs on this small EP by Haim provide an entirely different taste of the group. The title track is my personal favorite; a warm and effortlessly beautiful song which brings out the feeling of connectedness shared between the group’s sisters.
Definitely the most guilty-pleasure pop in my music library this year, but this first half of Adam Lambert’s new work is maybe his most sophisticated release yet. In between his time touring internationally with Queen, he managed to record this collection of funk-driven, overwhelmingly catchy tunes. Of the six songs, my favorite is the ballad “Closer to You,” which showcases his immense vocal ability. Side B release TBA.
A 2018 release, but one that I’ve still probably overplayed this year. I feel that most people either “get” Ghost or don’t; their combination of dark comedy, masterful musicianship, and surprisingly catchy metal is a win for me. The stand-outs on Prequelle for me are “Rats,” “Faith,” and “Life Eternal.”
Seth and I became friends during our time at OU and it has been truly great to watch him and his band come into their own musically, this time on their sophomore album Strange Forces. The album has everything from hard-rock riffs to sophisticated lyrics to driving grooves. My favorites are “What’s Happening to Me,” “Inside the Glass,” and “Watching Smoke Rise up to the Moon.” The band is based near Dayton, OH and definitely a must-see for local music fans.
Starting and ending this list with the blues/rock sound. The return of The Black Keys this year meant a return to their classic, straightforward rock formula. I love “Eagle Birds,” “Lo/Hi,” and “Go.”