40 Best Country Albums of 2016

Miranda Lambert, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price and more of the year's best

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William Tyler, 'Modern Country'

37. William Tyler, 'Modern Country'

Where the classic stereotype of country music is grounded and earthy, guitarist William Tyler's Modern Country is soaring and airy. Yet for all the beauty of these seven evocative instrumentals, it's trauma that is at their candy-coated core. The music's inspiration dates back a few years, to a crippling anxiety attack that Tyler suffered while on tour – an agoraphobia brought on by driving on interstate highways. So Tyler took to the back roads and stumbled onto a new invisible republic, the bypassed and dying small towns whose hopeless denizens went overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in this year's presidential election. Tyler's twangy, quietly ruminative melodies are set atop mechanized European rhythms (think Kraftwerk's 1974 classic "Autobahn"), creating soundtracks for dreamy twilight road trips. Modern Country is perfect driving music for today's America, whether the passing scenery is amber waves of grain or boarded-up storefronts. D.M.

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