1. NEW PORNOGRAPHERS – Electric Version 47 minutes of lyrical and, yes, musical non sequiturs on a CD that could easily have been called If It Ain’t Broke. . . Neko makes a Case for being a great background singer too.
2. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Almost You: The Songs Of Elvis Costello In this collection, each artist’s aim is true to the songs themselves, and without Elvis’s
snarl the lyrics become the real star of each track. And not a clinker among ‘em.
3. THE BANGLES – Doll Revolution
Pure, unadulterated, guitar-pop, sugar-coated, fluffy ricecakes.
4. YOUNGBLOOD BRASS BAND – Center: Level: Roar
A crisp and tightly (w)rapped gumbo of New Orleans-style brass band and hip-hop. Unlikely bedfellows, to be sure.
5. THE JAYHAWKS – Rainy Day Music
I suppose this could be accused of being a bit on the bland side but a closer listen reveals a collection of catchy, musically-perfect Midwest jangle that may yet spawn a whole new genre: Genericana.
6. RUFUS WAINRIGHT – Want One
The ambitious and occasionally grandiose arrangements occasionally threaten to overwhelm the songs but that soaring voice manages to penetrate it all. Inspirational line of the year: “My phone’s on vibrate for you.”
7. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Every Word: A Tribute To Let’s Active
Today’s power pop artists take it easter and pay their respects to the multi-layered shimmer of the 80’s Southern pop icons.
8. SINEAD O’CONNOR – She Who Dwells. . .
They say it’s best to retire at the top of your game. Sinead does so gracefully leaving with one of her best albums. Until the next one, anyway.
9. RICHARD THOMPSON – 1000 Years Of Popular Music
On this website-only release RT captures a millennium in under 80 minutes, from medieval dirges to “Oops, I Did It Again”. Engaging and clever.
10. RANCID – Indestructible
Guitars still matter. Always will. Themes From a Strummer Place.
11. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Livin’, Lovin’ Losin’: Songs Of The Louvin Brothers
Neither as high nor as lonesome as the originals, but good songs in the hands of good singers (all duets) is a formula that shouldn’t miss.
12. JIM LAUDERDALE WITH DONNA THE BUFFALO – Wait ‘Til Spring
A cool country renegade teams up with an American jam band and falls through all the musical cracks.
13. VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Executioner’s Last Songs, Volumes 2 & 3
While not as strong as last year’s first volume of Dead Man S(w)inging, this continues the motif that no noose is good noose.
14. LOVE – The Forever Changes Concert
Ironical-Lee, Forever Changes changes very little, except that it becomes even grander on the concert stage.
15. CALEXICO – Feast Of Wire
Music that could come from another planet. Like Arizona. More like music from a linguini western.
16. PINK – Try This
My guilty pleasure for the year. The Tim Armstrong connection doesn’t hurt (see #10).
17. VARIOUS ARTISTS – He Was Fab: A Loving Tribute To George Harrison
Modern bands and their guitars gently weep a tuneful homage to my favorite Beatle. This is not to be confused with a major label piece of crapola that came out this year. Honorable Mention: Various Artists’ Concert For George.
18. BIG SANDY & HIS FLY-RITE BOYS – It’s Time
He never fails my list because of crack musicianship, clever songwriting and the smooth vocal stylings of the big guy.
19. PAUL WESTERBERG – Come Feel Me Tremble
Paul gets in touch with his inner Keith and rocks harder than he has in a long time.
20. MARSHALL CRENSHAW – What’s In The Bag?
His latest tree to fall in the forest that no one hears. Always the great songsmith.
21. EMMYLOU HARRIS – Stumble Into Grace
22. LUCINDA WILLIAMS – World Without Tears
23. MATTHEW SWEET – the Japanese album
24. RICHARD THOMPSON – The Old Kit Bag
25. GILLIAN WELCH – Soul Journey
ELVIS COSTELLO – Get Happy gets 30 songs happier.
ROLLING STONES – Sympathy For The Devil Remixes – Sympathy For The Dance Floor
BOB DYLAN – the new Blonde On Blonde makes the old one sound like blande on blande.
ELASTICA – The Radio One Sessions
TELEVISION – Marquee Moon, Adventure and Live At The Old Waldorf – Friction, indeed. Great sound. Beautiful packaging. Nice extras. A class act.
The What Was He Thinking Award: Neil Young
The Longest Suicide Note Ever Award: Elliott Smith’s career
You Really Shot Me: special award for Ray Davies
MUSICAL BOOK OF NOTE
Songbook by Nick Hornby – He writes with style and humor as a musical Everyfan.