A highly subjective year-end list, starting with number ten and leading up to number one.
11. BACK TO BLACK, by Amy Winehouse
We're starting with number eleven, because everyone thinks this came out in 2007 (it did, in the states) but I got my copy in 2006 and put it on last year's list. Since trouble girl Amy deserves a break, and it's such a killer album, I'll stick it here and it can join the other top ten lists this year in the USA. The Mark Ronson production is uncanny, and the girl can really sing. This is a much better album than her first (which, coincidentally is being re-released in the states to cash in on the buzz, and is NOT her new album). Anyway, you know all this.
10. RAISING SAND, by Robert Plant and Allison Krauss
Okay, indie-snobs, forget about the dinosaur Led Zep reunion tour dragging out all the old warhorses -- this is a great album. This is the best of what used to be called "Americana." No rock-posing from Plant, just smoldering blues and rock, and Allison Krauss adds some beautiful playing and vocals.
9. SOUND OF SILVER, by LCD Soundsystem
A masterpiece of trippy dance electronica. Club music for people who don't go to clubs. I imagine this will be the Moby of the year, and we'll be hearing all these tracks on commercials for cars and deodorant. "North American Scum" could be licensed for a basin, tun and tile cleaner.
8. AMERICAN GANGSTER, by JAY-Z
Hove is back from retirement with hip hop inspired by the movie of the same name. This is solid stuff, and don' be turned off by the booming ego and gangster lyrics -- I mean, you like gangster movies, right? This is a gangster movie, yo. Roc Boys may be the single of the year, and I can't get those horns out of my head. The beats are unbeatable.
7. MAGIC, by Bruce Springsteen
The gypsy biker comes home in a box, the trees are hanging with people, and your worst enemy has come to town. A dark album for a dark age, but also a rocker, and the best thing Bruce has done in ages. He may not be considered cool by the congoscenti, but who gives a rat's ass. Actually, now that he's been forgotten somewhat, a lot of newer bands are free to go back and enjoy his new albums. Witness the Bruce influence in The Hold Steady, Killers, The National, and even Arcade Fire, who are performing their version of "State Trooper" in concert these days.
6. THE REMINDER, by Feist
Incredible chanteuse formally of Broken Social Scene slaps you like the au pair you've followed into the kitchen. She has a great voice, and one song doesn't typify the entire album. You may have heard the poppy hit, "1-2-3-4," but there is a wide range of colorful, original music. Stunning on headphones.
5. GA GA GA GA GA, by Spoon
Great driving rock music from this Austin band, with such undeniable gems as "Underdog," "Don't Make me a Target," and "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb." You want to be driving fast with the top down through scorching Monument Valley with a cooler full of cold beer and wispy vapor trails overhead. You have no past and no future, but you have sunglasses and this record.
4. NEON BIBLE, by Arcade Fire
These people are circus performers, and they produce a beautiful off-kilter calliope of noise, warning us the circus is on fire. The animals are trapped in their cages. To say this isn't as good as their last record is beside the point, because it is so good. Exhilarating, elegiac, unique, grab the Thesaurus.
3. IN RAINBOWS, by Radiohead
More famous for their pay-what-you-wish internet offer, this album deserved whatever you paid and more. Intelligent electronic atmospheres and soaring vocals. If you've ever crawled into a frozen garbage can at three in the morning evading the Thought Police, then you might remember this dream.
2. BOXER, by The National
Dark brooding music and smart lyrics, just a hair from first place. I keep going back to this one, and the more I listen, the more I appreciate the irony and honesty.
You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends
when you pass them at night under the silvery, silvery Citibank lights
arm in arm in arm and eyes and eyes glazing under
oh you wouldn’t want an angel watching over
surprise, surprise they wouldn’t wanna watch...
1. KALA, by M.I.A.
Growl and jump and fly like a plane in this cultural jam. Third World beeps and radio interceptions from the wireless, with hip hop, Tamil pop, Bollywood, and a whole lot of attitude forming a fist that pounds on the door of your hummer hummer. This is the sound of the world, yeah.
M.I.A.'s Best Story Ever
"Come Around Here"
Jens Lekman, The Hold Steady, White Stripes, Peter Bjorn and John, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Les Savy Fav, the Avett Brothers, Band of Horses, Manu Chao, Against Me!, Robert Wyatt, Wilco, Of Montreal, Iron and Wine, Kanye West, Ry Cooder, Richard Thompson, Lupe Fiasco.