Along with Radiohead, Beck is probably one of the most consistently innovative performers working today. For "Modern Guilt," he teamed with Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley fame) to record a psychedelic, '60s-influenced record. The album is a brief but tight song-cycle and it continues his line of classics. Read my original review.
"Soul of a Man"
After a long career as a '90s alt-rock also-ran, Juliana Hatfield delivers her best album to date by far. It's a smart, gorgeous, well-crafted record. Andy Chase (of Brookville and Ivy) produced the set and he gives it a spacy depth. Guests include Richard Butler from the Psychedelic Furs, Matthew Caws of Nada Surf and Tracy Bonham. Hatfield has long deserved an album this great, so this is indeed a welcome surprise. Read my original review.
"This Lonely Love" (with Richard Butler)
"The Fact Remains"
"Such a Beautiful Girl" (with Matthew Caws)
I didn't go into "Narrow Stairs" expecting to like it but it's a stunning set. It rocks harder than you'd expect and has more highlights than you might expect, too. Ben Gibbard has reined in his cloying lyrical tendencies to create something amazing. In short, this album truly justifies all the hype Death Cab have ever received. They have won me over and they just might win you over, too. If you think you might not like it, you really should give it a listen anyway. It's career-making gold. Read my original review.
"Your New Twin Sized Bed"
"I Will Possess Your Heart"
Forget the excessive hype around Lil Wayne. The best hip-hop album of the year was by Q-tip. The former leader of A Tribe Called Quest had not released an album in nine years. His 2002 album "Kamaal The Abstract" had been shelved by his label claiming it wasn't commercial enough. For any Tribe fan, "The Renaissance" is mandatory listening. It recalls Tip's work with Tribe and yet breaks new ground. Live instrumentation sits beside dusty samples and he proves himself to be a true artist. Listening to this record, as with any Tribe album, it's evident that he has never been about making the easy hit. He's in it for the love of the music and his passion shows through. In the pop-driven world of hip-hop, he's a rare artist who will always keep his integrity. This is a masterpiece. Perhaps he will now find some way to release the canceled "Kamaal the Abstract." It's an album many fans are dying to hear. Read my original review.
"Life Is Better" (with Norah Jones)
"Johnny Is Dead"