First, my taste is my taste. I may no concessions to what is popular. I don't list albums to make my taste seem broad. The lack of hip-hop is because I don't enjoy the sound. I don't dance and I don't party and I, therefore, leave it people who genuinely enjoy that music to vote for it. No one needs me to go around pretending. Same goes for mainstream country. I don't enjoy it.
I am not hip. These choices are mostly obscure because music I like is rarely enjoyed by large groups of people. It was like this when I was in high school and it is that way now. I do not think that most people would like the music I like if they heard it. But I have found there are a few.
By all means, feel free to list your favorites of the year in the space below generously supplied by Y! Music.
Freedy Johnston - Rain On the City (Bar None): The fact that Freedy wrote a song like "Evie's Garden" is reason enough for me to pay attention even when he isn't feeling particularly tuneful. By taking a few years off, Johnston came back sounding refreshed. "Don't Fall In Love With a Lonely Girl" makes it all worth it. Now, maybe we can teach him how to spell his name properly.
24) Eels - End Times (Vagrant): For a guy who frequently sounds like he'd rather not get out of bed, Mark Everett records a lot. As you will see, I am a very loyal type. If someone made a record I really liked at some point in their career, I keep checking back to see what they're up to. Where others move on to the next flavor of the month, I keep voting for the same old people until someone else blows them off the spot. Here's a video of "Souljacker Part 1" from a previous album to keep you amused. Dig the Unabomber look!
Retribution Gospel Choir - 2 (SubPop): The guy from Low decides he wants to make more noise. Who am I to argue with him? I liked him quiet. I like him loud. Ever since the opening track of RGC's first album, "They Knew You Well", I've been sold on this kind of poppy noise.
22) Massive Attack - Heligoland (Virgin): I've never been a Massive Attack kind of guy. But when I hear something that makes think "Not Bad," I go for it. "Atlas Air" is a good example of what they do that I like: Whispering and keyboards that sound like they're breaking. Who knows maybe I'll learn to dance?
Elvis Costello. Some great moments, but never the consistency of his earliest days. I like the lean-mean sound of "Radio Radio" and this live concert from June 4, 1978 proves that California high schools have far greater entertainment than anywhere else. I think my high school got to meet a guy with a metal plate in his head because he hydroplaned and didn't wear his seat belt!
20) Gil Scott Heron - I'm New Here (XL): From the man who gave us "Revolution Will Not Be Televised" comes this new album that lasts less than a half-hour. He covers a Smog tune and a Robert Johnson song, proving all music is equal. And he's right, Revolutions will be Wikileaked on the internet!
Scout Niblett - The Calcination of Scout Niblett (Drag City): I have a fondness for female singers who sound like they're imitating a cat clawing their way out of a bag. I like all musicians who sound like they're terminally frustrated and/or in physical pain.
18) Editors - In the Light and On This Evening (Kitchenware): I read somewhere that Editors are considered "Dark Wave." That immediately interests me even if I'm not the biggest fan of bands who revisit the 1980s Goth-rock temple. Besides, I'm a sucker for videos that take place in tunnels. "Papillon" begins that way and features lots of first-rate running.
My Morning Jacket, who are quite OK, but I find myself seduced, spellbound and generally intrigued by the beautiful ordinariness of this fine solo album. "Carried Away" is the kind of deceptively simple song that sounds easy to write, but few write it anyhow!
16) Robert Plant - Band of Joy (Rounder): While "Angel Dance" is the track getting much of the attention, I like his take on Townes Van Zandt's "Harm's Swift Way" even more. Never being much of a Led Zeppelin fan and having zero interest in Plant's solo career, this sudden turn of events is strange to me.
Danzig - Deth Red Saboeth (EvilLive/The End): Here's a weird one. The Misfits and Samhain aside, I've never been a Glenn Danzig fan. Is it the two 'N's in his name? Is it my prejudice against guys from Lodi, NJ? Whatever it is, it lifted for this raw collection of out of time singing and garage-rock inspired metal riffing. Vocals that sound like a guy yelling over a crowded restaurant get me everytime! "Hammer of the Gods" for sure!
14) Grinderman - Grinderman 2 (Mute): Following in the blueprint of their first album, Nick Cave's Grinderman is further proof that the Birthday Party were a great band. Not nearly as chaotic, Grinderman still deliver a true hard punk kick that no emo band has ever come close to hitting. "Heathen Child" is my idea of a good time.
Robin Trower - The Playful Heart (V-12 Records): Robin Trower has been one of the most underrated artists since people began rating them. Everyone knows him to be a great guitar player (and his tone remains amazing), but he's also a fine singer. The songs here are worthy companions to "Bridge of Sighs".
12) Chocolate Genius Incorporated - Swansongs (One Little Indian): Marc Anthony Thompson is a great musician. I'm a sucker for albums that sound like a guy at death's door. Slow and brooding is for me what happy and upbeat is for others.
Sharon Van Etten - Epic (Badabing): Sharon Van Etten has a voice that is tough and full, yet gentle and seducing. "One Day" is a great example of her ability to take a melody and follow it wherever the notes take her. I don't think she was born on the side of a mountain and raised by wolves, but if it makes you check her out, well, then, I guess it's true!
10) The Gilded Palace of Sin - You Break Our Hearts, We'll Tear Yours Out (Central Control): No, not the Flying Burrito Brothers album. But a British group who use ukulele and therimin to increase the ferocity of their Cave-Bad Seeds attack. "Mean Old Jack" is positively killer. "There Is No Evil There is No Good" sounds like it was scored for a film noir.
Sun Kil Moon - Admiral Fell Promises (Caldo Verde): "Lost Verses" from April was epic. But this album is filled with gentle little nylon-stringed guitar pieces that make you want to water plants. And if you buy the vinyl edition, you get what must be the best liner notes ever written!
8) Ra Ra Riot - The Orchard (Barsuk): I've read somewhere that the first album is better but I heard this one first, so I'm sticking with it. This isn't rocket science, people! It's like eating. You get hungry. You eat something. Formed in Syracuse, NY, where people's brains are often frozen for sport, Ra Ra Riot use their not-so-secret weapon, singer Wes Miles, to make everything sound profound. The orchestration is key! But the sound of "Boy" is pure New Wave.
Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love (Matador): I've gone up and down with these folks. But any album that has a song as great as "Calculating Bimbo" makes my top 10 without haste!
6) Philip Selway - Familial (Nonesuch): It figures. I don't care for Radiohead, but their drummer, Philip Selway, makes an album I keep playing. "By Some Miracle" is a nice introduction, but the whole album is what I call a WINNER! A sullen, depressed winner. Throw in the ever-popular "Sounds Like Nick Drake pile!"
Blue Water White Death - Blue Water White Death (Graveface): Featuring Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg and Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart, Blue Water White Death is the kind of collaboration that would never, for a variety of reasons, be allowed in Hitler's Germany. Remember, forbidden fruit tastes sweetest. And by enjoying this album, you'll be taking a stand against one of the world's most ruthless and despised dictators!
4) Badly Drawn Boy - It's What I'm Thinking 1: Photographing Snowflakes (The End): Here's an artist whose albums have mostly disinterested me. He used the wrong producers. Now, with his hype mostly passed, he makes music that makes me think I have made a new friend. You think he'll stab me in the back with his next album? "In Safe Hands" sets the tone.
Damien Jurado - Saint Barlett (Secretly Canadian): Damien's version of Bruce Springsteen's "Wages of Sin" is one great cover. I've voted for nearly every album Damien Jurado. And I will continue to do so, as long as he makes albums that I enjoy listening to. When he stops, I will get really into Steampunk!
2) Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs - God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise (RCA): I've really come to like this guy. Not for the husky blues shouters or the Band-like Americana look, but for the songs where he whispers like he's about to die. "Like Rock & Roll and Radio" just kills me. And "New York City's Killing Me" kills me, too. It is something I would relate to if I lived in the Big Apple, since I'm not comfortable around large groups of people.
Matt Boroff - Reaching For Sparks (Lo-End Records): American-born, Austrian-exile, Matt Boroff has been quietly releasing albums and recording film scores for the past decade, with and without his band, the Mirrors. However, Reaching For Sparks is the album that changes life as we know it. It's a despair pit of existential tunes like "Dead Dead Leaves" and "Scattering Ashes" where the Mark Lanegan-Tom Waits-Captain Beefheart influences turn into their own stunning Boroffian language. If you can't dig "They're On Their Way", why do I know you?
Not just a great album, but an important part of a balanced diet. Y! Music's List Of The Day names it "Album Of The Year."