Next Review

"Getting a Yearful"

by Jim Farber

New York Daily News

December 24, 2006
The most listenable CDs came with a bang, not a whimper

Enough bitching.

All year, musicians, executives and critics have carped that rap lost its sense of adventure to the dumbed-down sleaze of crunk, that rock sacrificed its substance to the airy pleasures of pop, and that songs meant to be heard by no one older than 8 have taken over the mainstream (the High School Musical scourge).

But that's far from the whole story. If you peek below the charts' moneyed heights, you'll find scores of terrifically talented artists engaged in earnest toil.

This year, more than any in memory, I had a tough time hacking down my forest-thick list of favorite CDs to a twiggy Top 10. (How will I possibly make it up to Joan Osbourne's Pretty Little Stranger or Solomon Burke's Nashville, both of which missed the mark by mere inches?)

Such CDs appear on a list of more than 60 albums that all had strong dibs on the Top 10. Each deserves to be spun and savored.

Those who do will find that rap actually produced some of the most verbally astute and sonically hard music since its heyday (we have the Clipse and Pitbull to thank for that). They'll discover rock as adventurous as anything sown in the '60s (kudos to the Mars Volta), not to mention commercial R&B that bucks the genre's smarmiest stereotypes (cheers to Donnell Jones and Jaheim), plus songwriters who spin lyrics with enough density and bravery to make Joni Mitchell proud (Joe Pernice and Neil Hannon, take a bow).

Readers who hear these artists' work will likely come to a rare realization: These are the good old days...

6. Anjani Thomas, Blue Alert

Leonard Cohen's backup singer (as well as his lover) ransacked the great bard's notebooks to unearth stray, leftover lyrics, which, it turns out, tower over most other writers' finest lines. Thomas then matched Cohen's words to her own melodies of woe. The combination of her blue-hued voice and jazzy tunes with Cohen's impeccable verse created literature you can hum...

Next Review