The second half of the 2005 Twenty (the first half was presented in the previous post below):
Los Super Seven – Heard it on the X
The very tasty third album by the loose collective known as Los Super Seven, celebrates Border Radio in all of its glory, invoking the living spirits of Doug Sahm (represented here with two cuts), Buddy Holly, and all of other great musicians who ever had their joyful noises beamed unabashedly from
Shelby Lynne – Suit Yourself
Stripping away excess production and musical embellishment, Ms. Lynne finds her homespun soul in this spare, relaxed set of songs. From the mournful stroll of “I Cry Everyday” to the graceful ode “When Johnny Met June” to the sprightly kiss off “You Don’t Have the Heart” to the simmering, bluesy take on the classic “Rainy Night in Georgia”, Lynne (who wrote all but two of the songs) and a crack set of players…including Benmont Tench and Tony Joe White (who wrote the other two songs)…offer up tart, unadorned, great music.
Van Morrison – Magic Time
Magic Time touches on most of Morrison’s favorite latter day touchstones: the majesty of the blues, love (the beautiful “Celtic New Year”, the rocking “Evening Train”), odes to self-reliance and solitude (the earnest “Keep Mediocrity at Bay”, the wistful “Gypsy in my Soul”, the delightfully tongue-in-cheek “Just Like Greta”, the title song’s enchanting “stop and smell the roses” plea), and acerbic jibes against the invasiveness of fame (the world-weary “The Lion This Time”, the rueful “They Sold Me Out”.) But these familiar themes are no less engaging since the disc finds Van in fine, feisty voice backed by an ace band that knows how to swing, how to soothe, how to work contours of the music as each song needs (Morrison contributes wailing harmonica and subtle guitar playing to several cuts as well as some lovely alto sax work on the opening “Stranded”.)
New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
Anchored by singer/songwriter/guitarist A.C. Newman and the luminous Neko Case, the Pornographers deliver another sterling set of pop/rock gems ably abetted by newcomers Kathryn Calder and Nora O’Connor.
Bruce Springsteen – Devils and Dust
This collection is filled with atmospheric, insightful stories mostly told in a burnished, heartfelt twang that suits these fine songs to a tee. It’s a quiet…not as stark as
Sufjan Stevens –
The second disc (following
Kanye West – Late Registration
I guess it ain’t bragging if you can do it. Egocentric Bush-basher West delivers the goods with great hooks, nimble…unapologetic, clear-eyed, sometimes caustically funny, sometimes profane, sometimes bitterly sad…rhymes, judiciously chosen samples (Shirley Bassey, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Natalie Cole, Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott-Heron) and guest stars (including Common, Jay-Z, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, Brandy, Nas, and of course, as anybody who listened the radio this year knew, Jamie Foxx.) It’s too late to hope for moratorium on “skits” on hip hop CDs so I won’t bother to ask for one here.
White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan
There are more piano and marimbas and fewer guitar solos and yet it’s still the Whites rocking hard (and slowing it down for delicate ballads when they want and need to.) One spin of the throbbing “My Doorbell” or the crunchy “Blue Orchid” is all it takes to dispel any notion that Jack and Meg might have gone soft.
Neil Young – Prairie Wind
This is the quiet Neil…as opposed to the rocking grunge Neil who turns the amps up to 11 with Crazy Horse…putting his fragile but compelling voice and his introspective lyrics into a sonic tapestry anchored by guitars (slide, acoustic, and steel), harmonicas, and sweet harmonies. Prairie Wind is a soothing, contemplative delight of a record, of a piece with other “quiet Neil” gems like Harvest, Comes a Time, and Harvest Moon.
Zucchero – Zucchero & Company
The Italian pop/R&B star shares the mike with a host of his influences and admirers…John Lee Hooker, Macy Gray, Jeff Beck, Sting, B.B. King, Miles Davis, Delores O’Riordan, Solomon Burke, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Cheb Mami, Paul Young, Mana, Vanessa Carlton…for a shimmering set of soulful duets recorded over the years 1988-2003.