It's late and you may be tired from the rush of the season. You still need a few more presents. This is where I come in. There were a pile of records that I fell in love with this year. Some of them I reviewed while others languished on my desk, victims of a year full of events designed to keep me out of my listening room. Given the season, it only seems fair to let these albums out into the sun to play with some of my other favorites.
So here are my recommendations for your last minute shopping needs. Why pick up that cheapo CD of holiday music at the gas station when you can take the advice of a guy who has a large collection of music that sounds like a herd of cats?
Uh… Merry Christmas everybody.
Susanne Abbuehl – Compass
Mixing poetry and music can be a recipe for disaster. Not here. Not at all.
Lindsay Buckingham – Under The Skin
There's no denying that Lindsay Buckingham knows how to put together a tune. On this solo record, he flings beautiful guitar lines all over the place. I was hooked from the first listen.
Nels Cline – New Monastery
A tribute to the music of Andrew Hill? Yes. That and Cline's guitar chasing around the clarinet. Really wonderful stuff.
Depeche Mode – The Best Of Vol. 1
I'm not big on best-of collections, but this one hangs together better than most. Somehow I've managed to not buy Violator. At least now I can listen to "Personal Jesus" whenever I want.
Andrey Dergatchev – The Return
Soundscapes. Foggy tropes. Muffled voices. Mesmerizing.
The Ditty Bops – Moon Over The Freeway
In the mood for a quirky pop tune? Better yet, how about a quirky pop tune with gorgeous harmonies? Why this group isn't famous is a mystery to me.
Neil Diamond – 12 Songs
I'm not kidding.
Dixie Chicks – Taking The Long Way
Yes, they're not really "country." Yes, they're communists. Yes, this is a great record.
Ornette Coleman – Sound Grammar
It's an official event in the jazz world whenever Ornette releases something. This record is a stunning example of what Ornette's "Harmolodics" can do.
Bob Dylan – Modern Times
This made a lot of critic's top 10 lists, deservedly so. Like Tom Waits, Dylan is his own genre.
Guster – Ganging Up On The Sun
This danged record stirred up all sorts of fun this year. It all started with the single "One Man Wrecking Machine," perhaps the best pop song of the year.
Pat Metheny & Brad Mehldau – Metheny/Mehldau
What's more amazing? The fact that Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau together sound so incredibly simpatico, or that I managed to not review this disc? Just guitar and piano. Tremendous.
My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade
Pop pop. Punk. Emo. Whatever. This record rocks hard from start to finish. Don't let the Liza Minnelli cameo scare you.
New York Dolls – One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This
The two surviving memberes of the original Dolls (David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain) give us an updated glam fest. Turn it up very, very loud and just try to keep driving below the speed limit.
Michael O'Neill – Ontophony
The best bagpipe record I've ever heard. Seriously!
Peeping Tom – Peeping Tom
I've been accused of buying this disc because I wanted to hear Norah Jones utter the word "motherf*cker." Well, the truth is that…OK, I bought this disc because I wanted to hear Norah Jones utter the word "motherf*cker." So sue me.
Bruce Springsteen – The Seeger Sessions
For me, this is the record of the year. Every time I put it on the pure joy and passion just knocks me out. The shows were even more stunning.
Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope
Spektor should be a household name. Yea, people said that about Kate Bush too. Wait, I think I said that about Kate Bush! Fantastic and weird songs combined with a lovely voice.
Tom Waits – Orphans
Good gawd, the man is a veritable Fort Knox of ideas. From barroom stompers to pensive ballads to clattering percussion to spoken word oddities. Waits reciting Bukowski? Yes, please! Waits is the weird uncle you're fascinated by and scared of at the same time. You still love him though.
The Who – Endless Wire
Townshend and Daltry put out the best Townshend solo record of recent memory.