The Grammys have had their say, and to no one's surprise they mostly got the year in music wrong. The BC Magazine music editors have come together to help get you headed in the right direction. Ignore the Grammys, buy these records instead!
Josh Hathaway: Peter Karp – Shadows and Cracks
This is probably the least suspense-filled choice of the entire group because I announced my choice when I interviewed the man behind it on the B-Sides Concept Album program for BlogTalk Radio. What can I say about this album that I haven't said before throughout the past year (BC Magazine review/Fanboy)? Plenty!
Shadows and Cracks is such a versatile record that it's impossible not to love. This is the album you start with tomorrow when you get showered in gift cards by all the people in your life. Karp has crafted a record that blends influences and styles with songwriting good enough to stand next to Dylan, Dixon, Lennon, Waits, Prine, and Hiatt.
It's high praise, but I mean every word of it. Consider this: everyone I've turned on to this album has liked it. You will, too. Essential is not a strong enough word. Fuckin' well mandatory comes closest.
Connie Phillips: Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full
It's not a well kept secret. There's a special place in my heart for pop music and another corner reserved for anything retro. Memory Almost Full, released June 4, isn’t what I'd call a throwback, not in the least. It did, however, have some very familiar threads running through it. Like an evening with an old friend, or a cozy sweater, it felt warm and familiar. These songs came from the same place inside McCartney his earlier tunes with The Beatles and Wings did and six months later, I still pop the CD in, or call it up on the iPod.
When the CD was released in June, I wrote a sneak peek article and much of what I said then still holds true. From the light airy feel of "Dance Tonight" and "That Was Me" to the more surreal "The End of The End" and "Feet in the Clouds," the album has remained a staple in my collection.
A.L. Harper: A Fine Frenzy – One Cell in the Sea
She calls herself A Fine Frenzy but was born Alison Sudol, and she is easily one of the most talented and promising newcomers of 2007. He debut album, One Cell in the Sea, is a magnificent alternative singer-songwriter concoction full of haunting melodies, stripped back piano, and raw, vulnerable lyrics. This atmospheric album is as much artistry as mainstream music can be. With alt-folk sensibilities, this 23-year-old has crafted an album that is fresh and nostalgic together. Reminding you of Bjork, Aqualung, and Radiohead in turns, One Cell in the Sea should have gotten so much more attention than it has. But so is the way of a new artist.
A Fine Frenzy is far from being poppy or conventional but is still captivating and accessible. Her rich hypnotic vocals weave a tapestry of portentous emotions, while lulling the listener into a quiet, melancholic frame of mind. It's rare to hear major label artists these days who can so perfectly express such deep, sometimes troubling, sometimes passionate emotions with such power and true depth of feeling. After listening to One Cell in the Sea you'll be blinded by her subtle, waves-crashing-on-the-rocks voice and the power of her intense lyrics, and finally you'll be enchanted by her charisma and intelligence. One Cell in the Sea and A Fine Frenzy must not be missed.
Glen Boyd: Bruce Springsteen – Magic
Now this is more like it. When Bruce Springsteen reunited with the E Street Band in 2002 for The Rising — their first studio album together in nearly twenty years — as good it was, it still felt like something was missing. Perhaps due to the heaviness of the 9/11 theme, the album just seemed to lack that spark that has always made Springsteen's live performances with the E Street Band so special.
With this year's much anticipated Magic, Springsteen and The E Street Band came roaring back with their biggest sounding rock and roll album since the seventies heyday of albums like Born To Run. It's all here. The big drums of Max Weinberg, the carnival keyboards of Roy Bittan and Danny Federici, and of course the unmistakable saxophone of Clarence "Big Man" Clemons, (which was inexplicably downplayed on The Rising). Songs like "Livin' In The Future" and "Last To Die" recall the Jersey Shore swagger of those earlier E Street albums, while Bruce's lyrics remain as topical (and critical of current administration policy) as ever. Meanwhile, the urban romanticism of that same period is echoed in the lush pop of "Girls In Their Summer Clothes."
Best of all, by all accounts the songs sound amazing as performed live on Springsteen's current tour with the E Street Band. The big noise is back.
Nancy Dunham: Ryan Shaw – This is Ryan Shaw
Choosing an album of the year is a daunting task in this field of incredible contenders. Amy Winehouse, Feist, Paramore, and many others have produced amazing music this year.
But one album strikes me as especially worthy of “album of the year” honors because it proves that there is hope that the beloved Motown sound won’t die out with the last of the era’s original performers.
This is Ryan Shaw, a 12-tune CD released in August and featuring the 26-year-old Shaw of Decatur, Georgia, has injected a huge dose of excitement into those of us who love classic Motown.
The CD, which includes classic tunes by songwriters including Ashford and Simpson (“I’m Your Man”) and Holland, Dozier, Holland (“Working on a Building of Love”), and some originals, is almost like a musical trip to the 1960s-era Motor City.
What’s interesting is that Shaw grew up in an extremely religious household and hadn’t heard any rhythm and blues growing up. Suffice to say, once he heard them and turned his strong, emotional voice to them, angels sang in R&B heaven.
Not only does Shaw have the vocal range to pull off such classics as “I Found a Love” (Wilson Pickett) but his originals, including “Nobody” and “We Got Love,” sound as if they came right from the Motown hit writing machine.