So, I'm finally going to list these things out and I want to start with ten records that didn't make the cut, but where pretty awesome nonetheless. In no order...
Jenny Lewis - "Acid Tongue". There hasn't been a record this year that I've been more back and forth on than "Acid Tongue".There are great songs on the record - "Acid Tongue", "Sing a Song For Them", "Godspeed", "Pretty Bird" - but there are also some plenty-fine-though-not-memorable ones as well - "Jack Killed Mom", "Bad Man's World", "Black Sand" - and there's the problem. Jenny set the bar too high on her last set of solo material, the brilliant "Rabbit Fur Coat", which had no filler whatsoever. "Acid Tongue" is fine and listenable and at it's best pretty damn great, but it just don't live up to its predecessor.
My Morning Jacket - "Evil Urges". "Evil Urges" was a rather divisive record. Some people straight hated it. Not me. I'm one of the eight people in the world who actually likes "Highly Suspicious." While there was certainly a good deal of departure from the expected MMJ sound, songs like "I'm Amazed" and "Sec Walkin'" kept it recognizable and anchored a really nice record.
Lykke Li - "Youth Novels". Swallow this, America - we live in a world where Lykke Li is not a pop superstar. Unbelievable. Youth Novels is a great pop record spearheaded by a number of absolute PERFECT pop singles ("I'm Good, I'm Gone" and "Little Bit"). But, alas she's probably a little too raw, a little too honest and most damningly too smart for the rest of the world. Which is unfortunate, but we'll keep her for ourselves...for now.
Tim Fite - "Fair Ain't Fair". Man, is Tim Fite great and he is criminally underrated. Last year, he released an online only record for free called "Over the Counterculture" which was a serious and highly political affair. It was excellent, but it wasn't necessarily fun. Enter "Fair Ain't Fair" - a kitchen-sink gem that served as the perfect antidote. Songs like "Sing Along" ("One more time for the la-di-da, three more times for the ba-ba-ba, we wanna, we wanna, we wanna la-la-la"), "Big Mistake" and "Yesterday's Garden" contributed to the best BBQ, not to mention hip-hop, record of the year.
Be Your Own Pet - "Get Awkward". "Get Awkward" was a strange swan song for Tennessee's Be Your Own Pet seeing as how three songs (including the record's best "Becky") were removed from the US version by their record label because they were deemed "too violent". Even without them, however "Get Awkward" was a ton of fun and BYOP's youthful vigor was in full force. It may not have been as good as their "pretty close to perfect" debut, but it was still good enough to make BYOP's breakup one of the most unfortunate in recent memory.
Kathleen Edwards - "Asking For Flowers". Kathleen Edwards ain't showy, but damn is she good. First and foremost, Edwards can spin a yarn, which she'd been doing over two sterling records prior to "Flowers". She's on par with some of the best songwriters currently working and her records continue to be reliable, if not wheel reinventing, gems.
Randy Newman - "Harps and Angels". People who think Randy Newman is just that guy who writes songs for Disney movies are wildly misinformed. At his best, Newman is the sharpest and funniest social critic and boy oh boy, does he hate President Bush. "Harps and Angels" is THE definitive protest record of the Bush administration, but besides that it's a fun listen and great to have Newman back pissed off.
Torche - "Meanderthal". Torche's "Meanderthal" is the best metal record I heard all year. It's kind of like anti-metal. Sure there's heavy, sludgy riffs, but oftentimes these are coupled with actual melodies making "Meanderthal" the best metal pop metal record since Queens of the Stone Age's classic "Songs For the Deaf".
Alejandro Escovedo - "Real Animal". "Real Animal" is simple good old fashioned rock 'n roll and who better to do it than Escovedo, a true rock 'n roll lifer and one hell of a songwriter. "Real Animal" looks back on a life made exciting and meaningful because of rock 'n roll. "Real Animal" is, at times, poignant, but never cheesy and producer Tony Visconti helps shape Escovedo's best record in a long time.
The Mountain Goats - "Heretic Pride". John Darnielle can stop surprising people already. He can rest on his laurels if he'd like, but it's as though he physically can't. Every Mountain Goats record is great...all of them. And his live show is consistently awesome. For "Heretic Pride" Darnielle has gone back to writing about characters, rather than himself, and the result is something approaching sublime, just listen to "San Bernadino" - it's simple and gorgeous and just may be my favorite Mountain Goats song yet.