With the Grammy nominations announced today, I decided to post my list of the top albums for the year, which is quite different.
- Neon Bible, Arcade Fire I’m completely hooked on this album. The songs stick in your head with irresistible hooks. They make great use of unusual instruments like a hurdy-gurdy and church organ.
- Kala, M.I.A. I still prefer Arular, but this album is a worthy follow-up with great songs like “Jimmy”.
- Rokku Mi Rokka, Youssou N’dour Great catchy songs and a great voice. A bit different than his usual material. Ashley Maher (see #4) wrote the song “Boul Bayékou”.
- Flying over Bridges, Ashley Maher If you like Senegalese rhythms but are looking for a more mainstream “pop diva” style with English vocals, this album is for you.
- Hvarf – Heim, Sigur Ros Half of the album is live versions of older songs, but it’s their most beautiful music ever.
- Dub Qawwali, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Gaudi Most remixes of the Qawwali master are awful, but this one is an exception. These are fresh sounding Reggae arrangements, released 10 years after Khan’s death.
- Super Taranta, Gogol Bordello This is their best album yet. The music is their most energetic and it moves pretty far beyond their Gypsy Punk genre.
- Don’t Mess with the Dragon, Ozomatli I was lucky enough to see their free show at Apple’s WWDC, which inspired me to buy this album the next day. “Magnolia Soul” is their best song ever.
- In Rainbows, Radiohead I bought this album to support their experiment and I wasn’t disappointed. Most of the songs are more upbeat than usual.
- Twelve, Patti Smith A worthy comeback album with unexpected cover versions of songs like “White Rabbit”, “The Boy in the Bubble”, and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
Narrowly missing my top 10 were “Volta” by Bjork, “Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur” (various artists), “Icky Thump” by The White Stripes, and “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” by Spoon.
If you consider reissues, “Mothership (Remastered)” by Led Zeppelin would be near the top of my list. I haven’t listened to some of those songs since I was a kid and I forgot how great they are.