Kanye West – Graduation
Not as good as College Dropout OR Late Registration and it’s STILL fucking brilliant. Kanye makes the new rap standard impossibly high. Best rapper in the world right now. Fact!
Download: Can’t Tell Me Nothin’ (Great lyrics), Flashing Lights (Very Outkast-influenced).
Alicia Keys – As I Am
Quite possibly the most talented female singer/vocalist working today (and the most gorgeous!). Four years in the making, worth every minute.
Download: No One (Raw, powerful, supreme), Lesson Learned (John Mayer sings/plays incredible background vocals/guitar on this one).
BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, Vol. 2
Visitors to myspace will have heard many of the songs on this collection of live, acoustic versions of artists’ own songs or cover versions of someone else’s. Too many great tracks to name. Click here for full song list on both discs.
Download: Stronger (30 Seconds to Mars cover Kanye with quite brilliant results), Umbrella (Scottish indie trio make THE ubiquitous song of 2007 their own)
BBC Radio 1, Established 1967
A celebration album of forty years of the UKs ever-popular BBC Radio 1 (96-99 FM if you’re ever in
Download: Band on the Run (Foo Fighters actually make a better version of the already fantastic Wings hit), No Diggity (The Klaxons make a surprisingly faithful version of my personal favorite 90s R&B song)
Musiq Soulchild – Luvanmusiq
One of the few talented people working in R&B right now (i.e. someone who doesn’t just let Timbaland, Darkchild, The Neptunes, et al write all their songs for them). Relationships (of the more grown-up variety) are the ingredients for a lush and consistently re-listenable album.
Download: Ms. Philadelphia (Great example of Musiq’s vocal range and lyricism), Greatestlove (Possibly Musiq’s Greatestsong; heartfelt and true)
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
Enough has already been written about this album and Winehouse herself. Her voice is second-to-none among female vocalists right now and, probably, wouldn’t be this good were it not for her lifestyle.
Download: Rehab (of course), Me and Mr Jones (I just love the music and lyrics to this one)
Mark Ronson – Version
If you ever see this guy interviewed you think, what a wanker. Pretentious, English-yet tries to do an American accent (and fails, even though he lives in NY now), dork. However, listening to this album, the guy knows how to put together a song. One of the best producers working today. Great cover versions on this.
Download: Valerie (Amy Winehouse covers The Zutons to quite excellent effect), Oh My God (Ronson Lily Allen-ifies my favorite Kaiser Chiefs track)
Jay-Z – American Gangster
Throughout a remarkably prolific career (almost an album a year) Jay-Z has been surprisingly consistent, if not completely foolproof (ahem…The Blueprint, Roc La Familia). This album (inspired by the film) sees him at his swaggering best.
Download: Roc Boys (perfectly captures 70s NY), Fallin’ (Bilal shows why he’s one of the best R&B singers around).
Soundtrack – Across the Universe
If you love The Beatles, you’ll love this album. Period. I love The Beatles, ergo I loved this album. Get the double-CD complete soundtrack if you can (most outlets only sell the single-disc version).
Download: Across the Universe (actor Jim Sturgess does justice to one of my favorite Beatles songs), Something (Sturgess again performs, this time on George Harrison’s ode to Patti Boyd).
Soundtrack – Once
I’m not a huge Damien Rice or Ray LaMontagne fan, but the music on this album (which is similar to both of them) just works for me. Maybe it’s because I loved the movie so much (my # 1 of the year) and I actually saw the performers perform them, but I can’t stop listening to this, at work, in the car, even at the gym!
Download: Falling Slowly (best song on the album and when the two protagonists first play together in the movie), If You Want Me (Marketa Irglova’s haunting voice and piano, backed-up by Glen Hansard’s vocals and guitar).
Eric Clapton – Complete Clapton
I’d always been a fan of Clapton’s, but didn’t own much of his work. This two-disc career-spanning set was the Grail for me. All the classics are here, from Cream to Derek and the Dominoes to his solo work. Essential.
Download: (Too many to choose from but…) Crossroads (Guitar Hero got me re-interested in this guitar masterpiece from the Cream days), Layla (even though the Unplugged version kicks ass, NOTHING beats the original, especially the piano exit used to great effect by Scorsese in Goodfellas).
DMX – The Definition of X: Pick of the Litter
Back in my youthful days (early 20s) I was very much into rap. I always liked DMX because of his no-friend-having, didn’t-give-a-shit attitude. Soon, as it is with almost ALL rap, all his albums began to sound the same. This best of… package reminds me of what a great, angry voice he had (the whole album’s perfect for working out).
Download: Get At Me Dog (sing this out loud to you significant other. Watch their expression as you do the barking bit!!), What’s My Name (Holy shit, this guy’s angry!)