1. Femi Kuti – Shoki Shoki (MCA)
Easily the best record made by the son of legendary musician, since Jeff
Buckley’s “Grace. Femi’s afro-beat debut expands on his father (Fela’s) work, with pulsing brass and keyboards.
2. Yo La Tengo – And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (Matador)
For fifteen years Yo La Tengo has been subtly refining their genre-bending brand of dream-rock. This record is their best yet, and will remain so until they release their next- this is a great pattern.
3. St. Germain – Tourist (Blue Note)
Killer jazz grooves from French composer Ludovic Navarre that blends a purist’s love of jazz with a finger on the pulse of dance and fusion electronic beats. Created for those too old to rave but to not too old to tap their feet.
4. Dmitri From Paris – A Night At The Playboy Mansion (Astralwerks)
Like a brilliant slice of non-cheese 70’s funk’n’disco, mixed with a layer of 21st century electronica, makes that party thumper both old and new school.
5. PJ Harvey – Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea (Island)
This record is far and away the most accessible and most melodic record of her esteemed career. Incredibly intense vocals, dark catchy guitar melodies and powerfully emotive lyrics make this rock.
6. Bebel Gilberto – Tanto Tempo (Six Degrees)
The daughter of Joao and Astrud, “Tanto Tempo” is a fresh bossa nova songbook featuring luscious Bebel’s luscious sultry vocals, and perfect instrumental compositions.
7. Thievery Corporation – Mirror Conspiracy (18th Street Lounge)
This is easily my favorite pure electronic record of the year featuring lilting vocals from a variety of guest singers, and some of the most crisply produced music of the year.
8. Neon Heights – View From The Heights (Glasgow Underground)
A cross between Everything But the Girl and Air, Neon Heights creates mellow electronic dance music better for lounging than dancing, but also better for candles than halogen.
8. Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour Of Bewilderment (BeggarsBanquest)
Perfect pop songs as musically diverse as any record in many years, as much the brethren of Nick Drake as with Radiohead. Jazzy, funky, raucous and poetic.
10. Ida – Will You Find Me (TigerStyle)
Album number 4 is another proud step towards solidifying themselves as the best band no one outside of NYC has ever heard. Powerful, hushed, intense, introspective quiet rock.
11. Travis – The Man Who (Sony)
I will always be a sucker for pure melodic vocally ambitious pop music, and Travis has finally hit a stride in a way that Radiohead did on their sophomore effort. Glasgow’s finest are fine indeed.
12. Tahiti 80 – Puzzle (Minty Fresh)
French bubblegum lounge pop, as good any sugar-pop record as anything to come from Europe since the pre-sellout Cardigans.
12. Richard Davies – Barbarian (Kindercore)
Aussie born folk/pop singer Davies, blends mild psychedelia with killer lyrics and incredibly hummable melodies as he takes a series of memorable road trips from Amsterdam to Palo Alto.
14. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker (Bloodshot)
The lead singer of Whiskeytown’s debut solo record is as pleasantly country as it is Dylanesque, wailing with all contemporary heartache and you need to pull off naked fusion country music.
15. Mark Kozelek – Rock and Roll Singer (Badman)
Red House Painter Kozelek, has been hibernating for the past few years in the wake of label disputes and acting forays (Almost Famous), but these seven solo electric folk songs were worth the wait.
16. ColdPlay – Parachutes (Parlaphone)
Somewhere between the self-confident swagger of Oasis and the often Buckleyesque vocals, this album reaffirms that the next British pop invasion will be a good one.
17. Clem Snide – Your Favorite Music (Sire)
For some the sad slow country folk songs crooned by the unpretentious NYC quartet, may be more sleep inducing than uplifting, but there is something so pristine about the patient ballads that remind us that simple music is often the best.
18. Beachwood Sparks – Beachwood Sparks (SubPop)
For an LA band to have produced such a perfect tribute to Gram Parsons/Byrds country-folk, free-spirited California is a refreshing surprise – and for that I am thankful.
19. Richard Ashcraft – Alone With Everybody (Virgin)
Gone again is the powerful wall-of-sound intensity that was The Verve, but Ashcraft’s much-awaited solo debut is a rock record, harkening the spirits of the original British invaders.