See which albums and songs the EW pop-culture columnist named as his favorites from the past 12 months
The advice from my mother that I think of most often: ”If you can’t say something nice, just shut up and smile.” You might think of those words of wisdom, should you look for certain highly touted 2007 CDs below and not find them. In truth, your Uncle Stevie was disappointed with this year’s new music, very disappointed indeed, and his year-end list reflects that. I could only find seven albums I wanted to mention, but there is a bright side: I’ve added my favorite songs of the year. Download ’em and burn your own CD, how about that? And if you think my list sucks, you can drop me a line on the message board. Or just shut up and smile. The latter option would probably be less trouble for both of us. Might I add, while I’m at it, that I’m haunted — as with the lists of movies and books that will follow in good time — by all the good stuff I may have missed? There’s just too much out there, and life is too short. But now, with no further ado…
STEVE’S BEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR!
7. Countrypolitan Favorites, Southern Culture on the Skids
Are you mourning Porter Wagoner? Still bumming over Buck (Owens, that is)? Here’s the perfect cheer-up medicine: 15 old-timey country faves, dressed up in rockin’ clothes courtesy of Rick Miller’s surf guitar. Best cut is probably ”Engine Engine #9,” with Rick Miller sounding eerily like the late great Roger Miller, but Mary Huff’s upbeat take on ”Rose Garden” (Lynn Anderson did the original) is also a marvel.
6. Revival, John Fogerty
A little uneven, and probably not his absolute best work, but still impossible not to turn up and dance to; this is straight-ahead old-school rock. Fogerty has stayed true to the swampy stuff he does the best, and on songs like ”Don’t You Wish It Was True” and ”Somebody Help Me,” he hits that ole Creedence groove dead-on (and Fogerty always was Creedence).
5. Black Rain, Ozzy Osbourne
It’s amazing that Ozzy can do this sort of thing at all anymore, let alone so well. Finest heavy metal record of the year; a true speaker-buster. Best track is the amazing ”I Don’t Wanna Stop.” Slipknot, eat your filthy little heart out.
4. It’s Not Big It’s Large, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
This is a terrific Texas swing album, but of course not everybody likes Texas swing (or even knows what it is). What makes it special is Lovett’s vermouth-dry vocals and his equally dry wit. In the dry-wit department, check out ”All Downhill.”
3. Life in Cartoon Motion, MIKA
An incredibly accomplished debut, and a voice that bears an eerie resemblance to Freddie Mercury’s. This one lived all summer on my car’s CD player, especially ”Lollipop.”
2. Sky Blue Sky, Wilco
No audio tricks and/or experimentation this time, only a set of gorgeously simple tunes and class-A writing. Jeff Tweedy has never been sweeter, more controlled, or in better voice. Not a bad cut on the album. Even the cover art’s beautiful.
1. Washington Square Serenade, Steve Earle
This is the prolific Earle’s best album since he got out of jail (a statement that only seems perfectly rational when discussing rock & roll). It’s what we called ”folk rock” back in the day, but it’s more than that; songs like ”City of Immigrants” and ”Down Here Below” (which concerns Manhattan’s flying urban legend Pale Male) are paragraphs in Earle’s love note to New York. On ”Tennessee Blues” he bids a sad, not-so-fond farewell to the Guitar Town. (”Bound for New York City, and I won’t be back no more.”) Of all the albums I heard this year, it’s the only one that fulfilled my expectations on every level.
STEVE’S MIX ’07
I don’t think you need many explanations about this mix; the songs either explain themselves, or they don’t. All I need tell you is that yes, they’re all downloadable; yes, I heard them all for the first time in 2007, and most, but not all, are from this year; and yes, every one of them blissed me out. I played them over and over until my wife threatened to divorce me…or just stab me repeatedly with the kitchen scissors (and no jury in America would have convicted her). They are listed from the least played (about 12 times in the case of ”Radio Nowhere”) to the most played (which would be about 50, putting me squarely in stabbed-in-the-kitchen territory).
I know I’ll get hazed about some selections (James Blunt?? Brad Paisley???), but my dear old mother also used to tell me that honesty’s the best policy. This is as honest as I can be. So there. And let’s hope next year is a little bit better.
18. ”Radio Nowhere”
16. ”Nothing Changes Around Here”
14. ”Homo Erectus”
Ray Benson and Reckless Kelly
13. ”Bring It on Home to Me”
12. ”I’m Shipping Up to Boston”
11. ”Radar Gun”
The Bottle Rockets
9. ”Same Mistake”
8. ”Up in Indiana”
Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
7. ”Right Moves”
6. ”Wait for Love”
5. ”Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
4. ”Jericho Road”
3. ”Get Your Biscuits in the Oven (and Your Buns in Bed)”
2. ”Down the Road Tonight”
1. ”Either Way”