Best of 2007 Staff Picks

Our favorites from the year 2007, the best we could choose on any given day.


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Claudia Marshall | Julianne Welby | Darren DeVivo | Dennis Elsas | Corny O'Connell | Rita Houston | John Platt | Pete Fornatale | Russ Borris | Sarah Wardrop | Alisa Ali | George Evans | Bob Sherman | Laura Fedele | Jim O'Hara | Shari Rosen Ascher | Joey Delvecchio
Blog Discussions: Best of 2007 | Biggest Disappointments

Claudia Marshall

FUV Weekday Morning Host

Albums:

  • Anders Osborne - Coming Down
    Authentic, acoustic, moving music from New Orleans. Check out the bass part; it's a sousaphone! The songwriter is both raw and tender, the production pristine. No screaming guitar solos here, just good, quality craft.
  • Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrapha
    Brilliant pop, literate lyrics and crazy looping somehow add up to solid songs.
  • Joan as Police Woman - Real Life
    I want to be Joan Wasser when I grow up. There is something truly fresh here, heartfelt and yes, real.
  • Joe Henry - Civilians
    The go-to producer is also the thinking person's songwriter. His best record yet.
  • Soulive - No Place Like Home
    Uptown funk, downtown attitude. With an amazing new lead singer.
  • John Hammond - Push Comes to Shove
    The great bluesman writes his own damn songs! John Hammond meets G. Love and the result speaks for themselves.
  • Radiohead - In Rainbows
    Buy it. Pay for it. It's worth it.
  • Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade
    The angry young man grows up, gets married (again) and falls in love with New York City. Welcome home, Steve.
  • Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
    His stint at Town Hall made a believer out of me. Especially the overhead projector. To say nothing of David and Gillian!
  • Mark Ronson - Version
    Too fun to be denied.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Ruthie Foster - The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster
    The title says it all
  • Sharon Jones and the DapKings - 100 Days, 100 Nights
    The voice, the horns, the soul! It's fresh but feels vintage. It's the real thing. I'll take her over Amy anyday!
  • Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight
    I don't trust the songwriting 'voice' here, but the music cannot be denied.
  • Cliff Eberhardt - The High Above and the Down Below
    He does heartbreak like no one I know!
  • James Taylor - One Man Band
    Duh
  • Avett Brothers - Emotionalism
    Simply amazing
  • Feist - The Reminder
    Still not sure about her live show, but these songs are irresistible
  • Forro In the Dark - Bonfires of Sao Joao
    Yum
  • Jesse Harris - Feel
    Jesse hires Forro for extra texture!
  • John Doe - A Year in the Wilderness
  • Chris Whitley/Jeff Lang - Dislocation Blues
  • Iron & Wine - Shepard's Dog
    Sam Beam finally wins me over. Great texture, melody.
  • Angelique Kidjo - Djin Djin
  • Mark Olson - Salvation Blues
    Extra points for packaging
  • A Band of Bees - Octupus
    Fun!
  • Koop - Koop Islands
    Just try it
  • Mocean Worker - Cinco De MoWo
    Magic worker!
  • Ryan Shaw - This is Ryan Shaw
    I love you, too!
  • Various - Endless Highway, The Music of the Band
    Some nice interpretations here allow us to hear The Band in a fresh way.
  • Erin McKeown - Sing, You Sinners
    No, YOU sing, you sinner! Ok, we'll ALL sing!

Songs:

  • "Diamond Ring" - Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts (You know it!)
  • "Generator" - The Holloways (Happiness guaranteed!)
  • "Keep the Car Running" - The Arcade Fire
  • "Sly" - The Cat Empire
  • "Rag and Bone" - White Stripes
  • "I'm a Broken Heart" - The Bird and the Bee
  • "Got yr Cherry Bomb" - Spoon
  • "Lay Your Head Down" - Keren Ann
  • "Daughter" - Loudon Wainwright (He didn't write it, but he owns it, anyway)
  • "Dashboard" - Modest Mouse
  • "This is a Song" - Magic Numbers (Impressive live performace of this at CPSS)
  • "Maria" - ALO
  • "Don't Stop Now" - Crowded House

Biggest Disappointments:

  • Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
    It sounds so pretty. But if you want pretty, get a kitten. This needs a little grit.
  • Joan Osborne - Breakfast in Bed
    Where did your edge go, Joan? It's nowhere in site on the title track. Burried at the end is the best material, two live covers - and the record barely credits the source, the documentary/concert film Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Let's give some love to the Funk Brothers.
  • Ben Harper - Lifeline
    Throw me one. Please. This is tepid stuff.
  • Joni Mitchell - Shine
    She is a genius, but let's face it: Have you ever met a genius that's not a pain in the ass? This music is more screed than song. Kudos for the rich recording of "Big Yellow Taxi 2007." But next time, just write an op-ed. The beautiful guitar work by JT is buried and Joni's own guitar gifts are all but abandoned in favor of her dreadful keyboard, er, stylings.

Also-Rans:

  • Teddy Thompson - Great voice, great concept. I'm still waiting for this guy to really arrive.
  • Amy Winehouse - Sober up and then we'll talk.
  • Ryan Adams - He did sober up but I still don't trust him! Ryan, are you for real?

Julianne Welby

News & Public Affairs Director/FUV Weekday Morning Host

Albums:

  • The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
    With so many epic songs, this will be a favorite for me for years to come.
  • Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
    Lots to analyze lyrically and sonically here.
  • Feist - The Reminder
    A great sing-a-long CD with my nephew who just turned 1, 2, 3, 4.
  • Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature
    Kick back, relax and get into the zone with the Swede.
  • Iron & Wine - Shepherd's Dog
    Finally, Sam's hooked me with all the great percussion and ambiance on his latest CD.
  • Rickie Lee Jones - Sermon on Exposition Boulevard
    The proverbial (wink) "it grows on you" applies. I like it more every time I hear it.
  • Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights
    She's the Queen of Brooklyn Soul. Really!
  • Radiohead - In Rainbows
    This band can do no wrong IMHO.
  • Suzanne Vega - Beauty & Crime
    No one makes folk rock better!
  • The White Stripes - Icky Thump
    No band rocks so hard with so little.

Songs:

  • Robert Plant/Alison Krauss - "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)"
    An odd musical marriage that works.
  • Over the Rhine - "Trouble"
    A laid back jazzy number that makes me perk up and listen.
  • Paolo Nutini - "New Shoes"
    "And suddenly everything is right." You gotta admit, the man is right!
  • Laura Viers - "Pink Light"
    Great cerebral pop.
  • Patty Griffin - "No Bad News"
    I love how this song moves. Makes we want to, too!

Darren DeVivo

FUV Weekday Host

20 Favorite Albums:

  • The Bad Plus - Prog
    Here's another terrific outing from this innovative trio. They push the boundaries of jazz and go places other musicians have yet to go. Original material gets mixed with covers of songs by Tears For Fears, David Bowie, Rush and Burt Bacharach and Hal David! This is challenging and exciting music.
  • Michael Brecker - Pilgrimage
    Saxophonist Michael Brecker died on January 13, 2007 at the age of 57. Pilgrimage is Michael's final album. It is a wonderful work featuring friends Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny, John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette. Farewell, Michael.
  • Justin Currie - What Is Love For
    This is the first solo album by the lead singer, bassist and songwriter for the band Del Amitri. Don't look for any of the bouncy, guitar-driven pop songs that one expects from Del Amitri. This is a collection of beautifully crafted, emotional pop ballads dealing with love gone wrong.
  • Dion - Son Of Skip James
    "The Wanderer" is playing the blues again! Dion DiMucci follows his first all blues album with a second acoustic set. The blues has always been a significant part of Dion's musical makeup and nearly fifty years after his first recordings with the Belmonts, it seems Dion has found a new voice...as one of the blues' finest modern interpreters.
  • Eagles - Long Road Out Of Eden
    I have to admit I wasn't expecting much from this album and, with 28 years since their last studio album of new songs (1979's The Long Run), I only had a passing curiosity. What a pleasant surprise Long Road Out Of Eden is! With twenty songs spread over two CDs, it is a little cumbersome and could have used a little editing, but numerous gems pop out after repeated listens. The album is beautifully produced, the harmonies are great and Don Henley has a lot to say! It's not a perfect album, but one that is often rewarding.
  • Genesis - Live Over Europe 2007
    I don't tend to include live albums on lists like this, but having seen Genesis live for the first time during this 2007 reunion tour, I couldn't resist. I was expecting a good show but never expected to get blown away! They were incredible, making this new album a welcome addition to their discography.
  • Herbie Hancock - River The Joni Letters
    Herbie Hancock has worked with Joni before, but here, Herbie spends an entire album interpreting her songs. He does an incredible job reinventing these gems and recruits numerous guest vocalists to help, like Corinne Bailey Rae, Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell herself. Easily, the best album by Herbie in nearly ten years (maybe more) and one of the best jazz albums of the year.
  • Charlie Hunter Trio - Mistico
    Here's another winner from the master of the seven string guitar and his trio! Charlie Hunter formed a brand new trio for this album, bringing in Simon Lott to play drums and Erik Deutsch to play keyboards. That means the sound of Charlie's current trio emphasizes keyboards over the usual saxophone of the former trio, and more of a rock direction for this latest album.
  • Nick Lowe - At My Age
    Nick has slipped comfortably into the role of the middle aged troubadour with another in a series of smooth, soulful, understated songs that deal with getting older. Nick has become the elder statesman of the British rockers to emerge in the 1970s!
  • Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
    After working with producer Nigel Godrich on 2005's incredible Chaos and Creation In The Backyard, Paul returned to David Kahne, who produced 2001's Driving Rain. Memory Almost Full is a very strong McCartney album that deals with aging and even death. Unfortunately, the song "Gratitude" is one of the worst McCartney songs in recent memory and keeps this album from being classic latter-day McCartney. That said, "Only Mama Knows" and "That Was Me" are two of Paul's best rockers in many years.
  • Metheny Mehldau - Quartet
    Pat Metheny is one of my musical heroes, so I love virtually everything he's done. This one is no exception. This is Pat's second consecutive collaboration with pianist Brad Mehldau, the follow up to 2007's Metheny Mehldau. Metheny Mehldau was mostly a duets album with a couple of tunes featuring a quartet. This album reverses the trend...most of the album is performed by the quartet with just a handful of duets. Playing along with Pat and Brad is bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard.
  • Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
    My first reaction was, "What??!", when I heard Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant was going to collaborate with the darling bluegrass of country. Then, I realized that it made total sense. Plant has always been intrigued with different types of music and has been drawn to American roots music, specifically blues, from the very beginning. Krauss grew up a fan of hard rock! With the assistance of producer T Bone Burnett, Plant and Krauss create a beautiful album that explores the richness of Americana and casts it in a new and modern way. This is progressive roots music.
  • R.E.M. - Live
    This album is here for sentimental reasons. For those who have turned their backs on R.E.M. in recent years, especially those who were disappointed with their last album Around The Sun, Live acts as a reminder of how great R.E.M. is and what a great live act they are. It also demonstrates R.E.M.'s successful transition from the indie rock darlings of the 1980s to the arena rock powerhouse with an indie aesthetic that they are today. Live also whets my appetite for their new studio album coming in 2008!
  • Rush - Snakes & Arrows
    Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart can always be counted on to deliver the goods. 33 years after their self-titled debut, their 24th album, Snakes & Arrows, shows there is still a lot of life in this band
  • John Scofield - This Meets That
    Another dynamite set from guitarist John Scofield! Some of John's recent albums had a single theme unifying them, but this album features a mixed bag of styles showing that John is always willing to explore and expand his musically horizons. John mixes mostly original material with three covers - a Rolling Stones song, a Charlie Rich song and the traditional "House Of The Rising Sun".
  • Elliott Smith - New Moon
    I didn't discover Elliott Smith until his fourth album, 1998's XO, so, in a way, I am still discovering the brilliance of this great talent who is no longer with us. New Moon is a collection of 24 unreleased songs from 1994 through 1997. Many of the songs are recorded simply by Elliott himself.
  • The Smithereens - Meet The Smithereens!
    The first album from the Smithereens in eight years is a loving tribute to the Beatles and, specifically, the album that introduced the Beatles to the masses in the United States - 1964's Meet The Beatles!. There's nothing fancy here, just note-for-note covers of all 11 songs from Meet The Beatles!, but you do sense the love and reverence for the music. The Smithereens take the Beatles' power pop and give it a bit of the garage band edge. This is a lot of fun!
  • Son Volt - The Search
    Son Volt's fifth album, and their second since reorganizing, reflects the results of frontman Jay Farrar's "search" for new sonic territory for the band. For the most part, Son Volt succeeds and cements my belief that they are the premier American roots rock act coming out of the alt-country scene.
  • The Stooges - The Weirdness
    Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton and Scott Asheton are back with their first album in over thirty years, and while it is far from perfect and not as great as the first two albums (1969's The Stooges and 1970's Fun House), it is the album that opened the door for me to walk through.
  • Suzanne Vega - Beauty & Crime
    Suzanne's first studio album of new songs in six years is her loving ode to New York City. She sings for those lost and affected by 9/11, her new husband, her daughter, Ruby, and remembers her late brother, artist Tim Vega. It's also probably her best album since her first two (Suzanne Vega and Solitude Standing).

Songs:

  • "Die Die Die" by the Avett Brothers
  • "Soul Of America" and "Words (Big Mouth)" by Ian Hunter
  • "Boy" and "This Is A Song" by The Magic Numbers
  • "Don't Let Them Take You Down (Beautiful Day!)" by Jesse Malin (Jesse's third solo album, Glitter In The Gutter, received strong consideration for my Top 20 albums.)
  • "I Discovered America" by Graham Parker (If I expanded my album list beyond 20, than Graham Parker's Don't Tell Columbus would have been in there as album 21! Sorry, Graham, I owe you one!)
  • "Breakin' Up" by Rilo Kiley

Dennis Elsas

FUV Weekday Host

Dennis' 2007 Virtual Jukebox:

  • "Sly," Cat Empire - Two Shoes
  • "Don't You Think It Was True" and "Long Dark Night," John Fogerty - Revival
  • "Someone to Love," Fountains of Wayne - Traffic and Weather
  • "Falling Slowly," Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - Once (soundtrack)
  • "100 Days, 100 Nights," Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - 100 Days, 100 Other Nights
  • "Hey Lupe (Hang on Sloopy) starring Little Willie G," Los Straitjackets - Rock En Espanol Vol. 1
  • "This is a Song" and "Take a Chance," The Magic Numbers - Those the Brokes
  • "Dance Tonight" and "That was Me," Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
  • "Myriad Harbor" and "All the Things that Go to Make Heaven and Earth," The New Pornographers - Challengers
  • "I Discovered America," Graham Parker - Don't Tell Columbus
  • "Gone Gone Gone," Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
  • "Phantom Limb," The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
  • "Right Moves and Rumours," Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
  • "The Night Starts Here," Stars - In Our Bedroom After the War
  • "Radio Nowhere" and "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," Bruce Springsteen - Magic
  • "Poor Man's Paradise," the Subdudes - Street Symphony
  • "Hold On," KT Tunstall - Drastic Fantastic
  • "New York is a Woman," Suzanne Vega - Beauty & Crime
  • "You Don't Know What Love Is" and "Effect and Cause," White Stripes - Icky Thump
  • "Tears Dry On Their Own" and "You Know I'm No Good," Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

Corny O'Connell

FUV Weekday Host

Albums:

  1. Nick Lowe - At My Age
    He helped define British punk and new wave producing classic tracks for Elvis Costello, The Pretenders and himself. Now at 58 Nick Lowe has aged gracefully. On his latest albums Lowe has turned to a more intimate sound with touches of country and vintage soul. He'll take you from hope to sorrow to depravity through the course of this year's At My Age.
  2. Mavis Staples - We'll Never Turn Back
    Mavis Staples, who helped provide the soundtrack to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, breathes new life and meaning into that era's freedom songs on We'll Never Turn Back. Producer Ry Cooder shows his knack for melding the old with the new and makes wise use of many of the original Freedom Singers along with South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
  3. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
    Spoon surfaced from the musical free-for-all of Austin, Texas in the mid-Nineties and have continued to distinguish themselves among the indie-pop-rockers of the world today. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is loose and playful with a bit of a '60s soul vibe. Clocking in at 36 minutes, it will leave you wanting more.
  4. Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature
    Jose Gonzalez is tri-lingual: Spanish by way of his Argentinean father, Swedish from his homeland, but English is what he sings in. It all combines for a voice that may remind you of Jose Feliciano. His music has a touch of Feliciano, too, courtesy of his classical guitar training. Gonzalez likes to expose the primitive aspects of human beings in his songs. Hence the title In Our Nature.
  5. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
    Forget Page Six and Perez Hilton. This is one of the best albums of 2007 (technically late 2007). But isn't it derivative? Yes, in a good way: the charm of '50s and '60s girl groups emboldened by hip-hop sass, and backed by that classic Motown soul sound. Amy Winehouse makes it all her own with her inimitable cockney contralto.
  6. JJ Grey & MOFRO - Country Ghetto
    Redneck-funk? Yep, that's what's makin' your pelvis pump when you slap on Country Ghetto. Grey sings first-hand of growing up proud and poor in the southern swamplands. The music is genuine and rootsy, but contemporary at the same time. You won't find it on other top-ten lists. Make a note of it now.
  7. Radiohead - In Rainbows
    Radiohead made headlines in September by offering In Rainbows as a pay-what-you-like download from their website. The blogosphere was all abuzz about this new distribution model, the value of recorded music and the waning relevance of the record industry. The album itself was all but overlooked. Don't you do that. Radiohead has never sounded better.
  8. Lucinda Williams - West
    Recent changes in Lucinda Williams' life, such as her mother's death and the end of a tumultuous relationship, stoked her creativity and gave her the grist for a very personal album of songs. Given the subject matter, there's a lot of pain and struggle on West, but in the end Lucinda takes us full circle to a sense of renewal.
  9. Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
    Did the hype machine surrounding Wilco's previous CDs leave you scratching your head? Lend an ear to Sky Blue Sky. The band has reinvented itself through the addition of multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and guitarist Nels Cline. Cline's lead guitar solos, especially, give the band an accessible new aesthetic. Plus, Jeff Tweedy's lyrics have become more open and direct (and as a result more vulnerable).
  10. Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall 1971
    Live at Massey Hall 1971 gives an intimate documentary of a 25-year-old Neil Young alone on stage with a guitar, a piano and a batch of songs that have stood the test of time. The first few chords of songs such as "Helpless" and "Ohio" elicit applause, but "Old Man" is unassumingly introduced by Neil as a new song. Later in the set you hear "The Needle and the Damage Done" performed just months after the deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

Songs:

  • Feist from The Reminder - "1234"
  • Patty Griffin from Children Running Through - "Heavenly Day"
  • Nick Lowe from At My Age - "I Trained Her to Love Me"
  • Peter Bjorn and John from Writer's Block - "Young Folks"
  • Wilco from Sky Blue Sky - "Impossible Germany"

Rita Houston

Music Director/The Whole Wide World Host

Albums:
This year my favorite albums coincide with my favorite live shows. It was a great year for both. Here are some ramblings on the topic:

  • Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
    This album surely places Bright Eyes as one of the greats. Beyond all the press and the hype it's clear that Conor Oberst is the real deal as a songwriter. I hate to reference Dylan but I love the Desire-esque sound of Cassadaga. And lyrically it's deep. Google the lyrics to "Four Winds" and you'll see what I mean.
  • Dan Wilson - Free Life
    There's a fine line between sappy and beautiful, and Dan Wilson knows exactly where it is. Here's an artist that's saying it's ok to be in love, it's ok to be happy and it's cool to put away your cynicism. Or at least that's what I hear on Free Life.
  • Radiohead - In Rainbows
    It's crazy that Radiohead's most accessible sounding album is the one they've given away for free. I first heard this live at Bonnaroo last summer and will never forget it. That says a lot!
  • Mark Ronson - Version
    This is the dance record of the year from the producer of the year. The album is a fearless, boundless collection of covers that he manages to make cool and make sense of.
  • Various Artists - I'm Not There Soundtrack
    You need not love the film (though I do) to love this collection of Dylan covers. The eclectic artist lineup includes everyone from Antony to Jack Elliot. The production is flawless and many Dylan classics get a proper updating, like "Ballad of a Thin Man" and "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again."
  • Stars - In Our Bedroom After The War
    I've probably listened to this album more than any other this year. I love the stories the songs tell and the artistic, poetic way the album addresses life during wartime. Plus it's tre romantic and dramatic.
  • Amy Winehouse - Back in Black
    It's a good year when one of the most talked about and successful albums is also one of the best. True dat. I love this, especially the respectful nods to The Supremes.
  • Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
    Another great album from Wilco. I really love the way the guitars sound and the hope-filled tunes.
  • Iron and Wine - The Shepherds Dog
    This is an old-fashioned great album. I can hardly listen to just one song. Sam Beam's global musical palette is right up my alley. Plus, the Iron and Wine in-studio session at WFUV was amazing.
  • City Folk Live 10
    Beyond a shameless plug, this collection of exclusive performances is so worth having in your collection. There's a real gem from The Decemberists, a performance of the Crane Wife 1, 2 and 3.

John Platt

Sunday Breakfast Host

Albums:
In this age of downloads, some folks say albums are obsolescent, but thank God, you can still find releases which make a coherent artistic statement. That's true of these favorites (in alphabetical order):

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter - The Calling
    A gorgeous CD from an artist who should never fall between the cracks
  • Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade
    Cranky Steve now sounds like a guy in love...with his wife and NYC
  • Mary Gauthier - Between Daylight and Dark
    Joe Henry's production make her dark songs shine
  • Joe Henry - Civilians
    The master producer proves he's a powerful singer-songwriter, too
  • The Holmes Brothers - State of Grace
    Who'd expect these gospel veterans to help us hear Cheap Trick, Rosanne Cash, and Nick Lowe covers with fresh ears?
  • Eilen Jewell - Letters from Sinners and Strangers
    A new Boston-based artist with some vivid songs and a gift for sultry, swinging vocals ( a la Madeleine Peyroux)
  • Nerissa and Katryna Nields - Sister Holler
    The alt-folk sisters rediscover their folk roots by reimagining traditional songs as only they can
  • Luciana Souza - New Bossa Nova
    With the help of husband Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell's ex), she brings a Brazilian touch to Joni, James Taylor, Randy Newman, and, oh yes, Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • Susan Werner - The Gospel Truth
    Having mastered contemporary folk and neo pop standards, Susan applies her brilliant songwriting skills and intellect to another genre and produces "the world's first agnostic gospel album"
  • Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall 1971
    The new "Chrome Dreams II" is mighty fine, but this recording captures Neil at a special moment in time, just before the release of "Harvest," introducing a bunch of soon-to-be-classic songs in an intimate, relaxed setting

Or it could as easily been these:
Anders Osborne - Coming Down; Cliff Eberhardt - The High Above and the Down Below; ByrdJones - Radio Soul; Marc Cohn - Join the Parade; Mark Knopfler - Kill to Get Crimson; Paula Cole - Courage; Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger; The Strangelings - Season of the Witch; Suzanne Vega - Beauty & Crime; Toby Walker - Just Rolled In; Wilco - Sky Blue Sky

Songs:

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter - "Why Shouldn't We"
    Should be "required listening" (as Allan Pepper would put it)
  • Patty Griffin - "Heavenly Day"
    Sublimely soulful
  • Joe Henry - "Our Song"
    40 years after Paul Simon asked where Joe DiMaggio went, Joe Henry finds Willie Mays in an Arizona Home Depot
  • Amy Winehouse - "Rehab"
    Too bad it turned out to be true
  • Work o' the Weavers - "I Am the Seed of Peace"
    A beautiful melody, a beautiful message

Pete Fornatale

Mixed Bag Host

Albums, in alphabetical order:

  • The Beach Boys (I know they didn't release anything this year but they are so underrated at wfuv that I had to make them my number one choice :-)
  • Marc Cohn - Join the Parade
  • Dion - Son of Skip James
  • John Fogerty - Revival
  • Steve Forbert - Strange Names and New Sensations
  • Dean Martin - Forever Cool
  • Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
  • Joni Mitchell - Shine
  • Bruce Springsteen - Magic
  • Suzanne Vega - Beauty and Crime

Russ Borris

Assistant Music Director and FUV 24/7 Host

Albums:

  1. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
    In a year dominated by indie rock, Arcade Fire was king.
  2. Kanye West - Graduation
    You wanna know why so many rappers hate Kanye? Because he samples better than they do. Laura Nyro and Daft Punk on the same record. Genius.
  3. Chromeo - Fancy Footwork
    A guilty pleasure perhaps, the Canadian duo of Dave One and Pee Thug are an '80s electro-pop fan's dream. The catchiest choruses of the year.
  4. Bruce Springsteen - Magic
    I still don't love the production, but the songs are so strong, they rise above.
  5. Jay-Z - American Gangster
    The Jigga-man makes us all forget about last year's misstep Kingdom Come and sounds revitalized and inspired.
  6. The White Stripes - Icky Thump
    As they manage to incorporate mariachi horns and bagpipes on this record, it makes you wonder. Jack White's creative well has to run dry SOMETIME, right? Right?
  7. Nick Lowe - At My Age
    The grand old man of punk sounds so comfortable where he is with these warm, classic songs.
  8. Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight
    Less indie this time around and just plain fun, start to finish.
  9. Stars - In Our Bedroom After the War
    Theatrical production layered over indie pop songs.
  10. Lily Allen - Alright, Still
    Pop, ska and reggae with a snotty British sensibility that's completely endearing.

Songs:

  1. Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip - "Thou Shalt Always Kill"
    Two dudes from London. Youtube it, find them on myspace, just get this song.
  2. Iron & Wine - "Resurrection Fern"
    As much as I dig the texture and world vibes on The Shepherd's Dog, my favorite on the record is simple, classic Iron & Wine.
  3. Deer Tick - "Ashamed"
    I can thank Ben Jones for hipping me to this 21-year-old songwriter who's wise beyond his years.
  4. Ryan Adams - "Halloweenhead"
    Is it the old school guitar riff or because it's the best rock song Ryan's recorded in years?
  5. Ween - "Your Party"
    Gene and Dean, David Sanborn and tri-colored pasta. Heaven.

Sarah Wardrop

FUV 24/7 Host and Interview Producer

Albums (going for the alphabetical approach):

  • Andrew Bird - Armchair Apochrypha
    If you're not transfixed by the music, you'll be wanting to get up and find a dictionary. Brilliant and crazy all at the same time.
  • Feist - The Reminder
    1, 2, 3, 4, there's no song you can ignore...
  • Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature
    Musically simple and repetitive in the best of ways, with lyrics that aren't always as gentle as they sound.
  • Patty Griffin - Children Running Through
    Patty lets her voice lead the way on this one (oh heavenly day indeed), and writes her first ever love song thanks to inspiration from her dog. What's not to like?
  • Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights
    As the saying goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it. So Sharon & The Dap-Kings just do it better than anyone else. A Studio-A highlight this year as well.
  • Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
    I give extra props to artists who jump out of their comfort zones for creative gain vs. cash. Okay, they'll probably get a little cash out of this one, but I still like what these two voices and T-Bone pulled off.
  • Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
    Ritter rocks out and still leaves us in lyrical rapture. May we all smile at work as much as Josh does, and have future conquests just as impressive.
  • Stars - In Our Bedroom After The War
    I confess, this was my introduction to Stars and now I have a lot of catching up to do. Is putting them on this list thanks enough?
  • Tegan & Sara - The Con
    T&S get a little darker on this one, and aside from my soft spot for Canadian twins (because I am one and not for any other reason, thank you very much...), it's good to know their 2004 "hit" isn't defining their musical growth.
  • Amy Winehouse - Back To Black (with a side of Mark Ronson's "Valerie")
    The Motown vibe warms me up from the inside, and it's cool to hear it at the forefront of music once again. Ronson and The Dap-Kings do their thing, Amy adds the voice and the attitude, and the songs top the gossip by far.

Songs that were stuck in my head longer than they had any right to be there (A-Z once again):

  • The Bird and The Bee, "F---ing Boyfriend" [What can I say? A beat and a sweet voice swearing caught my ear.]
  • Brandi Carlile, "Late Morning Lullaby" [Voice? Check. Twins? Check. Hooks? Triple check.]
  • Cold War Kids, "We Used To Vacation" [Whether the promise was kept I don't know, but there's nothing phoned in about this performance.]
  • John Doe & Kathleen Edwards, "The Golden State" [These two should write a greeting card series. Perfect for Valentine's Day. Or perhaps that's why I'm single.]
  • Feist, "1234" [My #1, B.C./before commercial. The song made me happy. The video made me happier.]
  • Erin McKeown, "Rhode Island Is Famous For You" [Go ahead. Just TRY not swinging along with this little big band.]
  • Mavis Staples, "Down In Mississippi" [Grrrranbaby...]
  • Justin Timberlake, "LoveStoned/I Think She Knows" [That's right. I said it. For the nitpickers - yes, the album was 2006, but the single was 2007. Not that I'm keeping track.]
  • Laura Veirs, "Pink Light" [Had me at the first guitar lick. When the vocal melody and then the beat hit, I was a goner.]
  • Wilco, "Walken" [Again, B.C. First reaction - "Whoa, THAT was Wilco?"]

Artists happily added to my vocabulary thanks to this year's Studio-A interviews:

  • Augie March
  • Bat For Lashes
  • Thomas Dybdahl
  • Forro In The Dark
  • Ingrid Michaelson
  • Tin Hat

Alisa Ali

FUV 24/7 Host and FUV Weekday Morning Producer

Albums:

  • Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
    I can't even tell you how many times I've rocked this album so far. It was tough not to pick a bunch of songs from this album for my top songs of the year. I really love this whole thing start to finish and it's definitely my favorite of the year. A perfect pop gem; it's undeniably fun. Only a robot could not like this album. An evil-natured robot. But I really think that everyone else would have to give props to Spoon for making a sensational record.
  • Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
    Oh Lord, I love this guy. This was on constant rotation for a long time for me & I still enjoy it when I go back to it. I keep replacing my current fave from Apocrypha with other songs from the album. I would also say that this album was a learning experience as well a musical one for me, since I was back and forth with the dictionary and wikipedia trying to find out about Scythian empires and the cliffs of Dover. Obviously, though, what's most impressive is the sound. If you love the characteristic violins and the whistles, you will not be disappointed with this album. The music on here is so beautiful it makes your heart swell and the instrumental at the end makes me want to cry. Which is a good thing, by the way.
  • Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
    Check your personal judgments about Amy Winehouse at the door. The bottom line is that this is a great album. AND... girl can sing! Plus, she has a unique style of her own. I feel like a lot of musicians aim for that retro sound without adding much individuality, but Amy is really one of a kind, and at least she's honest. This is also an album that I think can satisfy a lot of different people. Back to Black is brilliantly produced, and the songs have a lasting quality. I'm sure that I'll continue to listen to this one for many years to come.
  • Beirut - The Flying Cup
    This music makes me feel like I am strolling the streets of Russia with a half-full (note the optimism) bottle of vodka in my hand and lamenting the loss of yet another heartbreaker. Believe it or not, that scenario really appeals to me. That's why I love this record. Also, Zach Condon is a genius. He's practically a one man band. It's all his vision, and then he gets musicians to fill in the parts. I read something about how he wanted to hire a band of mariachis as his touring band because he needed the brass. Now that's something I can really respect. I think we are on the same wavelength, me and Zach. I need the brass too, and hiring a band of mariachis ain't a half bad idea.
  • Shins - Wincing the Night Away
    The Shins make my favorite combination of funky pensive music with a slightly depressed take. Their songs have that happy tone with jaded lyrics. I love that. There are so many pretty guitar riffs in there too. I've loved all their previous work and was nervous that this album would not be as good as the rest, but they really delivered the goods again. I think they improved/ changed up their sound a bit too. I like the longer form jammy and atmospheric songs like "Sea Legs" and "Black Wave." I also really like James Mercer's cadence. I feel very happy when he sings, "so give me your hands and let's jump out the window."
  • Iron & Wine - Shepard's Dog
    This is a lush and complex album. There are so many interesting sounds and beautiful images to wade through. It's a really a pleasure to hear the record unfold. It doesn't sound like anything else. It feels very warm and calming to me. I also think that Sam Beam's voice is the perfect narration to the story of the Shepherd's Dog.
  • Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature
    This is a very reflective album. He's got kind of a hypnotic style of singing and the same goes for the way he plays guitar. Jose Gonzalez's music makes me feel like he is a really nice guy. A nice gal like myself can identify with that. Its very tuneful and pretty, and it's good music to work to.
  • Peter Bjorn & John - Writers Block
    This album is more than the whistling song, but of course "Young Folks" is a big part of the greatness of this album. That song is undeniable. But wait...there's more. "Paris 2004," "Amsterdam," "Let's Call it Off," "Chills"... All hits. Speaking of cadence, these guys have the best accents. You really have to admire good lyrics from people who are not native English speakers. This is a great album to play all the way through, or just throw some of the hits on a mix tape/ playlist.
  • Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
    Ryan Adams and I have had too much to drink and we think that love sucks anyway so why are we even bothering with it. Ryan, you come for me, you come and try to take me home and I appreciate that. Sometimes a Halloween-head sad rock out is just what you need. Other times, after a hard day, you wanna fold yourself away like a concertina or a murphy bed. In these situations, this album was the perfect soundtrack for me. Recovering from the bitterness, I still enjoy this album. So I guess that means it passes the test. Great album.
  • Lily Allen - Alright Still
    This is just a really fun album. Very entertaining. She has such an attitude. I love her whole "I didn't ask for your advice" way. I also love the fact that she is totally comfortable making fun of her Nan. Now, I would never do such a thing, but I do think its funny that she does. I was wondering whether I should even put Lily Allen on here, because I felt like I needed to choose between her and Amy Winehouse - which is perhaps stupid American mentality. In the end I figured they were apples and oranges, so there was room on my top ten for two sassy Brits. This is good music to listen to with the girls. You can just picture the whole head-swaying, finger-waving, "Oh No He Didn't!" scenario. Good Times.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
  • Great Lake Swimmers - Ongiara
  • Radiohead - In Rainbows

Songs:

  • "Don't you Evah" - Spoon
  • "Valerie" - Mark Ronson
  • "Weird Fishes" - Radiohead
  • "Rag & Bone" - White Stripes
  • "I Feel it All" - Feist
  • "Is There a Ghost" - Band of Horses
  • "Nantes" - Beirut
  • "Dashboard" - Modest Mouse
  • "Your Rocky Spine" - Great Lake Swimmers
  • "Sea Legs" - Shins

George Evans

Director of Technical Operations/FUV Weekday Host

Albums:

  • Feist - The Reminder
  • Ben Harper - Lifeline
  • Laura Veirs - Saltbreakers
  • Lily Allen - Alright, Still
  • Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight
  • Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
  • Josh Rouse - Country Mouse City House
  • The Magic Numbers - Those The Brokes
  • Ben Lee - Ripe
  • KT Tunstall - Drastic Fantastic
  • Mavis Staples - We'll Never Turn Back
  • Joe Henry - Civilians
  • Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
  • John Doe - A Year in the Wilderness
  • The White Stripes - Icky Thump
  • Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - This is Somewhere
  • Grant-Lee Phillips - Strangelet
  • Pete Yorn - Nightcrawler
  • Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
  • Jesse Malin - Glitter in the Gutter

Songs:

  • Feist, "1234"
  • Ben Harper, "Put It On Me"
  • John Doe, "The Golden State"
  • Mavis Staples, "Down In Mississippi"
  • Ingrid Michelson, "The Way I Am"

Bob Sherman

Woody's Children Host

Albums:

  • Jeff Daniels - Grandfather's Hat
  • Isabella Delage - The inundation
  • Spring - It's All Right
  • Arlo Guthrie - In Times Like These
  • John McCutcheon - This Fire
  • Christine Lavin - Happy Dance of the Xenophobe
  • Work o' the Weavers - We're Still Here
  • Kevin Jones - Drive-Thru Studio
  • Tom Russell - Wounded Heart of America
  • Susan Werner - The Gospel Truth
  • Jesse Goldberg - My Name is Goldberg
  • David Massengill - Dave on Dave

Laura Fedele

New Media Director

Albums:

  1. Joe Henry - Civilians
    I already thought he was a genius, since Kindness of the World in 1993. But this is a masterpiece - you could listen to it as an examination of a peaceful people in a time of war and a prayer for people who don't pray, or you can just hear it as a collection of beautiful songs. Your choice. Sit down and listen to "Our Song" at the very least.
  2. Brandi Carlile - The Story
    I'm a believer - the melodies, the lyrics, the voice that could knock you over, and the nicest darn identical band in the world. She's for real, and a real person who I'd love to see succeed in this insane business.
  3. Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
    If "Four Winds" isn't enough to wake your ass up, see a doctor *and* a shrink. I know everybody calls everybody the next Dylan, but read through the lyrics before you dismiss this Conor Oberst.
  4. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
    Yes, I admit it... there's a part of me who always wanted to be a dirty, dirty girl (with a sweet, sweet voice).
  5. Dan Wilson - Free Life
    Some of the lushest, prettiest stuff out there, and while a few of them got overproduced in the process, give this guy major songwriting props.
  6. Feist - The Reminder
    I hear a new song. I like it. It turns out it's on the Feist record. Again.
  7. Various Artists - Endless Highway The Music of The Band
    The songs are as good as you remember them, and don't suffer from interpretation. Plus there's Gomez on here, which is my personal kryptonite... I just get weak all over.
  8. Nicole Atkins - Neptune City
    She seems like a good singer and turns out to be a great one; she seems cool and turns out to be even cooler. Go see her live, too.
  9. Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
    How great that we get to see him expand his reach and meet a higher bar with each album.
  10. Stars - In Our Bedroom After the War
    Sometimes I hate this record. But then I keep playing it. I dunno, you tell me.

Songs:

  • Cold War Kids - "We Used To Vacation" (Performance of the Year, if there were such a thing as justice.)
  • Eddie Vedder - "Hard Sun" (It all comes together, the right song with the right voice.)
  • John Doe and Kathleen Edwards - "Golden State" (Two great singers, who might be thought of as off the beaten path, hitting one right down the middle.)
  • Rickie Lee Jones - "Circle in the Sand" (Bless Rickie Lee for taking me down paths I never would have noticed on my own.)
  • Spoon - "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb" (Because all the rest of them make me think too much so it's time to shut up and dance.)

Live Shows:

  • Tribute to Bruce Springsteen at Carnegie Hall 4/5
  • Brandi Carlile at Bowery Ballroom 4/26
  • Bright Eyes at Town Hall 5/30
  • Ani DiFranco at Celebrate Brooklyn 7/18
  • The Hold Steady at Celebrate Brooklyn 8/9
  • Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts at Austin City Limits Fest 9/15
  • Wilco at Austin City Limits Fest 9/16

Jim O'Hara

Assistant Director of Technical Operations

Albums:

  1. Irepress - Samus Octology
    Any band that can be the opening act for both Hatebreed and Inspectah Deck is all right in my book.
  2. Stars - In Our Bedroom After the War
    Fedele got it right. After listening to it the first time, I thought 2 or 3 songs were good and the rest were just ehhh, but I keep on listening to the entire album over and over again.
  3. Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
    I'm not sure if this is a compliment or not, but Explosion in the Sky is my favorite band to listen to when I'm working at my computer and need to concentrate.
  4. Chemtrail - Via Satellite
    It's a difficult task to express different emotions in a song without any vocals, but these guys do a great job at it.
  5. The Frames - The Cost/"Once" Motion Picture Soundtrack
    I'm a big Glen Hansard fan, and these two albums show off his two sides..."The Cost" shows his ability to rock out with a band while "Once" shows his ability as a songwriter.
  6. Horse the Band - A Natural Death
    I think I like them so much because of all the Nintendo I used to play with my buddy Ben, when we were kids.
  7. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works
    Die hard fans might claim that they're "selling out" by including things like keyboards and vocal melodies, but it still sounds pretty damn good to me.
  8. The Bad Plus - Prog
    Rush might be my least favorite band ever, but I like this album so much I even love their cover of Tom Sawyer.
  9. Feist - The Reminder
    I wouldn't mind it if I never heard "1234" again, but the whole album is pretty damn catchy.
  10. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
    If you told me my favorite album of the year featured organs, mandolins, violins and accordions, I would have called you crazy.

Songs:

  • Chromeo, "Bonafied Lovin'"
    Russ played it for me a couple of months ago. It's been in my head ever since.
  • Band of Horses, "Is There a Ghost"
    I was disappointed by the rest of the album, but loved this song.
  • Flight of the Conchords, "It's Business Time"
    Thanks to Martha and Greg, this song was sung over and over again in the engineering office for a couple of weeks straight.
  • Fionn Regan, "Be Good or Be Gone"
    Pretty cool song, even cooler music video. Like Band of Horses though, I was a little disappointed with the rest of the album.
  • The Decemberists, "The Crane Wife 1, 2 & 3 (from City Folk Live Vol 10)"
    I had to listen to it over and over again as I was mastering the record, and I discovered something new with each listen. It was even cooler watching them perform it live in Studio-A, as they switched from instrument to instrument.

Shari Rosen Ascher

Underwriting Director

Usually I am one of the first to weigh in on the end of the year Best Of poll. This year I found myself dragging my feet. Nothing really rocked my world. But I did really enjoy a few things.

Albums:

  • Elvis Costello - Rock and Roll Music
    It has been a rare year in the past 30 when there hasn't been a new Elvis CD. Looks like the only new things he made were the twins (congratulations!). I do love this live CD. But it is really more like the best of 1977 instead of 2007.
  • Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
    This was the one CD that I kept playing over and over again. The woman has some PR problems, but she is an old-fashioned belter and I really believe her when she sings.
  • Ben Lee - Ripe
    I love this guy! He is so positive and ironic and clever and his songs are so catchy. "Love Me Like the World is Ending" is pop genius!
  • Bruce Springsteen - Magic
    To be honest I haven't really listened to the entire CD. But my husband is a ridiculous Bruce fan. So, honey, this is for you.
  • The one I most need to own: Ryan Shaw! This guy is the real deal and if you can go see him... run, don't walk!

Songs:

  • "Love Me Like the World is Ending," Ben Lee
    I dare you to not make the radio louder when you hear it!
  • "Irreplaceable," Beyonce
    I don't really get the whole Beyonce thing. But "to the left, to the left..." is infectious.
  • "Lost Highway," Bon Jovi
    My son Jake loves Bon Jovi, and I love Jake.
  • "Home," Daughtry
    Yes, I am an American Idol fan. Chris Daughtry made it more interesting.
  • "Hey There Delilah," Plain White Ts
    So cute!
  • "Rehab," Amy Winehouse
    As my son Marty says, "She really doesn't look like how she sounds, does she?"

Joey Delvecchio

Traffic and Continuity Director

Albums:

  1. Jesse Malin - Glitter In The Gutter
    Not only is the rock and roll good, but he's one of the best, most engaging live performers around, and as if it couldn't get any better, he's a native of the five boroughs.
  2. Foo Fighters - Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace
    It's not that this Foo album is terribly different from their usual, rather, it's its consistency that turns out to be most welcome. I like innovation as much as the next guy, but not when it's unnecessary. The Foo Fighters are still making the kind of rock you hear too little of these days, and they refuse to give up. Not to mention that the closing track would be a triple-A wonder, but anyway...
  3. Emerson Hart - Cigarettes and Gasoline
    I know what you're all thinking: "who in sam hell is Emerson Hart?" He's a rocker-turned-singer / songwriter / rocker, and he's damn good at all of it. He is the former frontman for the 90s rock outfit "Tonic" (hits were "If You Could Only See" and "You wanted More"). When a guy's voice sounds almost better live than even in the studio, you know you've got a winner. The songs are solid and catchy, but it's the emotion and passion in Emerson's vocals that make you a believer. And if you don't believe me, you'd best listen.
  4. "Once" Motion Picture Soundtrack
    Chock-full of catchy numbers by "The Swell Season" for this film. Sometimes simple is better.

Songs:

  1. Ben Lee - "Love Me Like the World Is Ending" (The way I see it, this has to be the year's best song. You can't not sing along to this one. It's infectious to the maximum, and I haven't heard a single this catchy since "Third Eye Blind's "Semi Charmed Life" ("doot doot doot, doot da-doot-da-doot"))
  2. Jesse Malin feat. Bruce Springsteen - "Broken Radio" ('nuff said.)
  3. Silverchair - "Straight Lines" (Though not a particularly good album at all, this song is outstanding. While it's certainly not the Silverchair of the grunge era, "Straight Lines" is filled with enough angst for anyone who's longing for a little yearning and hope - got all that?)
  4. Bruce Springsteen - "Radio Nowhere" (Bruce Springsteen might very well be the last great American rocker, so, rock on!)
  5. Pat Monahan - "Her Eyes" (The former lead singer of the band "Train" (of Drops of Jupiter" fame) makes his solo debut. The song itself is average, but Monahan's delivery is everything. There's not a more soulful-sounding white man in music today.)
  6. Crowded House - "Nobody Wants To" (just a solid track, even though it's destined for Lite-FM)
  7. Ryan Adams - "Two" (The most satisfying two and a half minute song I've ever heard.)
  8. Emerson Hart - "Devastation Hands" (See above.)
  9. Modest Mouse - "Dashboard" (Never before has a rock song made me wanna shake my bottom so much... and I don't even dance)