Moving right along.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: I was tempted to give this to In Rainbows, just because, but instead there shall be a tie. One winner is incredibly unhip and the mere mention of his name will cost me valuable credibility points among the cognoscenti, but those will be regained by the revelation of the other winner. Just watch:
Paul Simon, Surprise.
As a soft rock lover from my youth, I was a huge Simon & Garfunkel fan, and followed both their solo careers longer than most right-thinking people did, but they both lost me sometime in the early 1980s. Graceland, which is the one Paul Simon album it's probably cool to like, did nothing for me, and the ones after that left me cold, too. Until this year, when 60something Paul joined forces with 60something Brian Eno. The end result is just kind of great, if you ask me: beautiful production, moving and funny lyrics, catchy melodies. I listened to it over and over again when I first got it early in 2007, and think I will do so again, very soon.
Jens Lekman, Night Falls Over Kortedala.
Much of what I just said about Surprise's strengths applies to this album, too, only its creator is almost 40 years younger. I'm a bit conflicted about giving this Album of the Year status because I've only been listening to it for the last 3 weeks or so, but it's so incredibly good that I'm gonna go with my gut. The guy does sound a great deal like Stephen Merritt, Jonathan Richman, and my main man Don Lennon, but he's also some kind of wild production genius--no album by any of those fine individuals sounds anywhere near this sonically complicated. I'd love to hear all the stuff he samples in its original form, because I don't recognize any of it, and because I suspect that he has transformed it all so thoroughly as to be unrecognizable. It's also hard to tell what comes from somewhere/someone else and what he generated himself, with or without other musicians. His voice (like Simon's, actually) is a bit limited, but he does a great job writing for it. It may take some getting used to. I suspect this is one of those love-it-or-hate-it affairs. Chalk me up as a lover. "Shirin" is easily the most beautiful song ever written about an Iraqi hairdresser operating an illegal salon in her apartment.
The Flight of the Conchords, Songs from the First Season (or whatever it's called)
Matt Pond, PA, Last Light
CONCERT OF THE YEAR: Lucinda Williams at Artpark (Lewiston, NY). At first I was drawing a blank; this was not a stellar year for live shows, at least not those that I managed to catch. But then I remembered what a magical evening this was: great set list, cool new songs, best of the 3 times I've seen her since the mid-80s. Duet with opener Charlie Louvin was icing on the cake.
Runners-up: Before I remembered Lucinda, I was thinking of giving this one to 3 shows I saw in about 2 weeks, 2 by Ani DiFranco and 1 by Andrew Bird, all at Ani's new venue, Babeville, which immediately made my list as Best Concert Venue in Buffalo. But I felt kind of weird about that since I have had a work connection (tenuous in Bird's case) to both artists and it felt like nepotism or something similar. But hell, they were all great shows.
ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Think I'm going with a tie here. The new car in our household has a 6-CD player, and I've been enjoying cooking up retrospectives and supersets and such, and the best one by far thus far consisted of six recordings by, you guessed it, Mr. Paul Simon. It's not just the new album (see above); I also got several CD reissues of his earlier works that came out a few years ago, each with 2-3 bonus tracks (usually demo versions of key songs, sometimes with very different lyrics or arrangements) that really do hold up. The second best superset came from Radiohead, and while I don't think they've singlehandedly sparked a revolution or anything, that was a pretty damn cool stunt they pulled with their latest album, and the album itself is even cooler.
Runners-up: See "Album of the Year" runners-up.
SONG OF THE YEAR: Amy Winehouse, "Rehab". I know, I know, she is currently on the fast track to becoming the new Lindsay Lohan, better known for actual stints in rehab than for her art, but that is still one damn catchy song. Sort of reminds me of Ray Charles releasing songs like "Busted" when he was busted and "Let's Go Get Stoned" when that was something he tended to do quite a bit. I'm not super-crazy about the entire album, but as singles go, that one is a doozy.
Runner-up: Because this blog is called "Can't Get It Out of My Head," attention must be paid to the many times that Feist's "1-2-3-4" got stuck in my brain, thanks in part to that ubiquitous Apple/iTunes commercial and thanks in larger part to the song itself. I'd give the video "Video of the Year" if I had such a category, which I don't, because videos don't exist anymore, as we all know. The whole Feist album is terrific, btw.
That's all, folks. See you in November 2008!