By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Carter Albrecht, Sparrows
Beyonce, Dangerously in Love (Sony)
As the kind CD World employee was ringing my total, I felt a gentle nudge in my back. "Whatcha gettin'?"
I glanced behind me and saw a friendly-looking dude holding some very bold music, Mars Volta and Ted Leo/Pharmacists. I covered my favorite new CD with every square centimeter of my hands.
"Dude, is that Beyonce?" he coughed in my face.
"Dude. It is!"
"Aren't you in Sparrows?"
"Uh, no. I'm not. Enjoy that Mars Volta. I hear it's real kick-ass." Then I bolted out the the door, sprinted to my Honda and slid that bitch in!
Andrew Binovi, Cordelane
The Pernice Brothers, Yours Mine & Ours (Ashmont Records)
Think '70s singer-songwriter pop with an '80s Morrissey/Marr delivery and then add the melancholy of a New England winter. I caught them earlier this year at Rubber Gloves. A few songs in, I realized bands in black hoodies and bad haircuts are becoming increasingly irrelevant to me.
Sherri DuPree, Eisley
Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism (Barsuk)
First of all, Death Cab scores high for making a greater record than their previous records (which are all good). From start to finish, Transatlanticism (an indie record, mind you) slathers me with the happiest, dreamiest, most honest-est songs in any collection I've heard this year. Oh yeah, and since this is going into print...we'd love to tour with Death Cab.
Max Hartman, Mur
Radiohead, Hail to the Thief (Capitol)
This is classic Radiohead through the hands and voices of a group of players that have had their experimental lingerings but have returned to the craft of making songs--beautiful, melodic songs that range from elegant to menacing and all points between. While returning to the kind of rhythms and beats that hypnotize rather than confuse, the band never sounded so tasteful and mature, with perhaps the most welcome return of 2003: Thom Yorke's voice.
Kevin Ingle, The Deathray Davies
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell (Interscope)
I kept coming back to this album and Turbonegro's, but the YYY's give you arty rock balanced with elements of punk/dance and attitude. You can dance and rock out, plus "Maps" is one fine tune to give the album balance. They might pose a bit too much, but they can't help being so goddamn arty and sad.
Ray Wylie Hubbard, Growl (Rounder/PGD)
This greasy, rocking, reckless-while-thoughtful CD caught me off-guard. "Screw you, we're from Texas" is proof that if you can identify the enemy, 30 years of being beaten down by screaming, drunk kids yelling for the one song you don't really remember writing that made somebody else rich, you can line 'em up and knock 'em in the head with music that they will not likely soon forget for the next 30 years.
Salim Nourallah, Happiness Factor
Local: The Deathray Davies, Midnight at the Black Nail Polish Factory (Glurp)
Imaginative production and some of John Dufilho's coolest songs. The lyrics and titles are always great!
National: Travis, 12 Memories (Sony)
I didn't care much for the band's last two albums, but this won me back with "The Beautiful Occupation."
Darren Paul, Tendril/Man Before Mars
Placebo, Sleeping With Ghosts (Astralwerks/EMD)
Placebo has never let me down. (Well, nothing has yet to top 1998's Without You I'm Nothing, but the last two albums have still been great.) One of the most unique voices in rock, simple and meaningful songs, and just enough attitude to convey them properly.
Michele Pittenger, Lucky Pierres
The Decemberists, Castaways and Cutouts (Kill Rock Stars)
This could have been released during the years following the Civil War if they had discs of plastic that magically emitted music. But it is modern, lyrical pop, and I can't stop listening to it. Colin Meloy has created an eclectic group of characters in various states, and they tell you their stories with an equally eclectic instrumental backdrop.
Jeff Ryan, Pleasant Grove
Sun Kil Moon, Ghosts of the Great Highway (Jet Set)
This has got to be the best songwriting from Mark Kozelek since Red House Painters' Red House Painters and Down Colorful Hill. This album is filled with gut-wrenching lyrics, melodies and soaring guitars, which is always a good thing.
McKay Brothers, McKay Brothers (Texas Archipelago Records)
Damn! Where did these guys come from? Best as I can tell the Bandera/Pipe Creek, Texas area. Produced by Gurf Morlix. The Guy Clark influence is unmistakable (particularly since they cover one of his tunes). Well-written, laid-back tunes, great production value and an overall really nice vibe. It's the kind of record I've been shooting to make for years.
Will Johnson, Centro-matic
OutKast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below; Reverend Charlie Jackson, God's Got It; Scout Niblett, I Am; Drive By Truckers, Decoration Day; Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co.; Erykah Badu, Worldwide Underground; The Baptist Generals, No Silver/No Gold; My Morning Jacket, It Still Moves; The Anomoanon, Asleep Many Years in the Wood; Black Keys, thickfreakness