By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Beck, "Strange Apparition."
"It seems Beck is always good to keep things interesting. I like it when he channels songs or artists, and this time it's the Rolling Stones song 'Torn and Frayed' spit back out as an idiosyncratic cautionary tale as seen through the windshield of a Mercedes-Benz."
"Plenty of incongruous instrumentation and lyrical non-sequiturs to ponder. [Son Volt guitar tech] Jason Hutto and I spent the better part of a five-hour drive from Chicago soaking up a Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra compilation. We found out the next morning that he had died the same day we were listening."
"This CD was recorded live by the drummer. Is it western swing or hillbilly jazz? I don't know, but to me it always sounds fresh and intriguing."
Richard Buckner, "Town"
"Richard makes good with this lyrical equilibrium-buster, fueled with a looking-back-20-years audio landscape."
Richard and Linda Thompson, Pour Down Like Silver
"This was an 'album' when it was released in 1975, and to me it represents the idea of the perfect album. I always listen straight through and often listen to the whole thing twice in a row. The level of musicianship on this record is a marvel. And there is an element of mystery to it, down to the Sufi garb on the front and back covers." —Annie Zaleski
Diana Taurasi's Mercury Rising
2007 was a stellar year for basketball star Diana Taurasi. The 6-foot Phoenix Mercury guard helped lead the franchise (and city of Phoenix) to its first-ever basketball championship, toppling defending WNBA champion Detroit Shock on its home court in the final game of their best-of-five series. The Mercury made it onto a Wheaties box, Taurasi re-signed a half-million-dollar deal to play in Russia during the off-season and now has one of sports Web site yardbarker.com's most popular athlete blogs at www.yardbarker.com/dianataurasi.
One of the reasons Taurasi's blog rocks is her candid banter about all sorts of things, but most often music—plus, she often carries on conversations about music with her fans in the comments section.
Because Taurasi's bundled up B-balling in the former Soviet Union right now, here's some of her Yardbarker commentary on what rocked her world in '07.
Kanye West (posted 9-11-07)
"So here we are, on the eve of 9-11—still at war—and we're presented with one of the most important questions of our generation: Kanye or 50?
"Really. Kanye. Seriously. I'm buyin' that one and burnin' a copy for the car. Is there really a comparison? Fiddy? Are there recording studios at Shady Acres? For real, 'Stronger' is the jam of the summer. While you can question the sunglasses indoors, you can't fight Kanye's creativity. I won't venture to say lyrical genius (nobody is touching 'Pac in my book, most likely ever...in life), but the guy has undeniable talent. I like him. In the wasteland of what has become hip-hop (who can even listen to the radio anymore?), Kanye delivers."
Alicia Keys (11-13-07)
"The Alicia Keys/Ross Hogg reggae remix? What do you think? I didn't think it was possible to improve on the original, but this is the joint! In short, it's dope. I'm also not sure smoovely is a word, but I think it's tremendous and I plan to use it. Smoove it out on the laptop. If somebody figures out how to download the thing, holllerrr."
"We left off at Alicia Keys. Did you hear her stage name was going to be Alicia Wild instead of Alicia Keys? Yeah. Good call on whoever told her to swap in Keys for the stripper surname. She's killing it right now, isn't she? Did you see the American Music Awards last night? If given the choice, I would have passed on that mess they had Beyoncé up there doing, but is it coincidence that Alicia had the reggae performance? I think not. She must have seen the massive response my blog got and decided to [go in] that direction. And who knew a unitard could be so fly. I suppose if you add Beanie Man to most anything, it's dope. If he performed at a Mercury game, I think I might dunk." —N.D.
Christian Jacobs lives in a world of boldfaced, DayGlo images, a realm in which all sentences end in exclamation marks and fun is as common as oxygen. A founding member of the Huntington Beach, California, synth-pop-punk-ska band the Aquabats! and co-creator (with Scott Schultz) of new children's television show Yo Gabba Gabba!, Jacobs (aka the MC Bat Commander) assumes a cartoonish persona with earnestness and revels in goofiness with as much gusto as Jay-Z and 50 Cent luxuriate in their self-perpetuated, overblown mythologies.
As front man for the Aquabats!, Jacobs and his bandmates don superhero garb as they act out a comic-book-style storyline in which the group combats evil through its damnably catchy and ludicrously peppy songs that fall somewhere between Oingo Boingo and Devo at their most accessible. They've been doing so since 1994, over four studio albums and several international tours.