By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
"I remember hearing 'Hey There Delilah,' and it was so simple—guitar, voice and strings. [It shows] you don't have to make a complicated song to have a hit single."
Kanye West, Graduation
"Yeah, I listen to hip-hop. I hope my mom doesn't kill me [laughs]. I like Kanye West and 50 Cent, and I didn't take a side in that whole battle. But I did buy [West's] Graduation, so I guess I took a side. The album is in heavy rotation on my iPod. 'Stronger'—that song is genius."
Post-hardcore and screamo
"I like Silverstein and a local band called Greeley Estates that's doing really well. My favorite is a band called Dizmas. They're really good, and I love their music. They came and performed at my church [Calvary Community Church in Phoenix], and it was really funny, because people were like, 'Are they screaming?' But I like post-hardcore because it's really cool for when you're angry. Anybody who can scream like that and not blow their voice out is amazing. It takes a lot of skill and practice to be able to do that. I can't do it."
"I haven't heard all of her new album [As I Am] yet, but I like her new single ('No One'). Alicia Keys just amazes me. She plays piano like no other, she's got a great voice and she writes her own songs." —Niki D'Andrea
Dan Wilson's Skyway Serenades
Grammy-winning Dixie Chicks collaborator Dan Wilson (he co-wrote reigning Record of the Year "Not Ready to Make Nice") released his first solo album this year, the Rick Rubin-produced Free Life. The Semisonic songwriter and former Trip Shakespearean still lives in Minneapolis, still shops at Electric Fetus and recently finished producing former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty's Golden Delicious, due in February. Wilson plans on holing up and writing songs for the next few months.
"I got so excited about [Jim] Walsh's book [Mats oral history All Over But the Shouting] that I got digital versions of songs I already had on vinyl. I tried to listen to others, but I just got stuck on 'Skyway.' It's so short and so perfect, it makes you want to listen to it again and again. I wonder if people who don't have skyways even understand what it's about."
Sufjan Stevens, "Concerning the UFO Sighting near Highland, Illinois"
"One of the guys from Absent Star came up to me with his iPod and commanded that I listen to it. It's important to musicians—they'll be like, 'You have to listen to this,' and I'll obey. I have the whole album [Illinois], but I just listen to this—it's a really mysterious song."
"I first heard this as a child at a piano recital. This very brilliant boy played it, and I was transfixed. Jacob from Semisonic gave it to me when I was recovering from surgery, and I listened to it for a month. It was a source of peace and comfort; the Percocet was also very helpful."
Radiohead, In Rainbows
"I tried to pay for it 12 times and got hung up on by their server—it kept kicking me off. I gave up, and then someone gave it to me. I'm going to buy the geek version anyway. I'm a fool for them."
Dixie Chicks, Wide Open Spaces
"My daughter Coco is an obsessive Chicks fan. She made me listen to it 100 times this summer. I mentioned it to Emily [Robison], and she said, 'I hope it hasn't ruined the music the way my son has ruined 'We Will Rock You' for me.'"
"Rick Rubin made me listen to this over the phone. He said, 'Check it out!' and held his phone up to the speaker. This is the album I wore out. It's very tender and really rocking at the same time—full of amazingly surprising moments, really proportionate and beautiful, but also kind of 'off.'"
"I got hyped on that from reading reviews. Jarrett's got this crazy ability to have each hand do completely different things, both very wildly—and then it snaps into place as this gospel, vampy, swinging thing. He's just so audacious."
Mike Doughty, Golden Delicious
"Technically speaking, I listened to this album more than any other on the list, but now I'm listening to it just for enjoyment. Usually it takes me a couple years to have the distance, but for some reason I've been able to really enjoy this album. John Kirby played a lot of loose, free, very spontaneous melodies—a lot of it was really unscripted." —S.A.
Dave Navarro Covers the Spread
Looks like Dave Navarro is going to be all about instant gratification next year. The L.A. native guitarist, who launched his own Internet TV show and directed his first porno in 2007, has obviously become inspired by both the immediacy the Web provides and the adult film industry's quick turnaround.