Mary Zajac is a writer living in Baltimore, and her principal subject is food. But her ears are as refined as her palate, and we’re honored that she has struck a blow for women everywhere and joined our little rock-geek boys club.
1. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky – Because of Tweedy’s plaintive, honest nakedness. Because the combination of “Impossible Germany” and a drive across the Bay Bridge at dusk now seems like the only way that song should be experienced. Because of the complementarity of Tweedy and Nels Cline. Because hearing this album emanating from an unmoving car caught up in stadium traffic this summer caused me to run across several lanes to enthuse to the driver (much to his surprise and seeming chagrin). Ah well, good music does that.
2 Radiohead, In Rainbows. This album is dark streets, late night trains, European cities, canned lager, and longing. I can’t get enough of it.
3. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Every song sounds completely original and completely different from every other song on the album, yet it all hangs together via Britt Daniel’s rasp. Genius.
4. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black. Raw, saucy, yet brimming with a world weary regret, Winehouse manages to reinvent a retro sound to make it sound thoroughly modern. I hope she has another album in her.
5. The Clientele – God Save the Clientele. The rainy day, cup of tea, Davy Jones-meets- the-Kings of Convenience vibe wins me over every time. Sometimes quiet is the new loud.
6. The National – Boxer. Haunting moody gloom. Put a little something in your lemonade and listen.
7. 1990s – Cookies. I love the Fratellis, but I think I love the 1990’s even more. Maybe it’s drummer Michael McGaughrin’s keening background vocals or Jackie McKeown’s snide taunting leads or maybe it’s just good ol’ poppy pub rock.
8. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala. When I first heard this album I thought Sufjan Stevens meets The Magnetic Fields, and I think that still applies. Lekman is all over the place stylistically, though there’s a lot of disco flute and horns, but it’s his wry vocals and understated singing that brings the whole package together and makes it sound like nothing else.
9. Teddy Thompson - Up Front and Down Low. I struggle with this album, as I struggle with Teddy Thompson’s beautiful voice yet lackluster presence. But the song choices on this album of classic country covers are spot on, and Thompson’s original song, “Keep it on the Down Low,” is one of the most heartfelt, heartbreaking songs released this year. I give in.
10. Rilo Kiley – Under the Blacklight. Aural cotton candy. There’s not a helluva lot of substance here, but Jenny Lewis’ vocals are so sweet and the whole production is so pretty that it seduces you into listening to it again and again.