It seems like every year, increasingly, I think I’m starting to turn into an old fogey when it comes to new music. I’m inclined to hear less and less new stuff on the radio, and most of my CD purchases have been compilations of older artists. For example, after I splurged on an Australian comp of the ’60s country-pop singer Sandy Posey last summer, the repeated plays it got resulted in me being the #1 listener of Sandy Posey at last.fm. Something like that could never, ever happen with a contemporary artist. Like many music fans, however, I think I’m in the majority in wanting to sample new music through individual songs rather than dropping a wad of cash on a new album. So this is where my post is heading: below in no particular order are my own idiosyncratic picks for favorite tracks of the past year. With a couple of exceptions, all were released in 2007 — and all were excellent. (nifty cartoon art from Ward‘s flickr photo stream).
Shawn Lee & His Ping Pong Orchestra — “Hey Ya” (Hits the Hits) Gimmicky but cool Outkast cover played as cool piano jazz with a live ensemble a la Ramsey Lewis. I also enjoyed Lee’s Bully, a stylish videogame soundtrack that skillfully apes everything from ’80s synth pop to ’70s cop show themes.
Feist — “1234” (The Reminder) Unpretentious, cute but not cloying, the kind of song that sneaks up on you. Now that it’s featured in an iPod commercial, though, I don’t like it as much.
Mama Cass Elliot — “One Way Ticket” (Mama’s Big Ones) I became obsessed with this 1970 single after my friend Ion put this on one of his incredible mixes. It’s a sort of “Make Your Own Kind of Music” part II, only more bubblegummy and possessing that perfect California Pop sound. No wonder she moved from this to guest voice on Scooby Doo.
Justice — “D.A.N.C.E.” (Cross) An ingenious, booty-shaking production that was played it to death last summer after I included it on one of my mixes (that always happens). After seeing the video, I’m started to come around again.
Pleasure — “Out of Love” (Pleasure 2) Snappy and gorgeous girly Euro-pop. I don’t know much about Pleasure, but based on this tune I sure want to hear more.
The Go! Team — “Doing It Right” (Proof of Youth) Another Go Team song that sounds like it was crappily recorded in a bathroom with a cheer squad and a bunch of thrift store instruments, but what a blast! I can hear snatches of the ’60s nuggets “Monkey Time” and “California Soul” here, but once again they knock my socks off with their ebullient originality.
Butcher Boy — “Girls Make Me Sick” (Profit In Your Poetry) In the absence of anything new from Belle & Sebastian this year, I’ll take this punchy B&S knockoff with a Morrissey-esque singer.
Lucky Soul — “One Kiss Don’t Make a Summer” (The Great Unwanted) If you’re getting tired of Amy Winehouse’s powerfully sung but overpraised album, check out Lucky Soul for more retro-’60s deliciousness. “One Kiss” was just one highlight of many on their irresistible long player The Great Unwanted (but it’s still not available in the U.S. — what’s up with that?).
Covox — “Computer Love” (8-Bit Operators – An 8-Bit Tribute to Kraftwerk) With “Computer Love”, Covox reinvents Kraftwerk as it it was composed for a Nintendo cartridge circa 1986. Another tune that I became strangely obsessed with in the past year.
Barenaked Ladies — “Michael Brennan” and “Big Bang Theory Theme” (emusic.com) I never liked the Ladies much before (too silly for my tastes, if you can believe that), but these two tunes rocked my ’07. The first was written in honor of the eMusic customer who downloaded the 100 millionth song, while the second serves as the theme for our favorite new sitcom.
Beverly Warren — “Let Me Get Close to You” (Spectropop Yahoo Group download) A magnificently produced Girl Group single that unaccountably failed to chart in 1964. I don’t know who this Beverly Warren chick was, but she (and her producers) absolutely nails the desperate teenage longing that Gerry Goffin and Carole King were going after. I mean, check it out and see if it doesn’t wow you like it did me.