As 2007 dwindles down, we look back at our favorite tracks. Each Tuesday through the end of the month, we’ll sing the praises of the 20 songs that made our year. See what made the cut, and let us know what you think of our choices.
Eve, “Tambourine,” from Here I Am (GEFFEN)
Never has a bait-and-switch so bruised dance floors around the world. When Eve’s alarm-call “Tambourine” first dropped, Paris hadn’t seen the inside of a jail cell, Dog the Bounty Hunter still had a career, and Lindsay had only been to rehab once. The world was ready for the triumphant return of the Caramel Bombshell, who managed to make hard-spit rhymes seem glam and menacing, like a Swarovski encrusted glock. All the pieces were in place: the Swizz Beatz-produced first single was a masterpiece ? an early ?70s funk sample from the Soul Searchers, the air raid beat, and the classiest lady in hip-hop employing a clever euphemism for dancing. Between reggaeton whoops, Eve demands we get on the dance floor. And that’s what we do. It remains unclear whether Here I Am contains other gems; the troubled disc has been pushed back ’til January.
Conor Oberst has always been a word guy, and evoking the Florida burg that boasts a bevy of psychics, he builds his best album around a swirling string of poetic phrases. But that’s not exactly why Cassadaga is his most enjoyable disc. And it’s not exactly why “Four Winds” is the Bright Eyes track you’re most likely to hear leaping from a mixtape at this year’s holiday parties. The reason behind those two notions is simple: melody. Oberst contours “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” let’s his fiddle player do a jazzy hoedown thing, and injects a parade of Blonde On Blonde couplets into a ever-cresting wave of enthusiasm. Dude may be known for melancholy, but I’d follow his march to the sea any day.
Editors paint with a wide brush, and at this late date in pop, that’s charming. The first single from their second album is a sweeping affair, shot through with a melancholy schadenfreude and military drumbeats that wouldn’t sound out of place had they come from one of Britain’s original post-punks, railing against authority. It sounds like low-income housing flats in rough neighborhoods where it never stops raining, and is remarkable for its earnest appraisal of rock ‘n’ roll: Irony is just too sad these days — the mainstream bought it long ago and continues to sell it off for spare parts. Pulling off a song this sincere requires a sort of faith that’s now rare, the inspirational sense that despite overwhelming negativity, there’s still hope, and there’s no need to pander about it either, because the kids understand. That, friends, is the heart of rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s also why your parents still don’t get it.
Wilco, “Impossible Germany,” from Sky Blue Sky (NONESUCH)
In 2007, there were few sounds more defiantly lonely than the guitar solo played by avant-garde jazz guitarist Nels Cline at the start of “Impossible Germany.” Keening like some lupine creature, the sound is only made more desolate by Jeff Tweedy doubling it. Immediately Cline’s soliloquy breaks and Tweedy’s rough-hewn vocals go over familiar Wilco territory: a troubled affair, a difficulty in expression, and a dollop of oblique metaphor (in this case inscrutable geography). World War II allusions? Sheer distance? With Tweedy freshly rehabbed, one would think the music would sound less like it was floating through a Vicodin fog, but the track manages to sound both clear and obscure, perpetually entrancing.
Some milkshakes bring the boys to the yard, some girls like to hollaback, and some teenagers have no problem bending hip-hop to suit any and all pop purposes. If we never hear from Niatia Kirkland again, she’s done a nice job of extending the string of beats ‘n’ voice hits that started with Kelis, made room for “Pon de Replay,” and got Fergie and Gwen a bit more street cred than they deserve. Real teens are real teens, and the sexual sass of high school corridors leaps from Lil’ Mama’s oft-repeated refrain, “Whachooknowboutme, whatchooknowboutme?” As she bends and stretches the simple rhymes of this jump-rope anthem, your mind paints in all the details that bubble up. The Brooklyn sidewalks become crystal clear. That’s why it was best to listen to “Lip Gloss” while you were strolling down the street. Just one question: who’s going to deliver next summer’s nugget?