VARIOUS ARTISTS, Casey Kasem presents: The Long Distance Dedications (Universal, 2007)
In 2002, Christina Aguilera brought the waterworks on in bikers, bakers, and human Bratz doll devotees with the Linda Perry-penned ballad “Beautiful.” And while that song isn’t part of this compendium of Casey Kasem countdown-approved Top Tens, it has an echo in “Greatest Love of All,” the 1986 Whitney Houston epic that kicks this set off. Like “Beautiful,” “Greatest” doesn’t truly hit until the second time through the chorus.
BONDE DO ROLE, With Lasers (Domino, 2007)
Danca do Zumbi, motherfuckers. It’s the title of the irresistible opener on With Lasers, the Domino debut of bratty Brazilian trio Bonde Do Role. But like the album in general, it’s also the phrase that pays for the summer months, a catchall to serve as hello, goodbye, and hey, would you like to drink heavily and have air sex? “Danca,” “Solta o Frango,” “Gasolina,” and “Divine Gosa” – these are instant/fleeting party jams, songs powered by bits gleefully scavenged from Miami booty music, oversexed ghettotech, and old Tone Loc cassettes, and led by the slaphappy chatting of young MCs Marina Ribatski and Pedro D’eyrot.
THE NATIONAL, Boxer (Beggars Banquet, 2007)
“I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders,” Matt Berninger sang in “Mr. November,” from The National’s 2005 album Alligator. And it was a wonderful image, neatly summarizing both the anguished self-confidence issues detailed in the song and the Brooklyn-based quintet’s ability to lend real texture to the worn corduroy of their contemporary indie rock. Types noticed. The buzz on Alligator evolved slowly but steadily, from the blogs to the stages of summer indie festivals, until it seemed like we actually had a keeper amongst the hundreds of instant indie flameouts. And that’s rare in this minutes-ago age.
LARRY MURRAY, Sweet Country Suite (Fallout, 2007)
There’s truck drivin’ music – typified by the Dave Dudley honky-Tonka classics “Six Days on the Road” and “Rolaids, Doan’s Pills, and Preparation H” – and then there’s pickup truck drivin’ music, which is more about the feel of things than logbooks or Freightliners. And the best parts of Sweet Country Suite, Larry Murray’s 1970 solo record after leaving his psychedelic country band Hearts and Flowers, are perfect for pickup truck drivin’.
BETTY DAVIS, Betty Davis / They Say I’m Different (Light in the Attic, 2007)
With a righteous squeal and her towering boot heel on your neck she comes, this lava-blooded woman who tamed Miles Davis and turned soul into funk and vice versa. The testimonials you’ve read from the titans of musical industry? Those are true. Like the one from Miles where he describes Betty Davis, to whom he was married for a brief but mighty year, as “Prince, only as a woman.” Or Ice Cube telling us that Betty was a “G for real.”