David Cross It's Not Funny (Sub Pop)
Comedian David Cross' second album for Sub Pop, It's Not Funny, is not only funnier than his first, Shut Up, You Fucking Baby, it's smarter, angrier and delves even more deeply into the sad current state of American politics. In fact, Cross' various indictments of Bush, Rick Santorum, Strom Thurmond and other racist, homophobic Republicans is at times so vitriolic it's painful. Funny and true, but painful. Cross is a master storyteller and funny in the same intelligent, forward thinking way that Bill Hicks was: taking sensitive, taboo and controversial topics and splaying them out unmercifully.
Gordon Lightfoot Harmony (Linus)
Sometimes it takes looking death straight in the eye to get intimate with reflections of one's own life. While he's made 20 records during his nearly 40-year career, Harmony is his most inspired in decades. Divine intervention happened in 2002, when Lightfoot suffered a near-fatal aneurysm. But after a six-week coma and six months in the hospital, the legendary folkster got back to business, resulting in a record that invites itself into the soul, its glistening melodies hovering there like guardian angels. Lightfoot's voice is among the strongest, most satisfying in the genre, and he's a lyricist of Dylanic proportions.
Ojos de Brujo Bari (World Village)
It was bound to happen sooner or later; the coalescence of rumba catalana (traditional flamenco spiced with contemporary Latin rhythms a la the Gipsy Kings) with hip hop, funk and house music. Thankfully, it was done by Barcelona's Ojos de Brujo, an octet with roots firmly planted in flamenco first, then extending into other musical territories. The result is the best world music album to come along since the new millennium. Groovy, funky, dance-inspiring, melodically and technically challenging, and packed with such a tantalizing array of genre-bending that you won't need to buy another record for a good long time.