The Year In Music: Nationals Of Note

Twenty (Or So) Of The Year’s Best Big-Time Albums

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Ani DiFranco Red Letter Year (Righteous Babe)

Get comfortable with the more joyous mom DiFranco, because "edgy" doesn’t always mean "better," and there’s plenty left once all that twisty suffering dissipates. (MD)

Avishai Cohen The Flood (Anzic Records)

On The Flood, part two of The Big Rain Trilogy, trumpeter/composer Cohen takes you on a swim through a Noah-like event, buoyed by his poetic spirit, lyrical playing and emotional intensity. (MM)

Blitzen Trapper Furr (Sub Pop)

Experimental folk with a Dylan fetish. (SM)

Colourmusic F, Monday, Orange, February, Venus, Lunatic, 1 or 13 (Great Society)

Psychedelic twee at its most adorable. (SM)

CSS Donkey (Sub Pop)

Cheesy but classy dance-rock from Brazil. (SM)

Dafnis Prieto Taking the Soul for a Walk (Dafnison Music)

Leading a transcendent sextet, the Cuban-born jazz drummer and composer gives eloquent expression to exile’s internal life—equal parts angst and exhilaration. (MM)

DeVotchKa A Mad and Faithful Telling (ANTI-)

Both you and your grandpa might like this album. (MD)

Donny McCaslin Recommended Tools (Greenleaf Records)

Tenorist McCaslin does a high-wire saxophone trio act of stunning musicality, blowing the bejesus out of his horn on nine originals and Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan,” with the superior assistance of bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Jonathan Blake. (MM)

Dr. John and the Lower 911 City That Care Forgot (429 Records)

The good doctor brings the healing powers of funk to the still-raw wounds of Katrina, offering a jazz funeral for the storm’s victims and excoriating the inept bureaucrats and greedy speculators who deepened the crisis. (MM)

The Dresden Dolls No, Virginia (Roadrunner)

"Nothing is crueler than children who come from good homes," may be the best first line in a song this year. (MD)

Eagles of Death Metal Heart On (Downtown)

A glass of Southern Comfort that sweats testosterone and genteel sleaze. (MD)

Islands Arm's Way (ANTI-)

Bright, guitar-heavy melodies juxtaposed with death-obsessed lyrics. (SM)

Keane Perfect Symmetry (Island)

Synthesizer gives Keane’s alt.piano tunes a cheeky swagger. (SM)

The Knux Remind Me in 3 Days (Interscope)

Nerd hip-hop duo that likes new wave and grimy electro as much as it reveres rap’s legends. (SM)

My Brightest Diamond A Thousand Shark's Teeth (Asthmatic Kitty)

Delicate and masterful, Shara Worden’s arrangements sweep into the vast spaces between stars. (MD)

Omar Sosa Afreecanos (Ot‡ Records)

The genius of jazz pianist/composer Omar Sosa centers in his understanding that music, at bottom, is a doorway to another world, and on Afreecanos, as he did on 2004’s Mulatos, he takes us on an evocative journey through the oldest and newest sounds on the planet. (MM)

Portugal. The Man Censored Colors (Equal Vision)

Luscious prog-rock melodies and falsetto vocals. (SM)

The Roots Rising Down (Def Jam)

Tinted in the muted tones of evening, these guys know the maturity of a slow boil. (MD)

Tilly and the Wall o (Team Love)

It’s dance-rock the kid in you craves. (SM)

Tom McDermott & Connie Jones Creole Nocturne (Arbors Records)

Trad jazz is not only alive and well but evolving still, as evidenced by this happy pairing of two superior New Orleans players—pianist Tom McDermott and cornetist Connie Jones, neither of whom knows how to play a false note. (MM)

TV on the Radio Dear Science (Interscope)

The apocalypse’s Afro-pop after-party. (MD)

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