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The Best Songs of the Year, from KUT

As music director for Austin's KUT 90.5, I hear a lot of new songs — dozens and dozens a week — and not surprisingly, many aren't all that memorable. Songs bounce in, bang around my head and fly back out again. When something does manage to stick around, I take it as a good sign. Quite a few pieces of music managed the trick in 2007; limiting the list to just 10 was an exercise in frustration. In addition, there were many wonderful albums that worked as a whole (the new Radiohead or Austin's Li'l Cap'n Travis come to mind), but didn't necessarily have any single standout tracks. These 10 are keepers, though. I've lived with all these this year, and we got along just fine.

Keep the Car Running

Go. Keep moving. A spinning, propulsive and unforgettable track from the Montreal ensemble. Seeing this live sealed the deal for me. The large band employs many theatrical flourishes; lots of pumping fists and thrashing percussion as it continually sends its music flying down the highway.

Diamond Dancer

A song of obsession that tells how a mere glimpse can take your breath away. Callahan now lives (but rarely plays) in Austin, and has kept the patented monotone he perfected with Smog intact. A chugging funk beat underpins the moment of discovery: “She was dancing so hard / She danced herself into a diamond.”

Me Llaman Calle

Chao picked up a Grammy nomination for this track from his first studio release in five years, which tells the tale of a prostitute. Unlike the punkish ska beats that dominate a lot of his material, "Calle's" lilting Latin beat plays in juxtaposition to the sad tale. "Mi corazon no es de alquilar" ("My heart is not for rent"), he sings.

Heal Yourself

With all due respect to Amy Winehouse, Foster's CD was easily the retro-soul release of the year. From its initial fade-in, the funk takes hold, and Foster belts out this tale of self-help with passion and pride.

Stay on the Ride

An existential joy ride. Griffin hasn't sounded this loose, free or happy in years. Her album is a triumph, and this track is the real gem. An almost nonsensical tale, it features a funk beat, blaring Otis Redding horns, and my God --- that voice.

Resurrection Fern

A pop-music scholar if ever there was one, family man Sam Beam, under the nom de guerre Iron and Wine, crafts exquisite tales that only grow richer in repeated listenings. Metaphorical rebirth set to a haunting melody.

Unless It's Kicks

While its previous CD, 'Black Sheep Boy,' was an unrelenting downer, the ambitious Okkervil River has found rejuvenation by lightening up. 'The Stage Names' is its best album, finding energy and humor while jamming in more lyrics than have any right to live in a pop song. "What gives this mess some grace unless it's kicks?"

Rhthm and Soul

Sasha Frere-Jones must have missed this one. The 'New Yorker' writer fanned some flames this year by claiming indie-rock has lost its soul (literally), but a churning R&B backbeat, punctuated by bass whoops and pumping keyboards, prove him wrong. Singer Britt Daniels' clipped vocal style will never be confused with Aretha Franklin's, but his band, in one winning album after another, brings the party.

Long Walk Home

Disguised as a return-to-the-old-days E Street Band record, 'Magic' packs some considerable vitriol and political discontent behind its summertime sheen. Springsteen trolls familiar territory -- hope, loss and regret -- only this time it’s history that needs redeeming, not him.

Hate It Here

A simple tune so slyly infectious that the CDC has their eye on it. Jeff Tweedy has stripped his band of some of its artier flourishes for this release, making some fans less than happy. But by concentrating on songs, Wilco has made one of its finest albums to date. And that’s saying a lot.

Copyright 2007 KUT News

Jeff McCord