NPR logo The Best Songs of the Year, from KUT

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.

The Best Songs of the Year, from KUT

Cover for Neon Bible
Keep the Car Running
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Keep the Car Running

  • from
  • by

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.

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Song
Neon Bible
Album
Neon Bible
Artist
Arcade Fire
Label
Merge
Released
2007

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Cover for Woke on a Whaleheart
Diamond Dancer
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Diamond Dancer

  • from Woke on a Whaleheart
  • by Bill Callahan

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.”

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Song
Woke on a Whaleheart
Album
Woke on a Whaleheart
Artist
Bill Callahan
Label
Drag City
Released
2007

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Cover for Radiolina
Me Llaman Calle
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Me Llaman Calle

  • from Radiolina
  • by Manu Chao

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.

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Song
Radiolina
Album
Radiolina
Artist
Manu Chao
Label
Nacional MNF Brasil
Released
2007

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Cover for Phenomenal Ruthie Foster
Heal Yourself
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Heal Yourself

  • from The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster
  • by Ruthie Foster

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.

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Song
Phenomenal Ruthie Foster
Album
Phenomenal Ruthie Foster
Artist
Ruthie Foster
Label
Blue Corn
Released
2007

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Cover for Children Running Through
Stay on the Ride
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Stay on the Ride

  • from Children Running Through
  • by Patty Griffin

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.

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Song
Children Running Through
Album
Children Running Through
Artist
Patty Griffin
Label
Ato / Red
Released
2007

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Cover for Shepherd's Dog
Resurrection Fern
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Resurrection Fern

  • from Shepherd's Dog
  • by Iron & Wine

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.

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Song
Shepherd's Dog
Album
Shepherd's Dog
Artist
Iron & Wine
Label
Sub Pop
Released
2007

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Cover for The Stage Names
Unless It's Kicks
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Unless It's Kicks

  • from The Stage Names [Deluxe]
  • by Okkervil River

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?"

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Song
The Stage Names
Album
The Stage Names
Artist
Okkervil River
Label
Jagjaguwar

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Cover for Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Rhthm and Soul
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Rhthm and Soul

  • from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  • by Spoon

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.

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Song
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Album
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Artist
Spoon
Label
Merge
Released
2007

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Cover for Magic
Long Walk Home
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Long Walk Home

  • from Magic
  • by Bruce Springsteen

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.

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Song
Magic
Album
Magic
Artist
Bruce Springsteen
Label
Sony
Released
2007

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Cover for Sky Blue Sky
Icky Thump
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Hate It Here

  • from Sky Blue Sky
  • by Wilco

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.

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Song
Sky Blue Sky
Album
Sky Blue Sky
Artist
Wilco
Label
Nonesuch
Released
2007

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Read more Top Ten lists by the KUT staff.

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