The Best Songs of the Year, from KUT

fromKUT

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

  • Artist: Arcade Fire
  • Album: Neon Bible
  • Song: 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.

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  • "Keep the Car Running"
  • Album: Neon Bible
  • Artist: Arcade Fire
  • Label: Merge
  • Released: 2007
 
Cover for Woke on a Whaleheart

Diamond Dancer

  • Artist: Bill Callahan
  • Album: Woke on a Whaleheart
  • Song: 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.”

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  • "Diamond Dancer"
  • Album: Woke on a Whaleheart
  • Artist: Bill Callahan
  • Label: Drag City
  • Released: 2007
 
Cover for Radiolina

Me Llaman Calle

  • Artist: Manu Chao
  • Album: Radiolina
  • Song: 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.

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  • "Me Llaman Calle"
  • Album: Radiolina
  • Artist: Manu Chao
  • Label: Nacional MNF Brasil
  • Released: 2007
 
Cover for Phenomenal Ruthie Foster

Heal Yourself

  • Artist: Ruthie Foster
  • Album: The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster
  • Song: 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.

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  • "Heal Yourself"
  • Album: Phenomenal Ruthie Foster
  • Artist: Ruthie Foster
  • Label: Blue Corn
  • Released: 2007
 
Cover for Children Running Through

Stay on the Ride

  • Artist: Patty Griffin
  • Album: Children Running Through
  • Song: 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.

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  • "Stay on the Ride"
  • Album: Children Running Through
  • Artist: Patty Griffin
  • Label: Ato / Red
  • Released: 2007
 
Cover for Shepherd's Dog

Resurrection Fern

  • Artist: Iron & Wine
  • Album: Shepherd's Dog
  • Song: 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.

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  • "Resurrection Fern"
  • Album: Shepherd's Dog
  • Artist: Iron & Wine
  • Label: Sub Pop
  • Released: 2007
 
Cover for The Stage Names

Unless It's Kicks

  • Artist: Okkervil River
  • Album: The Stage Names [Deluxe]
  • Song: 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?"

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  • "Unless It's Kicks"
  • Album: The Stage Names
  • Artist: Okkervil River
  • Label: Jagjaguwar
 
Cover for Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Rhthm and Soul

  • Artist: Spoon
  • Album: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  • Song: 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.

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  • "Rhthm and Soul"
  • Album: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  • Artist: Spoon
  • Label: Merge
  • Released: 2007
 
Cover for Magic

Long Walk Home

  • Artist: Bruce Springsteen
  • Album: Magic
  • Song: 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.

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  • "Long Walk Home"
  • Album: Magic
  • Artist: Bruce Springsteen
  • Label: Sony
  • Released: 2007
 
Cover for Sky Blue Sky

Hate It Here

  • Artist: Wilco
  • Album: Sky Blue Sky
  • Song: 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.

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  • "Hate It Here"
  • Album: Sky Blue Sky
  • Artist: Wilco
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • Released: 2007
 

Read more Top Ten lists by the KUT staff.

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