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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm ALex Chadwick.

This week, we've asked some of our music reviewers to pick three of their favorite releases from this last year and here are the choices of critic Sarah Bardeen.

SARAH BARDEEN reporting:

Three albums really grabbed me this year, and the main thing they have in common is how different they are. The first album on my list, "Eco" by Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, is about as sweet as they come. It's unusual for me to be affected by an album as easy going as "Eco," but there's something about Drexler, whether it's his delicate voice or his intricate, thoughtful lyricism that makes me truly feel his lyrics, even when he uses worn out cliches like `All life is sacred.' Of course, it probably helps that he's singing in Spanish.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JORGE DREXLER: (Spanish sung)

BARDEEN: Everything about this album is well-placed, including the subtle electronica touches thanks to electronic tango wizard Luciano Supervielle and the hints of Uruguayan carnival music on "Transporte." Choosing a single favorite track would feel like slighting good friends, but if one song illustrates his appeal, it's probably the bittersweet "Salva Pantallas."

(Soundbite of "Salva Pantallas")

Mr. DREXLER: (Spanish sung)

BARDEEN: After Jorge Drexler, one of my biggest discoveries of the year was Brazilian singer-songwriter Seu Jorge, whose sultry growl tickles a slightly different nerve than Jorge Drexler. His solo debut "Cru" is by no means the most consistent album. At times, he might even veer off-key, but from the first time I heard it, it grabbed onto me and wouldn't let go.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SEU JORGE: (Foreign language sung)

BARDEEN: Jorge foregoes the cool, slinky sound we normally associate with Brazilian pop and bossa nova. Instead, his deep voice gravitates between gruff and velvety, while the songs remain anchored solely around his loose-limbed charismatic presence. Words fail me with Seu Jorge.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JORGE: (Foreign language sung)

BARDEEN: I would be remiss not mention Kanye West. West is so ubiquitous in pop culture that it seems almost counterproductive to name "Late Registration" as one of the best albums of the year. But I suspect that a large segment of the population knows him only for hits like "Jesus Walks" and the insanely catchy "Gold Digger." The truth is there's a lot more to West than just top-40 chart busters. It's an open secret that he's really an underground rap genius dressed in crossover clothing. And "Late Registration" is something of a masterpiece, both artistically and politically. Perhaps the most powerful track is the scathing "Crack Music."

(Soundbite of "Late Registration")

Mr. KANYE WEST: (Rapping) ...(Unintelligible) hair with crack. Raise the motor rate in DC and Maryland, we arrested in that. It's like we (unintelligible) Maryland...

BARDEEN: I have never heard any performer dissect the cultural and economic impact of rap music so distinctly or so chillingly.

(Soundbite of "Late Registration")

Mr. WEST: (Rapping) ...could you let this happen, happen.

BARDEEN: For NPR News, this is Sarah Bardeen in San Francisco.

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. DAY TO DAY returns in a moment.

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