Looking over this list, it's clear that my 2007 picks are ones that look back to bygone decades: The Dap-Kings, who back Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones, sounding like the house band of a long-lost R&B label that might be resurrected by Numero Group, or Iron & Wine (aka Sam Beam) getting his Crosby, Stills & Nash on. Even the super-commercial singles I liked this year — Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5 — all take strong cues from the '70s and '80s. When All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen asked us critics about our pick for 'most innovative CD of the year' on a recent show, all that came to mind was Radiohead's pay-what-you-like roll-out of In Rainbows, a commentary on the marketing, not the tunes. I suppose that when I listen to music, I'm listening for something that grabs my ear, my heart, my soul. Innovation rarely enters the equation. But revitalizing old sounds (or songs) and making them exciting — making them sound like contemporary, living art and not a watered-down copy of a copy of a copy — takes an innovative approach, and I believe the artists below have accomplished just that.
More 2007 Top Tens From:
Bob Boilen, Will Hermes, Robin Hilton, Tom Moon,
Listener Picks for 2007