National Public Radio’s "Fresh Air with Terry Gross" recently aired my annual best-pop-music year-end round-up; you can listen to it here. I'd like to call attention to a couple of entries I think you might enjoy if you haven't already heard them. The first is Girl Talk's album Feed The Animals. Girl Talk is the stage name for the D.J. Greg Gillis, and Feed The Animals, which consists of literally hundreds of snippets of songs, from those of Metallica to the Carpenters, to create a densely layered slab of pleasure. I hear Feed The Animals in my head the same way I do when I read Kenneth Koch's "When The Sun Tries To Go On": its juxtapositions are at first startling and funny, sometimes exhausting, but ultimately thrilling and exhilarating.
I'd also call your attention to Raphael Saadiq’s The Way I See It album. Every year now for the past decade, since the "neo-soul" movement became a marketing term, a few musicians have put out albums that attempt to salute, evoke, imitate, or reinvent the soul-music era of the late 60s and early 70s. Too often, they are merely well-intentioned items of nostalgia. Finally, this year, Saadiq figured out how to do it right. His album uses soul music as a genre, as a technique, the way a visual artist might use collage or a poet might use the sonnet—not as an end in itself but as a framework, a set of tools to build a strong new structure. At first I thought this album would be considered baby-boomer retro-music, but I'm heartened to find many younger listeners responding to these passionately fresh, lively songs.
Finally, one of my favorite pieces of music all year is a novelty song—remember novelty songs? This one, from the country-rocker Hayes Carll, "She Left Me For Jesus," is just about perfect, as befits a song about the Son of God as a competitor for one’s object of desire.