A mix of heavyweights (White Stripes, D'Angelo) and personal faves (Amy Rigby, Art Brut) as the countdown continues.
It's sad that Rigby's bid at a Nashville songwriting career failed, because nobody writes sharper songs about love and sex on the wrong side of 40. Oh well, country radio's loss can be your gain. On her best album since her career-making 1996 debut Diary of a Mod Housewife, Rigby is all over the place: a new husband's ex-wife, her identification with Rasputin ("In 1981, I withstood similar attack/I got hit but I came back"), a dream about Joey Ramone, old flings, needy men, that exasperating thing called love. Her fizzy voice is as charmingly limited as ever and, as always, bolstered by bull's-eye phrasing.
Song Sample: "I Don't Wanna Talk About Love No More"
Single: "The Night I Fell in Love" — The Pet Shop Boys (2002)
An Eminem answer record, sung in the voice of a male teen fan who gets backstage after a concert and spends a tender, passionate night with the most meanest MC: "The next morning we woke (secret lovers)/He couldn't have been a much nicer bloke/After breakfast made jokes/About Dre and his homies and folks."
Like Brit-rock heroes Pulp, but more crude, more punk, maybe even funnier, this band of London never-will-bes are too cranky to be trendy ("Yes, this is my singing voice/It's not irony"), and besides, they have more important things on their mind: "We're gonna be the band that writes the song/That makes Israel and Palestine get along!" Maybe not, but they sure have plenty to say about old girlfriends, new girlfriends ("I've seen her naked! Twice!"), younger siblings, poor bedroom performance, and museum etiquette, among other topics.
Song Sample: "Good Weekend"
Single: "Get Low" — Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz, featuring the Ying Yang Twins (2002)
Some of the lyrics are heinous, some are just gross, and some are kind of funny ("CAN I PLAY WIT YO PANTY LINE?"). But there's no ambivalence to the music, where the rhythmic complexity steamrolls. Official video:
The Marvin Gaye and Al Green comparisons aren't entirely off base, but D'Angelo's claustrophobic rhythm and blues is as much dystopian dream world as love-unlimited orchestra, the sonic progeny of such headphone funk forebears as There's a Riot Goin' On, Maxinquaye, and, most of all, Prince's weird, sexy "Adore."
Song Sample: "Devil's Pie"
Single: "Hotel Yorba" — The White Stripes (2001)
A strong Band of the Decade candidate, for sure. They had many bigger and more signature hits, but I think this righteous, floorboard-stomping single was their finest moment. Official video: