Submitted by Ben Forrest - inReview.net staff
1. Kanye West Graduation
I'm not a huge fan of this album, but anything Kanye produces peaks my interest. Graduation pales in comparison to his previous effort, Late Registration, and isn't exactly stellar from a moral standpoint. But "Stronger" was one of the better hip-hop singles of the year, and the album has other catchy moments. Ultimately, this collection ended up where all of my Kanye albums eventually do – the trash bin – but it spun regularly in my stereo until I got sick of it.
2. The White Stripes Icky Thump
Until this year, I've always regarded Jack and Meg White with a wary and mildly annoyed gaze, my eyes usually rolling. "Overrated" and "overplayed" were the words I assigned to their band. Plus, their videos were weird. But Icky Thump won me over, mainly because of its bluesy elements. Jack takes his guitar playing to a new level on this album, and he and drummer Meg manage to do something I didn't know they were capable of: they groove.
3. Mat Kearney Nothing Left to Lose
I bought this album without realizing it consists mainly of songs from Bullet, Mat's 2004 debut for Inpop Records. A closer look at the track list would have avoided my mistake, but hey … everybody's brain goes on vacation once in a while. After my initial peevedness wore off, a few of the newer songs began to grow on me. "What's a Boy to Do" is a favorite, although I have no idea what it's about, and "Can't Break Her Fall" is top-notch as well. For whatever reason, I came back to this album frequently, mainly when I was on the road. Serenity is sometimes absent from the lyrics, but there is something about Nothing Left to Lose that puts me at ease.
4. K-os Atlantis: Hymns for Disco
K-os, as you might know, is one of the few Canadian emcees to have much success outside the country – or inside it, for that matter. The GWN (Great White North) is notoriously lacking its support of urban music, and as a result it's not surprising K-os' creations frequently break the hip-hop mold. For every "Ballad of Noah" or "Electrik Heat" – two stellar rap tracks from Atlantis – there are soulful, experimental cuts like "Born to Run" and "The Rain." I tend to skip over the latter type, but portions of this album were revisited until I couldn't stand it anymore.
5. Grits the greatest hits
I missed out on most of Coffee and Bonafide's early hits and took this album as a chance to catch up. "Believe," featuring Jennifer Knapp is one of the best, and "They All Fall Down" is stellar. Previously un-released cuts like "Better Without Me" are also pleasing, and a few of my old faves from the post-Dichotomy A era make appearances as well. Grits is one of the few artists whose new stuff I consider an essential buy.