1. K'naan - Troubadour
This MC may hail from the streets of Mogadishu, but he's most definitely got West Coast revivalism on his mind. That doesn't stop him, however, with bringing some real originality to his rhymes and some nice flow too. His beats blend in a good amount of '70s Funk influence, as well as Reggae, Rock, Soul and R&B, but the twist he gives to all of it meshes each of these influences together in a unique way. This is definitely fun, different Hip-Hop with a great amount of gravitas.
2. Jeff Buckley - Sketches of My Sweetheart the Drunk
Not only does this album contain Buckley's legendary version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," but provides a unique look at an incredible artist gone way too soon. Buckley drowned while making My Sweetheart the Drunk so it's rough and unfinished on many of the tracks, but none of the songs leave you wanting. He had soul, swagger, and an unbelievable amount of vulnerability in his music. That his short career still echoes in music today is proof of how amazing he was, but it also only adds to the tragedy.
3. The King Blues - Save The World. Get The Girl
The King Blues bring a very off-beat sensibility to their version of Punk and Reggae, mixing in an unusual amount of acoustic instrumentation. Very little of this album smacks of what we think of as "Punk." The attitude, passion and commitment are what make it stand in a tradition. And it is unmistakably part of that tradition. The closing track "What If Punk Never Happened" roots them there, as well as makes clear that we would have almost no rebel music if not for the raucous sound of '77. It's also intensely relevant today and we are in definite need of more of it.
4. Marxman - 33 Revolutions Per Minute
Never heard of these guys? Neither have most on this side of the Atlantic, and that's a damn shame. Formed in 1989 in London, they were called the Anglo-Irish answer to Public Enemy. Revolutionary socialists all, they were banned from the BBC for their hit single "Ship Ahoy" (featuring Sinead O'Connor on vocals during the chorus), which included MC Hollis Byrne uttering the phrase "tiocfaidh ar la"--the motto of the IRA. Though their time was short-lived, their hypnotic, bass-heavy beats were integral in the formation of "the Bristol sound," later known as Trip-Hop.
5. Sonic Boom Six - Arcade Perfect
Punk, Rap and Reggae are all thrown together by this British five-piece. Remember the rise of lame Ska-Punk in the '90s? The "third wave"? Yeah, this isn't it. As a matter of fact, Sonic Boom Six prove that the collision of the two genres can be done in an organic, rebellious way as opposed to becoming easy prey for the industry. In fact, between SB6 and The King Blues, one wonders if Britain might be the location producing a fourth wave of Ska mixed. London hosts a music scene where no genre ever really dies away, and that kind of continuity roots the group's sound profoundly well.