1. MURS - MURS For President
For twelve years, MURS has had his groove down! MURS For President may not be his strongest yet, but the large amount of publicity it has received since last September means that more folks are going to be exposed to what a slick MC he is. Call me somewhat obsessive, but the way that "Lookin' Fly" samples the trumpet part of "Flight of the Bumble Bee" is something I can't get out of my head. Chalk it up to Keith Harris' solid skills as a collaborator and producer, but also to MURS' own innate savvy as an artist.
2. Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
A simply beautiful album. The kind of delicate mastery that Davis brings to his version of these songs is something rare even in Jazz. The fiftieth anniversary of its release is coming up, which seemed a good excuse to give it yet another listen (though in reality, anything would make a good excuse to listen to this masterpiece. Someone once commented that Miles' style had an erudite quality that really hadn't played a role in Jazz up until then; he isn't rapidly running through the notes and dazzling you with his speed. He's just playing the right notes every time, which makes for an equally fascinating listen.
3. Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
Two decades old, and Nation of Millions sounds as intense, thick and radical as it did upon its release. "I got a letter from the government the other day. I opened and read it. It said they were suckas!" Chuck D is so damned cool here that he doesn't even need to rhyme anymore! But of course, PE wouldn't be PE without Terminator X's mind-blowing beats. Every listen reveals a new layer, something else going on deep within the rhythm you hadn't necessarily noticed before. That they can maintain this intricacy and still be forceful and unrelenting make X's beats a perfect compliment to Chuck here.
4. David Bowie - The Buddha of Suburbia
Aside from this being the soundtrack to the mini-series based on my absolute favorite book of all time, there is an undeniably universal appeal to this album--the kind that only a master like Bowie can bring to an album. Youth, alienation, the struggle to find your own place in the world are all themes that Bowie has woven into just about every song here, and despite the book taking place in the 70s, it's all relatable. Bowie has an uncanny ability making our own mundane struggles seem of utmost importance and almost epic in their scope.
5. Royksopp - Junior
Royksopp are displaying their impressively broad versatility on their new album. At times, like on the aptly titled opener "Happy Up Here," it is bright, peppy and upbeat--with all the bright-eyed optimism of a child being handed an ice cream cone. At other moments, such as ***** they create an introspective world that is beautiful, mysterious and even a bit frightening. Junior is expected to be the first of a two-part series of albums in '09. If Senior is along the same lines as this, then Royksopp might end up being one of the most influential artists of the entire year.