1: Bob Dylan keeps finding inspiration in the American past and these tall tales from America’s folk-blues-country traditions in “Tempest” are as soulful as his past five albums have been. Can you say that a voice has seen everything? This one has. What a blessed croak.
2: The other great rock poet whose old voice has its own blessings, Leonard Cohen, took a break from his $200 a ticket concerts to release “Old Ideas,” a winning set of songs that show he’s still a revitalized songwriter as well as a beloved elder statesman.
3: Unlike Cohen and Dylan, David Byrne is always on the hunt for new ideas and new artists and his collaboration with St. Vincent, “Love This Giant,” gave the head Head a new vantage point to amuse us with his anthropological musings on the species, complete with horn-heavy arrangements.
4: Frank Ocean made headlines for coming out in a hip-hop world that hasn’t been known for its love of gay people, but meanwhile the combination of neo-soul, r&b, hip hop and blip hop in “Channel Orange” is as enjoyable as anything that came out this year. A great romantic trip whatever one’s inclinations.
5: Also living up to the hype, for the most part, was Fiona Apple despite the pretentiousness of the title, “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.” Her lyrics make much more sense, but it’s her voice and phrasing on both piano and vocals that make her something special.