Bubba Sparxxx's Deliverance
It's quite ironic that after practically reinventing the black-music landscape, a white hillbilly from rural Georgia would inspire the brilliant producer Timbaland's best work. Bubba Sparxxx's Deliverance is thrilling because the rapper's and producer's differences force them to carve a mutual respect into the music. Sparxxx's rhymes about his country living dazzle in their hip-hop authenticity, while Timbaland effectively invents country and western hip-hop. The producer combines his trademark spacy percussion, bass distortions and stuttering rhythms with "hee-haw" backing vocals, fiddles and, on "Jimmy Mathis," a funky and hilarious harmonica loop. -- C.O.
A New Pornographers moment: strumming Neko Case's guitar
Lazily playing broken chords on one of Neko Case's many guitars while waiting for the rest of the New Pornographers to finish a photo shoot, I almost drifted into an alternative country reverie. But the boom box blasting '70s rock in the next room wouldn't let me. Like her bandmates, Case is too restless to stick to one sound -- or one band. That's why the superb The Electric Version bursts at the seams. Bandleader Carl Newman piles on details like a hyperactive decorator, but songs like the scrumptious "The Laws Have Changed" will still pry your ass from the sofa. -- Charlie Bertsch
David Banner's screwed and chopped Mississippi
"Screwed and chopped" is a remixing style perfected by Houston's late DJ Screw, by which music receives the codeine cough syrup treatment -- slowed, stretched, darkened, distorted, unsettled. The result is supposed to be frightening. And yet the "screwed and chopped" version of David Banner's Mississippi: The Album is gorgeous. I love it. The harmonies grow more resonant; the horns melt like butter; the acoustic guitar tones sound more beautiful; and the rapper's alternating sociopathic misogyny ("Fuck you! Suck a dick, die, bitch!") and poignant discussion of racism's legacy sting with stunning power now that you understand what the growling MC is saying. -- C.O.
Broken Social Scene's "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl"
Since Lou Barlow lost his heartstring-tugging je ne sais quoi, indie anthems about love that aren't heavy-handed or ironically detached have been rare. Here's one by Canada's amoebic collective Broken Social Scene, a character study that stands out among the art-rock sing-alongs on the band's You Forgot It in People. Electronically altered singer Emily Haines whispers demands and disgusts cribbed from a high schooler's diary, repeating them over and over, as the band builds from a hush to an epic swoon. Chris Carraba only wishes he could write a soul song this good. -- P.O.
The decay of electroclash
Electroclash's coffin got its hotly anticipated nail this year when Rufus Wainwright sang about it on his Want One; "karaoke too," he called it. I'm not sure I agree, but it rhymes with "phone's on vibrate for you" anyway. Isn't the whole concept behind electroclash that not everybody can do it? That it requires lots of patience and a flair for the sadomasochistic? I admit to totally digging Fischerspooner the first time I saw them, but I also admit to not buying their CD. And also to preferring it to anything on Peaches' Fatherfucker. -- M.W.
Britney gets around, now, doesn't she?
Fred and Britney play he said, she said. Madonna and Britney kiss. Britney re-creates a famed Angie Dickinson shot -- but with a better ass -- for Esquire. Her new album In the Zone moans like an orgy. From virgin to (almost) like a virgin, Britney let it all hang out this year. Actually, we'll take the Esquire photos for future enjoyment; the other shit is just amusing ephemera. The cover shot alone is worth the price of the magazine. Now, if only Britney had some 10-gauge barbells skewering her private parts. -- B.J.K.
Lost in Translation: The Soundtrack
Downcast movie eyes owe Sophia Coppola a Twizzler for provoking My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields out of retirement. Shields returns with four nimble-footed tracks on the year's best soundtrack. Soundtrack producer Brian Reitzell makes Shields, Death in Vegas, Squarepusher, and Air all sound like members of the same collective. But the standout song, amid all the atmospherica, is Happy End's "Kaze Wo Atsumete," which deftly punctures cultural stereotypes by proving the Japanese language beautifully suited to acoustic guitar and '60s organ. -- C.B.