Here are the rare records with a permanent place on our playlists in 2007:
1. 'Back to Black,' Amy Winehouse: The tragedy of 2007 is that Amy Winehouse is now simply known as the 'Rehab' chick with the drug habit, not as the gifted singer-songwriter who created the most compelling album of the year. Winehouse's raspy, soulful voice is dazzling enough on its own; add the retro-soul licks and the alternately hilarious, heartbreaking lyrics, and it's an album that you just cannot shut off. While 'Rehab' was a clever, gimmicky hit, it can't begin to reflect how amazing 'Back to Black' truly is.
2. The Bird and the Bee, 'The Bird and the Bee': Imagine the Carpenters on an acid. That's the best way to describe the surreal pop debut of The Bird and the Bee, comprised of the duo Inara George and Greg Kurstin. George's vocals are dreamy and angelic, but the lyrics are anything but - one of the album's best tracks is '(Expletive) Boyfriend.'
3. 'Finding Forever,' Common: Maybe Common is just too darn clever and crafty for his own good. Once again, he put out an excellent rap disc that didn't get the attention it deserved, but perhaps only a select group can appreciate the intellect, wit and charm he dispenses with each rhyme: This ain't for the 'Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)' crowd. Though rap certainly needs some Common sense these days more than ever.
4. The 'Once' soundtrack: 'Once,' starring Marketa Irglova and the lead singer of the Frames, Glen Hansard, was the perfect romantic movie that flew under mainstream radar. The same could be said about its wonderful soundtrack. Irglova's sweet voice is the perfect accompaniment to Hansard's raspy vocals - they don't need much else, and the simple production of just a piano here or guitar there makes the music even more intimate than the touching lyrics convey.
5. 'Graduation,' Kanye West: Truth be told, 'Graduation' is actually West's weakest album - but when you consider the first two, 'The College Dropout' and 'Late Registration,' were nothing short of brilliant, it's OK that this one rates as just very, very good. West's use of techno beats give some tracks a more experimental sounding vibe, but it's his always clever rhymes that make you listen again and again.