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Best New Music of 2008

Coming soon in The Post: Our music critic, J. Freedom DuLac, will present a compendium of the year's best new music as selected by a number of Post writers, including political guru Chris Cillizza and military maven Tom Ricks. Josh asked me to contribute my top five for the year, and here they are, as they say, in no particular order.

Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" (removed from YouTube) was my choice for '08's summer song--it did what a summer song's supposed to do. It sounded fresh and familiar all at once, it captured the imaginations of listeners across generational lines (hardly surprising, given that it was a paean to "Sweet Home Alabama," the 1974 Lynyrd Skynyrd standard), and it broke through in several radio formats (if that matters to anyone anymore.)

For a jazz journey to the subcontinent, check out Rudresh Mahanthappa's new album, Kinsmen. A challenging sax man who lives in New York, Rudresh, a Guggenheim scholar, blends hard bop with Indian rhthyms and sounds in this collection of music that will satisfy jazz traditionalists, lovers of Indian instruments, and math majors.

Matt Haimovitz is a cellist who can make you cry, sing, or lash out in anger. I missed what the critics said was a stellar appearance here this fall, at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville, but take his new version of the Goldberg Variations out for a spin and I think you'll be moved and thrilled.

Not exactly new, but certainly rediscovered and reimagined: Marin Alsop's grand revival of Leonard Bernstein's Mass at the Kennedy Center, featuring the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Morgan State Choir, a marching band, a children's choir and a cast of Broadway singers was an almost ecstatic experience. Once considered a dated artifact of the 1970s, Mass turns out to have lasting power and import. It has strands of "West Side Story," bits of Beethoven, traces of Stravinsky and Kurt Weill, but it is also a work unto itself, a searing and bracing exploration of America and of changing social mores. It's been playing pretty much nonstop in my house for months now--my daughter the musician is obsessed with the piece and especially its remarkable shifting time signatures--and it doesn't go stale.

(Other top concerts I heard this year in Washington included Red Priest at Dumbarton Concerts in Georgetown, Chick Corea and Gary Burton at the University of Maryland, Leonard Slatkin's emotional farewell to the National Symphony, and Chuck Brown at the Kennedy Center open house.)

Finally, another piece of new music that isn't really new. In 1975, following on the success of "Shaft" and "Superfly," a movie called "Brotherman" was mostly scripted and ready to film--heck, they'd even commissioned and recorded a soundtrack, by a Curtis Mayfield-inspired soul band called The Final Solution (ugh). Well, the movie never got made, but the soundtrack existed--sort of. It took three decades before the tapes were actually mixed and made ready for release. And now we have the recorded soundtrack of a movie that never was. It's brand new blaxploitation soul, and well worth the listen.

That's my top five. Can't wait to check out DuLac's delectables.

Have a splendid Christmas, a happy Chanukah, and some long nights and late mornings.

By Marc Fisher |  December 24, 2008; 8:55 AM ET
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