Beth Lisick's career has been nothing if not idiosyncratic. Before hitting the national spotlight in 2005 with her hilarious memoir Everybody Into the Pool, the East Bay native played Lilith Fair and Lollapalooza with her band the Beth Lisick Ordeal and wrote an award-winning short-story collection that beat out works by Jonathan Lethem and JT Leroy in competition. (She swears that happened only because her parents e-mailed all other Portuguese Water Dog owners, asking them to vote for her.) So it should come as no surprise that Lisick's taste in music doesn't conform to rigid standards. "I tend to like artists who use either really amazing words or words that I can barely hear or understand," she says.
In the last year, Lisick has continued to cohost the popular Porchlight storytelling series, while writing her new book, Helping Me Help Myself, which chronicles her attempts at following the advice of self-help gurus like Suze Orman and Deepak Chopra. The book comes out next month, and she hopes that Monotone Life, a feature film in which she stars, will be in festivals soon after.
As for the number of local artists on her year-end list below, she explains, "I like reading books or hearing music by people that I know or have seen. I find it inspiring if I know them and know their stories."
Her picks for 2007 and why:
There is something devastating about finally caving in and joining a gym when you reach middle age, even if it is the Berkeley Y and everyone wears lavender pants. So Nick Cave just turned 50 and made this record. I like it even better than the Birthday Party. Listening to it while navigating some cross-training machine in my dumb shoes makes me want to open an artery, it's so good.
Two Gallants, Two Gallants
All sensitive and cruel young men should know there's nothing else to write songs about besides sex and death. Like some Cormac McCarthy book, this album is pure and ragged at the same time, dark and luminous, optimistic about the human condition, yet ultimately damning.
Numbers, Now You Are This
If you are called upon to choreograph the most killer tumbling routine ever or need a soundtrack for marathon-organizing the sock drawer of ousted royals, this is your record. Numbers' quality synth, brittle guitar, and honest beats are given a gritty, lowdown treatment here, resulting in an epic album, the band's best yet.
Eleni Mandell, Miracle of Five
Eleni is a real L.A. woman, as sexy and sharp as a grifter at the racetrack. Each one of her songs is a beautiful work of sudden fiction, a snapshot of a fully realized character letting you into some secret world. It's no wonder Tom Waits is a huge fan.
Thee More Shallows, Book of Bad Breaks
Mr. Dee Kesler and his collaborators have created yet another glistening and uncategorizable record. I love how the lyrics are part of the texture, mixed in low to the soundscape. They're perfect when they surface, like ghost words, and you suddenly become aware that this music seems to be hovering when it's actually infiltrating.
For more top tens from Margaret Cho, Vanilla Ice, Scarface, and some other random B-listers go to All Shook Down