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Overlooked pop highlights that are worth remembering

It's been a long year, with lots of music. And unlike Frank Sinatra, I've had more than a few regrets: CDs I didn't get around to hearing when they came out, shows I missed, unseen YouTube videos and unread books piled next to my bed, not to mention that four-hour Peter Bogdanovich movie about Tom Petty.

It's been a long year, with lots of music. And unlike Frank Sinatra, I've had more than a few regrets: CDs I didn't get around to hearing when they came out, shows I missed, unseen YouTube videos and unread books piled next to my bed, not to mention that four-hour Peter Bogdanovich movie about Tom Petty.

So much pop, so little time - and sometimes, seemingly, so little space in print. (That's what blogs are for, right?)

Well, it's still December, so there's time for one more list - of things I missed. Here are 10 notable 2007 pop-music occurrences that I either spaced out on or missed completely, or that got elbowed out of my pop consciousness before I got around to giving them the attention they deserved.

1. Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators, Keep Reachin' Up. Amy Winehouse got the tabloid headlines and the Grammy nomination - deservedly so, on both counts. Sharon Jones is finally getting her props. But in the retro-soul sweepstakes, that leaves Nicole Willis out in the cold - in, of all places, Finland. The Brooklyn-born vet found her groove with a 12-piece Helsinki backup band on Keep Reachin' Up, a Euro-American '60s R&B revamping that oozes with ardent affection for classic soul and doesn't settle for mere nostalgia.

2. Plastiscines, LP1. Not to be confused with Plastic Little, the dirty-minded Philadelphia rap crew who are equally worthy in a very different way, Plastiscines are the fetching French femmes who seem to be unaware that people from their Jerry Lewis- and Serge Gainsbourg-loving country aren't supposed to know how to rock. The Plastiscines specialize in propulsive three-minute rock songs that wouldn't exist if Blondie and the Strokes didn't. Watch them show the boys who's boss on their "Loser" video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkexlb0UtIU.

4. Soulja Boy Tell Em, "Crank That." The man born DeAndre Way is a minimalist genius along the lines of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Or at least an Internet marketing genius after the manner of Lonelygirl15. All it took was a bare-bones beat, a super-simple hypnotic synth line, and a crudely chanted vocal. Match that with a YouTube instructional video to act out dance moves that are either sheerly nonsensical or secretly pornographic, depending on whom you believe, and presto, the viral pop phenomenon of the year made sure that everybody knew his name - which, in case you missed it, is written all over his oversized sunglasses.

6. Tabu Ley Rochereau, The Voice of Lightness: Congolese Classics 1961-1977. This superb African pop compilation on the Stern's Africa label from the Congolese king of soukous is an incomparably melodious double-disc collection. Tabu Ley, the 67-year-old vocalist who was known as the Sinatra of Africa in his prime, is an effortlessly elegant singer whose nice and rough voice satisfyingly intertwines with the hypnotic guitars of fleet-fingered wizards such as Dr. Nico Kasanda and Manuaku Waku. World-music reissue of the year.

10. Wussy, Left For Dead. Will Chuck Cleaver ever get his just due? Here's hoping so. The Cincinnati songwriter with the piercing Neil Youngish voice may not name his bands in the hopes of mass appeal - he previously fronted the Ass Ponys - but he sure can write darkly funny, rough-around-the-edges, slightly droney indie rock songs. Better still, he's found a partner in Lisa Walker, who writes and sings them just as well as he does, and who steps up as the star of this sterling sophomore follow-up to 2005's Funeral Dress. This still isn't available on iTunes, so hunt it down at www.wussymusic.com.

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