It pains me to say so, but several noteworthy veterans came out with albums this year which hardly saw the light of day. Elvis Costello's Brutal Youth was a fine pop effort which saw him reunite with his old backing group, the Attractions, for the first time since 1986.
One of my favorite songs off the album is "This Is Hell," a subtle commentary on a run-down nightclub which could also serve as the creative state of popular music: "'My Favorite Things' is playing / Again and again / But it's by Julie Andrews / And not by John Coltrane." The debut single, "13 Steps Lead Down," and the angry wordplay of "Kinder Murder" are both great recapitulations of melodic themes in his earlier work.
The album is closer in spirit to his latter day work (probably from King of America, in 1985, onward) than to his new-wave hits of the late '70s, although it's a smart move away from classical music, which was probably an ill-advised venture spurred on by friend and one-time classical composer, Paul McCartney. Costello's classical-music phase is addressed in "My Science Fiction Twin," which shows that he can deflect some criticism, with good humor, toward himself once in a while.
If you're not familiar with his work, this album may not be the place to start: Rykodisc's superb box set entitled 2½ Years shows the young Elvis raiding airwaves in the late '70s with songs like "Watching the Detectives" and "Pump It Up." Still, Brutal Youth is an incisive, clever, and welcome return to form.