December 31, 2007

The Top 50 Albums of 2007



This is the 3
rd year that I’ve taken on the almighty “best of list" (and I'm still searching for that title, 3rd Annual Davies?)

In 2005 (a great year for music), my limited library and a hobbyist’s approach left me hard-pressed to fill a list meaningfully. I listened to music like a normal person back then; finding something you liked, listening to it until you moved on, casually paced. Towards the end of that year, perhaps I developed ADD, but I’d like to think I just got really excited about what was happening. By 2006, one might call a breakout year for indie music as a whole, the list felt more natural and prepared, but still flagged by self-awareness. See I was mindful of my partiality; leading me to an overemphasis on the term “favorite.” It also generated a disclaimer much like the one you are about to read right now (ahh I’m doing it again).

Then and now, I don’t feel that I have the right to claim anything to be the best. But where’s the fun in a list without numbers?! And every other website and publication is doing it!

The Reminder:

I am one person, who has not heard it all

I could probably arrange this list differently tomorrow

The top ten has been methodically fixed in place over much time (just ask my roommates about that internal struggle)

Really, the rest of the ranking holds little permanence

It seems like everyone had a list this year. I found all to be entertaining, but I’m aware of how it works. Trying to avoid outside influence, I made it a point to start a working list before someone like Pitchfork did theirs. Thanks to the day job, I ran out of time. But I'll have you know this actual list was finalized before reading Pitchfork's this morning. And I must say, they were fair this year. Stereogum had their readers vote, this was also very telling.

My apologies go out to hip hop artists like Kayne West, Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z, Nas, and Lil Wayne. I can respect what you released this year. I just don't really listen to it that much.

Lastly, I’d love to hear anyone's proposed additions and subtractions

Here we go:

2007. The year of record industry reform, YouTube fever, infectious Ipod ads, the return of the power beard, the repeated sampling of Sri Lankan gunshot sound effects, and the Don’t Taze Me Bro. 2007 was the year “hip” seeped out of major cities and into the rest of the world and buzz bands of yesteryear were dared to earn their stay on the top. It was when The Boss adopted your favorite band, when rockers suddenly just wanted to D.A.N.C.E, and rockstar lives became feature films.

It started when Girl Talk rang in the New Year with us, then Conor went shaggy alt-country on us, Coachella got all sweaty Rage on us, and R Kelly… R Kelly luckily did not piss on us.

By autumn, our White Stripes tickets were refunded, Starbucks was now a record store, gold was suddenly found at the end of the Rainbow, and two robot humanoids on a glowing pyramid were the most sought after live show, that is until Zeppelin gave it another go.

50. Bright Eyes - Cassadaga (One genius's mediocre release is another man's 50 spot).
49. Dr Dog - We All Belong
48. Blonde Redhead - 23
47. The Good, The Bad & The Queen - The Good, The Bad & The Queen

46. A Sunny Day in Glasgow - Scribble Mural Comic Journal
45. Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
44. Health - Lovepump United
43. Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature
42. pictureplane -
Turquoise Trail (props to the Cuz!)
41. Dirty Projectors - Rise Above
40. No Age - Weirdo Rippers
39. Kings of Leon - Because Of The Times
38. Muscles - Guns Babes Lemonade
37. Interpol - Our Love To Admire
36. Figurines - When The Deer Wore Blue

35. Handsome Furs - Plague Park
34. Cloud Cult - The Meaning of 8
33. White Rabbits - Fort Nightly
32.
Phosphorescent - Pride
31.
Devendra Banhart - Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
30. Eddie Vedder - Into The Wild Soundtrack
29. Elvis Perkins - Ash Wednesday

28. Working For A Nuclear Free City - Businessmen & Ghosts
27. Rogue Wave - Asleep At Heaven's Gate
26. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
25. Iron and Wine - The Spepard's Dog
24. St. Vincent - Marry Me
23. Avett Brothers - Emotionalism
22. Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala
21. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocryphah
20. Battles - Mirrored
19. Okkervill River - The Stage Names
18. Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity
17. Broken Social Scene Presents, Kevin Drew - Spirit If ...
16. Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbols
15. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
14. Justice -

13. Miracle Fortress - Five Roses
12.
Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
11.
Caribou - Andorra

10. M.I.A - Kala

Whether she was addressing her critics, being a victim of censorship, or climbing stage rafters, M.I.A did it all in style. Antics aside, let’s remember that not one song on Kala could be skipped. I honestly have never heard anything like her. "Paper Planes", even with all the airplay, still shocks (and seduces) me. No one knows what to do with M.I.A. And with an assault as strong as Kala, we surrender.



9. Menomena - Friend and Foe

Leaked in late 2006, Friend and Foe took a while to sink in. Call it a sleeper. Call it a grower. Call it a masterpiece.
Maybe it’s the offbeat structure, the unpredictable howling over a piano or simply the appreciation for a good saxophone freak-out that give this record its legs. I’ll sit down with it 3 times or so a month and give it some justice. I guess that makes at least 36 “Duels.”

And it gets better every time.


8. The National - Boxer

In the first minute of the first song, “Fake Empire”, I was punched in the heart. And that’s before I looked up the lyrics. Boxer was not to be taken lightly. It was the deepest and darkest place I chose to be this year. Just as important as choosing to play it, was choosing not to play it. I think that means it was an affecting occurrence.




7. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

"Don't wanna work in a building downtown
Don't wanna work in a building downtown
Parkin' the cars in the underground
The voices when they scream, well they make no sound
Wanna see the cities rust
And the troublemakers ridin' on the back of the bus

Dear God, I'm a good Christian man
I'm your boy, I know you understand
That you gotta work hard and you gotta get paid
The girl's thirteen, but she don't act her age
She can sing like a bird in cage
Oh Lord, if you could see her when she's up on that stage"

- Antichrist Television Blues

No band had bigger follow-up shoes to fill than Arcade Fire. With a new political mind, they wisely utilized the platform given to them. But where some angry records attract attention for the wrong reasons, Neon Bible showcased their infinite talents. If Funeral was an album about themselves, than this record was a reflection of the world they live in. I really wanted to like this on the first listen. But part of me wasn’t sold until I saw how they treated these songs in concert. A possessed Win Butler never gave us a grin, while Regine smiled enough for the both of them. Like lovely Regine, Neon Bible came off strangely triumphant given its subject. I remember thinking the album’s closer, “My Body is a Cage” left us with no hope. It felt as if they were challenging us to “try and celebrate that!”

I’m now wondering if it could be handled the same way people saw the direction of Revolver’s closer “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
I hear that song left many unsettled. Here’s hoping the opener of Arcade Fire’s 3rd album can break in a similar fashion to that Beatles timeline, or at least offer some light at the end of the tunnel.

Did I mention the songs are good?

6. Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover

I’ve stared at the computer screen for 5 minutes now and I got nothing. What Spencer Krug did with this record might be too intricate to blurb about. Even to talk of it you need to get into some sort of far away state. At this point the best thing I can do is ask that you to give it a listen if you haven’t already. You can read my past attempts to praise him here and here. It really was quite an achievement in music that something this “weird” could be so accepted.

"Don’t get too close

You’ll attach to the west coast air in my chest and the way I hold it in there.

It’s the taming of the hands that came back to life when she synchronized swam on the ice in `03.

Oh, but enough about me

Will you live in the physical world?
Will you live in the physical world?"

- The Taming Of The Hands That Came Back To Life


5. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam

It’s safe to say most Animal Collective fans adored 2005’s Feels. It offered flashes of a love song sensibility amongst the noise. Their past has trained us to expect (and accept) the unexpected. But Strawberry Jam spoiled us. Literally, the jam was too sweet to be theirs. Known for touring with uninterrupted, art-rock drifting, Animal Collective surprisingly and generously churned out 9 beautiful, flowing pop songs.



4. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

"Us. And Them. Over and Over. Again."

Sound of Silver approached repetition and sequence with open arms. I’ll never forget starting a Friday night road trip with the opening track, “Get Innocuous.” Being a first listen for him, Tony immediately made me play it again. I might have found no greater pleasure this year than seeing someone else get so excited about a well-placed song choice. From that moment on, Tony’s car might as well have grown wings.

James Murphy started the record like he was entering a house party. First he took over the DJ table, then drank a few beers and got witty. Then he downed a few more and wound up pouring his heart out to some chick. By the time the cops came, Murphy was passed out in the back with his soul on his sleeve.


3. Panda Bear - Person Pitch

It was at an interesting time of my life when this record came out.
There was certainly no shortage of sunshine; I was unemployed and skateboarding with sound-canceling headphones around a pier everyday. But with the waves rolling into shore and birds playing overhead, my mood still couldn’t match the surroundings. At the time it was a funk, now looking back it was a blast. March though, was the month where things starting coming together. One of the largest pieces of the puzzle was that long awaited job offer. I’d argue
Person Pitch carried just as much weight.

"I want you to know
sticks and stones may
break my bones
but words will never hurt me
all I need to know

I knew so early"

-Carrots

If The National’s Boxer was a place that I rarely wanted to be this year, than Person Pitch was the feeling I never wanted to end. When the track, “Good Girl” transitioned into “Carrots”, I could picture a cartoon sun with a giant face smiling down at me. Finally, I could take a deep breath, look up, and know everything was going to be okay.


2. Radiohead - In Rainbows

I had this Top 5 business mapped out in my head long before October 10th. Then my favorite band had to go and surprise everyone with a new (and free) LP with only 10 days notice. But my loyalty alone couldn’t make me love this record. As the publicity dust settled, we were left with a solid album. The opening of “15 Step” and “Bodysnatchers” startled you, but the middle of In Rainbows is soothing, and the finale leaves you thinking. “House of Cards” hit close to home. “Videotape” was an existential tragedy. We needed that second disc to pick us off of the ground. This was the friendliest work they’ve put out since OK Computer.

But it’s dangerous to start comparing this with their past. Radiohead is the ultimate evolution. Thom Yorke is everyone’s broken heart. This band functions on another level, in another light year.


1. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

With the highest play count in The Surfside Chalet Apartment Complex history, 2007 was the year of Of Montreal. The ultimate paradox, Hissing Fauna was the most fun I’ve ever shared with music, yet it was a record about breakup and chemical imbalance. Hitting my iTunes at the start of the year, it certainly got its time to shine, uniting musical tastes from all walks of life in one room over one set of speakers.

Like classic songwriters tend to do, Kevin Barnes created something extraordinary out of pain. His lyrical battle to resist the takeover of a conceptualized glam rock alter-ego, Georgie Fruit, was depicted over candy-coated beats never stumbled upon before. And when he finally gave way to his dark side in the latter half of Hissing Fauna, it of course, only got more enjoyable. All he wanted was a lover with “soul power,” instead he got his magnum opus.

Honorable Mention:

M83 - Digital Shades Vol 1
Holy F*ck - LP
The Go! Team - Proof of Youth
We Are Wolves - Total Magique
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Is Is EP
Tegan And Sara - The Con
Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
Grizzly Bear - Friend EP
Apparat - Walls
Daft Punk - Alive 2007
Bruce Springsteen - Magic
Feist - The Reminder
Black Lips: Good Bad Not Evil
Burial - Untrue
Grinderman - Grinderman
Boys Noize - Oi Oi Oi

The Holiday Wish List (somebody please send me these albums that I am yet to entirely sit with)

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Deerhunter - Cryptograms
The Fiery Furnaces - Widow City
Pole - Steingarten
Stars of The Lid - Stars of The Lid & Their Refinement of the Decline
MGMT: Oracular Spectacular


The Top 15 Songs of 2007 | Or one hell of a mixtape

15. "Whats a Girl To Do" - Bat For Lashes
14. “Heartbeats” (The Knife cover) - Jose Gonzalez
13. “Accident & Emergency” - Patrick Wolf
12. "Wham City” - Dan Deacon
11. "Music is My Hot Hot, Sex" CSS
10. “Icky Thump” - The White Stripes
9. “Seahorse” - Devendra Banhart
8. “Going to Acapulco” (Bob Dylan cover) - by Jim James of My Morning Jacket
7. "Reckoner” - Radiohead
6. “This Sentence” - Born Ruffians
5. “Bros” - Panda Bear
4. "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger" - Of Montreal
3. “While You Were Sleeping” - Elvis Perkins
2. ”Fireworks” - Animal Collective
Well, it was declared back on May 30th with the entry, "my early pick for song of the year" and it was never topped.
1. “All My Friends” - LCD Soundsystem
(I saw that Pitchfork also named "All My Friends" song of the year. I first got anxious, feeling so ... typical, but then accepted it. And now I'm thinking, why wouldn't it be? Of course it is!)

Best Live Act (that I had the pleasure of seeing):

3. !!!
2. The Arcade Fire
1. Daft Punk

Best New Band:

3. White Rabbits
2. Yeasayer
1. Vampire Weekend

Best Film Soundtrack/Score

3. Various Artists - I'm Not There
2. Jonny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood
1. Eddie Vedder - Into The Wild

Best Comeback - Dinasour Jr.

Best Video - Grizzly Bear "Knife"

And try these ones on for size while you are at it.

Most Deserving of the Crown - Feist

Most Likely to Lose the Crown in a Pile of her own Vomit - Amy Winehouse

Best Album Art - Interpol's animal album art got people talking. Some was good, some was bad. I for one, thought it was pretty neat.

Or was it the plentiful fan versions for Radiohead?


Best Music Site (besides Stereogum): La Blogotheque

Ok I must go to bed.

If you are still with me. Thanks for being a reader. You have made this past year incredible.

Was the list over your head? Then do something about it. Off your radar completely? There's always next year. Happy Holidays!