Best Albums Of 2007
Biggest let-downs and other musical failures:
No More Beautiful World - Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers. A punch in the gut, this album was. Musically great, but lyrically suspect; the
storytelling that's the strength of this band was damningly absent and the album suffered for it.
Washington Square Serenade - Steve Earle. A likeable but utterly inessential album (see my review here). Couple of great songs and a lot of okay stuff present, but NOT at all representative of Earle's talent.
S/T - The Good, The Bad & The Queen. The bad, the boring, and the monotonous.
Kala - MIA. Most overrated and over-hyped album of '07 (see my review here). Every song that features a guest rapper(s) ends up blowing goats. The rest of the album consists of several awesome tracks (Paper Planes being supremely excellent) and a bunch of songs that never reach their potential. This album is the posterchild for being able to buy singles instead of whole albums. Like the Steve Earle album, a handful of great tracks don't make up for the rest of the disc smelling like an overfull outhouse...
The top 25:
25. Infinity On High - Fallout Boy. Stadium ready emo-punk full of fist-pumping songs just begging to be played loudly.
24. Rites Of Uncovering - Arbouretum. Psychedelic, jammy blues. Smolderingly consistent tunes.
23. Strawberry Jam - Animal Collective. Experimental pop hoohah succeeds because it layers catchy melodies within its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to recording. Consistently approachable experimentation.
22. Reggae Hit LA - The Aggrolites. Retro-sounding, funk-laden reggae at it's best.
21. We All Belong - Dr. Dog. Philadelphia band throws out an album that mixes classic rock and psych rock in equal measures. Catchy stuff.
20. New Magnetic Wonder - The Apples In Stereo. Instantly catchy, sing-along pop from the band that always sounds like they're having a ball. Album gets docked points for including a bunch of blippy/bloopy/noisey "songs" that are supposedly some new chord/key/whatever variations that frontman Rob Schneider invented...
19. Bolts Of Melody - Adam Franklin. Ex-Swervedriver leader puts out a nice, meandering disc that mixes shoegaze and indie pop to nice effect. A charming record.
18. Person Pitch - Panda Bear. Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson. On acid. After his breakdown... A gorgeous disc of psychedelic tricks and treats.
17. We Live Now - Dora Flood. Space rock meets shoegaze and boy does it sound good. A terrific album for fans of the previously mentioned genres. Most of their back catalog is available to download for free. This album is 3 bucks cheaper at the band's site versus Amazon's price.
16. Sound Of Silver - LCD Soundsystem. An electronica album that anyone can (and should) like. A surprisingly cohesive dance/rock/whatever album. Lotta people commented that this would make their year-end lists just after it came out way back in the Spring, and with good reason. As of this posting the whole album's available at Amazon for download at $5.99. Well worth it, imho.
15. Atlantis, Hymns For Disco - K-Os. Canadian rapper tosses out a disc that pays homage to Purple Rain era Prince, whether that was the intention or not. A really nice mixture that combines rapping, singing, beats, and rock in equal measures. Seriously, if Prince had released this very same album, the critics would've fallen all over it, gushing praise to the high heavens.
14. Boxer - The National. A terrific album that will undoubtedly top many critic's polls. It's got that dark, rootsy feel that appeals to so many folks across the Web. I like this album a lot, but it's in dire need of a few carefully placed rockers to shake thing up a bit. As is, its total focus on slower pacing, inward-looking dirges keeps it out of the top ten. Still, a fantastic album regardless.
13. The Shepherd's Dog - Iron And Wine. Sam Beam releases another of his quality lo-fi indie albums. This time there's some focus on world beat sounds, although they're not obtrusive to the point that they overwhelm Beam's traditionally understated voice. Indeed, the newer sounds mostly hover underneath the lyrics, providing an undercurrent of experimentalism without sounding forced or tacked-on as an afterthought.
12. Neon Bible - Arcade Fire. Montreal collective find all the right musical pieces and put them together in fascinating ways. An album that holds up well and constantly offers up new things to your ears with every listen. This is a much better album than Arcade was.
11. Living With The Living - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists. Another album that finds Ted doing what he does best: Mixing politics, pop, and punk with tuneful aplomb. Also, there's great guitar playing aplenty on this disc. While it's not quite as good as Shake The Sheets or Hearts of Oak, it's still a wonderful disc that's well worth purchasing.
10. Alright, Still - Lily Allen. The musical surprise of the year for me. This album is full of choice samples from ska greats Duke Reid, Jackie Mittoo, and Earl King among others. The samples provide a great foundation for Allen's vocal and lyrics, which are razor-sharp and cheeky at the same time. Pop music rarely sounds as good as it does here.
9. Traffic And Weather - Fountains Of Wayne. Power pop kings do what they do best: combine clever storytelling with hooky, hooky goodness (my review here). Just a solid, solid disc of ear-catching goodness.
8. Andorra - Caribou. Ear-pleasing dream-pop/electronica that comes across like a warm day in the middle of Winter. It's a poptastic piece of music that pays tribute to Brian Wilson - though in a much different way than Panda Bear did on Person Pitch - with engaging melodies and sumptuous hooks that are consistently engaging. A great disc.
7. None Shall Pass - Aesop Rock. Best rap album of the year. Lotta folks don't like Aesop's rapid-fire delivery, but it's not a problem for me. Cool beats, great lyrics,
and all around fine production leave us with a sonically interesting and hook-filled album. Sounds great on headphones, too.
6. A Poet's Life - Tim Armstrong. Rancid frontman drops a ferociously fun album that utilizes the retro-reggae skills of The Aggrolites with grand results. This is what old school, 2-Tone reggae would sound like if were to have a sudden resurgence in popularity today; urgent, infectious, throw-your-arms-in-the-air skank that wouldn't stop people from moving if threatened with violence... A fun, fun party album and completely up front in its intentions.
5. I Can't Go On, I'll Go On - The Broken West. A fantastic album of power pop steeped in West coast Americana. A jangliscious album full of hooks and harmonies, with just enough of an undercurrent of darkness to provide a nice counterpoint to the prettiness that first shows itself when played. A great album that could've very easily taken the top spot on this list.
4. Icky Thump - The White Stripes. Jack White comes through with a set of Zeppelin-esque rockers that are consistently catchy and inventive (my review here). This disc also contains some of the best guitar sounds released this year. A glorious album, this is.
3. The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse - The Besnard Lakes. Utterly engaging disc of dreamy space rock that mixes indie sensibilities with ethereal guitar/harmony arrangements. In an alternate reality, Pink Floyd Meets the Beach Boys for dinner in Canada and this is the album that results. Get this album.
2. The Stage Names - Okkervil River. A tragically clever album that hits all the right notes in all of the right places at all the right times. A concept album of sorts about fame and entertainment, it's not as dark as earlier releases from Will Sheff and co. Gritty yet catchy, clever but not specious, knowledgeable yet innocent sounding, this is the most cinematic album released this year. This disc incorporates more pop history in one disc than most bands manage in their entire careers. Do not miss this album.
1. Ga Ga Ga GA GA - Spoon. Hands down the best album of the year. An indie rock extravaganza with nary a bad song or misplaced note to be found. Best overall production of any disc that I heard this year. The songs are all meticulously crafted and attach themselves to your lobes with the intensity of a rabid bottle of Super Glue. If you purchase no other album this year, let this be the one. You need this album in your collection