December 20, 2007
photo illustration by Taylor Johnston (view original)
Hard to believe it, but 2007 is coming to a close and soon we’ll have a whole other year of music ahead of us. This was a big year for me. I got engaged, I was interviewed in the New York Times, I saw countless bands and listened to hours and hours of songs. It’s time to wrap it all up here with my final year-end list. It’s been a great year for music, many of my favorite bands have released what I think, their best albums and I’ve been introduced to so much great new music. After all of that, these are my favorite 25 albums of 2007. Make sure to leave a comment if you appreciate the list or have your own favorite albums to add. Thanks for reading and listening and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!
25. Office – A Night At The Ritz
This album is a late addition to the list but I’ve been loving the stylish and sexy new wave sound from one of Chicago’s best new bands. “Wound Up” is an extremely addicting track.
24. The Shout Out Louds – Our Ill Wills
Shout Out Louds just barely beats out Jens Lekman for my favorite Sweden pop album of the year. This lush and incredibly orchestrated album not only gave me one, but two of my favorite songs of the year: “Tonight I Have To Leave It” and “Impossible”.
23. Broken Social Scene presents Kevin Drew – Spirit If…
I didn’t really warm up to this album until I saw it performed live. Kevin Drew might be a bit crazy, but songs like “Lucky Ones” and “Backed Out On The…” rank among the best in Broken Social Scene’s catalogue.
22. Bloc Party – A Weekend In The City
This album actually dropped quite a bit in my personal listening over the past year but it still think it has some amazing moments, most notably the 1-2-3 punch of “Kreuzberg” / “I Still Remember” / “Sunday” near the end of the album.
21. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
I loved “Comfy in Nautica” the moment I heard it but it took a little longer for me to warm up to the rest of Person Pitch. All the psychedelic loops and beautiful harmonies eventually won me over to what might be one of the best summer albums I’ve ever listened to.
MP3 Comfy in Nautica
20. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
After a couple average releases from Jack White (Get Behind Me Satan and The Raconteurs side-project), he re-establishes himself as a guitar god with Icky Thump. The riffs on this album are absolutely killer and the fun little diversions like “Rag and Bone” and “Conquest” give this album its character.
19. Klaxons – Myths of the Near Future
Justice might have gotten all the attention this year but Klaxons made what remains my favorite dance/rave album of the year. “Atlantis to Interzone”, “Golden Sans”, and “It’s Not Over” are some of the sickest party-starting jams of the year.
18. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
This is definitely a more mature album Wilco and it seems like fans either love it or hate it. I’m in the love it category, the album is full of breezy and delightful songs like “Either Way” and “What Light” and features some amazing guitar work by Nels Cline. The dueling guitar freak-out at the end of “Impossible Germany” is one of my favorite moments this year in music.
17. Battles – Mirrored
With their insanely tall crash cymbal and the chipmunk-like vocals, Battles took the music scene by storm in 2007 and created some of the most unique, inventive, and sometimes weird, music of the year. I’ve heard Battles described many times as the music of the future, and I can only hope this is true. All the songs have their moments but “Atlas” is stunningly good.
16. Beirut – The Flying Cub Cup
After Gulag Orkestrar, Beirut quickly became one of my favorite bands and this year Zach Condon brought on a full band and made two more fantastic additions to their portfolio with the Lon Gisland EP and The Flying Cub Cup. Although there’s not a huge standout track like “Postcards to Italy” or “Elephant Gun”, the album is full of bright, sunny, and romantic songs and Zach Condon’s captivating vocals. It’s difficult to choose a favorite but I think the biggest highlight of the album is the gorgeous, ukelele-featuring “The Penalty”.
15. Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position
Although this album will probably best be remembered for it’s breathtaking title track (which I called “one of the most delightful anthems of the year” in last week’s post), The Magic Position is full of dark and enchanting songs. The instrumentation which prominently features violin and mixes both organic and unnatural sounds is nothing short of brilliance. Never straying away from controversy whether it’s firing his drummer on stage, threatening to quit the music business, or getting in a feud with Mika, one thing is sure: Patrick Wolf is one of the best pop songwriters that we have, and I think his best work is yet to come.
14. Dear and the Headlights – Small Steps, Heavy Hooves
This band came out of nowhere (Arizona actually) to release one of my favorite debuts of the year. The band draws on it’s many influences whether they be alt-country in the vein of Wilco, indie folk/pop such as Belle & Sebastian and Elliott Smith, and the passionate indie rock of bands like Modest Mouse and Sunny Day Real Estate. “It’s Gettin’ Easy” is an exhilarating track with amazing harmonies, and extremely catchy chorus, and brass and strings boosted ending that demands to be played loud.
13. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Seriously, what can I say here that you haven’t already heard much more eloquently than I could say. It was easily the most buzzed and talked about record of the year and unlike some over-hyped albums, it completely lives up to all the talk. My favorite Radiohead albums has always been The Bends, so for me this was the Radiohead album that I wanted. It’s definitely a rock record, the band has recorded some of their best guitar riffs on “Bodysnatchers” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” but it has some fantastic subtle moments like the strings in “Nude” and “Reckoner”.
12. Windmill – Puddle City Racing Lights
Windmill is probably the most exciting new band I’ve heard this year and Puddle City Racing Lights continues to impress. Matthew Dillon set out to make an album with the piano as the prominent instrument and he came up with 12 songs that are beautiful, epic, heartbreaking, fist-pumping all at once. The album begins with the perfectly-executed pop explosion of “Tokyo Moon” and then hits you with great song after great song. “Plastic Pre-Flight Seats” is a completely engrossing song and “Asthmatic” is unbelievably gorgeous. Although the voice (which I’ve heard compared to Wayne Cohen, Alec Ounsworth, and Daniel Smith) throws some people for a loop, repeated listens make this one of the most rewarding and satisfying albums of the year.
11. Sunset Rubdown – Random Spirit Lover
This album like most of the music that Spencer Krug has created is very hard to put into words. Krug has again made an album that is both beautiful and chaotic. Random Spirit Lover improves on Shut Up I Am Dreaming in way it densely layers the instrumentation and flows the songs to a make an incredibly cohesive and yet still wild and adventurous record. “Up On Your Leopard, Upon The End Of Your Feral Days” is perhaps the most intense and moving song that Krug has written and the painful emotion of songs like “The Taming of the Hands That Came Back to Life” and “Trumpet, Trumpet, Toot! Toot!” will haunt you for days after listening.
10. Bodies of Water – Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink
This album has shot up faster on my listening scale than any other over the past couple of weeks and I’ve had to adjust my rankings a couple times to find the right place for it. On the strength of the amazing and awe-inspiring songs like “I Guess I’ll Forget The Sound, I Guess, I Guess”, “Doves Circle The Sky”, and the spell-bounding “These Are The Eyes”, I’ve decided that Bodies of Water definitely deserves a top 10 placement and my declaration of favorite debut album of the year. The album takes everything I love from it’s modern influences like Arcade Fire, The Polyphonic Spree, and Sufjan Stevens and puts it together in one joyous collection. Although the wide array of dramatic and often retro-sounding orchestration does it part in making this album wonderful, it’s the gospel-like vocal harmonies that will really make your eyes pop and your eyes blink.
9. The National – Boxer
The National have produced some of the most chilling and breathtaking songs of the last decade. While Boxer doesn’t have any songs that will hit you immediately as “Abel” and “Mr. November” did, the subtleties of even their mellowest, most understated tracks reveal themselves over time to be something truly beautiful. Matt Berninger writes some of the smartest and most interesting lyrics that I’ve heard and his brooding baritone gives this album its heart and soul. The drums on the album are amazing throughout and the guitar provides a melancholy atmosphere that perfectly fits the mood of the songs. It might take some time for songs like “Slow Show” and “Racing Like A Pro” to fully hit you, but when they do it’s a truly amazing thing.
8. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
It would have been a near impossible task to follow up Funeral and please absolutely everyone. What Arcade Fire did instead is make an album that was just as anthemic while changing the lyrics from focusing on the introspective to examing outward feelings whether they be on politics, religion, or mass media. The results are often bleak and piercing as seen in “Black Mirror” and “My Body is a Cage” but the Arcade Fire produces just as many moments that are big, epic, and gloriously triumphant such as “No Cars Go”, “Keep The Car Running”, and the last half of “The Well and the Lighthouse”. It might not top Funeral, but it’s hard to deny that Neon Bible is another classic album from the band full of the grandeur and transcendence we’ve come to expect from the band.
MP3 No Cars Go
7. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
With Sound of Silver, James Murphy has made the both the greatest and the most heart-breaking ode to growing up that I’ve ever heard. Whether mourning the loss of a loved one or wishing he could see all his friends one last time or wishing he could feel like a teenager again, the album hits home at all the right points. While many fusions of dance and rock music feel empty, LCD Soundsystem lovingly recalls the sounds of New Order, David Bowie, and the Talking Heads and creates a fully developed and perfectly realized album. It helps that the album contains the best song of the year in “All My Friends”.
MP3 All My Friends
6. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Those of you who have read this blog on a regular basis probably know how much I love Andrew Bird so putting Armchair Apocrypha up here is an obvious one for me. The man is ridiculously talented, and I don’t think it’s possible for him to make a bad album. What’s notable about Armchair Apocrypha, is that he really embraces guitar rock for the first time on the album while still incorporating his trademark violin and whistle and incredible songwriting prowess. “Plasticities”, “Heretics”, “Scythian Empires” and “Dark Matter” aren’t just some of the best songs in Andrew Bird’s career they’re some of the finest tracks of the year.
5. Okkervil River – The Stage Names
After the epic and universally accepted masterpiece that was Black Sheep Boy, Okkervil River decided to do something new for this album and they’ve put together the most joyous, rambunctious, and refreshing sequence of tunes they’ve ever recorded. Will Sheff jumps into the world of film, music, theatre and poetry with his lyrics singing about the plight of rock band or the depression of a poet. The songwriting on this album is great beyond belief but it’s the moment of pure, unadulterated rocking out in songs like “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe”, “Unless It’s Kicks”, and the Sloop-John-B homage, “John Allyn Smith Sails” that makes this album such an unstoppable force.
4. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Only Spoon could make an album with a baby-speak for the title and third of the song titles misspelled and have it be this mind-numbingly brilliant. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is the epitome of an all killer, no filler album, at 36 minutes there’s not one dull moment. The album is full of great power-pop songs like “The Underdog”, with it’s mariachi band horns and handclap percussion, the overly catchy fist-pumper “Finer Feelings”, and “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”, a song that’s soulful, lively, and extremely infectious. The band also breaks new ground with the beautiful Beatles-esque “Black Like Me” and the dreamy “Ghost Of You Lingers”. It’s my favorite album from one of the most talented and creative bands in the world.
3. Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
I’ve always enjoyed the beautiful and sparse whisper-folk of Iron & Wine but it took Sam Beam adding a full band for me to really fall head over heels for this band. The band forges out new territory throughout the album with diverse sounds and musical arrangements with flourishes of piano, strings, backwards guitar, organic percussion, and even electronic elements spread throughout the album. While the album strays all over the sonic spectrum what stays consistent though is Sam Beam’s drop-dead gorgeous vocals and his finely-tuned songwriting craft.
With an array of upbeat folk pop such as “Boy With A Coin” and fascinating diversions on the album (“House By The Sea”, “Wolves”), it might be easy to overlook the softer moments like “Resurrection Fern” and “Flightless Bird, American Mouth”. It’s these transcendent moments though that make this album a completely sublime and awe-inspiring listening experience that you’ll want to have over and over.
2. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
Kevin Barnes was in a state of extreme sadness and isolation when he wrote this album and he channels all of his feelings and emotion, however angsty they might be, into an album that’s nearly flawless. Barnes has always had a gift for writing melodic hooks but he pushes his songwriting skills to their limit here by cloaking his depression in a psychedelic glam-pop kaleidescope of sounds that showcase all of his manic mood swings throughout writing the album.
As suggested on the album’s grandest highlight, “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse”, the journey is fueled by chemicals and during the epic sprawl of centerpiece “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal” Barnes’ relationship problems are fleshed out with such painful emotion it you almost feel bad that you’re dancing. This could be the heaviest, most serious indie pop album ever recorded but it in no way feels like a downer while you’re listening. Whether you’re dancing to the beat of “Come on! Chemicals!”, shouting out in unison “Let’s all go down together!”, or telling off a girl because she don’t got know “soul power”, the album connects us in a way that only pop music can do.
1. Cloud Cult – The Meaning of 8
We’ve finally reached the end of that tunnel which is 2007 and there’s one album that stands out for me and the most memorable, enjoyable, heart-breaking, and magical listening experience of the year. I would have never expected that a band I had never heard of before this year would have created my favorite album but that’s exactly what Cloud Cult did with The Meaning of 8. I have a hard time explaining why this album is so meaningful to me, why it hasn’t left my CD player for more than a few days since I got it nearly eight months ago. There’s something indescribably beautiful about this album, which is mostly about Craig Minowa’s infant child who died unexplainable and would have been eight years old at the time of this release, that affects me more than anything I’ve heard this year.
It’s not a perfect album by any means, it’s front-sided and the running time is longer than it should be. Nevertheless though, this is my favorite album of the year, blemishes and all, because of the countless moments that overwhelm me with emotion. Whether it be on the simple acoustic progression of “Chemicals Collide” the jarringly pretty “Deaf Girl’s Song”, the magnificent and uplifiting “Pretty Voice”, or the awesome, unbelievably powerful “Take Your Medicine”. The songs at the core are just simple pop structures but with the added layers of jagged bass, frantic strumming guitars, high-pitched glockenspiel, melancholy cello, and an awe-inspiring choir of vocals they become so much more. When I’m listening to The Meaning of 8 I’m completely entranced and time seems to fly faster than it ever has before. There’s something about the album that is too extraordinary to put into words and I can only hope that, among all the chart-toppers and critical favorites, you would give this little-album-that-could a try and truly let this songs soak in and move you as they’ve done to me.
Albums that just missed my Top 25:
Jens Lekmen – Night Falls Over Koreladaga
The Twilight Sad – 14 Autumns and 15 Winters
Rogue Wave – Asleep At Heaven’s Gates
Bishop Allen – The Broken String
Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings
Justice – †
Manchester Orchestra – I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child
Ola Podrida – self-titled
Kanye West – Graduation
The Broken West – I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On
Albums That I Need More Time With:
Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals
Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Against Me! – New Wave
St. Vincent – Marry Me
Caribou – Andorra
White Rabbits – Fort Nightly
Vampire Weekend – Blue CD-R
Akron/Family – Love Is Simple
Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends
Albums That Just Aren’t My Thing:
Dirty Projectors – Rise Above
The Field – From Here We Go Sublime
Deerhunter – Cryptograms
Thanks again to everyone for reading! I’ll be back in 2008…
Tags: Andrew Bird, Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, Battles, Beirut, Bishop Allen, Bloc Party, Bodies of Water, Bon Iver, Broken Social Scene, Caribou, Cloud Cult, Dan Deacon, Dear and the Headlights, Iron & Wine, Jens Lekman, Justice, Kanye West, Klaxons, LCD Soundsystem, Les Savy Fav, Manchester Orchestra, Of Montreal, Office, Okkervil River, Ola Podrida, Panda Bear, Patrick Wolf, Radiohead, Rogue Wave, Spoon, Sunset Rubdown, The Broken West, The National, The Twilight Sad, The White Stripes, Vampire Weekend, Wilco, Windmill, Yeasayer