Thursday, July 22, 2010

Top 10 Albums of the Year 2007

Been busy, haven't wanted to do this. I like to finish things though. So here is 2007, about 3 weeks after the last one. My bad. Btw, if you want - you can go into my archives and look at the first posts ever made on this blogger account - they are my original 2007 list.

10. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Rank in 2007: 22

According to Metacritic, Spoon is the best (or most consistent) band of the past decade. I certainly don't agree with that assessment, but there is definitely truth in there somewhere that Spoon is at least a notch above most of the indie rock crowd. Though many of their early albums blend together for me and don't remain very memorable, something about the songs on GaGa, etc. just stick out from their accomplished discography. For a band that already sounded like they knew what they were doing, everything seems event tighter on this one. Listening to hit single "The Underdog" is a revelation to me every time. Every intricacy, instrument, every piece of the song seems placed so perfectly, it just astounds me, and is a song I consider to be among the best of the entire decade. Elsewhere on the record, "Rhythm & Soul", "Eddie's Raga" and "Finer Feelings" have this great underlying funk groove behind them. This funk is accompanied forays into great powerpop, some more experimental, arty stuff and just great hooks throughout. For my money, it's the best Spoon record thus far.

9. Jay-Z - American Gangster
Rank in 2007: 12

I'll come out and say that I think "American Gangster" is an unfairly overlooked album by perhaps the best rapper to ever hold a microphone in his hand. After retiring, coming back, putting out a bullshit album, Jay then got inspired by the movie/story of the same name and released this album - a loose concept featuring some of the fiercest rhyming of his career. Filled to the brim with top-notch production and samples (the Little Beaver sample on "Party Life" is one of the smoothest fucking things in hip hop), Jay comes out the doors and just exudes why he is one of the best. Rapping about the streets, gloating, proving that he is more dynamic that he is sometimes given credit for, this is Jay-Z at his most confident, an album I can imagine that he is truly impressed with. Listen, the dude is one of the absolute biggest names in the history of music, let alone hip hop - a true mogul. But he has put out a lot of terrible things in his long career. "American Gangster" was the album where he says, "I still got this." Killer.

8. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
Rank in 2007: 13

A lot has been said about this record in the past few years. LCD Soundsystem is the ultimate critics band. James Murphy writes tongue-in-cheek, clever lyrics, produces songs that are incredibly danceable, references sounds from throughout the history of cutting edge pop music and ultimately creates music that only he can, stuff that is uniquely his. That being said, while I like every full-length LCD has put out, I've always preferred Murphy's lighter, slower songs rather than the really intense dance workouts that fill most of his records. "Sound of Silver" happens to have perhaps the two best songs of the entire decade stuck right in the middle of the record, surrounded by intense workout songs. I don't need to say anything other than if you haven't heard and fallen in love with the brilliance of "Someone Great" and "All My Friends" almost 4 years after they originally came out, then you have missed out entirely on two of the most essential tracks of the past 10 years. I'm barely being sarcastic when I say this record could be surrounded Toto and Styx covers, but still have these two tracks and remain one of the very best records of 2007. Anthems.

7. Uncle Earl - Waterloo, Tennessee
Rank in 2007: 3

If my listening habits of 2007 could be categorized into any one overarching genre, it would've been what some call "Americana." I'd always been a big fan of the twangy country, lots of the modern folk coming about and was slowing developing an obsession with bluegrass, new-grass and old-time revival music. I made a really impressive 2-disc mix of the best of the stuff from 2007, a year that seem ripe with great bands in these various subgenres. One of my very favorite records from then (and still today) is the second album by accomplished solo folk musicians coming together as Uncle Earl. Banjo, guitar, fiddle, tapshoes, everything you want. The songs on here go all over the place, there is some Mandarin language song via Abigail Washburn, there are covers of classic old-timey songs, there are more modern sounding originals, instrumentals, the album is an exercise in everything that folk music has been and should be and it's a masterful record. It's one of my all-time most listened to albums and though I still appreciate it a great deal, much of the appeal it once had on me is slowly diminishing. Maybe I have to get out of the city and back to the rural counties, because musicians as good as these 4 lovely women deserve all the praise I can give.

6. A Sunny Day in Glasgow - Scribble Mural Comic Journal
Rank in 2007: 9

I've listened to A Sunny Day in Glasgow a lot since I first heard this album. Singles, videos, albums, remixes, live. My friend is in the band now, but I still don't understand how the sounds that come out on their records get to sound the way they do. How they can simultaneously make songs that sound some amazingly pretty and surreal also seem to paranoid and well...loud. Sure a lot of the best 80s and 90s bands did similar things, but A Sunny Day in Glasgow has a sound that is all their own. I want to dance to it. Strike that, I want to convulse to it. It's perfect convulsion music and I love it. One of the most creative and overall best bands in existence right now, I can't wait to see where A Sunny Day in Glasgow continues to grow, because with every single thing they are putting out (which isn't a whole lot), they improve greatly. Just a truly impressive band.

5. M.I.A. - Kala
Rank in 2007: 19

Some records are just so much fun when played loud that you just can't help but love them. I've had this love/hate relationship with M.I.A. since she started hitting blogs back and her mixtape came out. The thought of "what the fuck is this" is usually the first thing that pops in my head, followed by the most ass-shaking this side of a 2 Live Crew track. MIA is fun, I don't pay attention to her lyrics, I pay attention to the bass, the beats, the chanting, the rhythm. I barely pay attention to her and the controversy and praise that surrounds her. I liked the debut, I love Kala. The production is kicked up a notch, everything is louder, hits harder, but still has this nice worldbeat groove to it. "Boyz" is a workout, "Jimmy" is a great comedown, "Paper Planes" deserves the anthem status it has achieved, "XR2" is one of the dopest dance tracks I've heard and even the ridiculously out of place Timbaland track is tight. She won't top this record, it pushed the limits of her musicianship to their brink without overdoing it and because of that she made a incredibly fun record.

4. Feist - The Reminder
Rank in 2007: 23

We all have albums in our collections that we turn to when nothing else seems to sound good. When we have those days where we try to find the perfect record to put on, or something we should listen to - but everything just sounds grating and annoying. When this happens, I've put on "The Reminder" on a number of occasions and it has done the trick perfectly. The light, breezy sounds that Feist puts out on this album, without being cheesy is to me, truly transcendent. Big words, I know - but there are few pop vocal records that are executed as well as this. Catchy songs (you've obviously heard many of them on tv), mixed with slower ballads, all accompanied by Feist's breathy voice - it's just a great mix. I can't front - this album actually probably deserves to be higher than #4 on this list, but I somehow get slightly embarrassed expressing how much I enjoy this record. It does similar things to me that records like "Rumours" or "Abandoned Luncheonette" do - it's forward thinking pop music that doesn't stray too far from what is popular at the time, just expertly crafted and the perfect crossover.

3. The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism
Rank in 2007: 1

Considering the obsession I once had with this album, the fact that I haven't completely burnt out on it is a feat in and of itself. I know every word to every song on this album, I scream when the brothers scream, I sing along, I mock playing the banjo or stand-up bass, I love this record. That being said, I realize now that not all the songs are brilliant, some are just ok, some are actually sort of grating at this point. Still though, the opening 3 songs for my money, rival the opening of any record in history. So much fun. I like these guys, hell, I love these guys and even though they are pretty huge now, I'll continue to support them if they continue to make good music. I didn't enjoy their followup very much, but "Emotionalism" will always have a special place in my heart and list of formidable albums from my early days as an adult. Great playing, amazing singing, great songwriting. I think the Avett Brothers are going to continue to grow in popularity, and more power to them. They should be one of the biggest bands on the planet.

2. Kanye West - Graduation
Rank in 2007: 4

LIKE WE ALWAYS DO IT THIS TIME, I GO FOR MINE, I GOT TO SHINE, NOW THROW YOUR HANDS UP IN THE SKY. With "Graduation" Kanye officially made the transition from a dude trying to bridge the mainstream with the backpack and became a bonafide "turn that shit up" superstar. Kanye goes electro, creates hilarious party rap songs, samples Daft Punk and Michael Jackson, gets rid of all the skits, keeps the record short and includes guest appearances from some of the biggest country's biggest pop stars. Along with the upbeat stuff, Kanye also released tracks like "Everything I Am" and "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (which might be the very best Kanye song and one of the single best hip hop songs of the new decade), which go a little deeper like vintage Kanye. The album just slaps hard, it's a blast. Not everything is great and it doesn't really show the artistic vision of his first two albums, but this is Kanye saying, "Ok, I've made it, you haven't" - and it is a joyous listen.

1. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
Rank in 2007: 2

I'll admit right now that I'm in that ever increasing group of people around the world that consider just about everything that Animal Collective touches to be brilliant. I find myself undoubtedly considering them the best and most important band of the past decade and perhaps the only true innovator in music this entire decade. I like just about all shades of Animal Collective, but I really gravitate towards their more overtly pop records, which is why "Strawberry Jam" is one of my very favorites. Brilliantly catchy songs, audible lyrics, incredibly fun music. Many longtime fans scoffed at this record when it first came out because it was accessible, or not challenging enough. "Fireworks" is a legitimate pop song (one of the best of the past decade), but nothing that Animal Collective does here sounds like anything else around it. And even though their popularity towards the end of the decade resulted in hundreds of bands trying to incorporate their sound into their music, no one yet has been able to distill the pure joy and...brilliance with which Animal Collective has. I won't say they CAN'T do no wrong, some side projects have been terrible, but I'll go ahead and say that they are in fact the best band in the world right now - with no other band even in sight.

Bonus Comparison for Laughs: Top 20 of 2007 in 2007
1. The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism
2. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
3. Uncle Earl - Waterloo, Tennessee
4. Kanye West - Graduation
5. Miranda Lambert - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
6. Lucky Soul - The Great Unwanted
7. Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters
8. Six Organs of Admittance - Shelter From The Ash
9. A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Scribble Mural Comic Journal
10. The North Sea - Various releases
11. Dungen - Tio Bitar
12. Jay-Z - American Gangster
13. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
14. A Broken Consort - Box of Birch
15. Huckleberry Flint - Good Night Darling
16. The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters
17. Erik Friedlander - Block Ice And Propane
18. Rachel Unthank and the Winterset - The Bairns
19. MIA - Kala
20. Levon Helm - Dirt Farmer