Monday, December 31, 2007

My Favorite Albums of 2007

Most of the time, I really don’t like top ten lists. I’d much rather make a list of 10 albums, movies, or whatever else I liked from the year regardless of rank. However, I do still think in my head about where I would rank albums over others. Since that’s going on in my head, despite my best efforts I make ranked lists at the end of each year. I make my lists based on what I liked from the year, and not on what hot, buzzed-about band every zine and blog goes crazy over that particular year. You're not going to find any Animal Collective, Panda Bear, or LCD Soundsystem on here, I just don't like any of that enough to even consider putting it on a list. I respect those releases, but when I do stuff like this, its about what I like.

I think this year has been a pretty good one for music. A lot of times you hear in the press that the year sucked for music, that ten or twenty years ago there was a much higher mean quality of music, but I tend to disagree. I can always find ten albums that I believe legitimately deserve to be remembered from the year, and 2007 is no exception. Here is my list of my top 10 favorite albums of the past twelve months:

10. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga

Conor Obherst finally dropped the boy wonder label with this release, recorded all over the country while he recovered from addictions he suffered from on the tours following his two releases in 2005. The album sounded mature, unwavering, soulful, and honest. I saw him play a concert at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, and with an orchestra behind him Obherst brings the house down on these tracks. It’s great to see him being experimental with his sound while his lyrics add much welcomed maturity to their originality and poetry.

9. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

When I first heard the album, I didn’t really like it except the only previously released song “No Cars Go” because that song is to this day my favorite Arcade Fire track. Over the course of the year though, the album grew on me and deepened in the same way the band changed “No Cars Go” from its first incarnation into the thundering, string heavy, powerful barnburner it is on Bible. They transcended the sophomore slump, and I can’t wait to hear what they’ve got in store for their next, most likely even more ambitious disc.

8. Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare

One of my favorite songs from the year is “Fluorescent Adolescent,” and these English boys delivered another album full of great images of their travels. From the description of a friend in “Brianstorm” to a warning of hometown fans in “If You Were There, Beware” the whole album tells a great series of stories. It moves along at a masterful pace for the first six tracks, takes a break on “Only Ones Who Know” and then plunges into another race until the last track “505.” The last four songs are still the best ending to an album I’ve heard in a very long time.

7. Paramore – Riot!

Sometimes all you want to do when you listen to music is have fun, and no record I heard this year did that better than Riot!, the second album from Paramore. It’s loud, raucous, raging, pulsing, and just a huge good time of an album. It’s full of punchy guitars and loud, fast choruses, and I loved every one of them.

6. Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova, & Interference – Once Soundtrack

I love the film for what it is, but it is undeniable that what gave Once its strength was the quality of the songs written for the film by Hansard and Irglova. Achingly powerful in their raw energy, Hansard belts his lungs out on songs like “Leave” and “Say It To Me Now,” but it is the chemistry between Hansard and Irglova (now an official couple off the set of the film) makes “Falling Slowly” and “When Your Mind’s Made Up” some of the best songs ever written for a film. I have no qualms about saying this is the best film soundtrack for popular music since Purple Rain.

5. Radiohead – In Rainbows

It’s on almost everyone else’s year end lists, and if I were to make a list of the most important releases of the year, this would without a doubt be at the top. I love Radiohead, I can’t stop following them down the creative rabbit hole they’ve made for themselves with every successive album. I marvel at the way they are able to go in almost any direction and make a great work of art. This time around they made their most cohesive, thematically tight album since OK Computer. No album Radiohead makes sounds like a previous work, so comparison to a different album’s sound is almost pointless, but taken as another fantastic album in a series, In Rainbows stands above a lot of the bands’ recent work.

4. Bloc Party – A Weekend in the City

A lot of people were turned off by the direction Bloc Party took with their sophomore disc. Kele Okereke chose to create a cohesive, story oriented album about life in a metropolis. Since their debut was such a party-oriented, fun-filled rock fest, this understandably turned a good amount of people off; but those that stuck around were rewarded with a fantastic concept album that plays through better with every subsequent listen. Okereke is clearly scared of London and the life that city fosters in people. The Xenophobia present in "The Prayer" and "Where is Home?" is palpable, with the fear and terror coming through in the music. The rest of the band kept the sound very tight, with Matt Tong's drumming still ranking with the best around. I heard this album develop from the early live debuts of some of the tracks, and the lyric changes only made the album better. If Silent Alarm was the sound of a late-night party, then A Weekend in the City is the sound of knowing you have to eventually leave hat party and walk home through the dark and unfriendly city. Bloc Party captured life in a big city better than any band since The Clash in London Calling, and it'll probably be another thirty years before anyone gets this close again.

3. Daphne Loves Derby – Good Night, Witness Light

They’re my favorite band for a reason, and every song on here resonates with me in a deeper way than anything I heard all year. These boys from the Seattle area possess some of my favorite indie rock ever made, and front man Kenny Choi really got poetic with his lyrics this time around. The title was named after a line from a Robert Frost poem, and the rest of the lyrics grapple with personal issues and finding a place in the world. I’ve loved this band ever since I first heard them as a wide eyed high school sophomore, and I haven’t stopped since.

2. Rilo Kiley – Under the Blacklight

Longtime fans of the band were up in arms over the sound of the first single off this record, “Moneymaker”, but in retrospect all the criticisms of the album and the new direction the band took seem insignificant in light of the masterful piece of pop music they created. It’s a portrait of Los Angeles, but also a perfectly crafted breakup album of Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett, the worst band mate breakup since Gwen Stefani and that bassist from No Doubt. Instead of just getting “Don’t Speak” out of it, Rilo Kiley got an entire album full of great tracks that fly by over Under the Blacklight’s short running time. Everything about the band over the past few years is examined in the lyrics and sound of these songs, and everything is fantastic.

1. Bloc Party – Another Weekend in the City

Some people might see this as cheating, but I don't give a damn. From the first time I read about the amount of b-sides Bloc Party was putting on different releases of A Weekend in the City I was ready to listen. The idea made fiscal sense because the actual album had been leaked in December of 2006, but it also was sonically different from what made it onto their sophomore album. Instead of being tight thematically in line with songs about a foreboding metropolis, these tracks were more akin to their debut, full of carefree, ballsy, danceable rock. When I first saw the band, it was the first time I had danced through the entire set of a rock band, and I loved that feeling. Listening to these tracks, in the order originally postulated on the Good, the Bad, & the Unknown the week of the emergence of the tracks, I can't believe that a band could release an amazing concept album, but have an equal amount of great rock-out tracks just waiting in the wings. Yes, the album is unofficial, as is the title, tracklisting, and album cover, but I didn't listen any album by any band, new, established, favorite or otherwise than this collection of 11 Bloc Party "b-sides." Considering the quality of all the tracks Bloc Party has released as so-called "b-sides," including "Two More Years" "Tulips" "Flux" and the entirety of these tracks, I have a hard time coming up with a single song they've created that isn't a great one.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Well. While I do, in fact, think of it as cheating, I won't quibble. Bloc Party rocks. They were a serious omission from my list. Poop. However, I have serious problems with the Arctic Monkeys. I don't know exactly what it is, but they don't sit right with me.

Nice to see you posting again, good to read your thoughts on the year in music.