Friday, December 21, 2007

Top 25 Albums of 2007

I really had to think about this list, especially the top 10. Last year, there were a few clear frontrunners, and my top 4 or 5 from last year, if released in 2007, would all be vying for the top spot. That's not to say that 2007 was not a good year for music. Dance and Experimental Pop really took over this year
and made a good case that the standard guitar-bass-drum rock band is dead, or dying.

Another difficulty were the 21-25 spots. I originally was only going to post a top 20, but there were so many albums I wanted to squeeze in that I expanded it to 25, and even so some great records didn't make the cut (there is an "honorable mention" section at the bottom).

So, let's get things moving. The Top 25, in reverse order (you know, for suspense):

25) Radiohead - In Rainbows - Why so low? I'm not sure. This is a great record, but I just didn't love it as much as some other people. I'm listening to it right now, and the trio of "All I Need", "Faust Arp" and "Reckoner" make me think it should be higher, and it shouldn't be held against Radiohead that In Rainbows is a bit underwhelming. Still, high expectations can be the undoing of a piece of art. So, don't get me wrong: I love this album. But, Kid A it ain't.

24) Ghostface Killah - The Big Doe Rehab - Another great hip-hop album from the most consistent rapper in the business. Though undoubtedly not as life-changing as 2006's Fishscale (what could be?), Big Doe Rehab is a solid effort with some great retro-infused tracks. Love the garb, Ghost.

23) Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover - This is probably the most complex album Spencer Krug has ever made, and that's saying quite a bit. Like songs from his other albums, the melodies are in the details, and Random Spirit Lover has some real gems. "The Courtesan Has Sung" has one of the best build ups this year.

22) Low - Drums and Guns - A retreat from the 8-minute droners of Trust and the masterpiece Things We Lost In The Fire, Drums and Guns sees Low putting out 3-4 minute, soft-spoken rock songs. It's their most accessible record and very under-appreciated.

21) Bill Callahan - Woke On A Whaleheart
- Even though he's dating my lovely Joanna, I just can't hate Bill Callahan forever. The songwriting on this record is very precise. Opening track "From The Rivers To The Ocean" is pretty staggering.

20) Caribou - Andorra - "Melody Day" really sets the tone for this one. It's a bright, sunshiney album that gets better each time I listen to it.

19) Black Moth Super Rainbow - Dandelion Gum - Freaky Deaky. Jeff over at I'm Only Sleeping introduced me to these guys, who should definitely be bigger than they are.

18) Justice - - The only reason this album isn't higher is because it doesn't end as strongly as it begins. That would be a tough feat to match, however, as "Genesis", "Let There Be Light", and "D.A.N.C.E" are a dynamic trio of dance songs, and some of the best tracks in a long time to put on your party mix.

17) Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation - How could I not include the album containing the song from which this blog gets its name? An eclectic mix of songs here, throwing together folk, punk rock, and some other sounds I can't even think of a name for.

16) The Field - From Here We Go Sublime - The only electronic album on this list that isn't really dance music. I listened to this album while driving from L.A. to San Diego and it put me in a weird, fourth dimensional trance. It has more of the repetitive elements of house music, but it's so much better than what they're playing in the shoe store.

15) The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters - Rock music with an accordian and a lead singer with a heavy Scottish accent. So heavy, in fact, that sometimes you might think it's Mike Myers doing one of his voices (any of them really, they all sound like some Scottish guy). With searing melodies building to some pretty intense crescendos, this album ended up a bit higher than I expected it to.

14) Battles - Mirrored - Listening to Mirrored is like being in a frenetic, extended chase sequence. Just having it on here at the computer makes me feel like I'm in Run Lola Run. A "genre" description I'm reading online calls it "noodled, mathy electro". That's one way to look at it.

13) Frog Eyes - Tears of the Valedictorian - This is pop music at its fastest and most eccentric. It also contains "Bushels", possibly the best song on any Frog Eyes album.

12) The National - Boxer - The National follow up Alligator with another album of emotional, hooky rock songs. Contrary to most of my peers, I think Boxer is even a little better than their last record, with "Mistaken For Strangers", "Green Gloves" and "Start A War" showing that their songwriting hasn't let up in the least.

11) Jay-Z - American Gangster - HOVA is back! Sure, he pulls out the big guns with "Roc Boys" and "Hello Brooklyn 2.0", but c'mon man, these beats is so good, he don't even need no hook for this shit!

10) Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - This is a remarkably tight rock record, which, like most Spoon records, has a few songs you can't get enough of for about a month. On this one, those would be "Don't Make Me A Target", "Don't You Evah", "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb", and "The Underdog".

9) Arcade Fire - Neon Bible - It's hard to follow up an album like Funeral. The initial complaints about Neon Bible was that it wasn't as "big" or "powerful" as its predecessor. Maybe it is a little more intimate, but it's no less intense, and it shows a willingness to not be tied down to one sound. It makes me very excited for what they'll do next.

8) Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity - Deerhoof just doesn't get tired of busting out insane pop songs. I'm convinced that +81 would be a huge hit if it could make its way on the radio. I went to a Deerhoof show once, and I was one of the oldest people there, which surprised me. But, now that I think about it, their music does sort of have a childlike, dreamy quality. Plus, they use them in Crayola commercials.

7) Kanye West - Graduation - Seriously, Kanye has all you rappers beat right now. People talk so much shit bout him at barber shops, they forget to get they hair cut! He samples CAN on this, people!

6) Okkervil River - The Stage Names - Equal in pretty much every way to the also-brilliant Black Sheep Boy, this record has some real beauties. Listen to it while driving alone in the desert, if you have a chance.

5) Panda Bear - Person Pitch - This one, on the other hand, listen to alone in your room in the dark with the headphones on. Or, maybe listen to it while leaning up against the only tree in a long grass field on a really sunny day. No matter the setting, Person Pitch feels like the perfect mood. It also was recently named Pitchfork's Best Album of 2007.

4) Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog - Sam Beam's most recent and most intimate album is also his best. The songwriting on here is quiet and beautiful. It's also remarkably accessible. There's really no reason anybody out there shouldn't like it.

3) Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? - This is the best Blondie album in 20 years. No, seriously, this has elements of the best glam rock and the best new wave. It's different from earlier Of Montreal albums as it's more immediate and the melodies just jump out at you. This record is in HD.

2) LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver - Play this album at a party. If everyone is not dancing by the 3rd minute of "Get Innocuous!", kick them out.

1) Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam - Was there ever really a question? I tried this year. I really tried to like something more than Animal Collective, but it's just not happening. The most consistent, energetic, and creative band of the last 5 years has released another masterpiece. From the opening rush of "Peacebone", through the screaming anthem of "Fireworks", to the underwater cabana groove of "Derek", Animal Collective delivers exactly what music should be.

Honorable mention-- As I said before, great albums undoubtedly got left out, and here they are, presented mercifully without my endless commentary:
Deerhunter - Cryptograms
The White Stripes - Icky Thump
The New Pornographers - Challengers
Feist - The Reminder
Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
St. Vincent - Marry Me
Sea Wolf - Leaves In The River
Thurston - Trees Outside The Academy

Disagree with me? Please post your own lists, arguments and criticisms in the comments.


Eduardo Osorio said...

I really like your top 3. I am going to check out that Black Moth Super Rainbow.

Jonathan said...

Thanks for commenting. Allmusic describes that new Black Moth Super Rainbow album as "organic synth pop insanity." Considering your musical tastes, you'll probably really like it.

It's Mom said...

Why not burn me a CD of samples you think I might like...if you've got the time. You've done it before and I've appreciated how you expanded my music collection.

Lons said...

I'll put my picks on my blog some time soon, but a lot of these will be on there.

Three comments on your selections, which are excellent overall:

- Couldn't get into the Sunset Rubdown album this year, even though I loved their last one...I have no idea why...

- No M.I.A.?

- #25? For serious?

Jonathan said...

1) Random Spirit Lover takes some getting used to. It's certainly a bizarre album, and the lack of separations between the tracks, and the 2-3 songs within each song make it hard to keep focus on. Deserving of another look, however.
2) M.I.A. is one of the albums I did not hear this year, pointing out the inherent flaw in doing "Best of..." lists if one isn't a professional critic. I plan to listen to that album, as I've heard it's great, as well as the 2007 releases from Burial, Stars of the Lid, Wu-Tang Clan, Black Lips, King Khan and the Shrines, among others. It might be worth doing a March-April "Best Music of 2007 that I didn't hear until 2008". After all, that list for 2006 would have included Joanna Newsom's Ys, which in hindsight would have at least been in my Top 5 last year, if not #1.
3) Yeah, 25. And that's after I replaced Icky Thump at the last minute.

Another omission: I forgot to add Liars self-titled record to the "honorable mention" section.