Best albums of 2007 - Numbers 12 to 1
Here we are, the moment you have all been anxiously awaiting, my pick for the top 12 albums of 2007:
12. Battles – Mirrored – An amazing experimental set of bizarre instrumental prog rock. “Battles” was one of the best songs and videos from the entire year, and their live performance at the Pitchfork fest proved they could pull off their complex sound live.
11. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Baby 81 – This was a gem from very early on in the year think lingered through most of the months, where BRMC returned to their bluesy rumbling sound after their more acoustic last album. A very welcome return to form.
10. Bloc Party – A Weekend in the City – Another great album released early in the year that shouldn’t be forgotten, these Brits refined their sound on this album. Songs like “I Still Remember,” “Hunting for Witches” and “The Prayer” were great examples of their sound, but my personal favorite was “Waiting for the 7:18,” which shifts from a simple xylophone line in the verses to a monstrous guitar driven chorus.
9. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – Austin, TX’s pride and joy, Britt Daniel and company continue to prove they are one of the best bands in the indie rock world. Winners of my award for Best Album Title of the Year (derived from a description of the piano sound in “The Ghost of You Lingers”), the band goes from the horn-infused shuffle of “The Underdog” to the masterpiece “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” which sounds like an unearthed relic from the heyday of Phil Spector and his Wall of Sound.
8. Jimmy Eat World – Chase This Light – As with Yellowcard, it’s a shame that radio and critics largely ignore this band and their consistently solid rock. “Big Casino” is one of my favorites of the year, although I’m not sure how a band from Arizona can call themselves “a New Jersey success story”… “Here It Goes” is a great hidden gem that could be a great dance song if only the world would notice.
7. White Stripes – Icky Thump – I’ve been on the fence on this band in the past, I thought they were usually good, but not one of the greatest in the world like most critics try to make them seem. Icky Thump is the first evidence I’ve seen that could easily justify that claim. From the incredible stomp of the title track, to the great gear-shifting from flamenco guitar to roaring, squealing guitar solos in “300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues,” and the mandolin and stomping drums in “Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn,” this is a classic all the way through.
6. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible – Back in 2004, the Arcade Fire came out of nowhere (okay, Montreal at least) to stun the indie rock world with their debut Funeral. Released earlier this year, Neon Bible proved that they were no hoax. Win Butler and his giant band pull together great rumbling tracks like “Keep the Car Running” and “Black Mirror,” while adding some passionate performances like “Windowsill” and “(Antichrist Television Blues).” “No Cars Go” still stands out as the greatest song on the album, I’m amazed this still hasn’t been released as a single yet.
5. Bruce Springsteen – Magic – As much as I am a fan of the Boss, I was not a fan of his last album of new material, The Rising (which of course ended up winning plenty of Grammys). He returns to fine form on Magic, a passionate driven and unapologetic look at our country. The album opens with the classic “Radio Nowhere,” and tosses in some classic sounding Springsteen material (“You’ll Be Comin’ Down,” “I’ll Work for Your Love”) along with bright sing alongs like “Girls in the Summer Clothes,” and closes up with the moody and impassioned “Last to Die” and “Devil’s Arcade.” A true classic.
4. Against Me! - New Wave – This one came out of nowhere to become one of my absolute favorites of the year by far. A great massive punk album deeply indebted to the Clash, it’s filled with great fist-pumping anthems with a social conscience. Probably the greatest rock moment of the year is in “Thrash Unreal,” as the song barrels into the line “She can still hear that “Rebel Yell”/Just as loud as it was in 1983.”
3. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver – I usually know what my favorite cd is on any given week by knowing what cd I want to pop in on Friday morning on the drive to work. Sound of Silver was that cd for a very healthy chunk of the year, as the incredible dance rock never failed to sound fresh and catchy as hell. Songs like “Time to Get Away” and “Us V Them” keep things going with a great grove, while “Someone Great” sounds like a missing Postal Service gem. The standout is “All My Friends,” a nearly 8 minute track that is nearly the same minimal piano track throughout but bubbles into a massive singalong by the end.
2. Radiohead – In Rainbows – Like NIN’s Year Zero, this one deserves as much of a place on the list for everything that led up to it, not just for the quality of the music on it. Fans of the band had been drooling over the prospect of a new album from the band, and just when it looked like we’d have to wait for 2008 to hear it, Jonny Greenwood, the band’s guitarist, posted a simple message on their website in October saying “the album is finished, it’ll be out next week.” This sent a massive tidal wave through the music industry, which had already taken a beating in declining cd sales over the last few years.
Since the band is now without a record label, they simply released it themselves and allowed fans to pay what they wanted for the download. A pretty brave and risky concept, luckily the songs were worth any money fans may have paid. I would actually call this the band’s most accessible album probably since The Bends, as the songs are mostly mellower and sidestep much of the experimental sounds they embraced on Kid A. Thom Yorke has much more control over his voice, and even croons on a few songs. My favorite track is “Bodysnatchers,” one of the livelier songs that is more reminiscent of their great past guitar epics.
1. The National – Boxer – Every year, there seems to be one album that has some special indefinable magical quality about it that makes it stand out from the rest. That can be said for 2007 for the album Boxer by Ohio’s The National. From the opening piano of “Fake Empire” to the gentle closer “Gospel,” there’s not a wasted note on the album. The way most people describe the album is it’s the perfect cd when you’ve been out drinking all night and get home around 2 am to begin slowly pre-nursing your oncoming hangover.
Lead singer Matt Berninger shines as the breakout star of the year, with his near-growl bassy voice staying just steps ahead of Tom Wait’s guttural growl, as he sings fantastic lines like “Hold ourselves together/With our arms around the stereo/for hours/la la la la la/ while it sings to itself or whatever it does/ while it sings to itself of long lost love” on one of the best tracks, “Apartment Song.” Drummer Bryan Devendorf also proves to be an invaluable member of the band, propelling songs like “Guest Room” and “Squalor Victoria” along with his creative complex beats.
Do yourself a favor, PICK UP THIS CD. A few years from now people will catch on to this band and realize what a treasure they are. Boxer alone should be ample evidence.