Like many a music fan, I too love to put together these end of year lists. I love scouring the magazines, websites, blogs and newspapers for their favorite albums and songs of the year. While the last few years have been great, I have to say, 2007 is by far one of the best years of music I can remember in a long time.
As a friend and co-worker (and sometime Hello Come In collaborator) and I have discussed, nearly everyone we would’ve wanted a new album from put out something. But more than that, it seems that artists and bands that have been putting in the their dues for years have all put in some of their best work yet. There were plenty of new discoveries, much rediscovery of old bands, and perhaps even a few disappointments. (Note: You can read our mid-year favourites here.)
The one downside I can think of right now about such a stellar year is that I am now wondering what the hell is left to put out in 2008?
My yearly disclaimer: My lists will never be as unintelligible or insider-flaunting as some out there. I certainly do not operate on the notion of showing off my tastes in music by filling lists with ridiculously unapproachable obscura or pick things that flex my hipster cred. I am always drawn to music that moves me, makes me think, and provides an emotional release…and that is all I can provide: a list of my favorites that frequented my life for the last year.
This list will be ever-changing depending on the weather, the time of day and perhaps even by what I had for lunch. So lets dig in…
Top Albums of 2007:
1) Andrew Bird — Armchair Apocrypha :
What else can I say about this album that I haven’t already rambled about in the past? While there were certainly some better albums that made more of a dent influentially, Bird’s witty and melancholy sense of lyrical depth and instrumental prowess was challenging and yet familiar. As the year went on this collection of songs continued to be a go-to source for inspiration and influence. Over time, I think this will assert itself as an all-time favorite and a creative peak for such an already fantastic body of work.
2) Radiohead — In Rainbows :
For one day in October almost everyone I knew and thousands of people I don’t were all talking about music; perhaps in the same way fans feverishly discussed a new Beatles release. As the day wore on, everyone had asserted their opinions of the “pay what you feel it’s worth” distribution, the music industry implications and hopefully, (and most importantly) the music contained within. When you strip away all of the hype and the forward looking business plans and all that, what you have is a stunningly exposed and beautiful album. In many ways this is the most relaxed and honest I have ever heard Radiohead, especially when singing of love (“House of Cards”) or of our lingering legacy after we’re gone (“Videotape”). Radiohead feel loose and at ease with their songwriting, and have created an album that highlights just how much they do everything right. (Plus that diskbox is a work of sheer inspired beauty). What else can you ask for?
3) Arcade Fire — Neon Bible :
How do you follow up an album so beloved and explosively expressive as Funeral? By not imitating or trying to follow it up at all. Win Butler and company expand the scope and soundscape on Neon Bible discussing the ‘big issues’ without feeling like an overwrought soapboxing. Songs like “Ocean of Noise” and “Keep the Car Running” explore the depths of life and death and relationships and war and everything in between in such a dark and poetic way. I wonder how they will attempt follow up this one.
4) The Besnard Lakes — The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse :
When I saw this six piece Montreal-based band this summer, they had already outgrown the tiny stage they were jampacked on. You could easily envision them playing in larger concert halls filling the space with their gorgeous mixture of Beach Boys’ harmonies, epic 70s rock and dark shoegazer walls of sound. I was pushing for this band to get more attention this year, but I think this second album has at least put them on people’s radars. Can’t wait to hear what they have in store next.
5) The National — Boxer
Sure this one’s dark and inward as well, but the introversion The National bring to their music is expressive and universal, making songs about very mundane things such as day jobs and relationships seem grand and hauntingly lovely. Songs like “Fake Empire” (with its polyrhythmic piano) and “Green Gloves” (with its house stalker storyline) have so much going on that they surely will seep under your skin.
6) Okkervil River — The Stage Names :
With 2005’s incredible Black Sheep Boy, frontman Will Sheff said was finally able to make as much money as he did when he worked at a video store early in his career. This notion certainly made me realize that these bands we love aren’t always living the highlife ala Def Leppard. So it’s always encouraging to see a group that has been consistently under the radar finally get the credit they are due: Okkervil River’s latest, The Stage Names, a highly literary concept album, is the best work of their career. Making a song cycle that ambitiously exposed insight and references to popular culture it could’ve been huge catastrophe. But the songs reach great heights and rocked harder than most this year.
7) Feist — The Reminder :
By now we’ve heard the anthemic “1234” about one thousand two hundred and thirty-four times thanks to the iPod commercial and the many television appearances on Letterman and the Today Show. But Leslie Feist’s huge success is highly deserved as came into her own on this amazingly personal album. It’s brimming with lilting yet moody, powerful yet delicate songs of love and pain, musically being both diverse and cohesive. And that voice. Nuff said.
8) Le Loup — Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nationsâ€™ Millennium General Assembly :
A late entry onto my list, this emerging DC band made the interblogs swoon in mid summer when Sam Simkoff spun his solo work into a band by posting music on the internet and ads on craigslist. While they are still learning to play together as a group on stage, this album is a dark take on failed relationships, war and the end of the world as filtered and inspired by Dante’s Inferno. The songs, driven by the same banjo motif played throughout, are about as catchy and densely layered as one can expect from a home-crafted laptop work; personal and impassioned.
9) Panda Bear — Person Pitch :
When you normally hear bands that are labeled as ‘experimental,’ it can instantly conjure expectations of scraping metal and angular, hard to listen to melodies full of disjunct dystopian themes. But Panda Bear is far from that often unfair stereotype. Noah Lennox (of Animal Collective) created an album that pushes boundaries yet is still accessibly easy to listen to. With a patchwork tapestry of overlapping harmonies and soaring Brian Wilson-esque melodies, you could listen to this album a hundred times and still discover surprising nuance and layers every time.
10) Bowerbirds — Hymns For A Dark Horse :
Bowerbirds are one of a few “little engine that could” bands I have tried to champion this year. So while very few heard this neo-folk trio’s ‘back to nature’ album or heard that they all live on in one of those ’50s streamline trailers in the South Carolina countryside, they are certainly worth a listen. The music is stripped down and earnest but definitely not just typical strummy folk music. This album was a grower for me all year, as I often went back to it in times when I wanted a soundtrack to those quieter and more intimate moments, something Bowerbirds’ songs explore.
11) Wilco — Sky Blue Sky
12) Broken Social Scene presents: Kevin Drew — Spirit If…
13) Spoon — Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
14) Band of Horses — Cease To Begin
15) M.I.A. — Kala
Seven Runners Up:
1) The Shins — Wincing the Night Away
2) Blonde Redhead — 23
3) The New Pornographers — Challengers
4) Stars — In Our Bedroom After the War
5) Jens Lekman — Night Falls Over Kortedala
6) Josh Ritter — Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
I’m Not There soundtrack
Six Honorable Mentions (or things I liked but not amazing):
1) Low — Drums and Guns
2) Modest Mouse — We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
3) The White Stripes — Icky Thump
4) Dan Deacon — Spiderman of the Rings
5) Animal Collective — Strawberry Jam
6) Small Sins — Mood Swings
Five Debuts That Show Great Promise:
1) St. Vincent — Marry Me
2) Vampire Weekend — s\t EP
3) The Cave Singers — Invitation Songs
4) Yeasayer — All Hour Cymbals
5) Bon Iver — For Emma, Forever Ago
Four Complete Disapointments (based on my enjoyment of previous albums):
1) Bloc Party — A Weekend In the City
2) Air — Pocket Symphony
3) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — Some Loud Thunder : Some good songs shockingly ruined by overproduction by Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann.
4) Ryan Adams — Easy Tiger : The album that most said brought Adams his comeback, but I found it utterly bland compared to the one-two punch of Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights. Band sounds as good as ever though.
Three Jazz Releases Worth Hearing:
1) Floratone — s\t (Bill Frisell, Matt Chamberlain, Tucker Martine, Lee Townsend)
2) Groundtruther — Altitude (Charlie Hunter, Bobby Previte, John Medeski)
3) Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy — Cornell 1964 : Technically a reissue, but WOW…this puts most ‘jazz’ efforts to shame this year. Seriously, 2007 was yet another disappointing year for jazz. Where are those genre defining records that seemed to be coming out all the time not so long ago.
Two Bands That I Still Just Don’t Get The Appeal:
1) Architecture In Helsinki
2) Sunset Rubdown : Just wrote a review for this album (coming soon) and at times its good, but man I just don’t get it.
One Album I Just Never Got Into (But think I will like once I spend some more time with them):
1) LCD Soundsystem — Sound of Silver
And lastly those that slipped through the cracks but worth a heads up:
Rilo Kiley, Loney Dear, Of Montreal, Apples in Stereo, The Frames, Thurston Moore, The Good The Bad and the Queen, Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, Beirut, Devandra Banhart, Shout Out Louds and one of my favourites all year but one that technically came out in 2006, Peter Bjorn & John’s Writer’s Block…great album!
Well thats it for now. Let us know here what you think. If you have a favourite or feel we’ve left something off…write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or right here in the blog comments.