best of 2007

Man, this year really went fast, didn’t it? Seems like I’ve been saying that every year since I was about twenty, but it just seems like it doesn’t take as much time as it used to get around the sun.

I’m a year older, a year smarter, and have heard a year’s more music. And, because 1) I couldn’t think of anything to write tonight, and 2) I had the 2007 “best of” list already completed, you’re getting it today instead of Friday. Anyway, a Thursday post gets more exposure than a Friday one, after all. So, without further ado, I present my top thirteen (yes, thirteen) albums of 2007. Check it out:

13. The National – Boxer

‎‎Yes, people went crazy over Boxer. There’s good reason for it, as it’s a great album, to be sure; but it just wasn’t the album for me that it was for everyone else. I enjoy its lyricism, its somber fragility, and I even enjoyed seeing The National play it out in Orlando earlier this year. It’s an important album, and I do truly enjoy it, it was just always flying just below my radar and didn’t chart. Don’t let that turn you off.

Listen to The National at the Hype Machine.

12. Los Campesinos – Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP

OK, so this might have crowned higher on the list were it a true “full length” album. I don’t know why I use that yardstick as a criteria, but I do. EPs don’t cut it. That being said, this is one solid lo-fi bedroom-produced party record. It’s the kind of music where you envision the band actually enjoying themselves while they make it, broad grins on everyone’s faces as the plod at the bass, pluck the guitar, or beat on the drums. Fun stuff, great for energizing a room or car-full of people, just a little lacking on the bottom-end. We’ll see if their forthcoming debut full-length LP can carry the weight.

Listen to Los Campesinos at the Hype Machine.

11. Panda Bear – Person Pitch

OK, go ahead. Heave the taunts of “frontrunner!,” “sunshine patriot!, “fairweather fan!,” whatever you’d like. I’ll admit that I just didn’t get this album at first. I even devoted an entire entry in this very lexiconical-compendium to the fact that the album just didn’t “work” for me. But, I never gave up. People kept pissing their pants about it, so I kept giving it a shot. And then, something happened. I listened to Person Pitch completely alone, in the dark.

I don’t tend to get a whole lot of “alone time.” I go to work, I go home, I enjoy my “together time” with my wife and daughter and friends. Sometimes, in between all the together time, I get a little piece of time to call my own. This year, I can recall a time when I was walking on the beach, not alone in truth, but alone enough for my noise-canceling headphones and this album cranked loud enough to make it seem blissfully so. I walked along listening to “Take Pills,” watching the sunlight glint off the water as it capped and frothed while forming swells. And I thought, for a minute, how cool it would be if it wasn’t glimmers of reflected sunlight at all, but thousands of little underwater people instead, blinking their tiny underwater flashlights or flashing the flashbulbs on their tiny underwater cameras.

Person Pitch was made for these snatches of “me time.” This is not an album you’d want to socialize too, unless you’re getting together with a bunch of your buddies at the opium den. This album is for your ears, and your ears only. Do them a favor and play it while you hide in a dark closet, removed from all other human interaction.

Listen to Panda Bear at the Hype Machine.

10. Caribou – Andorra

Andorra sat on my digital shelf for months after I’d acquired it, relatively unlistened-to and unloved. Then, a raving note from the brother of a friend persuaded me to pay it a little more attention. Giving it its first real evaluative spin in the car one morning on the way to work, the percussive-drive psychedelia of “Melody Day” as an album-opener cut through the post-sun fog grey and spoke right to my then-perked ears. Fitting right in the psych-pop theme I seem to have going on with 2007’s best-of, Caribou deliver a rollicking set of string-accompanied, pedal-slurred, falsetto-drenched, psychedelic goodness. What’s more, with just enough electronic bric-a-brac thrown in to modernize their revived-60s sound, Andorra comes of like a well-done reincarnation that post Summer Of Love sizzle that infused 1968. Recommended as a summer album, but would go well with winter drear I suppose. Get it either way, you won’t regret it.

Listen to Caribou at the Hype Machine.

9. BC Camplight – Blink Of A Nihilist

Whoa. A sleeper. I’m not sure I’ve ever even mentioned this album on the blog before now, and that’s a shame. BC Camplight is one dude, his music sounds a little like Ben Folds at times, or sometimes the Beach Boys maybe. I got deep into this album around the end of May, and it fit well with that summer mood. I remember playing it while we shared a meal with friends on the porch outside, having to go inside to skip over the too-oddball “I’ve Got A Bad Cold” so as not to frighten away our guests. But, for an album made by a mentally-unstable one-man-band, it’s got too many moment of pure pop bliss to pass over in the top ten. Go check it out.

Listen to BC Camplight at the Hype Machine.

8. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam

Yes. I admit it. This album is good. Quite good.

Once again, I am forced to eat my words. Sometimes, when I’m grooving to this album, cranked up to insane volumes, I wonder, “Do I really like this?” If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ll likely be familiar with my issue here. Did I just follow the other lemmings off the Animal Collective cliff? What happened between this entry and this list?! Well, for both Panda Bear and this record, I have to believe that I had some sort of awakening. Have to believe this, see, because, otherwise, I’m just a no-good poseur… and, I don’t want to be a no-good poseur.

But, you know what? The more I listened to this album, the more I realized how good it is. Yes, it’s different than what normally draws my ears, but that’s a good thing. It’s all “tingly” and full of seemingly misplaces warbles, bleeps, and unidentifiable noises – but it really pulls together into a nice bouncy pop record. You can actually bob you hear to the rhythm, scream along with the vocals, enjoy yourself. So, if you’re old like me, and perhaps set in your ways, I urge you to get this album and give it a fair chance. It’s good, I promise, despite what you think on your first, or second, or Nth listen… you’ll get it eventually.

In closing. Yes. I admit it. This album is good. Quite good.

And besides, in some small way, actually liking it (I do, right?) gives me renewed faith in both my youth and my golden-ear. So, there’s that too…

Listen to Animal Collective at the Hype Machine.

7. The Most Serene Republic – Population

So. Much. Sound.

The Most Serene Republic has released two albums before Population, and each one has ended up on my year-end lists. So, in keeping with tradition (not my tradition of ranking them highly, rather their tradition of making outstanding music), here they are again. The Most Serene Republic’s music is like tightly controlled cacophony, melodies forced more by a tidal wave of sound rather than a single instrument. The busyness suits me well, but I know it tends to confuse and overwhelm some folks, which is why I think this band may often get ignored on a many otherwise respectable year-end lists. It is indeed awash in musical goings-on, but the tunes are brilliant, the themes are grand, the choirlike harmonies ring, and the horns are oh-so shiny and brass. Don’t let that limpwristed sentence fool you, either, this is rock record… for sure. Anyway, go get it… spend a few hours mentally unknotting the dense layers, you’ll be smarter and happier for it.

Listen to The Most Serene Republic at the Hype Machine.

6. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

Back when I put Neon Bible on my half-best-of list, I wrote “This isn’t Funeral – it’s Neon Bible… it just sure ain’t Funeral.” Then, I wondered if perhaps I’d ruined the album by over-anticipating it. By dissecting each individual track as they slowly leaked one-by-one onto the web. I had. I’d ruined it. But, turns out, in retrospect, it was just a less-good album than the Fire’s superstellar untouchable debut. I won’t lie, I’ll admit that I thought Arcade Fire might be some amazing can-never-do-wrong outfit who’d surpass even the greatness that was Funeral on their second time out, I think a lot of people did. Didn’t happen. But, don’t let that dissuade you from this record. It’s still good. Good enough to sit in the top ten (for me, at least). It’s just not Funeral II.

Listen to The Arcade Fire at the Hype Machine.

5. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Somewhere in my head, I’ve long known that Spoon was “kinda good.” Years ago, I got pretty hung up on the bouncy “Everything Hits At Once” from their 2001 Girls Can Tell album, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was guilty of undervaluing their last effort. With that in mind, I grabbed this new Spoon album determined to give it it’s fair chance. Turns out, I didn’t need a ton of convincing, as I could tell the record would be solid from the moment the needle locked into that 1st groove (or… the laser interprets that first “pit” as a 1 or 0… whatever). Britt Daniel’s raspy voice has always mated perfectly with the punchy guitars that punctuate the archetypal Spoon number, but on this record the guys mix it up with irresistible tracks like “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” and haunting little bits like “The Ghost of You Lingers,” this album has an eclecticism that’s hard to beat. If you’re into good music, you won’t want to miss it.

Listen to Spoon at the Hype Machine.

4. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha

I first got into Andrew Bird a couple years back when someone listed his previous album, Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs, as one of the best overlooked albums of that past year. Indeed, I was intrigued by that album, and ended up falling quite in love with Bird’s softer tunes and thoughtful lyrics. So, when I saw Armchair Apocrypha hit my favorite legal source for purchasing music with real currency (hahaha), I snapped it up in anticipation. Simply put: this album is gorgeous. I can recall the first time I put it on the headphones. I was flying to Oregon and had only loaded it on the iPod that morning. As we rocketed into the skies, the lead track, “Fiery Crash,” a song about envisioning a plane crash, seemed to know right where I was and what I was doing. Throughout the flight the album kept delivering, track after track – and, although on a plane may not be an appropriate location for everyone to have their first “Fiery Crash” experience – I recommend you track this down and pay attention.

Listen to Andrew Bird at the Hype Machine.

3. The Shins – Wincing the Night Away

So, the 2007 Shins album leaked waaay back in October of 2006, with a street-date of January 23, 2007. I first wrote about it here. In fact, this album gave me issues when I was working hard to compile last year’s top ten, as I had to constantly remind myself it was a 2007 album and shouldn’t rank with the other contenders, despite the fact that it was illicitly one of my favorite albums of calendar-year 2006. It’s hard for me now, actually, to get my head back where it was all those months ago and really understand the awesomeness I felt while first getting into this record. But, one reminiscent spin on the iPod and the joy comes flooding back. The Shins are one of the most consistently brilliant bands I’ve heard in a long time, and this album is no exception. Their music is fresh and wonderfully structured: just complex enough to delight music-o-philes with its interesting twists, turns, and hooks; yet “everyday good” enough to hook even the casual Top 40 minded listener. Give this a listen, and try not to swoon just a little bit at amazing moments like singular instance of a harmonized rise of “seaa legs” in “Sea Legs” – that’s a personal challenge.

Listen to The Shins at the Hype Machine.

2. Radiohead – In Rainbows

It’s hard for me to write objectively about Radiohead. I have such an admiration for the band, and I bucket them in that “untouchable” category where an artist can do no wrong. Sure, they’ve failed me to one degree or another over the years, but looking at it from an entire-catalog perspective, the percentage of tracks rated as “amazing” would certainly be unprecedentedly high – up there with something like early 70s Yes; unstoppable, unwavering, consistently brilliant and ahead of their time. In fact, I daresay that, in my opinion, Radiohead are the Beatles of our time – they are just that good. So, having laid out my everything-they-touch-turns-gold case, I’ll now try to convince you that this is an unbiased and deserving second-place finish.

Really though, when news broke on the ‘net that Radiohead were about to release what fans called “LP7” online, and that I could name my own price for it, and that it was coming out in ten days… it really threw me for a loop. I can remember putting on my headphones as I lay down for bed the night it was released, anxious to hear this new piece of work. Didn’t take but a few bars of “Nude” to make me realize that Thom and crew had done it again. In Rainbows is 100% Radiohead… and 100% deserving of the #2 spot on 2007’s list.

You have to have this album. When, after watching Behind the Music, the ‘00s on VH4 one day in 2024, your kids will want to know, “Dad (or Mom), did you used to like Radiohead? VH4 said they were ‘vanguards’ of your generation. Dad (or Mom), what’s a ‘vanguard?’”

The battle for #1 went the full ten rounds this year, but, in the end, the next album won out by narrow decision… Vegas oddsmakers still contest the controversial judgment. But there it is.

Listen to Radiohead at the Hype Machine.

1. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

Hissing Fauna had to win; nothing else could. Nothing else released this year tells a story like this record does. Start to finish, you’re in it song-for-song.

This music makes me want to be something completely different than I am. Someone completely different, even. I hear the plodding rhythm of “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal” and I want to be this guy: floating through Scandinavia on the verge of breakdown, experimenting with drugs and sex, trying to figure out God and love and women. Timeless themes of good music, archetypal rock and roll struggles set to the bounciest glampop/rock that’s been put on wax in recent memory. I sometimes think, if I can just turn it up loud enough, it’ll somehow mix with the resultant blood from my ears and burrow into my head, where it can be my memories, where I can be the story. The brilliant neurosis of this lovesick nomad could be mine, could be me. I could’ve been there falling in love with Meg, flirting with Gods, battling for control of my own personality. It’s an inspired album, a story to get swept away in.

Get it. Bounce to the beats, but listen to the words too. You won’t be sorry.

Listen to Of Montreal at the Hype Machine.

Well, that’s it my friends. Another year gone and another year-end list done. This year, I made iPod playlists for all my past years lists, just to see how well my picks have weathered. I gotta say, not bad.

Hope you enjoyed it. Until next year’s list, keep listening. Goodnight.

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5 Replies to “best of 2007”

  1. Of Montreal? Really? Do I have to remind you that these are the same guys who did a *bad* remake of “Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)” for an Outback Steakhouse commercial? Really!?

    “Let’s go Outback tonight… “

  2. Thanks Benz. I spent way to much time writing it, so positive feedback always helps. As for Modest Mouse and Vampire weekend, perhaps they were overlooked… but I stand by list! 🙂

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