Let me first note that it is very hard for me to pick a NUMBER ONE of 2007. Last year I was moved by Grizzly Bear’s amazingly beautiful and haunting Yellow House. I also fell madly in love with Beirut and his handmade, homeproduced Gulag Orkestar. This year, though, I seem to be lacking in one album that made me so ecstatic as those two did.
So, that said, here are my top ten. They are not in order of best to least, but just a collection of ten great albums.
1. LCD Soundsystem: The Sound of Silver
Sasha Frere Jones (ugh, see earlier post) and Pitchfork both agree with me. Damnit! I’m so unoriginal! Anyhoo, I’ve already romanticized James enough on this blog. It’s just a perfectly enjoyable album, full of black humor, witty lyricism, shimmery sounds and even heartfelt loss. But, it’s also a dance album, which is what makes it not merely noteworthy, but an album that has changed the genre itself. Up there with New Order’s Power Corruption & Lies.
2. Interpol: Our Love to Admire
This is not a “cool” album to cite, nor one that was terribly well reviewed. But I’ve loved Interpol since that first atmospheric minute of “Untitled” off Turn On the Bright Lights and this album has only continued that love affair (one that was put on hold with the more rock-y Antics). “Rest my Chemistry” is classic bummer rock, lamenting a life of too much coke and a heart of nihilism, which, of course, equals classic Interpol. “Metropolis” is Interpol trying to be the Bauhaus. Which is funny. But being Goth has always been kind of funny.
3. Jens Lekman: Night Falls Over Kortedala
I got into Lekman early in 2007 before the new album came out. My boyfriend at the time made me a mix cd with “Pocketful of Money,” which sounds a bit like if Morrissey went straight and lived in the mountains of North Europe and hung out with Stephen Merritt. I was surprised to hear that not all the songs on the LP “Pocketful of Money “comes off, Oh You’re So Silent, Jens, are so melancholic and so very concentrated on the down and out. Many of the songs are, well, rather giddy. On Night Falls Over Kortedala, Lekman cheers up even more! He’s still a melodramatic, deeply awkward little Swede-“I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You Anymore” could be a Smiths song, at least lyrically-but his musicality moves into a deeper pop domain by throwing in some doo-wop and lots of Bacharach kitsch. On stage he dresses his band (mostly cute Swedish girls) in all white, which makes the whole live show feel rather cult like (Praise Jens). Oh and he wrote a song about his Iraqi hairdresser…. Perhaps he should have called that one “Hairdresser Not Quite on Fire.”
4. Deerhunter: Cryptogram
My Deerhunter moment of the year (because we all have a Deerhunter moment, whether you love them or hate them) was a few weeks ago at a Christmas party when I fell into a conversation with a guy who had a tattoo of a quote from Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. He imparted to me his theory that Cryptogram is really a dystopian concept album. Or at least I think that’s what he was getting at; I was pretty drunk. The point is, is that people with tattoos of unreadable texts, young fans of Thomas Pynchon, Kruatrock aficionados and just your average arty stoners all need a new band to wax poetic about. I mean My Bloody Valentine broke up over fifteen years ago!
Deerhunter is that band and Cryptogram is that album. It is soaring and muddy, full of extreme paranoia (lead singer Brandon Cox apparently had panic attacks throughout the recording), and as the album sends, full of hope. It is indeed, rather dystopian, as it ends kind of like a Soma bliss out after a half an album of nerve shock. Kind of like the end of the original theater release cut of Brazil (not the director’s cut with the dismal ending). At times sophomoric in lyrics, the album feels young despite the lofty ambitions, especially as the production is shoddy. I guess that’s the appeal for some, as it’s essentially a lo if shoegaze album, which is kind of a return to the roots of shoegaze. However, what made me love this album is that I realized the guitar in “Octet” sounds a little like the guitar in “She Sells Sanctuary” by the Cult. Most Deerhunter fans would kill me for that comparison, but I was sold. “She Sells Sanctuary” was a really good song, people. Although I would not suggest using this comparison to impress an art rock hottie at a party…
5. Caribou: Andorra
“Melody Day” is a wonderful ditty-shimmering, glossy, tripped out but innocent, like That Girl if she ate a bag of mushrooms. Yes, it’s enough to turn even those skeptical of Caribou’s ambient/electro leanings (hailing back to the earlier incarnation as Manitoba) into a fan. The whole album is sunshine pop with an edge. It does what a breakthrough album does best-it manages to keep intact the band’s heritage of an experimental musical outfit, but also ups the pop quality to a place where new fans can truly embrace them. Standout songs include “Desiree” (check out that flute) and “Niobe,” a track that can only be described as what would happen if the Animals discovered trance music.
6. M.I.A: Kala
YES. YES. YES. I could go song for song with something wonderful to say. I’ll stick to one: “Paper Planes” uses the most underrated Clash song (“Straight to Hell”) to sound even more avant-garde and politically incensed than the original. Even my Jam Band friend likes it. The best part is that it’s not a cover, but something entirely new. This album has been praised again and again and again. I can only say everyone is right. MIA proves she isn’t just Diplo’s ex girlfriend or the “Galang” chick, but a truly revolutionary hip-hop artist.
7. Dan Deacon: Spiderman of the Rings
The fact that I know the real “Jimmy James Roche” and what and where “Wham City” is could be the only reason that I put this on here. But it’s also an exceedingly gleeful and surprisingly approachable electronic album. It often sounds like whacked out sped up Musak, yes. Is that a bad thing when made by a fat, balding man-child who just wants everyone to get along? I think not. Spiderman of the Rings is a lot subtler and technologically advanced than Deacon’s earlier stuff (like the infectious “Pizza Horse” and “Big Big Big Big Big”). Wow, I never thought I’d call Deacon subtle, but in this album he’s become a grown up. He still carries a green skull though, so not that grown up. Wouldn’t it be crazy if Deacon were like the Eno of our generation? Woah.
8. I’m Not There Soundtrack: Various Artists
I left the movie theater without knowing whether I liked this film or not. I left my first listening to the soundtrack knowing even more certainly that Dylan is a genius. It just solidifies something Dylan lovers already know: that although Dylan’s gravely poet from the grave voice and evolving musical styles are worth a place in musical history, what really will endure on and on is his songwriting. Some of the covers are better than others-“Highway 61 Revisited” should have NEVER been out in front of Karen O and the Charlotte Gainsbourg version of “Just like a Woman” only proves she should stick to acting. But even the lackluster artists can’t ruin the effect of those lyrics and the song structure of each tune on here. The highlight for me was “I’m Not There” from Sonic Youth. And Yo La Tengo’s faithful take on “Fourth Time Around” made me rethink Yo La Tengo entirely.
9. Feist: The Remainder
I resisted Feist’s earlier album because it was just too loungy. She bored me. I was always an Emily Haines fan, at least as the “women featured on Broken Social Scene albums” lot goes. At least you can dance to Metric! Feist just sounded tired. On The Remainder, Feist wakes up. Yes, she is lively! That rolllicking piano on “My Moon My Man” is infectious and she even seems a little-ok, excuse the pun-feisty. What The Remainder does best is showcase Feist’s voice while also keeping her listeners entertained with solid, pleasingly rollicking songs (which I credit to having a full band backing her). She gets a little Paul Simon-y on “Sea Lion Woman” and a little Joni Mitchell-y on “So Sorry.” The popularity of the album may make it this year’s Moby’s Play but really, it’s hard not to tap your feet to “1234.”
10. Radiohead: In Rainbows
A lot of people I know don’t like this album. I’m not sure why. For me, it does everything a Radiohead album should do, an album that we all know won’t be as good as OK Computer. OK Computer was perfect. It’s up there with Blonde on Blonde, Rubber Soul, Purple Rain, The Queen is Dead, etc. Nothing will compare. So I say, get over it and embrace something that is still quite good, if not a masterpiece. There are some not-so-thrilling moments, yes. But the first three songs are funky, complex but still lucid, and full of deep, luxurious rhythms. This is a track record (oh punning!) that Radiohead haven’t done since Kid A. I liked it so much I even wanted to leave a party so I could go home and listen to “Reckoner ” again and again.
Other really good albums:
Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend
Devendra Banhart: Smokey Rolls Down…
Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam (and I hated Animal Collective before this album, so that says a lot)
Kevin Drew: Spirit If (basically a Broken Social Scene album)
Darjeeling Limited Soundtrack
Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna Are you the Destroyer?
**Note that Of Montreal put on the best show, production wise, of 2007, hands down.
The Field: From Here We Go Sublime
Chromeo: Fancy Footwork
Simian Mobile Disco: Attack Sustain Decay Release
Project Jenny Project Jan: XOXOXOXOXOXOX
Bill Callahan: Woke on a Whaleheart
Amy Winehouse: Back in Black (technically 2006, but on the cusp of 2007)
Beirut: Flying Club Cup (I do wish this could get on top ten, but alas…no)
Black Lips: Good Bad Not Evil (very close to top ten!)
The National: Boxer (also very close)
Arthur & Yu: in Camera
Beach House: Beach House
O’Death: Head Home (Remastered, re-released on Mason Jennings)