Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Best Music of 2007: Albums
This is my favorite post to write every year. There's some slightly embarrassing proof that I've been doing this since Junior High. It's nice to have an outlet for it now. I really can't remember a better year for music in the past 15 years. I had a really hard time narrowing down what I thought was absolutely essential this year, and my top five is more or less interchangeable. If you see something you don't know, MySpace, HypeMachine, and YouTube will probably have you covered. Check back later and I'll add some links to places where you can hear the albums or download a song or two. I'll post a top 25 songs list sometime soon as well. Happy listening!

25. !!! - Myth Takes
There are about five or six tracks on this album that make me want to get up off my chair and dance. And for those of you who know me, that's a high compliment. Only when I'm home alone of course. !!!, thanks for providing any peeping neighbors with hours of amusement.

24. Menomena - Friend & Foe
There are a ton of ideas infused in each song on Friend and Foe, and all of those elements add up to something creative and utterly fresh.

Download: "The Pelican" (via Pitchfork)

23. Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature
Singer/songwriter isn't my genre of choice, but I really dug Jose's trips into simple, sometimes brooding beauty.

22. Free the Robots - Free the Robots EP
It's jazzy, funky, soulful and just plain fun.

21. Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová - Once Soundtrack
It's hard to hear this album apart from the movie, as it captures the street musician creates a raw anthem spilling over with creativity and passion, but I suspect that it works even if you haven't seen it. Do note that if you see Once, you're going to want to spend ten bucks to have the soundtrack immediately, so you might as well pick both of them up on your next Target run.

20. Thomas Fehlmann - Honigpumpe
This is electronica served just as I like it - minimal but warm. Fans of the genre should give it a listen.

19. Justice - t (cross)
I don't know how to sell this album any other way than this: "Do the D.A.N.C.E., 1, 2, 3, 4 fight. Stick to the B.E.A.T., get ready to ignite." Awesome. If these guys are Jesus-people, and everything about their titling tendencies point that direction, I'm hoping they get to DJ most of the parties in Heaven.

Download: "D.A.N.C.E." (via Pitchfork)

18. Rahsaan Patterson - Wines & Spirits
The best R&B album of the year. Each track has its own influences, but Rahsaan makes each one of them his own. If you like R&B even a little, seek it out.

17. The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
There's not a bad track on here, and its best moments ("No Cars Go", "Keep the Car Running") hold their own with everything on Funeral, good enough for a top 20 spot.

Download: "No Cars Go" (via PopMatters)
Download: "Keep The Car Running" (via PopMatters)

16. Mavis Staples - We'll Never Turn Back
Mavis' record of contemporary spins on protest songs that she mastered back in the day (as the lead Staples sister) is moving, passionate and still capable of mobilizing people to change the world. This is also the best worship music I've heard this year.

15. Blu & Exile - Below the Heavens
One of the best rap albums I've heard in years. The beats and music are choice, his voice is confident and distinct without being over the top, and it rewards multiple listens. Oh, and it's a ton of fun. Like, Tribe fun. As with Rahsaan, if you like hip hop even a little bit, seek it out.

14. The Ike Reilly Assassination - We Belong to the Staggering Evening
It's no doubt indebted to a host of influences, but never once does it feel like Ike Reilly is ripping someone off. He and his band are having the time of their lives writing contemporary send-offs and the occasional protest song disguised in a shawl of irony. They're from Chicago but they deserve to be known throughout the country. What a blast.

Download: "When Irish Eyes Are Burning" (via PopMatters)

13. SoCalled - Ghettoblaster
His basic, unorthodox formula is to combine hip hop elements with Klezmer and Jewish cantor music. What makes this such a beautiful marriage is that he obviously loves and knows both of those pieces so intimately. It's the most original music I've heard this year. Listen to "You Are Never Alone" and proceed to purchase the album.

Download: "You Are Never Alone" (via PopMatters)

12. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
55 minutes of pulse-thumping ecstasy, with "All My Friends" and "Someone Great" right in the middle, taking it to another place. LCD brings it.

11. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
It's at once deeply confessional and personal, and also completely over the top. They take on many personas (my favorite being Prince after a bad breakup) to tell their story. They get funky, they get intense, and on "The Past is a Grotesque Animal," they sink their claws into you and don't let go for almost 12 cathartic minutes.

Download: "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" (via Pitchfork)
Download: "Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse" (left click)

10. Burial - Untrue
It's atmospheric but not removed from this planet. This is music for walks in the rain in urban America. It's detached but somehow you get completely immersed. To wit, it beckons you to enter into its world, with its spiral staircases, its flying choirs and its cavernous tree houses, and then it gets under your skin and you want to stay there.

Download: "Ghost Hardware" (left click) (via IODA)

9. Ned Collette - Future Suture
When all was said and done, Ned created my favorite album of 2006, the one that I played the most this year, and one that continues to grow on me. This is another grower, more so than last time, but the songs eventually reveal a beauty where, once you see it, it's hard to turn away. Stick with it. It's rewarding.

8. Pantha du Prince - This Bliss
It's an electronic album that I imagine would play as well in a warehouse as your headphones, only it constantly morphs into new shapes and ideas instead of lingering in atmosphere where so many recent electronica albums linger ad nauseam. And by using the same musical palette for the entire album, he develops a musical language that goes deeper than most wordless albums can go, especially ones created on a computer. I get lost in this music.

7. John Vanderslice - Emerald City
The crunch of his guitar ("White Dove") is tempered by his simple harmonies, the compelling percussion ("The Minaret") and his general songwriting skills and wordcraft. I love this album more each time I hear it.

Download: "White Dove" (via Vanderslice's Official Site)

6. Feist - The Reminder
Sometimes when I'm listening to The Reminder, I forget that I'm not sitting in Leslie Feist's living room.

5. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
Andrew Bird got more cohesive, but no less daring. He put the guitars at the forefront to give the album some broad connecting tissue, and cut down on the wordplay, but upped the passion and heat. Andrew and his partners in crime absolutley cook on this record. I've listened to this at least once a week for the better part of a year, and it kicks off five albums that could've been #1.

Download: "Heretics" (via PopMatters)

4. Marco Mahler - Design in Quick Rotation
I've had this on pretty steady repeat since I first heard it. Some might argue that since I first heard this in December, it doesn't deserve to be in the top five, but I actually think that if I had heard this six months ago it'd be even higher. This makes the winter a little warmer. The eleven tracks are diverse in just the right ways, all sharing a lullaby quality that is sure to stir you and warm your heart. I love the lyrics, I love the fingerplay, I love the small choices he makes to flesh out his music without sacrificing any of the intimacy. I'm captivated.

Download: "Design in Quick Rotation"

3. Radiohead - In Rainbows
If it looks like a gimmick and smells like a gimmick, make sure it's not Radiohead before you draw conclusions. In the midst of pricing innovations, web sites, webcasts, discboxes and general hype, it's nice to know that they are still making some of the most original and challenging music out there. And even though they're arguably getting more accessible in their old age, the quality of their music is at an ethereal high.

2. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Critics like to use words to describe Spoon like 'economical' or 'efficient'. I think a better word is subtle. They leave space in their music for you to claim. It's your little cave where you can curl up and tap your feet happily. Spoon is one of my two favorite bands and this is the best introduction to them I can think of. So, if you haven't yet picked it up, allow me to recommend, without reservation, the absurdly titled (say it like machine gun fire) Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

Download: "The Underdog" (via PopMatters)

1. The National - Boxer
You know that part of the day just before dawn when the sky is a gorgeous but ominous shade of blue? If you listen to "Ada" at that specific moment, you'll have a clear sense that everything is going to be okay. This is the soundtrack to late night drives, after work train rides and all of the pensive moments of our lives. Each song builds to the next, with Matt Berninger's baritone playing tour guide and Bryan Devendorf's drums taking every song to a higher level, to the point where even when he drops out of the picture entirely, you feel his presence, a phantom conductor leading you into the wee hours of the morning. In one of the best years of music that I can remember, nothing bested this. It's perfect.

Download: "Fake Empire" (via BeggarsGroup)

What'd I miss?

Related: Best Songs

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Blogger SPosteraro said...
Dave, how I enjoy your top albums of the year! It's refreshing to hear someone comment on music the way that you do. I have a book suggestion for you - Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. If you haven't read it already, I am sure you'd enjoy it. It's got it all- lists of Mix CDs, great storytelling, a sense of humor, and interesting music commentary. Check it out!

Blogger Dave Sandell said...
Verity actually gave me Love is a Mix Tape for our first anniversary. I agree, it's a fun read!

Anonymous E said...
You missed MIA - Kala. That's probably one of my favorite albums of 2007. It's all good, agreed with a lot of your choices. - Esther

Blogger Dave Sandell said...
I missed MIA - Kala. Holy cow, what an album! "Paper Planes" would've been my song of the year had I bothered to listen to it.

A couple months in 2008 and I would've dropped Untrue out of the top ten and put Kala in there somewhere. I also would've switched Future Suture & Hissing Fauna. Future Suture had just recently clicked and Hissing Fauna had been playing all year, so I was being shortsighted.