Hey Fahim, is that you striking that suave pose? I think that girl on the right’s checkin’ you out! But seriously, he does look eerily similar to the jr. high you…right down to the nerdy clothes…HA!
Yes, that’s right. It’s time to put on those dancing shoes because we’re ready to announce Michael’s Top Albums of 2007!
Since you guys are all excited, I’ll try to hurry up and introduce the list. I set out trying to compile a simple top 10 list. So I decided to first amass a large base of albums to choose from. Then I couldn’t decide which ones to cut, so I just decided to make a list with however many albums I had. I put them all in a certain order and was painstakingly comparing, re-listening, re-ordering, and re-ordering again for an hour or two. Then I just stopped because I realized that there was no way I was going to spend any more time and energy on a list that only 4 people will read. So here’s the best list ever of the top 28 albums of 2007. (I hope no one else has made a “top 28″list. If so, I’m not sure if this will be “The Best” anymore.) Some album descriptions will be one sentence, others may be up to two paragraphs, and, in some descriptions, I may not even talk about the album. I’m not sure, we’ll see how it goes. But ALL will have one or two carefully selected sample songs to whet your appetite. I can wholeheartedly recommend all of these albums as “sound” investments (by the way, that is a clever, wit-tastic pun. I put quotation marks just in case anyone might miss it), so go buy them, or hear them in concert, or something. I hope you enjoy the list.
(Click on the artist/album name to go to the Amazon page where you can check out or buy the album. I get absolutely no compensation for it. I probably should though…)
28. Mark Ronson – Version
Umm…yeah…it’s an album of remakes/covers. I don’t give a damn. It’s on my list. The first half of this album is just brimming with glittering, infectious beats and melodies. Although it sort of tails off after that, overall, it’s still quite an engaging and truly fun listen. It’s like a irresistibly delicious dessert, candy, or chocolate; you have to enjoy it in proper servings. All the brass and jazzy, pop-y, sugary melodies can overwhelm you and even be numbing when it hits you wave after wave. But if the songs are taken in the right doses, they almost always hit the spot. The album does give very noticeably diminishing returns on repeated listens but when any song from the album comes up when I listen to my music on random/shuffle, I can’t help but feel like dancing. And I’m most definitely not prone to dancing…at all.
“God Put a Smile Upon Your Face [Coldplay cover]”
“Valerie (ft. Amy Winehouse) [The Zutons cover]”
27. Mae – Singularity
They’re so much more talented than Switchfoot. And I like Switchfoot.
“Sometimes I Can’t Make It Alone”
26. The New Pornographers – Challengers
I don’t understand all the bashing going on with this album. It’s a good album. But then again, if I never heard their thoroughly excellent Twin Cinema that preceded this, this latest album would be further down on this list of mine. Hmm…so I guess I understand all the bashing at least a little. It’s still a good album though.
“Mutiny, I Promise You”
25. Page France – ...And the Family Telephone
Page France is like a sunshine-y, lyrically happily absurd Elliott Smith. I think. I’ve always liked their combination of religion and absurdity. But the album is too long and too many songs sound alike. Cutting and combining it into 10 songs would’ve made it the adorably perfect ray of warm happiness it strives to be. I also like when a band utilizes the perfect girl/guy lead vocals combo like Page France does.
“Wet Dog Afternoon”
“Here’s a Telephone”
24. Feist – The Reminder
I love her voice and really like it when she sings in French. Not sure if she does it on this album. I think she does it in at least one song. I have a crush on Leslie Feist. Here is a picture of my crush, jacked from a hilarious, possibly offensive, but mostly hilarious post by Conny Kate. (Oh, if you didn’t know, Leslie Feist is Canadian. And it was a pleasant little coincidence that the post also mentioned these two songs I have put up here.)
23. Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
I never really liked the lead guy’s voice when the band quiets their sound down. At least not nearly as much as when both his singing and the band is belting, shouting, and wiling out, spitting out blasts of fun (think of their hits, “Dashboard” or “Float On”). I think that’s the style that best suits them, and that’s the style that dominates this record. It’s kind of like their last album, but the songs here are more polished and accessible.
“Fly Trapped in a Jar”
21. Tegan and Sara – The Con
They’re cute, they’re kinda quirky, they’re twins, and they’re lesbians. And they make pretty good music. This album was co-produced by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla. I could see his influence but the album is all the sisters’ sound. There is more teenage-angst stuff than I would like but it’s okay because the music makes up for it.
“Relief Next to Me”
“Back in Your Head”
20. Kanye West – Graduation
My favorite album by ‘Ye was last year’s collaborative effort with multi-instrumentalist genius, Jon Brion, Late Registration. That album was sprinkled throughout with surprising strings, bells, and odd little percussions. But this year’s was not bad at all either as we saw West return to the mainstream, showing he could make quality hits using more conventional sounds as well. His creativity still pushes way beyond what most mainstream hip-hop artists are doing, including 50 Cent. You don’t go to Kanye for his intricate flows. His rapping is just there to get the job done while his impeccable production takes center stage. And he produces the hell out of this album. I’m just going to pretend “Drunk and Hot Girls” never happened.
19. Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
They are like an American (or human) Sigur Ros. While Sigur Ros makes other-worldy, alien, unfamiliarly beautiful music, these guys cause similar effects using more familiar, traditional, and recognizable sounds. Unlike Sigur Ros, they don’t sing at all, whether it’s in their native language or a made-up Hoplelandic language. They’re from Texas (like me), so they have to be good.
“Catastrophe and the Cure”
17. Talib Kweli – Eardrum
I don’t really follow hip-hop as closely as I used to. I basically have a set group of artists I depend on and check for new releases from…like Mos, Jay-Z, The Roots, Nas, Blackalicious, etc. Some guys just get my attention, like Lupe Fiasco. Talib Kweli is one guy I always look out for — his rhymes have such a high level of complexity and smoothness. Always original. And I think this is probably his strongest album in his career. If nothing else, it’s his most ambitious solo release. With Kweli, unlike with Kanye, you have to listen to what he’s saying and not just concentrate on the production. Once you concentrate on his lyrics, your opinion of his work goes way up. But it’s harder to concentrate on words as opposed to the production…and that’s the problem. Kweli’s problem with “breaking through” (like Common) has never been about his talents as a rapper (which is pretty much unparalleled) but mostly about the production (maybe this is like Common as well). I think he’ll forever be underground, no matter how much exposure he gets…and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“Hostile Gospel Pt. 1 (Deliver Us)”
“Give ’em Hell (ft. Coi Mattison & Lyfe Jennings)”
16.Elliott Smith – New Moon
“But oh man, what a plan. Suicide.”
Is this guy the 2pac of indie rock? Maybe after another 8 albums…but the quality, and critical acclaim, of his posthumous releases do rival that of ‘Pac’s though. We could only wonder what would’ve happened if he had the time to perfect these already superbly crafted songs. It’s a shame. Don’t kill yourself people! Especially if you’re anywhere near as talented as Elliott Smith.
15. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup
Beirut is sort of like Joanna Newsom for me (but to a lesser extent than for Newsom). I don’t quite know what to make of it, but I find I really like it. His “Eastern European gypsy style” can be reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel but it is filled with warmth and emotion. There’s a very personal and cozy feel to the album. That feeling is like…well, his album covers. I think he has made awesome choices for his album covers. They fit the music perfectly. OH…and I think the album goes perfectly with Andrew Bird’s release this year (it is coming up…a ways down the list). The two of them feel like they are making music that reflects different points and aspects of the same essential sound. It’s very interesting to listen to them together. Try it out!
“Forks and Knives”
“In the Mausoleum”
14. Aqualung – Memory Man
Every time I hear/read this artist’s name, I immediately see a scary, huge Ken doll singing, “C’mon Barbie let’s go party.” But once that image subsides, everything is smooth sailing. I’m going to let you guys sample examples of this man outdoing two great bands at their own game: “Vapour Trail” could very well pass as a U2 song…and a very good one at that, while “Rolls So Deep” does Coldplay better than Coldplay. (Yes, I consider Coldplay a great band. You can stop reading now if you want.)
“Rolls So Deep”
13. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
When I think of this type of music in 2007, three albums come to mind. The National’s Boxer, Okkervil River’s The Stage Names, and this one. And although this album is exceptional, there’s something about the all too critically acclaimed and adored Conor Oberst that rubs me the wrong way. I guess it’s a personal thing. Maybe it’s the overly pretentious aura he exudes or the too-earnest-for-his-own-good voice in which he sings. I don’t know. But he did make a pretty good album.
“Soul Singer in a Session Band”
“I Must Belong Somewhere”
12. The Shins – Wincing the Night Away
Much was made of their transition to mainstream. When they started doing interviews with big, trendy magazines and negotiating deals for the use of their songs in commercials and stuff, people started going up in arms over it all. We’ve seen this before recently, with Death Cab for Cutie. And as with Death Cab, the Shins come out shining brilliantly with success on their album following all the hoopla, even with all the mainstreaminess. All the too-cool-for-school fans can go cry themselves to sleep.
11. Stars – In Our Bedroom After the War
This is my refuge album. When the world gets to be too tiresome, disconnected, cruel, post-modern, or just bland, with a twirl of my thumb, I put this album into rotation. It is very appropriately titled. It really is like the intimate, private, and incubated comforts of sharing an old, familiar bedroom with a loved one after a war. Not that I would know how that feels, but I think it would feel like this album.
“My Favourite Book”
“Bitches in Tokyo”
10. Lupe Fiasco – The Cool
You think Talib Kweli’s album was ambitious? Check out the footnotes for this album (courtesy of Child Rebel Soldier). I don’t know where this guy came from. He made an appearance on Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky” and dropped his debut and BAM! he’s already at the forefront of hip-hop. Like Kweli, he has the abundant skills but, unlike Kweli, he has the mass-appeal production to go along with it.
“Superstar (ft. Matthew Santos)”
“Hip-Hop Saved My Life (ft. Nikki Jean)”
“Go Baby (ft. Gemstones)”
9. Apples in Stereo – New Magnetic Wonder
Just listen to it straight through. Every track. It is just great, smooth pop music. For me, it’s a toned down Silverchair (they’re coming up). And for at least a few days out of the week, “toned down” is what I prefer.
“Beautiful Machine Parts 3-4”
8. The National – Boxer
I wasted so much time ignoring and putting this album off. I thought I had more important things to do, people to meet, and places to be. I was horribly mistaken. Probably the most surprising album of the year for me. Is it indie folk-rock? I hate classifying into genres, but I could see why genre labels exist.
7. Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full
Forget knighthood — this guy is reaching super-human status. As if being part of the McCartney-Lennon tag team and a leading member of the most influential band ever wasn’t enough, Sir Paul McCartney, after searching for his solo sound for a few decades, has finally arrived again. This album is the culmination of his reemergence. “Vintage Clothes” might be my favorite track, but he won me over when he so earnestly strained and stretched his aged vocal chords to channel Lennon in “Gratitude.” Then “Nod Your Head” confirmed it for me. The old guy can still rock. Man…why couldn’t he have been my dad? “Uncle Paul” would’ve been nice too
“Nod Your Head”
6. Silverchair – Young Modern
I have no idea who or what this band was before (I’m told they were not a very good band and unintentionally comical), but I’m really liking who they are right now.
“Those Thieving Birds (Part 1) / Strange Behaviour / Those Thieving Birds (Part 2)”
“All Across the World”
5. The Polyphonic Spree – The Fragile Army
Their huge sound (27 members? Yes! That’s what wikipedia says [so it MUST be true]. Wow, I’m good) seems like it would run the risk of overwhelming and numbing a listener (like Mark Ronson’s album does if taken all at once), but they manage to fit their enormous sound into a very manageable package…somehow. I don’t know how they do it, but they do. If you’re not into them already they are something you have to hear to understand, not read. You’ll get it. I’m not talking non-sense. Hopefully. Pick a song, any song. You’ll love it.
“Watch Us Explode (Justify)” — Isn’t that a great song title?
4. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
I don’t know how they won me over so completely without a drastic change in sound. I say this because, unlike 99% of the world, I wasn’t too taken by their debut. So when this was released I sort of dragged my feet to it, not really paying too much attention. The thing blew me away for the whole length of the album and totally floored me at the end. Now, when I want a dose of post-modern beautiful bleakness (when I tire of the bedroom that Stars’ album places me in), I turn to this album paired with OK Computer.
“Black Wave / Bad Vibrations”
“No Cars Go”
3. Okkervil River – The Stage Names
For me, this album is The National’s Boxer — which is quite good enough — except this one’s better. But whereas Boxer focuses on one sound, executing it beautifully, The Stage Names is much more varied and explores more territory; and it never stumbles or takes a misstep. Come to think of it, I think it’s more of a combination of Boxer and Cassadaga. Wouldn’t you agree?
“A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene”
“A Girl in Port”
2. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
This album is just beautiful. As in each song helps to audibly spell out the very essence of what “beautiful” means. And yeah, I know everyone knows this guy whistles a lot in his songs, but man…the guy can REALLY whistle.
1. Maroon 5 – It Won’t Be Soon Before Long
Wow, this album just came out of nowhere. The amount of creative force that…..haha, just kidding. (I do have the album though. And I like it.)
The Real #1: Radiohead – In Rainbows
I wrote everything I have to say about the release, the album, and the discbox already. Put all those aspects of the experience together and you can see why this is number one. This whole entire album made it into my top 25 most played list in my iTunes library. Granted, my hard drive crashed and I re-ripped much of my library this past year (resetting my play counts) but the point is I listened to the album A LOT. And it never got old and I still don’t skip through tracks. Here is my favorite track from the main album and my favorite from the bonus disc (in re-ripped high quality):
“Jigsaw Falling Into Place”
I think I could do some rearranging and cutting and make this into a killer Top 15 list. Oh damn. I forgot to put in Justice’s album in there. How’d that happen? Well maybe it’s ‘cos I don’t listen to too much electronica/dance. Whatever. I’m leaving it. In fact, I’m actually going to add more to it. Here are a handful of albums that will get the benefit of the doubt and receive a preemptive inclusion to the list, even though I haven’t heard the full albums:
Sigur Ros – Hvarf/Heim
Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
Jay-Z – American Gangster
Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
Klaxons – Myths of the Near Future
White Stripes – Icky Thump
and just so many more albums that I haven’t listened to or even heard of yet…