Albums are ranked solely based on listening habits.
1. Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, Polyvinyl
This could have been a catastrophe. It’s an indulgent morass of diary-style lyrics so severely private it’s often too uncomfortable to ingest were it not for the countless hooks, layered, pitch-perfect harmonies, and unforgettably catchy synth riffs. I couldn’t put this record down for weeks on end.
2. LCD Soundsystem, Sounds of Silver, DFA/Capitol
James Murphy makes no attempt to couch his influences in subtle pockets of homages; he blatantly rips off his favorite bands, and those bands just happen to be my favorite bands as well. No one writes dance music for aging record collectors quite like this guy.
3. Interpol, Our Love to Admire, Capitol
I knew this record would be snubbed soundly. It was only a matter of time before the backlash set in, but this is the wrong Interpol record to dismiss, as it showcases a band growing into the grand gestures it once only pretended to understand.
4. Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare, Domino
“Too English” has never been a criticism that made any sense to me. Blur suffered the same generic write-off from American critics, which just made me think American critics were morons. Music is music, regardless of the accent. Alex Turner is the best lyricist working today, and this record proves that his band’s music has almost caught up with his words.
5. Radiohead, In Rainbows, Self-released
If this had come out earlier in the year, it would probably be my number one pick; This is the gorgeously weird dystopian malaise to OK Computer’s melodramatically obsessive odes to paranoia and corruption.
6. Band of Horses, Cease to Exist, Sub Pop
Ben Bridwell wisely follows up his band’s unexpectedly successful debut without altering the strategy too much. Bridwell’s soaring tenor is still drenched in reverb, and it can be both quietly plaintive and a charging aggressor, depending on the mood of his bandmates. In either case, Cease to Begin is a darkly romantic and arguably superior follow-up.
7. Battles, Mirrored, Warp
Instrumental music has extra work to do to compensate for its lack of human interface, but Battles delivers the goods. The band’s dime-stop technical precision is almost as impressive as its mutated prog symphonies.
8. The Good, The Bad and The Queen, The Good, The Bad and The Queen, EMI
Blur front-man Damon Albarn furthers his chameleon-like versatility with yet another successful incarnation. This quietly understated record is a gloomy postcard to London, serving as a mature distant cousin to his Britpop masterpiece with Blur, the incomparable Parklife album.
9. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Merge
The formula is easy and works every time: write good songs. Britt Daniel’s edgy snarl never grows tiresome, especially when he accents it with such taut, soul-inflected rock. It’s not that Spoon records are all that different from one another, but Daniel’s songwriting chops always manage to impress.
10. The National, Boxer, Beggars Banquet
It’s taken The National years to perfect its subtle and unpretentious mix of dour poetry and country rock on an unlikely foundation of post-punk, and Boxer is the band’s nuanced hour of majesty.
1. Jens Lekman, Night Falls on Kortedala, Secretly Canadian
Not my favorite Lekman album, but that didn’t stop me from listening to this record more than any other in ’07. I’m completely smitten with Jens and his live show was by far the best one I caught in 2007.
2. Burial, Untrue, Hyperdub
I came late to this record but made up for lost time by listening to it any chance I got. It’s haunting and moving and probably the only record in my list that I’ve recommended to everyone I know.
3. LCD Soundsystem, Sounds of Silver, DFA/Capitol
Eric said it best (above), James Murphy makes music for aging hipsters. Aping the songs of my youth will always ingratiate you despite the fact that it makes me feel like a complete sheep.
4. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend, XL
It was bound to happen and despite not wanting to like this indie-rock Paul Simon rip off, I couldn’t turn it off. I hate when that happens.
5. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Merge
I never really cared for Spoon until 2007. Sure they had some catchy songs on previous albums, but I never connected with Britt’s lyrics until Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. A Kinks for the Merge generation.
6. Maps, We Can Create, Mute
This was what I listened to before Burial’s Untrue came along. The intersection of atmospheric electronica and pure pop bliss. Gorgeous music for drifting through space or hurdling through public transit tunnels. Drugs not required. For fans of MBV, Spiritualized, Ulrich Schnauss and Her Space Holiday.
7. Blonde Redhead, 23, 4AD
In An Expression of the Inexpressible this was not, but as previously mentioned, nostalgic sounds of my youth will get you far and this has them in spades. I still can’t believe this album was made by Blonde Redhead.
8. Interpol, Our Love to Admire, Capitol
Eric convinced me to re-visit this record a few months after it came out. He said it was all he was listening to at the time. I gave it a few more spins and indeed it grew on me. Turn on the Bright Lights is still by far my favorite Interpol record, but Our Love to Admire proves that there’s a lot more to Interpol than meets the eye (or ear, as it were).
9. The Maccabees, Colour it In, Fiction
I am a complete and total sucker for BritPop and The Maccabees nail it. A unabashed pastiche of all the right influences. It likely won’t stand the test of time or win any awards for originality, but we’ll always have 2007.
10. Battles, Mirrored, Warp
Other worldly percussion that works its Calgon magic on me whenever it comes on. If Richard D. James discovered the guitar and made a record, this is what I imagine it would sound like.
1. Okkervil River, The Stage Names, Jagjaguwar
2. Akron/Family, Love is Simple, Young God
3. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Merge
4. The Twilight Sad, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, Fat Cat
5. Elvis Perkins, Ash Wednesday, XL Recordings
1. Radiohead, In Rainbows, Self-released
If the message was in the medium itself, then apparently I didnâ€™t get the memo. What I did get though were 10 incredibly provocative, totally gratis tracks from the most consistently awesome band in the business. Granted, it took half the record before my Catholic guilt started to surface, so as soon as I get paid for writing this Iâ€™ve got some errands to run. First, to Carolina First on Forest Drive to cash the check, and then immediately over to Papa Jazz where the deluxe edition lies waiting for my conscience to catch up with my wallet.
2. EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten, Alles Wieder Offen, Potomak
I read somewhere that Joyce learned Norwegian just to read Ibsenâ€™s plays. I learned German to study with Karlheinz Stockhausen and scam on unsuspecting frÃ¤uleins in West German discothÃ¨ques. Now that Iâ€™ve got that whole word order thing right, Iâ€™ve come to the realization that Blixa Bargeld is the best Teutonic bard since Goethe. Lines like â€œI had a word, an alien one, most inimical to meâ€ as John Cusack on the bridge in High Fidelity would say â€œjust kills meâ€ â€“ even some 200 odd listens later.
3. Thurston Moore, Trees Outside the Academy, Ecstatic Peace
A few months later, here in critical Pazz and Jop mode, what strikes me most about this album is how well its constituent songs stick together as a cohesive unit (something I just didnâ€™t hear in offerings from Battles, those Animal Collective freaks, even Spoon.) And yet, Iâ€™m the most hard for the errant few that donâ€™t. I donâ€™t know what you were doing locked in the bathroom at the onset of puberty but chances are it wasnâ€™t â€œThurston @ 13.â€
4. John Wiese, Soft Punk, Troubleman Unlimited
If by â€œsoftâ€ you mean â€œloud as a BM in an empty restroomâ€ – and punk really is the complete obliteration of all thatâ€™s come before it â€“ well, then yeah. Here, Wiese proves yet again that Americans can be just as powerful and abrasive as anything spewing forth from the Pacific Rim aesthetes. Extra points awarded for Kaz Oshiroâ€™s brilliant cover design.
5. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible, Merge
Best lyric of the year: â€œWhen they say theyâ€™re cuttinâ€™ off the phone, Iâ€™ll tell â€˜em youâ€™re not home.â€ Best way to avoid any Mary J. Blige-like drama when talking about this band and, moreover, this record: unceremoniously reference any line from the first verse of â€œIntervention.â€ That should sufficeâ€¦even for John Kennedy Toole.
6. Deerhoof, Friend Opportunity, Kill Rock Stars
This is what happens, Larry, when you record an album between opening stints for the lads at the top of this list. Just so you know, Satomi Matsuzaki is my newest indie infatuation. I would gladly give up drinking for a week to spend 12 minutes alone with her in my older brotherâ€™s basement. Having never had the chance, Iâ€™ll have to settle for the 11:45 of â€œLook Away.â€
7. Faust/Nurse With Wound, Disconnected, Art-Errorist
Remember when Kurt Cobain and Michael Stipe were gonna do something together? Well, Cobain shot himself after catching Harvey Keitelâ€™s wee-wee in The Piano so that didnâ€™t exactly pan out. If, like O.J., they did do it and it sounded anything like this here wet dream cum true, I would still be wearing my In Utero tee shirt and forcing myself to say nice things about R.E.M. post-Automatic for the People.
8. Lou Reed, Hudson River Wind Meditations, Sounds True
Itâ€™s 2008 and Laurie Andersonâ€™s best boo is still up to his same old tricks. But just because the jokeâ€™s on you doesnâ€™t mean it wasnâ€™t a good one. Equal praise goes out to tribute album titan Hal Willner. (Like Bowie on Transformer, Loopy Lou couldnâ€™t have done it without him.) Bottom line: If Lou Reed does in fact practice Tai Chi, then I did not trade my copy of Interpolâ€™s Our Love to Admire for this one.
9. Tristan Perich, 1-Bit Music, Cantaloupe Music
The always adventurous avatars of new music over at Cantaloupe soundly outdid themselves this time around with this stellar objet dâ€™art. Housed in a signed, limited edition jewel case with itâ€™s primitive electronic guts out there for all to see, New York Cityâ€™s Perich took his love for old-skool glitch and combined it with just enough hipster kitsch to make the whole ordeal worthwhile. Think Nintendo meets Christian Marclay.
10. Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, Epic
With Johnny Marr on guitar full-time and original drummer Jeremiah Green back in the line-up (not to mention three songs worth of backup from Portland pal James Mercer), this couldâ€™ve been a contendaâ€™ for something other than dead last. Unfortunate as that is, it was still the best rock record put out by one of the Big Four labels this year. If itâ€™s not a put-on, then Isaac Brock is a certified raving lunatic who desperately needs immediate psychiatric help. I think a lot of it is though, and just like Sammy Johns and that itinerant broad he boffed in his Chevy van, â€œthatâ€™s alright with me.â€