Yea, yea, I hear ya. End of year "bestof" lists are like fruitcakes. There are way too many of them lying aroundunnoticed at the end of the year. They've become "I'm a crediblecritic" lists more than anything, with popular indie blogs shunninganything commercial and adding in some hip-hop, world music, or jazzto increase their hip-factor.
Sowhen I went through the process of creating my top 100 of 2007 list whydid 70% of it turn out like most every other hipster blog out there? Well, itall boils down to the fact that even in this new musical landscape, we fall inlove to the stuff we listen to. And we only listen to the stuff we are awareof. And I can't resist listening to what is getting buzz. But from time totime I do find an under-the-radar gem.
Soyes, some of the albums you will see in my list will be completely new to you,many more will appear on other year end lists, and the reason is simple.They're great albums.
Theonly measure I used when selecting my top 100 was whether I found myself comingback to listen for enjoyment. Not because I had to do a review, or because Iwas told it was a great record, but because I wanted to hear it againand again. A melody, a technique, a feeling, something about each of theserecords brought me back for more, and each has earned a permanent spot in mycollection and in my life.
Noise Pop fans can nowrejoice. A Place To Bury Strangers have produced the greatest fuzz-fest sinceThe Jesus and Mary Chain's seminal 1985 release Psychocandy. Thiseponymous debut by the Brooklyn trio deliversthe same melodic underpinnings and distorted psychedelia that lies at the heartof the noise pop genre, but they take each element to the extreme. Distinctguitar lines are super-hooks, coated in pure white sugar, and the blasts ofecho and distortion hit like an overloaded freight train.
9. Neon Bible byThe Arcade Fire
The Arcade Fire have proven that they are no fluke. Although they've beendescribed as the aughties answer to the Talking Heads, the music they're makingdeserves more than such simplistic comparisons. Neon Bible is yetanother fine release, and it's undoubtedly marked for greatness as a key albumin the history of music. Right next to some of the very best.
From Here We Go Sublime ishands down, the best electronic effort of the year. The album has be describedas minimal techno, two words that usually make my gag reflex kick inwhenever they are spoken together. But here, Axel Willner usesrepetition and depth to hypnotize the listener into a complete state of bliss.The album is best felt, not anayzed, and once it comes into focus, you may notever be the same. Kala byM.I.A.
I resisted M.I.A.'s debut Arularfor quite some time. The recording felt hurried, amateurish, even harsh tomy ears. But once I let the beats and M.I.A.'s unique vocal styling run theircourse my eyes were opened, and I was hooked. Kala ups the ante bydelivering an incredibly fun, sexy and multi-cultural maelstrom of highlydanceable sound.
6. 100 Days 100Nights by Sharon Jones
There has not been a classic soul album released this good since the late1960s, or early 1970s. Sharon Jones' incredible voice is supported perfectly bythe analog and accurate Dap Kings on this sleeper 2007 release titled 100Days, 100 Nights. This title track is a killer, as good as anything createdby the great Aretha Franklin, so don't miss it.
5. In Our Nature byJose Gonzalez
In Our Nature breathes as a living organism, supported by nothing morethan acoustic guitar, José's transcendent voice, and not much else. The guitarplaying on the disc is unreservedly mind-boggling. He gets so much sound, somuch beauty, and so much dynamic power out of his acoustic guitar that it leftme slackjawed and speechless. You'll hear sustained notes, melodic runs, basslines, foundational chords and explosive crescendos weaved together somasterfully that you'll be helplessly awed.
Robert Plant is a iconiclegend, and Alison Krauss brought bluegrass to the masses almostsingle-handedly. What happened when they combined forces for Raising Sandis unquestionably heavenly. The duo have created the most beautiful andinspiring Americana music release of 2007, and this is the reason you probablywill not see a Led Zeppelin world tour anytime soon even after their applaudedLondon reunion. When young, play football (Zeppelin), when old, play golf(Plant/Krauss). Sky BlueSky by Wilco
Don't let yourself be swayed by naysayers, revilers and malcontents. SkyBlue Sky is worth the investment of your money and your time. The relaxeddynamic at play here is not traveling the same highway we've been riding onrecent Wilco records, but the underlying tension we've come to love so muchfrom this band is still there. It's just more subtle. Part of the reason we'reenamored with Wilco is the fact that we never know what to expect next, and SkyBlue Sky continues the game of "stump the fan". Tweedy forges his own path,oblivious to the expectations of media or customer. Would we respect him in themorning if he did otherwise? Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon
2005's Gimme Fictionwas my favorite release of that year, and I had high expectations for GaX 5. Well, to put it quite succinctly, my expectations have been exceeded.Spoon continues to deliver the goods and have crafted the most compelling albumof their career. The mid-tempo and infectious plodding they gave us on GimmeFiction continues, but has now been completely mastered, refined andexploited. The melodies and arrangements have stepped it up a notch, and theband explores different territory without losing the cohesive sound that iscompletely their own. The ethereal sound of "The Ghost of You Lingers", the reggae styling of "Eddie's Ragga" and the horn parts on "The Underdog" areall unexpected, but fit like jewels in an increasingly valuable golden crown.
This record will show up onthe year-end lists of many critics, but in my mind, In Rainbows is farand above the best release of 2007, with a lot of room to spare. I paid£6 for my digital copy on the band's website during their much publicized"pay what you want" campaign. But with all hoopla aside, when Ilisten to this record I become wholly lost in the dynamic power of the playing.The chops are breathtaking. But the beauty of the melody, and the incontestablepower of the artistic vision contained within also play a large role inwhy In Rainbows is not only the best album of the year, but maybe thedecade.
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