Remember when I used to blog here? No? Well, here I am… and at the risk of appearing completely irrelevant, here are my 25 favorite albums from 2007. Many apologies for the delay and for my general lack of posts over the past couple months, but now that I’m done with college I plan on dedicating a lot more time to this undertaking. I expect I won’t post again until I finally sort out the move to my new server. I’ve just gotta deal with a slight technical hiccup, but hopefully you’ll be hearing about that move very soon.
25. Okkervil River – The Stage Names [Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]
24. Blitzen Trapper – Wild Mountain Nation [Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]
23. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup [Myspace] [Buy]
22. Menomena – Friend and Foe [Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]
21. Kevin Drew – Spirit If… [Myspace] [Buy]
20. Feist – The Reminder [Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]
19. Gellers – Gellers [Myspace] [Import Only]
18. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga [Myspace] [Buy]
17. Justice – † [Myspace] [Buy] [Original Post]
16. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible [Myspace] [Buy]
15. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver [Myspace] [Buy]
14. Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity [Myspace] [Buy]
13. Liars – Liars [Myspace] [Buy]
12. Radiohead – In Rainbows [Myspace] [Buy]
11. Battles – Mirrored [Myspace] [Buy]
10. Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals
2007 was quite the year for experimental psych-pop and Yeasayer‘s excellent debut could certainly be categorized as such. Yet, to be more specific, these guys feel like a band of psychedelic-mystics from somewhere in the Middle East with strangely appealing weirdo-pop sensibilities. Full of rich, layered compositions and gonzo-choral harmonies, All Hour Cymbals is surreal, progressive, haunting, and easily the most satisfying debut album of last year.
9. Lil’ Wayne – Da Drought 3
Man, how did it take me so long to get into Lil’ Wayne? I’m not sure, but I made up for it this year by indulging in Tha Carter II (2005) and Da Drought 3 at near obsessive levels. And who could blame me? On this sprawling double-disc mixtape, Weezy lays down his ferocious rhymes over a vast collection of prominent beats from 2007 and beyond. And while this may sound like it would yield a pedestrian listening experience, it does anything but — all thanks to Wayne’s ceaseless energy, dynamic vocals, off-the-wall humor, absurd wordplay, and inimitable, off-kilter cadence. Here’s hoping Tha Carter III gets to see the light of day.
Download: Lil’ Wayne – Ride for My Niggas (Sky’s the Limit)
Buy: As Weezy says in the intro, if you didn’t get this for free you’re “stupid as a mother****er…”
8. Shugo Tokumaru – Exit
Perhaps behind only members of the Boredoms, Shugo Tokumaru is easily one of the busiest people in the Japanese music scene. Not only does the man provide his ample production skills for a myriad of artists, he also plays guitar and shares writing and vocal duties in the band Gellers, whose impressive debut landed at #19 on this list. Yet, Shugo is best known for constructing unconventional pop music as a multi-instrumentalist solo artist. His latest album, Exit, contains some of his most energetic and accessible compositions; in fact, “Parachute”, the excellent opening track, fits into both categories. Soaring, intricate guitars and fragile chime-like percussion frame a relentless composition that nearly leaves you out of breath by the last flurries of guitar. And though it borders on becoming repetitive, it’s so absurdly infectious you’ll probably find yourself hitting “repeat” for another listen.
Download: Shugo Tokumaru – Parachute
Buy: Available outside Japan sometime in 2008.
7. Kanye West – Graduation
I have to admit, I was caught off guard by this album… and that may be why I initially didn’t think a whole lot of it. However, on subsequent listens, I realized that Kanye West had not only managed to stage a convincing departure from the sound of his first two efforts, but also had created the most cohesive and enjoyable album of his career.
On the appropriately titled Graduation, Yeezy trades in his backpack and books for a DeLorean and some futuristic shades. Devoid of any skits (almost always a welcome change), we’re presented with a concise, 13 track powerhouse of a record that finds Kanye heavily utilizing towering walls of synth, interspersed with surging strings and melancholic piano. It’d be easy to argue that this effort is a mixed-bag lyrically (as his albums tend to be), but personally I think his trademark balancing of arrogance and introspection is more successful here than on his other two albums. And when it comes down to it, we’re willing to overlook Kanye’s occasional eye-rollers and relish in his seemingly simple extended moments of genius, genuine honesty, and stellar production… all of which are in abundance on Graduation.
6. Caribou – Andorra
There really were a whole lot of career-bests released this year, and I think Caribou‘s Andorra easily gives Up in Flames a run for the top of the Manitoba/Caribou catalog. Though most of the 60s-centered psych-pop of 2007 tended to choose Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys as primary influences, Caribou mastermind Dan Snaith seemed to be pulling more heavily from Odessey and Oracle. Hell, the album even shares its title with an obscure Zombies track (…and a principality in Spain). A fantastically rich album, Andorra‘s swirling soundscapes are seriously engaging, making it quite easy to get lost in the depth of its sound. [Original Post]
5. Mock Orange – Captain Love
Though this foursome is from Evansville, IN, their latest album has, so far, only been released in Japan through Asian Gothic. I’m not exactly sure what the hangups are for labels and distributors here in the States, but they really should come ’round quick. I mean, any examination of the Mock Orange discography will make it immediately apparent that they’ve only gotten better with each subsequent release. And Captain Love, with its continuous barrage of killer guitar hooks and absurdly catchy melodies, is easily their most accomplished work yet. [Addendum: Finally, the album is coming out in the U.S. sometime this summer.] [Original Post]
4. Dirty Projectors – Rise Above
Perhaps the most intriguing concept album of 2007, Dave Longstreth’s reconstruction of Black Flag’s classic Damaged (completely from memory) somewhat ironically also ended up being one of last year’s most original recordings. Dirty Projectors craft a mesmerizing blend of intricate guitar work, sporadic passages of strings and woodwinds, and beautifully haunting and complex vocal harmonies… and though not as vicious sounding as Henry Rollins’ snarls, Longstreth’s meandering murmurs and wails pack intense power in their own way, at times resonating with the painful self-deprecation of the original album. On Rise Above, the compositions themselves manage a greater emotional range, often skewing a bit lighter than Black Flag’s unfettered negative aggression. As Longstreth himself said in regards to “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie” (and the project itself) at their encore Daytrotter Sessions: “These songs where I tried to remember Black Flag songs are cursed: singing them every night for months on end, it’s hard not to become the person in them. You have to fight the songs in order not to become them. We had to turn this one into a love song.” [Original Post]
3. The Forms – The Forms
Steve Albini has spoken on the obsessiveness of the Forms; the stories that came out of their recording sessions describe a band that often insisted on doing dozens upon dozens of takes and went over each session with an intense level of scrutiny and care. We can probably assume that such a meticulous approach (compounded with the token “label problems”) contributed to the four year gap between their outstanding debut, Icarus, and their latest opus. However, there’s little doubt that it also helped ensure they created an impressively subtle, near-masterpiece of a record.
Seriously, this was easily the most underrated album of the year. Some places gave the Forms’ self-titled sophomore release the respect it’s due (eg: Stereogum), but for the most part it was criminally disregarded or ignored by internet hype-makers… for shame. [Original Post]
2. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
One of the most intensely anticipated, and intensely lauded, albums of 2007, Strawberry Jam is definitely the next logical step from 2005’s fantastic Feels, as the Animal Collective delve further into a more-cohesive experimental pop. And while this may be their most pop-driven release to date, it’d probably be a stretch to refer to this album as “accessible”. A remarkably refreshing effort, Strawberry Jam serves up waves of bizarre and sweet future-psychedelia, with cascading layers of off-kilter instrumentation, samples, drones, and percussion. For me, the tracks on this album range from pretty incredible to awe-inspiring. For reals. So, no matter what hype you’ve heard… chances are that the listening experience is gonna live up to it. [Original Post]
1. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed that Animal Collective has so dominated my year-end list. But, when it comes down to it, Strawberry Jam and Person Pitch were a complete one-two punch. And, in particular, it was just impossible for anything to surpass Panda Bear‘s virtually flawless, Brian Wilson-esque, meditative collage of pop genius. This is one of those albums that goes far beyond simply requiring repeated listens — rather, it should ascend to the level of “soundtrack for your very existence”… at least for a little while. [Original Post… my first post, actually]