Year in Music 2007: 25 Great Songs

I guess it's a good problem to have, but this year's music recap is going to be really difficult. Major acts stepped up (Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Jay-Z, Kanye West, The White Stripes) and a lot of great music came from newer artists (Feist, The Besnard Lakes, Patrick Wolf). I guess I have to choose, so let's start with some songs I had on repeat all year:

Song Title | Artist

25. Intervention - Arcade Fire: Starting out with 2 artists I love based on their first albums, Neon Bible wasn't as immediate as Funeral, but it has its moments. "Intervention" reminds me of their first CD, a song with a slow start building up to a rewarding second half.

24. Soundtrack of the Summer - Art Brut: Eddie Argos reels it in a bit on this album, it doesn't sound as off the cuff as Bang Bang Rock and Roll, but this is a highlight with subject matter a lot of us can relate to: reminiscing about the awesomeness of a mixtape.

23. Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You) - UGK feat. Outkast: I didn't know much about UGK before this year (I didn't even realize they were the other guys on Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'") but I took a chance a picked up this CD based on this stand out (featuring the #1 reason Andre 3000 needs to get back to rapping). Great song and opened me up to Southern rap (which usually scares me). I should note this song is about 10x better if you see the video too. It's too bad that Pimp C is gone...

22. Don't Make Me A Target - Spoon: You know a CD is good when everyone has a different favorite song from it. I've chosen "Don't Make Me A Target" from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga over lead single "The Underdog." You have to hand it to Britt Daniel, he knows how to kick off an album...

21. Killa Lipstick - Ghostface feat. Method Man and Masta Killa: This is probably the first indication that this is a list by a person and not a board of editors. This is a bonus track from Ghostface Killah's latest The Big Doe Rehab. Method Man's hook is smooth (his signature voice nearly unrecognizable), Ghost and Masta Killa (who are the best and most consistent Wu-Tang rhymers of the 00s) hit their marks and the Faze-O sample fits the mood perfectly. So what if no one else is going to hear it?

20. Satan Said Dance - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Excellent, catchy and fun song by a band that's known better for creating an emotional response, this song is at the center of a disc that will no doubt be one of the most underrated of the year.

19. Dust on the Window - Low: Low is one of my favorite bands, however their last two albums have been dealt some mixed reviews. Drums and Guns was a clear break from the guitar sound that has so dominated their first 10 years, and I thought the move was a nice change up. "Dust on the Window" is Mimi Parker's showcase, and she uses it well, her harmonies are always a perfect mix of beautiful and dark.

18. Mammoth - Interpol: Much like Low, a lot of folks are also not crazy about Interpol's latest (their debut on Capitol), but, again, I found myself liking it, maybe even more than Antics. "Mammoth" is what Interpol does best, a driving backbeat, a sense of urgency, and it's even better when Paul Banks' lyrics make some sort of sense.

17. Just A Lil Dude (Who Dat Ovah There) - RZA feat. Q-Tip and Free Murder: Yep, I'm giving a "Best Song" award to a track that includes a dude who goes by the name Free Murder. Of course, the main attractions here are Q-Tip (put out a new album already!) and the RZA with his unusual sample source material that somehow always seems to work. The soundtrack to Afro Samurai is filled with hidden gems, but this one is the best.

16. When Under Ether - PJ Harvey: Another break from the usual (again, see Low), White Chalk is PJ's piano album. That she'd never played piano before barely matters. This is one of the best songs: simple and understated, the change is direction having no effect on her voice or songwriting. Still trying to figure out what it's about though...

15. 1 2 3 4 - Feist: An uplifting, bouncy song that was used in an iPod commercial: What End Of The Year Music Roundup would dare be without it?

14. Pagan Angel and A Borrowed Car - Iron & Wine: I had written off Sam Beam as a guy who got lucky and sort of shamelessly tapped into some weird emotional center of my generation. See his cover of "Such Great Heights" for Exhibit A. Don't get me wrong, I love the song, I just pegged him as kind of a one-hit wonder, that's all. What was my point? Oh yeah, I like him now. This song starts off the new direction in the right way. The Shepherd's Dog will definitely end up on my top 2007 albums list.

13. Down The Line - José González: Speaking of tapping into emotional centers, there's something I can't put my finger on about Sweden's own José González. The combo of is voice and an acoustic guitar really gets to me. Don't let the darkness eat you up? I don't know why, but it works. He's Elliott Smith's slightly happier little brother or something.

12. Earth Intruders (Extended Mark "Spike" Stent Mix) - Björk: Don't get me wrong, like everyone else in the world, I like Timbaland, but I prefer this more immediate mix of Björk's best song in years. I don't even know who this Mark "Spike" Stent dude is, although I do know that Spike is an irritating nickname. It's also a bonus track, but on the bright side, you don't have to download the entire iTunes album to get it.

11. Push - Pharoahe Monch: Damn, I love soulful hip-hop songs. This song plays like a modern Sly & The Family Stone. In fact, it's so good, it threatens to be better than the entire album, but while it's spotty in some places, Desire still hangs in there as one of the top 3 rap albums of the year.

10. Brianstorm - Arctic Monkeys: Barely giving you time to think, the Arctic Monkeys blast through their first song on Favourite Worst Nightmare and right when you're getting into it, it stops cold. If they've left you wanting more, they've done their job.

09. The Opposite Of Hallelujah - Jens Lekman: Picking up where Belle & Sebastian left off, Jens Lekman writes quality, old school pop songs with unpredictable, but usually hilarious lyrics. This song is one of the many highlights with its happy string section, hand claps and opening line: "I took my sister down to the ocean/but the ocean made me feel stupid." If I haven't sold it with that, I don't know what else I can do...

08. Overture - Patrick Wolf: A strong contender for opener of the year, Patrick Wolf kicks off the brilliant Magic Position with "Overture," a song that sounds like the beginning of a musical about Pulp. It's glam rock with a brain, instantly familiar, and when it's over, I always want to hear it again.

07. You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told) - The White Stripes: What would one of my music lists be without at least one entry from the White Stripes? Although there was plenty of entertaining experimentation in Icky Thump, overall I prefer this comparatively back-to-basics entry. "I'm Slowly Turning Into You" is a close second.

06. Success - Jay-Z feat. Nas: It's too hard to pick the best song from American Gangster, so I'm going with the beyond excellent collaboration with Nas. Jay is in top form, taking the idea of being bored with wealth and fame and running with it ("I got watches I ain't seen in months/Apartment at the Trump I only slept in once"). Nas delivers a quick, perfect verse, and just like that, it's over. What can I say? Who doesn't love seeing a little ennui in their songs from time to time?

05. Boyz - M.I.A.: When you listen to an M.I.A. song, chances are you're going to hear something you've never heard before. "Boyz" threw me off. I was more comfortable with "Galang" from Arular, which is kind of a odd song in the first place. This direction seemed even crazier and kind of freaked me out. Later, I realized it was I who was crazy. If you're into this song, challenge yourself and pick the whole CD up...

04. Stronger - Kanye West: Picking who wins out between Kanye and Jay-Z is one of my hardest choices for 07. However, for all of his ridiculous ego trips, Kanye has an ear for music and Graduation is an impressive risk from someone who works hard to stay relevant. I give points for moving in a new direction and since Kanye is the most successful rapper who doesn't incorporate drug dealing into his rhymes (see also Common, Talib Kweli) and isn't afraid of using a Daft Punk sample, he gets big points.

03. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi - Radiohead: Also difficult to get through a "best of 07" list without mentioning Radiohead's impressive In Rainbows download stunt. OK Computer-style "Bodysnatchers" initially grabbed me, but after a few listens, I found myself more drawn to the atmospheric "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi." The slash is kind of confusing to me. Beautiful song though.

02. North American Scum - LCD Soundsystem: How excited was I to hear LCD Soundsystem had a new disc coming out. Initially I thought LCD Soundsystem would be a one-off project from the DFA's James Murphy. Why? I have no idea. It might be an acquired taste, but to me this was the most infectious (in a good way) song I heard all year. A surreal highlight from this year's Lollapalooza was hearing the festival crowd all shouting in unison: "We are North American scum." The dude behind me was being a jerk, so it was kinda true.

01. Disaster - The Besnard Lakes: I tend to pay special attention to bands I've newly discovered over the year, which is why The Besnard Lakes tops my list of songs. I was skeptical when I first heard about this group (in fact I picked this CD up as a free download from eMusic, just to lower the risk factor). "Disaster," the lead-off track, encapsulates what the band does so powerfully: slow building songs with sweet Beach Boy-like harmonies over a tough three-guitar attack. In one song, they manage to capture a number of different things I love about music and that's an amazing talent. Tack on the "accidental discovery" factor and there you have it: my favorite song of the year (especially if my Last.fm counts are to be believed).

Thanks for reading -- or at least skimming. If you did manage to read all of this -- go get a drink of water -- you must be exhausted!


Paul said...

Well done! Now I have a few more albums to buy for the holidays!

Ronson said...

Thanks, Paul! We should talk about your picks o' the year at some point...