Year in Music 2007: Top 20 Albums

So this is it. Coming up with a suitable Top 20 still mainly left me with a handful of regrets for what I had to leave out (Pinback, Andrew Bird, Arctic Monkeys, Wussy, Bright Eyes, Ted Leo, Deerhunter, Grinderman, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Queens of the Stone Age, Common, etc. etc.). As someone who tends to notice these kinda things, I must say again that it was a great year for music. Here are 20 picks that led me to that conclusion. This list hasn't changed much (in fact the Top 5 remains in tact) from the one I created and sent to Rich (aka The Shiv). We compiled stuff from this list and his list and posted it on CiN Weekly's blogs. To see that list, check it out here (there's a lot more consideration to Cincinnati stuff). And here we go with my list:

20. Neon Bible - Arcade Fire: Number 20 is always the most difficult to reconcile. I like Arcade Fire and I really enjoyed Neon Bible - I just didn't love it the way I loved Funeral. I think it deserves attention, the music is every bit as powerful and engaging and, in the end, it's not really fair to compare a band to its finest achievement. So, here's the compromise: Number 20.

19. Our Love To Admire - Interpol: Is there something I'm missing here? I have a feeling this album won't pop up anywhere on year-end best lists, but I couldn't get enough of it. Seeing Interpol headline at Lollapalooza was definitely a highlight of 2007 for me.

18. Eardrum - Talib Kweli: I was surprised how much I liked Talib Kweli's latest, sort of the hip-hop equivalent of hanging out in a really cool jazz club for an hour. With guests like UGK, Kanye West and a surprisingly versatile Norah Jones, I shall dub this my sleeper pick of the year.

17. PJ Harvey - White Chalk: Not sure if it was a subconscious mood I was in, but I really liked this dark and eerie creation from one of music's most impressive chameleons. Critics were divided on this one, but it stuck with me (perhaps it had something to do with buying it at the same time as José González's In Our Nature. Somber, but powerful double feature).

16. Dungen - Tio Bitar: I stumble onto a number of indie rock artists for the first time that had been well-established before 2007. José González, Les Savy Fav, Pinback and Dungen. Dungen was the first - I randomly found this used and, despite being wary of the hype I had seen surrounding Ta Det Lugnt, I picked it up anyway. A week later, I couldn't get enough...

15. Les Savy Fav - Let's Stay Friends: I was also unsure about Les Savy Fav, who I'd heard about for years, but never was interested enough to check out. We missed them at SXSW, which, despite hearing about how crazy a show it was, didn't trouble me much. Then, a couple of months ago, I found Let's Stay Friends (LSF -- clever, guys) used and decided to give it a whirl. As with all the artists I mentioned in my Dungen entry, I started hunting down all these groups back catalogs once I was slapped senseless with how good these discs were.

14. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - Spoon: Spoon. Always changing, always reliable. Gimme Fiction, was one of my tops in 2005, and while this one wasn't as addictive for me, it still kept me entertained through most of 07, it helped that I was lucky enough to see them twice this year...

13. Drums and Guns - Low: If you didn't understand the risks Low was taking on their 8th studio album, then you probably didn't really appreciate it. While this isn't the album I'd recommend for people if they wanted to get into this band, it's one I'm hoping to emphasize as a turning point (that is, if they release more albums after this one). The minimal instrumentation causes you to focus on voices and Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker have two of the best.

12. Desire - Pharoahe Monch: This is another chance I took in 2007 that paid off. A lot of music reports claimed that hip-hop fell off significantly this year. And true, if I had to do a top 20 of just rap music, pickings might have been slim. But, as I've said, I always tend to emphasize stuff that takes me by surprise. Minus a couple of weird tracks (I'm not a huge fan of "Desire" the song for example), this was an amazingly strong disc from a guy I'd previously only known as that "Godzilla-sampling guy."

11. In Our Nature - José González: Again, here's José González, who uses a simple formula to great effect. At 10 songs and just over 30 minutes, González knows just how long to stick around with his acoustic guitar. With this disc, he covers Massive Attack and writes scathing lyrics that easily, yet somewhat cryptically critique of these troubled times.

10. Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala: Jens is all about being maybe a little too flowery and hanging on at bingo halls, but something about his music really clicks with me. I wasn't too sure about this disc at first, but eventually it grew on me enough for me to drop it in at number 10 on this list.

09. The Magic Position - Patrick Wolf: Add this to the list of CDs I initially avoided (I was put off by the Technicolor album cover), then found used and ended up loving. Equals parts pop, rock, orchestral and experimental, Patrick Wolf throws everything into his music, but it works. I can't stop recommending it -- please check it out, so I can shut up...

08. The Shepherd's Dog Iron & Wine: As I mentioned when I did my song recap, I didn't want much to do with Iron & Wine at the beginning of 2007. So, this album really had to be good for me to actually go out and buy it (new!) and then turn around and put it up so high on this list. Still not crazy about the man's beard, but I must say, Sam Beam really put something into this collection of songs.

07. Icky Thump - The White Stripes: The Stripes had another good year (well, minus the fact that they may never tour again). Icky Thump is another album that continues to ensure the that no matter what happens, The White Stripes won't go away. Music is Jack White's playground, so let's hope he doesn't get bored.

06. Sound of Silver - LCD Soundsystem: Primarily known for making indie-dance, booty-shaking singles (which begs the question do indie kids have booties to shake?), James Murphy expanded to a full album this year with amazing success. With the Bowie-esque starter through "when the party's over" contemplative tunes, Sound of Silver encompasses everything that's great about music, a trait that I think carries over into my top 5 (smooth transition, eh?)

05. Graduation - Kanye West: Wake up, Mr. West. I like it when I can associate music with memories from the year. Graduation was my Virginia Beach album. I picked it up at the scariest Target ever (it was literally torn apart from renovations, yet somehow still open -- let's not even talk about the parking lot) and we listened to it nonstop during our trip to historic Williamsburg. Weird memories, sure, but memories nonetheless. I got nothin' else for ya, except maybe expand your mind and buy it.

04. The Besard Lakes are the Dark Horse - The Besnard Lakes: I was sad that this album wasn't popping up everywhere on "end of the year" lists (I've only looked at a few, hoping to stay impartial). I guess the Besnard Lakes really are the dark horse...

03. In Rainbows - Radiohead: Of course the music is good, but Radiohead's latest success may be more remembered for how it was presented: for however much you'd like to pay on the band's web site. It keeps the band poised as innovators, not just in music, but how we listen to it, and that gets big points in my book. Plus "Bodysnatchers" is as hard as Radiohead has rocked since OK Computer.

02. American Gangster - Jay-Z: An excerpt from the letters page after Jay-Z appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone: "...Where's the rhythm, harmony, melody and creativity? When RS puts someone like Jay-Z on the cover, you give tacit approval to a celebration of the mediocre." Huh? What is it that you're not hearing in this music? I've actually gotten excited to hear the songs of American Gangster. It has every element this reader claims its missing. I'm just sorry that some folks still don't get it.

01. Kala - M.I.A.: Surprised? Yeah, me too. My initial instinct was to throw Radiohead or Kanye West at number one and be done with it. But then I started thinking. Most of the stuff I heard this year and liked was a variation of stuff I've heard before. And while M.I.A. certainly uses elements from a lot of types of music and lifts lyrics from old Pixies and Modern Lovers songs, it's unlike any music experience I've heard (and liked) in a long time. It's looks forward, it's controversial, and yet it's still accessible. So it's number one.

That's it, folks. I'm spent. I'm gonna see how other music lists stack up. Then I'm gonna stop writing about music for a long while (or at least until that new Cat Power CD comes out in late January)...
have a good new year!

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