Your 2007 Recap O’ Jams

Few things amuse me more than creating lists of things that I like. As the year winds down, offering a clean slate to us all to do with as we wish, I’d like to cap off a rather tumultuous year with something that always brings a smile to my face… music. For your reading (and hopefully listening) pleasure, I now present the top 20 albums of 2007. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed a few of these through the year, and if you haven’t I’d strongly suggest that you give a few of them a try.

20. Stars – In Our Bedroom After The War

Powerful and emotive, the most recent effort from Montreal’s Stars is unique, sweeping and epic. With beautiful arrangements and often stellar vocal performances, the dark, witty lyrics often feel a little lost… otherwise, it’s an amazing album. Part Morrissey, part Mazzy Star and part Jim Steinman this album flows seamlessly from introspective shoegazing to charged guitar rock with an occasional jazzy number tossed in for sport… which is exactly how any album should work.

Standout Tracks: Take Me To The Riot, My Favourite Book, Barricade

Recommended if you like… Moping around the house, bi-polar disorder, faux-Morrissey.

19. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver

Unfortunately, I missed out on my chance to catch these guys live (arriving late for the Arcade Fire show), but it doesn’t do much to dampen the quirky quality of the music. Far from being “weird for the sake of weird,” Sound of Silver is accessibly strange and whimsically offbeat. Despite creating two of the best summertime jams of the year, the album languished in the “critically adored, but largely unheard” file until the aforementioned Arcade Fire picked them up for a fall tour. If you’re late to the party, just put the record on hold until it’s time for a summer block party… in the cool part of town.

Standout Tracks: North American Scum, All My Friends

Recommended if you like… Shaking your groove thang, chubby front men

18. The Go! Team – Proof of Youth

Like LCD Soundsystem, Proof of Youth is a great time in a small plastic box. Following up their incredibly lo-fi dance masterpiece, Thunder Lightning Strike, the groove friendly Brits opt for higher production value and even more explosive sounds. While the increased production value managed to alienate a few fans of their earlier work and the “cool factor” seems to be diminishing for the band, I’m still just as eager to dance around the living room to their work as ever. Although nothing compares to the live show, a few particular tracks on this album seem to come closer to capturing the feeling than any of their past efforts.

Standout Tracks: Doing It Right, Titanic Vandalism, The Wrath of Marcie

Recommended if you like… Continuing to shake the aforementioned groove thang, lots of horns

17. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga

In his most recent release, Conor Oberst takes a giant leap into a warm pool of country twang and roots-styled songwriting. He leaves behind his attempts with technology, choosing to focus on a polished set of beautifully crafted songs with enough sorrow and pain to keep even the rulers of mopey-town satisfied. Bright Eyes has always had the amazing ability to take even a relatively positive song, spin it through his guitar and crank out misery to spare. This album does the opposite, allowing that same feeling of loneliness to be swept up in steel guitars and breathtaking arrangements. It’s easy to forget that this is the same guy that gave us I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning.

Standout Tracks: Four Winds, Soul Singer In A Session Band, I Must Belong Somewhere

Recommended if you like… Country music without the heavy handed Nashville bullshit machine

16. The Apples In Stereo – New Magnetic Wonder

In defense of the genre called “Pop Rock,” I present exhibit A: The Apples In Stereo. There wasn’t a record released all year, or in recent memory, that captured the joyous art of pop music quite like New Magnetic Wonder. While the rest of the world seemed hell-bent on trying to keep up with the terribly sad Jones’, The Apples tried to remind us that it’s perfectly acceptable to actually have a good time. Just when you thought that black eyeliner and spiky hair had won, we’re given a reason to revolt.

Standout Tracks: Energy, Can You Feel It, Play Tough

Recommended if you like… Singing in the car, hoping for the best, playing in a sprinkler.

15. The National – Boxer

With vocals often flashing between Jarvis Cocker and Leonard Cohen and arrangements that sound more at home a decade ago than they do today, Boxer doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but perhaps polishes it up a bit. The National managed to become THE buzz band of 2007… I’m actually sure that the majority of music blogs had programs set up to keep any uninitiated out until after they’d signed a document swearing their allegiance. For all of its gloomy ambiance, the album is actually quite beautiful even if it doesn’t live up to the nearly impossible hype that it seems to have brought down upon itself.

Standout Tracks: Mistaken For Strangers, Green Gloves, Apartment Story

Recommended if you like… Drinking alone

14. Art Brut – It’s A Bit Complicated

Thank God! After the mope-inducing year of music that seemed to flood 2007, Art Brut returned to us with their 2nd output. No band on earth (since the dissolve of so many others) is as witty, laugh out loud funny and honest about the state of the world, relationships and the things we take for granted each day. The band’s wry sense of humor, paired with thunderous guitars and the occasional odd instrument tossed in for sport, leads to a wonderful album worth hours of listening.

Standout Tracks: Direct Hit, I Will Survive, Jealous Guy

Recommended if you like… Cool Brittania

13. Sea Wolf – Leaves In The River

Moody, beautiful music from either a guy or a band… I’m not sure (and I don’t want to make the “Pink Floyd… I love him!” mistake). Leaves In The River is a perfect album for those times in your life that don’t seem to be going according to plan. Bold and introspective, it feels like a quiet night alone or a few moments of peace after a long night. Tragically, it doesn’t seem to be popping up on many “best of” lists, but if you’re feeling lonely it’s a wonderful companion. The greatest crime to ever befall mankind (no hyperbole there) has to be the exclusion of I Made A Resolution (a song featured on Sea Wolf’s fantastic EP Get To The River Before It Runs Too Low), with so many earlier works making it into this album it’s hard to imagine how this one was left out. Had it been included, I can assure you that this disc would be much higher on the list.

Standout Tracks: You’re A Wolf, Middle Distance Runner, Winter Windows

Recommended if you like… Curling up with a good book (or album) on a winter night.

12. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam

Judging from their past work and a few scattered demos of the tracks presented on this album, I was fairly sure that it would make my top 25 even before hearing it… I was right. Strawberry Jam is a slightly psychotic pop record beamed down from a distant universe filled with odd sounds, comfortable melodies and yalping vocals. With each album Animal Collective seems to get slightly more accessible while growing ever stranger. The album isn’t for everyone, but to those that love it, there is no substitute. Personally, it dominated my Ipod to the point of enraging a now ex-lady friend… is Animal Collective responsible for the demise of a relationship? I may never know, but one thing’s for sure, it’s good enough to end another one in the future.

Standout Tracks: Peacebone, Reverend Green, Fireworks

Recommended if you like… Science fiction movies, psychedelic drugs, driving away your loved ones.

11. Justice – Cross

You’ve probably heard D.A.N.C.E. at one point or another. You may only know it as “that song with that awesome video.” Well, not only does Cross feature that fantastic, jam of the year candidate, it also happens to be one of the best electronic albums of the decade… and this is coming from a guy that isn’t necessarily fond of electronic albums. From start to finish, the record is packed with undeniable booty shakers and rhythms capable of forcing even the whitest people on earth onto the dance floor. It’s disco for disco haters and one of the most irresistible albums of the year. Go ahead, try to resist it. The power of dance pop compels you!

Standout Tracks: D.A.N.C.E., The Party, New Jack

Recommended if you like… Pretending that you don’t like dance music

11. Okkervil River – The Stage Names

NPR darlings, Okkervil River, managed to create one of the most beautiful albums of 2007 in The Stage Names. More of a play in 8 acts than an album, it takes listeners through an often depressing, often uplifting saga of human emotion in songs that range from absolutely gigantic to fragile. The rootsy, complicated feel of the tracks is made largely uncomplicated by the feel of the finished product and Will Sheff’s desperate vocals are the perfect compliment to the sound, often feeling like an additional instrument.

Standout Tracks: Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe, A Girl In Port, Title Track

Recommended if you like… Early Wilco and Whiskeytown with a larger band and considerably more “gusto”

10. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

I used to love Wilco, I mean really love Wilco. Unfortunately, they alienated me with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Now, it’s not that I opposed the idea of experimenting and growing the sound in a different direction, but personally the album just didn’t hit with me. After a departure from Wilco fandom, I took a chance on Sky Blue Sky and couldn’t have been happier to hear the lush, wonderful Wilco sound pouring back through my speakers. Finally, after dancing around it, the band has created their true masterpiece… one that should be treasured for generations to come. In any other year, this album would most likely have taken the top spot on this list… unfortunately for Wilco, 2007 wasn’t just any other year.

Standout Tracks: Either Way, You Are My Face, Hate It Here

Recommended if you like… The Beatles without all of the suck associated with The Beatles.

9. Jarvis Cocker – Jarvis

With Pulp now a fading memory, people like me clamored for more from the band’s enigmatic front man. Finally, in 2007, our prayers were answered. With a few failed attempts in his past, Jarvis Cocker took the bull by the horns in his first real solo project, Jarvis. Sparkling arrangements, wry/bitter vocals and all things Jarvis shine through on this astounding solo effort, easily the best Jarvis-related project since Pulp’s 1998 epic, This Is Hardcore. After dozens of listens, Jarvis never feels tired or repetitive, offering something interesting for each listen and another glimpse into the world of Sheffield’s finest songwriter.

Standout Tracks: Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time, Fat Children, Disney Time

Recommended if you like… Feeling insecure at the thought of an album being much, much smarter than you.

7. Panda Bear – Person Pitch

Person Pitch, the past year’s offering from Animal Collective’s own Panda Bear is pure magic on a disc. From start to finish, the record bubbles with joyful enthusiasm and layer after layer of comfy, yet strange sounds to discover. The vocals are reminiscent of Brian Wilson, and you can’t help but wonder if this is the exact album that the Beach Boys’ pioneer would have made if he’d come of age in the 1990’s instead of the 1950’s. Surprisingly, the solo effort from Animal Collective turned out to be much better than the group as a whole… it’s the Beach Boys all over again, folks.

Standout Tracks: Comfy In Nautica, Bro’s, Carrots

Recommended if you like… Pet Sounds, enough to want to reinvent it.

6. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Gay -Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French gai.

1A – Happily Excited.

1B – Lacking in masculinity.

Yep, that about sums it up.

Standout Tracks: Suffer For Fashion, Sink The Seine, Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse

Recommended if you like… Listening to music alone, in the car, with the windows up, then hiding the disc under your bed.

5. M.I.A. – Kala

Had this album actually been pushed by mainstream radio, there’s no denying that it would have been a massive smash. The single, Paper Planes, is a crowd favorite, and the remaining tracks on the album are pitch-perfect club bangers and hit singles. Unfortunately, mainstream radio slept on this record, resulting in entirely too many members of the general public going without M.I.A. in the ’07. It’s just infuriating enough to make a man want to buy a radio station and put the album on loop for the remainder of the year.

Standout Tracks: Boyz, Paper Planes, Come Around

Recommended if you like… Really terrific pop music, surprising gunshots, surprising gunshots that make for great choruses.

4. Kanye West – Graduation

Somehow, Mr. West has managed to top even his dynamic first two records with his third release, Graduation. While hip-hop was an utter waste in 2007 (other than Jay-Z’s fantastic work with American Gangster), Kanye managed to remind us that it’s still a viable art form worthy of celebration. From the astounding single, Stronger, to the Will Oldham and Seth Galifianakis video for Can’t Tell Me Nothing, Kanye has managed to find inspiration in unusual sources and create forward looking hip-hop music that refuses to be pegged into a specific genre. Without Kanye, where would we be? How many oversized sunglasses would have gone unsold? How many Lacoste sweaters would remain on the rack? How many more 50 Cent records would we have to endure?

Standout Tracks: Stronger, Glory, Drunk & Hot Girls

Recommended if you like… Looking for an excuse to buy that preppy sweater.

3. Bruce Springsteen – Magic

Ahh, the E Street Band… the best thing going since the early 80’s. While fads have come and gone, entire careers have evaporated and entire lives have been lived, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have continued to provide the world with inexplicable greatness and longevity. Not every band can claim to be the favorite of fathers and sons, not every band can inspire jubilation and tears in the same 3 minutes, not every band can be E Street. Magic is just what the title suggests, more of what you have come to expect from the group that just keeps on giving. I just hope that we all remember not to take these guys for granted… they’re getting older y’know. Make sure to take the time out to catch the show this year, before they hang it up.

Standout Tracks: Living In The Future, Girls In Their Summer Clothes, Long Walk Home

Recommended if you like… Listening to the same music as your parents.

2. Radiohead – In Rainbows

Silly conspiracy theories, free albums and Radiohead fans aside, this is one of the best albums of the year and the band’s best work since OK Computer. If you can force yourself to ignore the endless prattling on about the wonders of Radiohead, you’ll be happy to discover a truly brilliant record from a truly brilliant band. Far from the gimmick record that mainstream press tried to portray it as, In Rainbows is exactly where I hoped the band would travel when they released the collective clusterfucks known as Kid A and Amnesiac. Now, I realize that I may be forever banned from the internet and blogging in general for marking down those albums… but come on, they were just unbearable. I’d rather listen to nothing but In Rainbows, every day for the rest of my life, than sit through Amnesiac again.

Standout Tracks: Bodysnatchers, Faust Arp, Reckoner

Recommended if you like… Pretending that the last few albums never happened, and loving Radiohead all over again.

1. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

It seemed unthinkable that Arcade Fire could top the seemingly unimaginable greatness they bestowed upon us with Funeral. However, just when you think you have the world figured out, life throws you a curveball. Neon Bible isn’t just the best album of 2007, it’s one of the most perfectly crafted albums ever released by any band, ever. Haunting, tragic, beautiful, magical, awe inspiring… there just aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to accurately summarize what this band means to me, and what this album does. The last couple of years of my life, the ups and downs, all seem to be scored by this band… and just when I suspect that the crystal ball has gone empty, I discover something special in yet another of these songs that relates so personally and so deeply to me, that I can’t help but wonder if the entire catalog was written just for yours truly. Neon Bible is so special, so incredible that very few albums will ever reach the level of greatness that it has established. I don’t feel even slightly apprehensive about declaring it not only 2007’s great masterpiece, but one of the true musical accomplishments of the decade. Neon Bible is a classic album… in a year so full of wonderful music, it is clearly the King of Kings.

Standout Tracks: Every single song on the record

Recommended if you like… Hearing the entire emotional scope of human existence crammed into 11 songs (ok, maybe that one went too far).


One Response to “Your 2007 Recap O’ Jams”

  1. Kevin Says:

    I’m glad to see you finally admitting to enjoying some Wilco, even though you have them woefully low on the list.

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