Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Top Ten Records Of 2007

01. The National / Boxer
Boxer is one of those rare albums that has your attention from the beginning of the first track, and keeps your interested until the very end. Previously, my only exposure to The National was a song that Brandon had put on a previous mix (from 2005's excellent The Alligator). But Boxer is definitely one album that has caused me to sit up and take notice of this band.

02. Radiohead / In Rainbows
After the Holy Trinity of The Bends (1995), OK Computer (1997) and Kid A (2000), Radiohead has had a hard time topping itself. Amnesiac (2001) proved a failed-experiment and Hail To The Thief (2003), although not a bad record in the least, didn't really live up to peoples' expectations. When the band announced that In Rainbows would be available exclusively through their website on a pay-what-you-want basis, many music listeners grew suspicious. How good could it be if their label isn't involved, and you can get it for as little as a penny? This is the reason why I didn't bother sitting down to download In Rainbows but, fortunately, Curt floated me over a copy when we were in St. Louis over Christmas. I'm glad he did because In Rainbows is like the rainbow at the end of a rainy day. God, that was stupid.

03. Jens Lekman / Night Falls Over Kortedala
Night Falls Over Kortedala is a perfect example of what you can achieve if you wear your emotions, as well as your musical influences, on your sleeve. Jens Lekman is the bastard son of Burt Bacharach and Beck Hanson.

04. The Clientele / God Save The Clientele
With the AM-friendly sixties sound, this album gets better with every listen. The Clientele reminds me, not of Belle & Sebastian (necessarily), but of the first time I ever heard Belle & Sebastian. At fourteen songs, it's just a little too long and, if not for that and that alone, God Save The Clientele would have been higher up on this list.

05. M.I.A. / Kala
I'm surprised I even gave Kala the time of day to begin with. After all, I'm not a fan of dance music. But I would argue that this album stands out more for its hip hip elements than its dance hall beats. I am continuously seeing Kala on various critics' end-of-the-year lists, and with good reason. And, since the rise and fall of Roxanne Shante, I've never been a fan of female emcees either. This one delivers the goods. Whatever that means.

06. The Veils / Nux Vomica
I first gave The Veils a listen after having heard all the comparisons between Nick Cave and lead singer, Finn Andrews. It's been about six months since I got my hands on a copy of Nux Vomica and I'll have to say that I still don't hear it. No, the first band I thought of was XTC and, apparently, my instincts were right on the money after having found out that Andrews is actually the son of founding-XTC member, Barry Andrews. Anyway, similarities and influences aside, this particular record is outstanding. And, at a perfect length--ten songs at a total of 43 minutes--gets better with every listen.

On a side note, I played this album for Lisa on a recent trip to St. Louis. About a minute into track 4, "Jesus For The Jugular," she asked me to skip to the next track, claiming it sounded "too Tom-Waitsy." Whatever that means, I couldn't hear it.

07. Grinderman / Grinderman
In case you didn't know, Grinderman is basically Nick Cave and about three-sevenths of The Bad Seeds. But, for those few of you who didn't take the time to listen to it, we are far from Bad Seeds territory here. Nick Cave, Warren Ellis and company wear their bluesy, dirty, surly, foul-mouthed influences on their sleeves. And, from what I gather, they're here to stay. Because of Grinderman, I'll forgive The Bad Seeds for only releasing a live 2 CD, 2 DVD collection this year (The Abattoir Blues Tour, which consisted mostly of material off 2004's Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus).

08. The New Pornographers / Challengers
The New Pornographers always seem to live up to the hype that have surrounded them since their incarnation in 2000. Every time a new record drops, I tend to brace myself for the sound of that second shoe hitting the floor. Now, four albums in, Challengers shows no signs of The Pornos going downhill.

09. MF Grimm / The Hunt For The Gingerbread Man
The emcee, who's legal name is Percy Carey, has achieved something that's rare in hip hop: longevity. Since the late eighties/early nineties, MF Grimm has proven himself at rap battles against the likes of GZA and Treach. He penned lyrics for some of the greatest emcees of all time (Dr. Dre, Snoop, Biggie, just to name a few) and produced albums by KMD and MF Doom. Every once in a while, he quietly releases a gem like The Hunt For The Gingerbread Man and it tends to go unnoticed by critics and hip hop heads alike. As a concept album, Gingerbread Man is brilliant storytelling.

10. Aesop Rock / None Shall Pass
I had high hopes for 2007 in regard to hip hop music. I anxiously awaited the third full length by Sage Francis. Unfortunately Human The Death Dance starts off really strong and loses steam about four songs in. In early December, the Wu Tang Clan released 8 Diagrams to mixed reviews. I downloaded a handful of tracks and only cared for a few of them. The new Madvillain record never saw the light of day. The Beastie Boys' new album was sans vox. And El-P finally released his proper follow-up to Fantastic Damage, which seemed to be well received by the hip hop community. I, for one, was pretty disappointed. And, since his days with Company Flow, I've always loved the music of El-P. Ironically, I've never really cared for Aesop Rock (whose record is produced by El-P) and None Shall Pass did not attract my attention until I heard the title track. I got my hands on the full length album and it's all I listened to for about two weeks straight. Thanks to None Shall Pass, I have a new-found respect for Aesop Rock. And, between him, The Gingerbread Man, and even M.I.A., my year for hip hop music ended on a good note.


Blogger Steaming bowl o' Calderone said...

I will agree with you on The New Pornographers and I really, really want to agree with you on In Rainbows. I got a copy from my friend, Josh, and it just hasn't grabbed me. To be fair, I have only listened to it twice and both times it was more background music than a fully attentive listen. I suppose I should agree with you in principle at least. Their "pay what you want" stunt is a much needed slap in the face of record execs and those RIAA bastards. I was glad to hear that other artists were getting behind this ideology.

01 January, 2008  
Anonymous Gaby said...

Out of all those albums, the only one I've listened to is the one by The New Pornographers, and I must say I was disappointed by it. I think that is their weakest album yet. It was by far the most mellowed; they didn't rock out enough.

03 January, 2008  
Anonymous 'sawblade said...

No order yet, but here are my candidates for top albums of the year. General note, I found this year to be "just decent" overall ... some good tracks here and there jammed on some overall mediocre albums. There were a handful that, to me, stood over the rest.

The Best:

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
Rush - Snakes & Arrows (you didn't even DREAM to think that I'd not include this one, did you? Kidding actually, because in reality I'm very critical of my favorite band of all time and truly believe this is their finest album in, what, 20 years or so)

Pretty Good Overall:
The National - Boxer
Ted Leo - Living With the Living
Iron & Wine - Shepherd's Dog
Okkervil River - The Stage Names

Need More Time Before I Can Include or Disclude:
Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
Art Brut - It's a Bit Complicated
Josh Ritter - The Historic Conquests of Josh Ritter
Beirut - The Flying Club Cub
Maximo Park - Our Earthly Pleasures

Disappoining Albums That May Make It If My List Is Big Enough:

Radiohead - In Rainbows
The White Stripes - Icky Thump
New Pornos - Challengers
Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City

That's about all for now. Rack 'em! Rock it!

04 January, 2008  
Anonymous 'sawblade said...

UPDATE -- I spent a lot of time with Josh Ritter's album this weekend, and it's DEFINITELY in the top 5. Man, that thing is really, really good. If you're a big Brendan Benson fan, throw in a sprinkle of Dylanesque stream of consciousness lyrics and this thing could be for you, oh dear reader.

07 January, 2008  
Blogger Mark Teel said...

In regard to the new Spoon record, I couldn't get into it. It was like last year's Band Of Horses record in that I heard it before the hype, was surprised to hear all the hype, and then revisited it several times and it never quite took.

As for Challengers, Jacquie Fuller from NPR wrote a review that seemed to capture my thoughts perfectly: "Pitchfork thinks the New Pornographers are tired. And on a logical level, I know this isn't the band's best effort. Nonetheless, it's been in heavy rotation in my car for at least a month now. It's typical New Pornographers-Neko's cooing, A.C. Newman's recognizable riffs, Danny Bejar sounding like a drag queen's impersonation of Al Stewart-but familiarity doesn't always breed contempt. Sometimes it makes for good pop."

07 January, 2008  
Anonymous 'sawblade said...

I've listened to Jens a few times this week, borrowed it from a co-worker. Too sugary for my tastes, I do believe. But, I can appreciate his approach and stab at something different.

11 January, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot Sky Blue Sky by Wilco. Previous requirements for digging other albums by Wilco were: being a Wilco fan, or being an Uncle Tupelo fan. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was awesome. This one is up there.

Same thing with In Rainbows, I am so happy to know that old dogs are up to new tricks -- and surprise us at every turn.

28 January, 2008  

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