Melting ice caps, violent international conflicts, Hummers outside my window, oil slicks in the bay – the picture of 2007 as I look back was of a dissonant world. The records that fought their way to the fore sounded like allegories for this dystopian vision. Noisy, messy, strange but headspinningly beautiful. Interestingly, each of these highlighted albums feature Track 1’s that immediately enchant, bombard, envelop, and slay. Despite civilization’s blind march towards annihilation there was, for me, plenty of great music to celebrate. Here’s the best of it.
Radiohead In Rainbows
A wistful and spare (by their standards) record with a scrupulous, dynamic songcraft that soars above the one-trick pony newer, fitter, happier bands so overhyped today. Obliterates the stale taste left by Hail To The Thief while rubbing shoulders with the best of their catalog.
Panda Bear Person Pitch
Sonorous solo effort from Animal Collective member. Imagine Brian Wilson, post-“Surf’s Up”, battling depression and calming his nerves in a sensory deprivation tank, while chanting hymns over ethereal lo-fi Pet Sounds outtakes.
New Pornographers Challengers
A more reflective turn for one of our brightest pop confectioners. Carl’s melodies shine, as always, but instead of manic guitar and drums, many songs are constructed from evocative colors of banjo, mandolin, flute and strings, and sweetly weaving vocal harmonies.
Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Britt Daniel’s songwriting swaggers, while Jim Eno’s lean production and a flawless sequence of songs show why Spoon are auteurs in the art of the 30 minute pop record. Studio banter, guitar clicks, and palpable shifts of console faders are mixed in like clues to the craft of record-making. “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” with its literal echoes of Smokey Robinson and the Supremes, is nonetheless painted as only Spoon can and, like the rest of the album, is so good it’ll have you ga-ga-ga-ing like a blissed-out little babe.
Security blazes out of the speakers from the start with taut politically-charged afrobeat inspired by Fela Kuti. Killer stuff, but the latter half of the set still smolders with nuances of dub, electronica and Ethiopiques-jazz in a wide-spectrum sound (with John McEntire at the controls).
While I’m taken aback by the audacity of this one man chameleon, andorra hooked me from the first listen. Sounds as if the Nuggets box set exploded and Dan Snaith picked up the pieces along with other scraps of psychedelia, krautrock, and electropop.
Animal Collective Strawberry Jam
Animal Collective’s experimental tendencies may simply be born out of fearlessness. Strawberry Jam charts a new course from the skewed dream-pop of Feels into a range of compositions careening from psychedelic cartoon rave-ups to underwater carousel music to trance. Listen with intrepid ears and you’ll be richly rewarded.
Feist The Reminder
Loved her last record, but I wasn’t prepared for the kind of leap in songwriting or sheer imagination on this one (let alone the response to it). Leslie Feist’s singularly aching, mellifluous vocals still beguile, but this set of songs bear the elegance of Joni Mitchell with a smokey, earthy soul. Destined to be a classic.
Arcade Fire Neon Bible
The shift from 2005’s Funeral to Neon Bible is like the shift to color in the Wizard of Oz. Recorded in a church and featuring a gothic orchestration, this a cinematic album of technicolor sounds and dark imagery that is altogether fantastical, dreamy, and frightening. Win’s dour lyrics touch on crime, war, terrorism, christianity, and celebrity, including this refrain which could be my mantra for the last few years: “I don’t want to live in America no more…I don’t want to see it at my windowsill.”
Dirty Projectors Rise Above
Apparently re-imagined from memory, Rise Above completely re-contextualizes Black Flag’s Damaged as an art pop monster. David Longstreth sings soulful, throaty melismas over slippery west african guitar figures while the backup singer-sirens voices twine and enchant. With a nod to their forebear, the songs may suddenly devolve into crashing drums, delicious cacophony or Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. So punk rock.
And one more caught in between last year and this year
Peter Bjorn & John Writer’s Block
I didn’t have the actual release last year, but the domestic release seems old by now. No matter, it still charms my pants off (that’s a good thing). Perfectly demonstrating the Swedish penchant for pastiche, this is Everly Brothers Spector-ian folk shoegaze pop at its best and will have you whistling for days.
More Great Records From The Year
- The National Boxer
- Of Montreal Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
- Deerhunter Cryptograms
- Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings 100 Days, 100 Nights
Sharon Jones can bust a groove in funk, soul, R&B, you name it
- Thurston Moore Trees Outside The Academy
- Deerhoof Friend Opportunity
- White Stripes Icky Thump
- Sea and Cake Everything
- Explosions in the Sky All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
- Elliott Smith New Moon
- Joan As Police Woman Real Life
- Clientele God Save the Clientele
- Gruff Rhys Candylion
- Betty Davis s/t
- Nick Lowe At My Age
- Band of Horses
- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Where You Been All My Life (older stuff i got into this year)
- The Fugs
- Loudon Wainwright
- Harry Nilsson
- Fela Kuti
- Lee Hazlewood
- Luiz Bonfa
- Richard Hell & The Voidoids
- The Small Faces