Top 50 Albums of 2007 (Part One)
Everyone keeps telling me that the album is a dead format. Up until now, my response has been to rise to the bait and attempt to bore critics of the trusty old LP into submission. In the future I'll simply direct them to this article.
I spent hours tallying up the votes (and used a significant amount of energy fighting the urge to scrub off a few of the Arcade Fire's points) and was shocked to see great efforts from the likes of Yeasayer, The Clientele, Blonde Redhead, Ghostface Killah and St Vincent miss out. I guess it goes to show just how good 2007 was for new music, and specifically new albums. Anyone in doubt of this should immerse themselves in the aural riches of our top ten.
The first 25 albums (that's #50 to #26 inclusive) are displayed below.
. . .
"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" (Definitive Jux) [full review]
"El-P does not have an amazing voice or flow, but he commands what he has with utmost confidence, never faltering as he lets impassioned, detailed verses spill all over. The lyrics are rare in that they would look more amazing than awkward in print, dropping conceits, images, wordplay and invective with the type of profligacy that is worth devising delusions of reference about." - George Booker
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49. FROG EYES
"Tears of the Valedictorian" (Absolutely Kosher) [full review]
"Coming unglued on record is a proud and noble tradition, and here to carry it on is Carey Mercer and Frog Eyes, who stand on the brink of madness for 30 minutes of Tears of the Valedictorian before falling completely well into the 9 minutes of Bushels. After this extensive breakdown on the penultimate track, the comatose My Boats They Go can only be an afterthought, though an entirely appropriate one." - Alan Shulman
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"Future Rock" (Kranky) [full review]
"Future Rock is a difficult to grasp record constructed of tape loops, treatments, and at least four years worth of fragments, blended together into hazy compositions that drift through phases subliminally. Such description seems to send it off into ambient oblivion, but the dense fog of music evokes dub more. Within the sound clouds lurk real funk, real beats, and real structure, just not constructed in a way heard before. Its mystery is intoxicating." - George Booker
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47. A SUNNY DAY IN GLASGOW
"Scribble Mural Comic Journal" (Notenuf) [full review]
"Some of Scribble Mural Comic Journal's more drone-based tracks such as the five minute plus instrumental Panic Attacks Are What Makes Me "Me" seem unremarkable when taken out of context, but in helping to provide a welcome contrast to the more immediate melodic offerings they are key to this album's success." - David Coleman
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46. LES SAVY FAV
"Let's Stay Friends" (Frenchkiss)
"No one expected Les Savy Fav to release their breakthrough album in 2007 which makes this muscular disc all the more refreshing. The Equestrian in particular catches LSF at their best, a perfect blend of humour and perversion with some killer chord changes thrown in for good measure." - David Coleman
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45. SIR RICHARD BISHOP
"Polytheistic Fragments" (Drag City)
"Sir Richard Bishop's assertion that his guitar is bleeding seems a little hasty. For all we know, it could very well be his calloused fingers retaliating against While My Guitar Violently Bleeds' closing track's 25-minute running time, but hey, allusion is the cousin to ignorance, and I'm willing to overlook his pain if he is. (No, really, art is suffering!) And while While My Guitar Violently Bleeds is here to test your patience, Sir Richard Bishop is so good at what he does, fiddling with his guitar chords until they finally succumb to his will, that it hardly even matters anymore. He's so good in fact, that it's amazing he made a record at all. He seems best fit for Central Park, staring at the pavement with his bucket of change and raggedy guitar, while we stare blankly at his fingers and say, 'This guy should be famous.'" - Lewis Parry
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44. PATRICK WOLF
"The Magic Position" (Loog) [full review]
"Until 2007 I had never heard Patrick Wolf. While being blown away by his set at Connect, I was surprised by the level of commerciality in his most recent material. The Magic Position is a multi-textured, vibrant record which makes good company with Sylvain, Bowie, and recent Oberst. It tweaks genres subtly without totally forgetting pop convention. Accident & Emergency is pretty genius, like Station to Station remixed with Homogenic and the beat from Dizzee Rascal's Fix Up, Look Sharp. Get Lost takes cues from mariachi and Casio, resulting in a beautiful upbeat love song. The Stars comes pretty close to drill'n'bass Sinatra. The Magic Position is an enchanting turn towards centre stage." - Tom Lee
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43. CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH
"Some Loud Thunder" (Self-released US; Wichita UK) [full review]
"Critics idiotically tossed Clap Your Hands Say Yeah wayward upon the release of its sophomore album, Some Loud Thunder. Yet in all respects, the album is a obvious improvement on it's predecessor - loud, brash and sonically innovative. Dave Fridmann's production suits the band, he takes the band's tendency for middling sonic experimentation and develops it to an art form. The psychedelic middle of Love Song No. 7, the chirps and whirs of Satan Said Dance and the headphone-exploding right-to-left-speaker effects on Goodbye To The Mother & The Cover all come together to form an astonishingly solid follow-up to the band's debut." - Matt Erler
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42. STARS OF THE LID
"And Their Refinement Of The Decline" (Kranky)
"Never before has background music sounded so good. For much of their career, Stars of the Lid have specialized in eliciting this reaction, maintaining a comfortable position as purveyors of beautiful drone, a somewhat Catch-22. As an album relying on smooth, enveloping textures with a central focus on dynamic interplay, the lush Refinement vehemently defies description. Sprawling two discs and containing some of this year's most painfully evocative and atmospheric music, Refinement highlights this Austin duo at their absolute creative peak while disproving that nagging "background music" misnomer." - Brendan Phillips
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"Our Love To Admire" (Capitol) [full review]
"Lead single The Heinrich Maneuver is rhythmically taut, lyrically caustic track directed at a West Coast ex and clearly one of Interpol's finest pop moments to date. It segues into another highlight, the tense Mammoth, which is really all about Kessler and Banks' guitar interplay. The moody breakdown recalls earlier works like NYC. Not their best work, but still a worthy addition to the Interpol canon." - David Coleman
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"Volta" (Atlantic) [full review]
"After years of fearlessness, Volta almost seems a step back to virgin ears. Like Squarepusher's Hello Everything, the album first registers as sort of a streamlined, original Greatest Hits. Many songs recall past landmarks without the adrenaline buzz of an artist out on a dangerous limb. It almost seems as if stock has been taken of past developments and been repackaged into a more judicious whole." - George Booker
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"Conqueror" (Hydra Head) [full review]
"The record starts with the quite formidable Conqueror, in which monolithic slabs of guitar noise, hushed, almost gentle vocals, and a subtle electronic rhythm somehow blend together to create an eight minute epic. Like the best tracks on My Bloody Valentine's groundbreaking and unrivalled Loveless album, Conqueror seems to take on different characteristics as you vary the playback volume. At low levels it's a soothing ambient drone but turn to the volume up to 10 and it's transformed into a crunching aural assault." - David Coleman
. . .
"Cryptograms" / "Fluorescent Grey" (Kranky) [full review]
"Whether it be raising widespread critical brow or blogging about the defecation habits of its band members, Deerhunter hit 2007 like a noisy plague, effortlessly improving upon their dizzying 2005 debut "Turn It Up Faggot" with this veritable one-two knockout, two works full of carefully coordinated sonic tension. Coming from a band self-described as "ambient punk" - a troublesome tag any day of the week - the beautiful, ethereal Cryptograms speaks for itself. To the unassuming, the chugging forward intent of Octet-Stream or the hangover haze of Spring Hall Convert come across as half-ideas, but these curiously strung-out headphone jams are anything but. Fluorescent Grey carries the torch with a lighter, more straightforward sampling, which still succeeds in the former's tradition of fuzzy wanderlust." - Brendan Phillips
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37. DAN DEACON
"Spiderman Of The Rings" (Carpark) [full review]
"Dan Deacon was not satisfied with simply building walls of sound. Instead, he built an entire world as eccentric and restless as himself. The experience is perhaps best described by Willy Wonka, who like Deacon is simply unwilling to embrace the banality of adulthood:
There is no
Life I know
To compare with
You'll be free
If you truly wish to be."
- Alejandro Martinez
. . .
36. PHAROAHE MONCH
"Desire" (Street Records Corporation / Universal) [full review]
"Desire, musically, is rock solid and ambitious to boot, dabbling and sometimes diving into genre pools hip hop rarely mingles with, committing to epic narratives and conceits. What makes it miraculous is Pharoahe Monch's staggering artistry on the microphone. In a world where absence can inflate legends to a size they cannot possibly achieve, Monch returns as brilliant as he was reputed to be. His ability with metaphor, punchline, and wordplay is nearly unrivalled, and his delivery is the best in the business. One of the greatest emcees of all time." - George Booker
. . .
"Sky Blue Sky" (Nonesuch) [full review]
"Tweedy just wanted to make an album people would enjoy listening to for a change. So sue him. I, for one, love it and find it aging like a smooth burgundy. The band's knack for tailoring phrases in the image of glorious sunbeams reaches a culmination of sorts and so you hardly mind that it lacks the emotional depth of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The guitar solos alone justify its existence, but they spring as much from Tweedy's pen as Nels Cline's fingers. Not consistently great, but periodically sublime." - Alan Shulman
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34. WU TANG CLAN
"8 Diagrams" (SRC / Universal Motown)
"Many, including about a quarter of the surviving Wu Tang Clan, have expressed worry that the RZA may have finally gone off his rocker in a bad way, taking the good Wu name with him. 8 Diagrams is supposedly too soft, too Hollywood, too psychedelic. As if anything the Wu did was predictable anywhere but the cold world they created for themselves. This adventurous album is poised to deepen and unfold over time, and it never mucks up the basic task of giving 8 of the best emcees in the world an amazing canvas to thrive in." - George Booker
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"The Flying Club Cup" (Domino)
"Quite how a Californian 21 year old manages to distil the essence of 1920s France into an LP of such modern vitality is anyone's guess but that he does is clearly to everyone's benefit. Combining the often wordless gypsy folk of the Beirut debut, Gulag Orkestar, with more conventional lyric-led songs, Zach Condon creates a soundtrack to an unmade French new-wave classic. Accordions, fiddles, ukuleles, and horns a-go-go, this sepia tinted collection should, by rights, sound gimmicky and patronising; instead it's like looking through a dead grandparent's ancient holiday snaps-funny and moving, yet riddled with unsolvable mysteries." - Peter Hayward
. . .
32. DO MAKE SAY THINK
"You, You're A History In Rust" (Constellation) [full review]
"Lovers of this Toronto-based instrumental five-piece's distinctive take on the minefield of the rural/metropolitan crossover were surprised to discover that this one had songs - lots of them - sung by guests such as Akron/Family, Alex Lukashevsky of Deep Dark United, and Tony Dekker of Great Lake Swimmers, as well as themselves. And, much to our delight (we lovers of DMST) this turned out to be a value-added enhancement, in brimming bucketsful, to an album quite replete with (utterly non-sentimental) brazen good cheer." - Paul Roylance
. . .
"Myths Of The Near Future" (Rinse / Polydor) [full review]
"It's not every band that can invent and then transcend their own genre by the end of their first album, but, then again, Klaxons aren't just any band. Eschewing new rave-by-numbers throughout, Myths of The Near Future is musically reckless, dashing from Beach buoyed-up Human League one minute to the Chemical Brothers in Therapy? the next, and, at a time when so many spoils were going to the mundane end of the alternative, the fact that a collection of songs set in space, in the future, and in highbrow literature could find such a hefty real world audience is both thrillingly inspiring and a fantastic snub to their more proletarian peers. A vital record in every sense." - Iain Moffat
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30. SUNSET RUBDOWN
"Random Spirit Lover" (Jagjaguwar) [full review]
"Even with a countless amount of projects on his hands, Spencer Krug manages to muster up inexhaustible amounts of energy for Random Spirit Lover. It's a ramshackle mess most of the time and triumphs in all of its oddity. The sounds are strange and the lyrics are otherworldly and it's impossible not get excited on the revved-up opener, The Mending of the Gown. The song structures remain challenging, but never frustrating. It's pretty in the way a child's finger painting is, select moments of glory and true beauty muddled within a border of chaos." - Brett Oronzio
. . .
"Liars" (Mute) [full review]
"Here, Liars consolidate their past "success" with their most "accessible" record to date. And what they lose in discarding concept they make up for in musical force which just goes to show what I always suspected; that it wasn't the concept that made the albums great. Their ability to tap into primal instincts remains nothing short of uncanny, which is why the wrong notes are always right and the grindingly insistent rhythms never wear out their welcome. Still the most original and unique thing going in almost any genre." - Alan Shulman
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28. BAND OF HORSES
"Cease To Begin" (Sub Pop)
"Band Of Horses' music always seems to polarise the critics. Just look at our lukewarm reception to Everything All The Time for an example for an example. Nevertheless, there are many - myself included - who think this band is anything but "a My Morning Jacket soundalike". Cease To Begin might have lacked a standout of The Funeral or The Great Salt Lake's stature, but it made amends with a string of consistently impressive tracks. Write them off at your peril." - David Coleman
. . .
27. THE SHINS
"Wincing The Night Away" (Sub Pop) [full review]
"The concept record, as a concept of its own, is something that was never quite associated with The Shins. As a spirited, talented but dangerously safe band they were happily trolling through familiar territory with their previous albums. But in the fresh and adventurous 2007, The Shins took their greatest step forward with Wincing The Night Away. Instead of supporting their light guitar tricks with ooh-lala's, James Mercer and his cohorts used their time on the disc to bring out the deepest and darkest within them. The only thing I don't get is the title. What on earth do you mean 'wincing the night away?'. If only all insomniacs would create records this gorgeous." - Japie Stoppelenburg
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26. BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE PRESENTS... KEVIN DREW
"Spirit If" (Arts & Crafts)
"We devoted listeners have become comfortable with a consistent release schedule from the musically incestuous Canadian indie scene, and a year without a BSS-related release is a year full of sighs. Luckily, our neighbours to the north have spurred two wonderfully curious gems: Feist's solo mainstream breakthrough and this high-water mark, the shaggy Spirit If... Backed with a laundry list of guests including many BSS members and space to express himself, Spirit showcases Drew with a masterful balance of inward skygazing, taking his heart and removing the floodgates in signature BSS excess. The result: a scruffy collection of anthemic morning-afters." - Brendan Phillips
. . .19 December, 2007 - 19:43 — David Coleman