Top 50 Albums of 2007 (Part Two)
So, you've read the first part of our feature and you're hopefully thinking "so far, so good but what's #1". If so, you've come to the right place. Read on for the top twenty five...
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25. DINOSAUR JR
"Beyond" (Fat Possum) [full review]
"Beyond sounds incredibly behind the times - and that's okay. Records like this don't really exist anymore. Despite modern technology, and the obvious use of Pro Tools, this sounds full of life and retains at least some of the indie charm of the group's finest record, You're Living All Over Me." - Matt Erler
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"Friend Opportunity (Kill Rock Stars / ATP) [full review]
"It's rarely refreshing when a quirky underground darling records something overtly accessible, but this is a notable exception. Without straying too far from their usual mish-mash of sound, Deerhoof makes an unbelievably catchy and exciting record. Nothing they've released has been this addictive since Apple O'; but this time it's for everyone. Friend Opportunity proves that Deerhoof doesn't have to dial down the crazy to put out a perfectly polished pop album." - Gabbie Nirenburg
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23. VON SUDENFED
"Tromatic Reflexxions" (Domino) [full review]
"He's manhandled The Fall with an iron fist for so long that it must have been a real jolt to Mark E Smith's system to appear on an album where it was him that actually had to justify his contribution, particularly given that post-rock titans Mouse On Mars had so significantly raised their game on this excellent call of a collaboration. Consequently, Smith's addresses are more urgent than they've been in years, while the electronic soundscapes laid around him are compellingly ugly and suffused with a glacially clinical subterranean aggression. Predictably, of course, the parties involved have since fallen out, leaving Tromatic Reflexxions as the sole testament to their time together, but a mighty, mercurial one at that." - Iain Moffat
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22. ANDREW BIRD
"Armchair Apocrypha" (Fat Possum) [full review]
"By any other artist these songs could be exceptionally good, inescapably melodic pop songs. What sets them apart and makes Armchair Apocrypha distinguished is Andrew Bird's East-meets-West vibe. The textures vary and spread out, making for a more cohesive work with richer sounds than Bird's previous efforts. He offhandedly sings about things that are morbid, but with conviction and winking humor. Never listen to Fiery Crash while waiting in the airport terminal. The blunt imagery might compell you to run for the emergency exit, since "Every human's face has you reaching for your mace."" - Brett Oronzio
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"If Burial had his way, Untrue wouldn't even be near this list. Out of biased loyalty, I feel every right to keep it here as I do to tell you to step off and leave the man be; our praise is interfering with his work. But as they say, suffering is art, and 2006's response to the dubstep producer's debut was enough to send him into a frenzy, one that found him so distracted by perfecting his work that it made him uneasy. An album as characteristically flawed and emotional as Untrue couldn't come from something as manufactured as that, so Burial went about devouring his own work and, in haste, created something uplifting. That Untrue works as both a realistic take on the burrowed underground and a dreamlike fantasy of the same dance floor brings to light Burial's greatest asset, which is his subtle moulding of what his mind knows and what his heart feels. And through grimy electronics, kitchen noises and R&B beats, he allows his own ghost hardware to go unbothered by precedent, and ends up setting his own." - Lewis Parry
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20. THE BESNARD LAKES
"The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse" (Jagjaguwar) [full review]
"I don't think many people actually heard this record, but those who did were not soon to forget it. Just the scale of the thing! Featuring only eight tracks, of which most pass the many-minute mark (which seems to be another staple of 2007), Are The Dark Horse was perhaps only surpassed in grandeur this year by The Arcade Fire. But there is also something modest about The Besnard Lakes. It's not until nearly half way into its opening track that the first real electric rock guitar sets in. When listening to that track (which is called Disaster), it becomes clear that The Besnard Lakes are one of those few groups who actually understand the overused soft/loud dynamic trick and put it to better and better dosed use than most of the post rock bands out there. The only downside to the record? The first four tracks are so ridiculously good that you might never listen through the whole thing." - Japie Stoppelenburg
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"Drums & Guns" (Rough Trade) [full review]
"Few would argue that this is Low's finest record. But then again it's tricky to compare Drums & Guns to any other of the Duluth band's releases; this is bold, and new, far more so than even 2005's reinvention on The Great Destroyer. It jars, it often doesn't quite work, it's occasionally nail-biting in its 'is it good or bad' conundrums. But more than this, Low's incredibly sensitive ear for both melodies and harmonies mean that this year's album is vital and far from safe, and welcome addition to Low's oeuvre." - Tom Lee
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"Cross" (Ed Banger) [full review]
"2007 was the year of looking back, and one group that seems to understand that fully is Justice. But for an artist so happily accused of plagiarism, performing in a style so distinctly close to that one group I refuse to mention, Justice is ignored a lot of well deserved credits for originality. Making the title of your album a symbol that no one remembers the key combination of, using endless bible references to name your songs and revolutionizing the whole idea of dance music without bass. 2007 was also the year of (song) structure, and like originality, structure is not a word often used when mentioning Justice. But just listen to a song like Stress, the exhilarating mid-section that flourishes into a sudden amazingly melodic outro. This song (like many on the record) shows that Justice are in full understanding of their own subject material, and with it they use their intelligence to lift these songs into a whole new, higher level. And that's something even that other French dance group couldn't. " - Japie Stoppelenburg
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17. JENS LEKMAN
"Night Falls Over Kortedala" (Secretly Canadian)
"Jens Lekman could have just as easily used samples from every successful disco, R&B, and pop singer of the last 50 years as a canvas for his songs. But that should hardly take away from the merit of an album where the songwriting is the crux. The fact that Nightfall was a commercial success in his native Sweden speaks to how effectively he was able to capture the essence of his surroundings through the humour and honesty of his storytelling." - Alejandro Martinez
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16. IRON & WINE
"The Shepherd's Dog" (Sub Pop) [full review]
"I could pick seven or eight clear standouts but ultimately this album's defining moment can be found a mere 14 seconds into its opening track. 'Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car' begins with a tinny riff that repeats for a few cycles before bursting into life as a bright and playful full band groove. As a metaphor for Iron & Wine's transition, from cherished lo-fi songwriter project to Technicolor star of Americana, this is pretty much perfect." - David Coleman
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"Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" (Merge) [full review]
"Spoon seems to have come full-circle. With their fourth Merge Records release - coming after the band's ill-fated 1998 major label leap to Elektra Records - the band seems primed for a legitimate mainstream breakthrough. Despite the inane title Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is full of the band's street-wise indie pop and stark minimalism. Despite modest flourishes on some tracks (the horns on The Underdog, for example) the band remains grounded and remarkably consistent." - Matt Erler
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14. THE FIELD
"From Here We Go Sublime" (Kompakt) [full review]
"There needs to be some explanation given for how, relatively under the radar save a trio of 12"s, Swedish mad scientist Axel Willner channelled Frankenstein in creating his monster, the alchemic From Here We Go Sublime, an irrefutable masterpiece. Capitalizing on house music's main principle of euphoria through repetition, Willner has managed to transcend the human attention span, managing tiny split-second sound clips through washes of emotive sound over insistent beats that drag you along by the collar, drooling. An album of calculated, sunny, buoyant, virtuosic brilliance, Sublime is easily my pick for album of the year, and I still can only barely tell you how he does it." - Brendan Phillips
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13. THE TWILIGHT SAD
"Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters" (Fat Cat) [full review]
"This year's auditory catharsis was provided by a young new band from the depths of Glasgow, who released their storming debut through the ever-hip Fat Cat. This is a record of rare emotional intensity, something played out very clearly in their majestic live shows. James Graham has unleashed his inner demons against a brutal wall of noise reminiscent of Mogwai at their Spector-esque finest - by turns eloquent, violent, sympathetic and frantic, The Twilight Sad show that music need not be arch or hiply self-aware to make it in today's climate." - Simon Briercliffe
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12. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE
"Strawberry Jam" (Domino) [full review]
"The finest experimental band of the decade cooked up another saccharine treat this year. Not only is Strawberry Jam their most consistent full length, it also features in Fireworks the Collective's finest moment to date. One of the year's very best." - David Coleman
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"The Reminder" (Cherry Tree / Interscope) [full review]
"If the phrase "female singer-songwriter" puts you in mind of studiedly kooky attacks on ex-boyfriends or mockney tales of urbane suburbia, you should probably check out Feist's The Reminder. Sometime member of the Broken Social Scene, Leslie Feist unleashes all her guile, poetic sensibility, stunning musicianship, and impassioned but never histrionic vocals to uplifting and dizzying effect. From the ubiquitous pop of 1234, to the beguiling lounge of So Sorry, a breathtaking cover of Nina Simone's Sealion Woman, and, well, 11 other faultless tracks, The Reminder is an effortlessly diverse but coherent record." - Peter Hayward
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"Mirrored" (Warp) [full review]
"Cascading with an electrical synthesis that brings Tyondai's vocal naturality into the etherworld, Mirrored soars like a cosmic juggernaut. Following a series of EP's that demonstrated their style but not their capability, Mirrored hones Battles' frenetic chaos into the four pointed mathematical figure they compose. Synchronized in its abstraction, I can't help but work in attesting that this record is a formulaic articulation of a universal truth. Conclusively, may the scientists and polytheists invite them for tea." - Tara Campbell
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9. OKKERVIL RIVER
"The Stage Names" (Jagjaguwar)
"We never quite got round to reviewing it on time but this near perfect record was my own personal favourite of 2007. Not since In The Aeroplane Over The Sea have I been so taken in by an indie-folk-pop record of this kind. It's dominated my listening habits for the past three months and it just keeps on giving. Another stunning album from America's greatest mid level band." - David Coleman
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"Andorra" (Merge) [full review]
"A throwback that somehow manages to look forward. It's the sound of the Zombies with access to digital samples. It's also proof that melody, harmony and songcraft still have a place in the over-hyped genre that is electronica. Andorra resides on the warm, inviting end of that spectrum with samples that seem to bubble up from a hot spring of sound. Ironically saved from greatness by a clinical, over-long finale." - Alan Shulman
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"Arular felt like one of the decade's great unfollowupable albums, but Maya Arulpragasam always was one for defying expectation, making its successor one of the year's most astounding cavalcades of invention. Alright, so there's plenty of appropriation here - there probably hasn't been this much globetrotting in a one-hour stint since Andy Kershaw's radio heyday - but just look at the cavalier magic M.I.A. weaves with it; Bollywood, reggae, hip-hop and house are made into cheery bedfellows, while, subject-wise, she's tackling shanty town poverty one minute and, notoriously, introducing kids with guns the next. Both blogosphere darling and neocon nightmare, she's swiftly staking her claim as the decade's most definitive alt.pop star, and Kala makes the perfect case for this." - Ian Moffat
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6. PANDA BEAR
"Person Pitch" (Paw Tracks) [full review]
"Nothing on Young Prayer - an mournful, meditative chant of sorts dedicated to a dead father's memory - hinted at this. Sure, that album succeeded by revelling in its simple poignancy, but this is an overwhelmingly gorgeous beast of a different breed. Released in the earlier winter bookend of March, Person Pitch astounded throughout the seasons with highly flexible accessibility, blasting Lisbon sunshine in vivid gasoline rainbow shades. It is tricky to categorize an album like this, but possibly therein lays the root of its undeniable gravitational pull. A psych-pop milestone so deeply rooted in the tradition of stylistic cherrypicking, Person Pitch borrowed from everywhere and pleased everyone with its massive scope. However you look at it, the communal luminescence of Person Pitch is poised to continuing winning over legions with jangly, wide-eyed wonder." - Brendan Phillips
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5. THE NATIONAL
"Boxer" (Beggars Banquet) [full review]
"On the first several listens, there's nothing inherently perfect about it; but Boxer is the most quietly assertive masterpiece of the year, placidly holding it's own with more ambitious statements by Arcade Fire, Okkervil River and LCD Soundsystem. Darkly lucid, with singer Matt Berninger's baritone filling the spaces between the arrangements, album opener and standout Fake Empire might just be the best song released this year." - Matt Erler
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4. OF MONTREAL
"Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?" (Polyvinyl Record Co.) [full review]
"Of Montreal is expected to produce trippy, upbeat records that exist sheerly for their fun content. Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? is so much more. This is front man Kevin Barnes definitive statement, a reconstruction of the shards of a broken heart into an extravagant masterpiece. It all climaxes with The Past is a Grotesque Animal, a brutally frank twelve-minute epic effervescing with obscure references, admissions and unexpected blasts of guitar. Barnes has reached down deep to add pain to the mix, while never disturbing the throbbing beats and surging synths that make up Of Montreal. The first words of the album are "We just want to emote until we're dead." They couldn't be more appropriate." - Brett Oronzio
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3. ARCADE FIRE
"Neon Bible" (Merge) [full review]
"A recording that revealed both the possibilities and the limits of rock and roll circa 2007. Neither too difficult nor too murky for a mass audience and as hooky and passionate as any of the great pop rock records of the past, it sold respectfully but failed to puncture the mainstream in any serious way. All of which should serve as final confirmation that our moment has, at least temporarily, passed. And so its anthems must play to a marginalized community that secretly desires acceptance on a scale our forefathers enjoyed, inspiring solidarity in souls atomized and alone. An unexpectedly melancholy masterpiece." - Alan Shulman
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2. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
"Sound Of Silver" (EMI/DFA) [full review]
"If there was a prize for Most Suitable Album Title of 2007, LCD Soundsystem's sophomore effort Sound of Silver would win it. From the opening clatters of Get Innocuous! to the closing balladry of New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down, the fifty-five minutes contained on this disc are exactly what you expect silver to sound like. Gorgeous, precious and glossy. Lyric-wise, melody-wise and elegance-wise, James Murphy outdoes himself on this stellar and unexpected masterstroke. A great step forward from his debut record, which is great, but plays in contrast with Sound of Silver like the audification of a fusty shade of bronze." - Japie Stoppelenburg
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"In Rainbows" (Radiohead) [full review]
"No surprises here, then. Except for the timing, maybe. And the pricing structure (lack of). After a four-year wait since Hail to the Thief, from announcement to download (via that perplexing moment of wondering if they were taking the piss) took barely a week. And, well, since we've all had it more or less on repeat ever since, and have long since wearied of all that pitchforking and probing at every nuance of every note of every bar of every track, what more's to say? It's the finest album, the grand cru of a vintage year, by runaway consensus of the finest assembly of music critics in the land (excluding me of course - I just make the tea - I'm only doing this because Mr Coleman's busy doing a heart by-pass and it's past the deadline). Everyone has trouble naming a fave track (Nude? Videotape? Weird Fishes/Arpeggi? I could go on), even if there are still a few diehards who - like those eighty-year-old Japanese soldiers who they occasionally still pull out of their Pacific island jungle hideouts and try to persuade that the war has been over for the last sixty-odd years - are waiting for Radiohead to get over their post-OK aberration period and return to the golden days of The Bends and Pablo Honey. To them there is really nothing to say that they want to hear (apart from thank you for your patience - please put out the lights when you leave), but, once they've been safely despatched from the pub and pointed in the right direction, it's left to the rest of us to wonder whether, had they stayed, they mightn't, after all, have at least enjoyed the tambourine in Reckoner." - Paul Roylance
. . .20 December, 2007 - 07:39 — David Coleman