Top Ten Albums of 2007 - According to Luke

Music is an extremely difficult beast to attempt to convey through descriptions and wherever I’m able to on this list I attempt to stray from any efforts which seek to convey the experience of listening to the music to any readers; instead I focus on the merits of the music and the emotional reaction which songs trigger. Be sure that even if I don’t go through an album song by song giving my own play-by-play that each album is not only good, but rather incredible and worth at least a listen to for you, particularly the top five albums.

-TRIVIA: Which two artists on this list have worked together in the past? 15 points if you know the answer.

10) Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
There is really only one term which can be used to describe an album with as much sonic power and emotional force as Neon Bible

Absolutely fucking massive

...and that's all that really needs to be said.

9) Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full

It’s quite surreal to be writing about Paul McCartney at this point. Let’s be honest, Macca may be a legend, but he’s produced some really bad solo music. Even if he occasionally hit pay-dirt with a decent album (Band on the Run) even his best efforts were wildly inconsistent. While Memory Almost Full does have a song or two which doesn’t quite hit all the right notes, it more than makes up for its weaker moments with some of Macca’s most experimental and solid music since his (yes) days with The Beatles. “Only Mama Knows” enters with overly-dramatic strings, but quickly kicks into a rousing rocker which could easily be Helter Skelter Part 2 and shows that McCartney has seemingly found a way to continue to write his songs while incorporating modern music. Similarly strong tracks like the perfectly poppy “Ever Present Past” sparkle with vitality and originality despite feeling entirely McCartney-ish. On the whole the album is simply one of the most interesting things from 2007 to listen to; it is crisp, varied, and an utter delight.

8) Silverchair – Young Modern

Yup… Silverchair.

Allow me to let that percolate for a bit.

Silverchair: “You gonna wait fat boy, fat boy, wait til tomorrow”. Fifteen-year old Curt Cobain wannabes from Australia. Greasy, grunge hair. Anorexia.

Much like their mid-90s contemporaries Nada Surf, Silverchair have slowly been building actual musical credibility with their last few album releases, even if they went largely unnoticed in the United States. Their transformation is now complete, however, as they have fully morphed into a tight, energetic, and impressively creative band led by a front man as flamboyant and confident as Brandon Flowers. Although they can still hold their own on the alternative hard-rock front, they have blossomed into a band unafraid of taking chances (7.5 minute epic “Those Thieving Birds Part 1 and Strange Behavior and Those Thieving Birds Part 2” and “If You Keep Losing Sleep”) while showcasing an ability to write appealing pop-rock songs with massive hooks (“Reflections of a Sound”, “Young Modern”) and all the while constructing a damn good album.

7) Super Furry Animals – Hey Venus!

Another pleasant surprise on this list, Hey Venus finds SFA finally back on the top of their game. After releasing completely brilliant albums in the 90s and early 2000s such as Radiator and Rings Around the World (and a song called “Ice Hockey Hair”… inspired!), SFA began to fade along with many of their counterparts in the britrock movement (despite being unfairly lumped in with the rest). Phantom Power was decent but had too few strong songs and, although they are to be commended for mixing it up on 2005’s Love Kraft; it was a bad, bad album. So it was altogether insane for one to believe that they could in any way recapture their former glory.

Hey Venus!, however, showcases SFA at their best with their trademark weirdness mixing perfectly once again with 60s pop inspired melodies and the lavish production which made Rings Around the World one of the greatest albums of the 90s. “Show Your Hand” and “Run Away” are nuggets of pure joy and Gruff Rhys voice is as strong and unique as ever. Have a listen and enjoy…

6) Band of Horses – Cease to Begin

Cease to Begin was not even on my radar this year as Band of Horses’ first album not only failed to make my top ten list but failed to inspire more than two listens. The album was simply bad. I’m not quite sure how they have managed to go from such a poor album (in this humble blogger’s opinion) to such an inspired work of modern music. The album sails along smoothly throughout its course as Band of Horses’ styles, the up-tempo, layered rockers like “Is There a Ghost” and “Marry Song”, and the slower songs tinged with country such as “The General Specific”, meld perfectly together, creating a unique and full vision which sparkles with careful production and honesty.

5) Radiohead – In Rainbows

It’s good… read Jameson’s review.

I will only add that not only are the members of Radiohead musical geniuses, but they are also economic masters of the universe.

4) Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
I’ve never had more pop-rock albums on a top ten list than this year, and although this album is only really the third best of its genre this year, according to me, it is still an amazing piece of music, particularly when one considers how Spoon continue to reinvent themselves and their music without altering significantly what they play or how they play their music. They have added some new twists as horns are introducted into songs like the Motown inspired “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb”, but for the most part this is the same Spoon it has always been (though more closely linked with Gimme Fiction than any other album) and yet they somehow make themselves sound completely new and fresh.

The melodies are among the catchiest ever produced by someone who sounds like the sound your feet make when you walk on gravel, and lift “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” into heights which easily lift Spoon immediately into the pantheon of ‘important’ modern bands.

3) Mr. Hudson and the Library – A Tale of Two Cities

This is quite possibly among the most original albums ever created. Refusing to be satisfied with the awful mashups which layer classic, jazzy songs over modern beats, Ben Hudson felt the need to properly mix jazz and hip hop, utilizing his love of Chet Baker (a favorite of this blogger) and his experience as a beat-maker. What he manages to produce is nothing short of astounding. A Tale of Two Cities, awful album name aside, is probably among the coolest albums anyone will ever produce. Cool in the Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Rat Pack, skinny tie, “I’m so cool I set my own trends” sense. The songs are sparsely played, with minimal beats and instrumentation, but Hudson strikes a perfect balance between his melodies, beats, heavy bass, and wry lyrical musings.

“Bread and Roses” is an epiphany of a song and “Brave the Cold” and “Ask the DJ” showcase Hudson’s unique view of life while propelling the songs forward with unique and lovely production. If it hadn’t been a particularly strong year for music, this would easily have been the number one album of the year. As it is, it is a near perfect piece of music.

2) The Electric Soft Parade – No Need to be Downhearted

The Brothers White return with their third album as ESP and it clearly shows their maturity from teenage wonders to full grown indie pop-sters. No Need to be Downhearted is one of those albums which, when it finally kicks into gear, is almost impossible not to listen to all the way through. From hair-metal guitar licks to Bonham-esque drums, through Weezer-ish pop and heartfelt string arrangements ESP have crafted an album without a dull moment and managed to squash in so many different musical ideas that it is a wonder they were able to keep a single identity throughout the entirety. Considering the fact that too few albums released today actually have flow and cohesion their ability to smash together a broad range of song types and have it come out as smooth and effortless as No Need to be Downhearted might be their most important and impressive achievement.

If you need a single song album primer go find “If That’s the Case, Then I Don’t Know” and experience one of the greatest riffs and chord progressions ever produced in modern rock.

1) Field Music – Tones of Town

Field Music managed to produce my #2 album of 2005 and the fact that they are the only holdover from that list appearing here should be a telling sign. Throughout this year I’ve been consistently complimenting originality and cohesive visions and no album sums up those concepts better than Field Music. Tones of Town is a singular achievement which transcends description, but if pushed only one word can possibly come close to describing it: woodblock.

The use of the woodblock on songs has not been in popular demand since… well, ever. Yet, Field Music not only manages to cram their two minute masterpieces with more instrumentation, harmony, and lyrical sharpness than you can shake a stick at, they also manage to make wondrous use of cowbells, handclaps, beat-boxing, and woodblocks. This is not a joke. After hearing “A House if Not a Home” I not only wanted to buy a woodblock, I felt myself smiling for no absolutely reason. The entire album, in fact, makes me smile, sing along, clap my hands, and dance (in a way only Elaine Benes could appreciate).

Tones of Town clocks in at a thin 31 minutes, but its 11 songs are anything but skeletal. The amount of variation in songs, sounds, and styles achieved by Field Music is nothing short of miraculous, making the album infinitely listenable and continuingly surprising and pleasing. After any listen, though, one is always left with the same general feeling: complete satisfaction and wonder.



Jameson said...

Ok - I need to listen to some of these albums. A couple things...1) That Spoon album is really great. It is weird with Spoon though. I always love their albums when they are on, but rarely find myself motivated about about putting them on. Does that make sense? No. Album is still tops though. 2) The new Band of Horses is starting to grow on me. At first, I was disappointed in it, but I am liking it more and more. Sidenote: perhaps you need to give their first album a few more listens. I still think its superior to this one.

Good stuff though Luke. Looks like you are carrying the weight for me while i trudge through busy season.

Luke said...

I'm definitely going to have to go back to that first Band of Horses album... I think I may have made a serious mistake there.

Understand the Spoon thing. I do that with a lot of bands. I think its a reaction I have to albums which are uneven... they can still be great but its just the odd song on it that sours the taste in my mouth and leaves me searching for something else.

I've got 3 more articles in the hopper, sir czech, so I'm going to continue to pound the thing out.

Hope busy season isn't killing you...