My Favorite Albums of 2007

20. Deer Tick - War Elephant

MP3 :: Dirty Dishes
MP3 :: Diamond Rings 2007

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19. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha

MP3 :: Heretics
MP3 :: Scythian Empire

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18. Okkervil River - The Stage Names

MP3 :: Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe

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17. Band of Horses - Cease To Begin

MP3 :: Is There A Ghost

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16. Battles - Mirrored

MP3 :: Atlas

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15. The Roadside Graves - No One Will Know Where You’ve Been

MP3 :: West Coast
MP3 :: Radio

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14. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd’s Dog

MP3 :: Boy With A Coin
MP3 :: Innocent Bones

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13. The Field - From Here We Go Sublime

For me, 2007 was the year electronica broke. Neither The Field, Dan Deacon, or Gui Boratto are artists I would have paid attention to before starting an mp3 blog. But by constantly being online and, therefore, constantly seeing the rave reviews, I was kept interested. And now at the end of the year I can safely say that the warm, sweeping soundscapes on this Swedish band’s (actually just Axel Willner) debut are among the most beautiful songs I’ve heard all year.

MP3 :: A Paw In My Face
MP3 :: Good Things End

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12. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Hissing Fauna.. is a schizophrenic song cycle from one of indie rock’s most prolific bands. It’s also often uncomfortably personal, as lead singer/songwriter Kevin Barnes bravely lays bare every facet of his relationship - no doubt, desire, secret, or flaw is spared. The band matches Barnes’ openness with equally captivating arrangements - songs sway from prescription fueled indie-pop to coy disco-flavored nuggets to winding epics (the unconquerable “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal”). On that song Barnes sings “we want our films to be beautiful, not realistic” - he’s accomplished making music that is both.

MP3 :: Suffer For Fashion
MP3 :: The Past Is A Grotesque Animal

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11. Arcade Fire - Neon BibleMP3 :: Keep The Car Running
MP3 :: Black Mirror

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10. Phosphorescent - Pride

Matthew Houck has created another hypnotic, meditative song cycle with Pride, bettering 2005’s underrated Aw Come Aw Wry. His songs sound like true field recordings - the buzz of night insects sing harmony on more than one song - and on “Wolves”, one of the year’s most beautiful and arresting tracks, Houck sounds resigned to the violence that is out there, inevitably to enter his home. This man deserves to be mentioned with Sam Beam, M.Ward, and Tim Rutelli as a forerunner among progressive American folk artists, and Pride is the irreconcilable proof.

MP3 :: A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise

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9. The National Lights - The Dead Will Walk, Dear

The songs on the debut record from Jacob Berns’ folk group The National Lights are the most hauntingly beautiful you’ll hear all year. Literally. Each one touches on some combination of ghosts, death, dark secrets, lost love, and non-accidental drowning. Berns is clearly inspired by the American Gothic short stories of Flannery O’Connor, and it doesn’t hurt that he hides his take on the traditional murder ballad behind songs that, without close attention, come across as just a series of lost love songs. Dig deeper though and you’ll find the river has washed away the hearts and bones, leaving only memories and Berns’ hushed, twee vocals to hint at a gruesome tale. With help from the beautiful harmonies of Sonya Cotton and the crisp production of Chris Kiehne, The National Lights have released one of the year’s best debut records of any genre.

MP3 :: Midwest Town
MP3 :: Buried Treasure
MP3 :: Mess Around

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8. Burial - UntrueThe music on the mysterious Burial’s second offering in as many years is the perfect soundtrack for the cold winter days ahead; a distant and alien sounding collection of R&B vocal samples, emaciated beats and keyboards, and scratchy blips and bleeps. Whatever haunted universe this music is beaming from must be lovely, dark, and deep.

MP3 :: Archangel
MP3 :: Ghost Hardware

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7. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam is Animal Collective at their most accessible; it’s an expansive and continuously rewarding art-pop record that reveals new strengths and secrets with every listen. Avey Tare has blossomed into a singer with a wildly expressive range, leaping from pillowy soft whispers to throat-scraping screams with ease, and leads the band further away from the dreamy, child-like lo-fi folk of earlier releases to something darker and more immediately disturbing here. And although he only sings lead on 2 songs, that increasingly distinctive Panda Bear stamp is all over Strawberry Jam in his beautiful harmonies.

MP3 :: Peacebone
MP3 :: For Reverend Green

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6. A.A. Bondy - American HeartsThe title track may refer to a country of bruised hearts, but the songs on A.A. Bondy’s solo debut deal mostly with the stuff that’s in his. Bondy uses the back-drop of his folk and folk-blues songs to mix lyrics of both personal and political insight. His greatest asset though is a voice full of Southern cracks, recorded dry and intimate. When he sings the chorus of “Witness Blues” - and once there was a time to join the army, and once there was a time to hear the news, and once there was a time for easy silence, but now the jury waits for you - it’s as if he’s rewritten “Blowing In The Wind” for a nation whose history is repeating itself. Again.

MP3 :: There’s A Reason
MP3 :: Witness Blues

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5. The National - Boxer

2005’s brash Alligator should have announced a new critical darling to the indie-rock scene, but for some reason it took many critics until Boxer to catch up with the band. Calling Alligator a “grower”, as many have, is absurd - a completely revisionist excuse for missing the boat. I’ve hardly been smacked harder in the face on first listen by an album this decade than I was the first time I heard the rolling chords of “Secret Meeting”. If anything, Boxer is the grower of the two. Far less immediate than it’s more puffed up (and at times comically egotistical) predecessor, Boxer revels in its gauzy, impossibly rhythmic arrangements and the red wine buzz of Matt Berninger’s aristocratic baritone. If Craig Finn has become the street-poet laureate for those with blue collars and a soft spot for their wild, youthful nights, on Boxer Berninger is at least his white collar equivalent for those in their early 30s growing tired of balancing a day job and a nightlife.

MP3 :: Slow Show
MP3 :: Apartment Story

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4. Handsome Furs - Plague Park

As the less critically adored half of Wolf Parade Dan Boeckner has been living in the shadow of the erratic genius of Spencer Krug. Plague Park should be proof enough that Boeckner is deserving of no such fate. His is Wolf Parade’s steady hand; he added a solid group of emotionally charged mini-anthems to Apologies To The Queen Mary, and does the same on the debut of his side project. His songs have always been infused with plenty of power chords and Will Johnson-meets-Beck-meets-“Eddie and the Cruisers” vocals, but on Plague Park the arrangements are stripped down to their primal core and drip with gritty urban paranoia.

MP3 :: What We Had
MP3 :: Cannot Get, Started

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3. Radiohead - In Rainbows

In Rainbows is sheer brilliance - a concise, instrumentally fluid, and song-oriented album from arguably the best band of the past 15 years. Priceless.

MP3 :: Nude
MP3 :: House of Cards

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2. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Like 2005’s workmanlike Gimme Fiction, Gax5 doesn’t do anything dramatically re-inventive with Spoon’s trademark sound - razor sharp guitars and the taut, minimal arrangements that barely contain Britt Daniels’ restless howl. But this record sees the fruition of Spoon’s gradual exploration of traditional pop sounds over the past half decade. One after another they churn out many of their catchiest songs - from the angular guitar anti-heroics of “Don’t Make Me A Target” through the sweeping “Black Like Me”. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is nothing short of a rock n’ roll celebration.

MP3 :: The Ghost Of You Lingers
MP3 :: The Underdog

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1. Panda Bear - Person Pitch

“Comfy In Nautica” is as huge and beautiful as a song can get - a pitch perfect combination of soaring melody and open space - but much of the rest of Person Pitch crept into my subconscious, demanded repeated listens, and very gradually became my favorite record of the year. While certainly companions, Person Pitch is more characterized by Pet Sounds-styled vocal melodies and its nearly tranquil, circumambient tape loops than Strawberry Jam’s nightmarish intensity. Without a doubt, Person Pitch is the most beautiful, consistently rewarding album I’ve heard all year, as well as the one I’ve listened to most. What else is there to say?

MP3 :: Comfy In Nautica

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Be sure to check back later this week for my favorite songs of the year - 40 of them, no repeat bands and no bands that are featured here. So really, my 40 favorite songs that aren't on my 20 favorite albums.

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4 comments:

Wayne said...

Great list James, Person Pitch is definitely a remarkable record. Spoon deserves their spot too. Congrats for placing Plague Park so high too, it is a wonderful album.

James said...

Thanks Wayne. A month or so ago when I really started thinking about this list I had Panda Bear at like number 5 or 6, but suddenly realized that I listened to it all the freaking time, much more consistently than anything else on here.

Plague Park may be the most underappreciated album by a well known indie rock name of the year. Man, that album is fantastic.

I'm now starting to get into the Jens Lekman, which I never gave much time to. Oh well, too late.

Later,
James

klienicum said...

yes, really great list.
you know bon iver's album?
my favourites in your list are of montreal, panda bear, iron & wine.
my favourite album in 2007 is samara lubelski "parallel suns".

mintyfreshbeats said...

Hey everyone, check out my remix if you get a chance:

Radiohead - Nude (Minty Fresh Remix)
http://radioheadremix.com/remix/?id=1527

Thanks!