December 7, 2007

Best albums of 2007

Time once again for my round-up of the year's top albums.

It was a particularly strong year for music and I was fortunate to be able to listen to a lot of it. Over 125 albums to be exact. My genres of choice included alternative rock, post-rock, experimental, metal, post-metal, industrial, alternative country, electronica and ambient.

This year I rated each album out of 10 stars. A 9+ rating means it's a classic, above 8 is excellent, and anything between 7.0 and 7.9 is still worth your while. Stay away from anything below 6.9.

My album ratings for 2007:

#1. 23 by Blonde Redhead (9.4)
Beautiful, sweeping and melodic dream pop. Stand-out tracks: "23", "Silently," "The Dress," and "Top Ranking." Top ranking indeed.

#2. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon (9.3)
Every track shines on this classy, fun and perfectly crafted album; one of the great bands of this decade. Stand-out tracks: "Don't Make Me a Target," "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case," and "Don't You Evah."

#3. Fear of a Blank Planet by Porcupine Tree (9.2)
Best prog album of the year by a long-shot, and one of Porcupine Tree's best albums yet. Stand-out tracks: "Sleep Together," "Anesthetize," and "Sentimental."

#4. Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? by Of Montreal (9.1)
Alt-pop, anyone? More fun than anyone should be allowed to have with one album. Stand-out tracks: "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider," "Faberge Falls for Shuggie," and "Labrinthian Pop."

#5. In Rainbows by Radiohead (9.0)
Unexpected greatness after a 4-year hiatus; Radiohead still matters. Stand-out tracks: "15 Step," "Bodysnatchers," and "House of Cards."

6. Children Running Through by Patty Griffen (8.9)
The only alt-country diva who comes close to Neko Case; unbelievable vocal performances and solid songwriting. Stand-out tracks: "Stay on the Ride," "Getting Ready."

7. Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails (8.9)
Reznor is relevant again. "Survivalism," "The Beginning of the End," "Vessel."

8. Andorra by Caribou (8.8)
Smooth, melodic and organic; sets a new standard for what can be done with samples. "Melody Day," "After Hours."

9. Excellent Italian Greyhound by Shellac (8.8)
This is what happens when you let recording engineers make an album; can you hear me now!!?? "Be Prepared," "The End of Radio," "Steady As She Goes."

10. Neon Bible by Arcade Fire (8.8)
Despite the hype, they deliver; these guys are for real. "Keep the Car Running," "Intervention."

11. Sky Blue Sky by Wilco (8.8)
Bringing that 70s FM sound to the 21st century -- guitar solos and all; Tweedy's melodies slay. "Either Way," "Impossible Germany," "Shake it Off."

12. Mirrored by Battles (8.8)
Four very talented guys who sound like eight very talented guys. "Atlas"

13. White Chalk by PJ Harvey (8.8)
Mmmmm, PJ on the piano. "The Devil"

14. Trees Outside the Academy by Thurston Moore (8.7)
This album is so good. Sweet arrangements, and even sweeter songwriting. "Off Work," "The Shape is in a Trance."

15. Population by The Most Serene Republic (8.7)
Best post-rock release of the year; another excellent addition to the very characteristic Toronto music scene. "Why So Looking Back," "Solipsism Millionaires."

16. Person Pitch by Panda Bear (8.7)
Brian Wilson meets experimental post-rock. And rollercoasters. "I'm Not," "Bros," "Take Pills."

17. Cease to Begin by Band of Horses (8.7)
Not quite up there with My Morning Jacket, but definitely a band that's coming into their own; solid sophomore release. "Islands on the Coast"

18. Beauty and Crimes by Suzanne Vega (8.7)
Yes, Suzanne Vega released an album this year -- and you should be sorry you missed it. "Anniversary," "Ludlow Street."

19. Friend Opportunity by Deerhoof (8.7)
Cute, quirky and sometimes non-sensical; I think these guys might actually be geniuses. "Matchbook Seeks Maniac," "Perfect Me," "+81"

20. Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True by Fair to Midland (8.7)
Pop-metal that doesn't offend; dramatic, confident, and solid from start to finish. "Dance of the Manatee," "Walls of Jericho."

21. Death is this Communion by High on Fire (8.7)
A metal purist's delight; this is what thunder would sound like if it formed a band. "Death is this Communion," "Fury Whip."

22. Wincing the Night Away by The Shins (8.7)
Not as dazzling and fresh as their first two releases; maybe I'm starting to take their brilliance for granted. "Sleeping Lessons," "Sea Legs," "A Comet Appears."

23. Cross by Justice (8.6)
Absolutely huge sound design; I'd write more but I have to go dance now. "D.A.N.C.E.," "Phantom," "Genesis," "Tthhee Ppaarrttyy," "Valentine."

24. Drums and Guns by Low (8.6)
Sadcore that actually uplifts. "Hatchet," "Pretty People."

25. The Apostasy by Behemoth (8.6)
Polish blackened death metal brutality. "Slaying the Prophets Ov Isa," "Be Without Fear."

26. City of Echos by Pelican (8.6)
Consistently excellent instrumental post-rock that comes oh so close to post-metal. "A Delicate Sense of Balance," "Spaceship Broken Need Parts," "City of Echoes."

27. Challengers by New Pornographers, The (8.6)
Proving that they are in fact mortal, it's their weakest album yet, but the Neko tracks shine; still better than most bands. "Go Places," "Myriad Harbour," "All the Old Showstoppers."

28. Kala by M.I.A. (8.6)
Crank this sucker; brilliant use of samples and crazy beats. "Bird Flu," "Bamboo Banga," "Boyz," "Hussel."

The rest:

29. West by Lucinda Williams (8.5)
30. Liars by Liars (8.5)
31. Friend and Foe by Menomena (8.5)
32. Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth (8.5)
33. Harvest by Naglfar (8.5)
34. Conqueror by Jesu (8.5)
35. Nil Recurring by Porcupine Tree (8.5)
36. Make Another World by Idlewild (8.5)
37. The Boy With No Name by Travis (8.4)
38. Send Away the Tigers by The Manic Street Preachers (8.4)
39. The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse by The Besnard Lakes (8.4)
40. The Shepherd's Dog by Iron and Wine (8.4)
41. Night Falls Over Kortedala by Jens Lekman (8.4)
42. Amoeba by Hacride (8.4)
43. Snakes and Arrows by Rush (8.4)
44. Fort Nightly by White Rabbits (8.4)
45. Armchair Apocrypha by Andrew Bird (8.3)
46. Ithyphallic by Nile (8.3)
47. Ongiara by Great Lake Swimmers (8.3)
48. Here We Go Sublime by The Field (8.3)
49. Boxer by The National (8.3)
50. Grinderman by Grinderman (8.3)
51. Saltbreakers by Laura Veirs (8.2)
52. The Fragile Army by Polyphonic Spree (8.2)
53. Serpent Saints by Entombed (8.2)
54. Untrue by Burial (8.2)
55. Down Below It's Chaos by Kinski (8.1)
56. Passenger by Mnemic (8.1)
57. We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank by Modest Mouse (8.1)
58. Grindstone by Shining (8.1)
59. Drastic Fantastic by KT Tunstall (8.0)
60. Grindhouse - Deathproof by Various Artists (8.0)
61. The Good the Bad and the Queen (8.0)
62. Oh, Perilous World by Rasputina (7.9)
63. Rapid Eye Movement by Riverside (7.9)
64. Ire Works by Dillinger Escape Plan, The (7.9)
65. Cassadaga by Bright Eyes (7.8)
66. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver (7.8)
67. Strawberry Jam by Animal Collective (7.8)
68. No Shouts No Calls by Electrelane (7.8)
69. The Last Sucker by Ministry (7.7)
70. The Blackening by Machine Head (7.7)
71. Samus Octology by Irepress (7.6)
72. Songs III Bird on the Water by Marissa Nadler (7.6)
73. Ghosts Will Come and Kiss Our Eyes by Hrsta (7.6)
74. The Stage Names by Okkervil River (7.5)
75. The Sun by Fridge (7.5)
76. Ordo Ad Chao by Mayhem (7.5)
77. Widow City by Fiery Furnaces (7.4)
78. Pocket Symphony by Air (7.4)
79. With Oden on Our Side by Amon Amarth (7.4)
80. Visitations by Clinic (7.3)
81. The Reminder by Feist (7.3)
82. The Mix-Up by The Beastie Boys (7.3)
83. Favourite Worst Nighmare by Arctic Monkeys (7.2)
84. And Your City Needs Swallowing by I Am the Ocean (7.2)
85. Release the Stars by Rufus Wainwright (7.2)
86. Restless in the Tides by Forever in Terror (7.2)
87. Copia by Eluvium (7.2)
88. The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn by CocoRosie (7.2)
89. Sound of Silver by LCD Soundsystem (7.2)
90. Family Tree by Nick Drake (7.1)
91. Country Mouse, City House by Josh Rouse (7.1)
92. The Con by Tegan & Sara (7.1)
93. La Cucaracha by Ween (7.1)
94. From Beale Street to Obliveon by Clutch (7.1)
95. The Marrow of a Bone by Dir En Grey (7.1)
96. An Ocean Between Us by As I Lay Dying (7.1)
97. Astronomy for Dogs by The Aliens (7.0)
98. Icons, Abstracts Thee [EP] by Of Montreal (7.0)
99. Deliver Us by Darkest Hour (7.0)
100. Shadows in the Light by Immolation (7.0)
101. In Stormy Nights by Ghost (7.0)
102. A Weekend in the City by Bloc Party (7.0)
103. Icky Thump by White Stripes (6.9)
104. Yours to Keep by Albert Hammond Jr. (6.9)
105. Tears of the Valedictorian by Frog Eyes (6.8)
106. New Wave by Against Me! (6.8)
107. In Sorte Diaboli by Dimmu Borgir (6.7)
108. Yours Truly, Angry Mob by Kaiser Chiefs (6.6)
109. Elect the Dead by Serj Tankian (6.6)
110. The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter by Josh Ritter (6.5)
111. Foley Room by Amon Tobin (6.5)
112. This Age of Silence by Anterior (6.5)
113. Xenosapien by Cephallic Carnage (6.5)
114. Places Like This by Architecture In Helsinki (6.4)
115. It's A Bit Complicated by Art Brut (6.4)
116. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend by Miranda Lambert (6.4)
117. Living With The Living by Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (6.3)
118. Volta by Bjork (6.3)
119. Under the Blacklight by Rilo Kiley (5.9)
120. Some Loud Thunder by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (5.8)
121. Never Hear the End of It by Sloan (5.8)
122. Punch by Sondre Lerche & the Faces Down (5.7)
123. Vena Sera by Chevelle (5.6)
124. Era Vulgaris by Queens of the Stoneage (5.6)
125. Our Love to Admire by Interpol (5.2)
126. Chrome Dreams II by Neil Young (4.9)
127. United Abominations by Megadeth (4.6)
128. One Man Revolution by The Nightwatchman (4.2)

Comments welcome! Please feel free to submit your own top five.


Elf Sternberg said...

Fear of a Blank Planet? Really?

I saw PT in concert when this album came out and was really disappointed. Compared to earlier work like Signify and (especially) Voyage 34, FoaBP was uninspired Emo Metal. I've loved PT for a long, long time, but this just wasn't their best showing.

George said...

PT Emo Metal!!?? Dude....

Anonymous said...

Great list.

Of Montreal and NIN really hit homeruns this year.

Jason said...

You listened to and rated all those albums, and left off the Smashing Pumpkins?

George said...

re: Smashing Pumpkins: I caught a few of the tracks and decided the album wasn't worthy of review.

Anonymous said...

Blonde Redhead "23" was indeed a great album.

benjamin said...

did you actually listen to all these? why was islands on the coast your stand-out track from cease to begin?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it all depends on where you are in life, but for someone who has suffered through a rather traumatic break-up in recent months, Feist's The Reminder is one of the best albums of this or any year for coming to terms with the loss of a loved one. Granted, there are a few tracks that miss the mark, but even those are catchy in their own right (i.e., "Brandy Alexander"). And don't hold the apple commercial against her ;-)
One final comment - she was awesome live--a fantastically talented woman.

Anonymous said...

Good List. Why did you put Interpol and Neil Young at the bottom? Were you a fan before these 2 cds? Seems a bit harsh.

George said...

Hey Benjamin: Yes, I really did listen to all these CDs (I listen to a lot of music). As for the Band Horses track, what can I tell you, I thought it was a great track.

George said...

Jonnykat: Yeah, I'm a big fan of both bands, which is probably why I'm hyper-critical. The Neil Young was practically unlistenable for me, and as for Interpol, well, one album wonders.....

RB said...

Nice, exhaustive list. Like lots of the Top 10 choices, too. You turned me onto Patty Griffin..I'd not listened to it yet and wow, it's awesome.

Johnny Smoke said...

Where's Carly Simon and The Eagles? Just kidding. Great list, thanks for sharing.

Not sure where I'd rank these against your list but I think they're certainly worth a mention here.

1. Explosions in the Sky - All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
2. The Frames/Glen Hansard - The Cost
3. Amy Winehouse - Rehab
4. Alison Krauss & Robert Plant - Rising Sand
5. The Stooges - The Weirdness
6. Kings of Leon - Because of the Times
7. Mika - Life In A Cartoon
8. The Album Leaf - Into The Blue Again
9. Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block
10. Kate Mann - Devil's Rope
11. Interpol - Our Love To Admire

Unknown said...

Your list is one for the best and partly because you did not included the latter above - who needs Iggy Pop in 2007 - Amie Crackhouse is joke ...

However, you forgot

Liars by Liars
The Adventures of ghosthorse & stillborn by Cocorosie
The Magic Position by Patrick Wolf
Through the Panama by Sightings
New Wave by Against Me!

Johnny Smoke said...

Loic - I'll "give" you the Stooges but you show me anyone that's had an impact on jazz/r&b like Winehouse has in the last 30 years. She and Mark Ronson single-handly got America(if only for a minute) off their American Idol asses so they could give real music a second look. Your comment seems more aimed at her habit than her ability. I suppose Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis were hacks too?