When your country is supporting death squads in Indonesia and a brutal Ethiopian government that forces civilians into war, it can be quite therapeutic to crank up the tunes and forget about the world for a bit. I am in love with music. I have been since a child. Unfortunately, unlike my supremely talented contemporary gospel singing mother, I am much more comfortable listening to music than making it. The following are my picks for the top ten albums of 2007. I only chose from albums that I own, so I am positive I am missing out on quite a bit of great music. Please, let me know of that brilliant album you can't stop listening to! (Click on the band name to hear some music.)
10. Papercuts- Can't Go Back
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful pop music! What makes Can't Go Back so special is that it is a somewhat somber pop record that isn't at all boring. If I remember correctly, they are slated to begin touring with another wonderfully moody band, Beach House. Definitely worth a listen.
9. The Fiery Furnaces- Widow City
I own every album by the Fiery Furnaces (even the dude's pretty crappy solo work). After their first album they got compared to the White Stripes. They don't anymore. Perfect music for a long drive, I get lost in the complex narratives mixed with the unconventional tempo and melody changes. What really makes the Fiery Furnaces more than a band too ambitious for their own good is their uncanny ability to write catchy songs. Widow City isn't their best effort to date (that would be Blueberry Boat) nor is it their worst (I can't imagine anyone likes Rehearsing My Choir). I'll take a middle of the road release from The Fiery Furnaces any day.
8. Fionn Regan- The End of History
I don't know much about this guy other than The End of History is a wonderful album and he's from Ireland (the album was released there in 2006, but didn't reach the states until this year). I remember hearing about how he was supposed to take the U.S. by storm, but it didn't really happen. This is the album I thought Damien Rice would release.
7. Bjork- Volta
Bjork is one of my favorite artists. I have been a big fan since early high school and she is on my "I would pay over one hundred dollars to see a performance" list. While in early interviews she talked of the album being "accessible," lucky for us that meant Bjork singing lines from an old Russian poem with the vocally stunning Antony Hegarty. Add some blistering horns, some punctuating drum beats, a couple bizarre videos, and you have another superb effort by one of the most innovative artists in recent history.
6. M.I.A.- Kala
This album will no doubt be on many "best of" lists. Super-producer Timbaland was reported to be producing the album (he is the man behind many Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake songs) and that kind of had me worried (although he did a good job on a few songs with Bjork). I thought she might ditch her politics for mainstream success (MTV refused to play a video for a song on her last album because of the lyrics "like PLO I don't surrendo"). I needn't have worried. To make a long story short, she couldn't get into the states so she went across the world finding beats with an unknown producer and made one of the best hip-hop albums of the decade. Oh, and she stayed political. She still doesn't get much MTV play.
5. PJ Harvey- White Chalk
Some people were turned off by Polly Jean putting down her guitar. I think this is her best album since To Bring You My Love. Somehow she sounds both completely vulnerable and 100% in control at the same time. She sings about hitting someone with a hammer, smashing in their teeth, "red tongue twitching" only then to repeatedly sing "Oh God I miss you." Wonderful stuff.
4. Arcade Fire- Neon Bible
I can't think of another band that has more fun performing than the Arcade Fire. I am also hard pressed to think of another band that has lived up to all the expectations of such immense international hype. Not only does Neon Bible capture the same intensity that Funeral did, it at times surpasses it. Plus, they hang out with Springsteen.
3. The National- Boxer
From the opening lines of Fake Empire, I was hooked on this album. They are a smart rock band (which explains why they aren't played on many modern rock stations). With Boxer, they came close to outdoing one of my favorite albums of all time, Alligator, which is no easy task. Racing Like a Pro gives me chills.
2. Radiohead- In Rainbows
What else can be said about Radiohead? Stunning lyrics, music and never selling out- what more could you ask for? Someday, several years from now, I will enjoy explaining to a new generation of Radiohead fans how important the music is. They are my Beatles.
1. Animal Collective/Panda Bear- Strawberry Jam/Person Pitch
Wow. I grouped these two albums together because while Person Pitch is Panda Bear's solo album, Strawberry Jam seems to showcase Avey Tare (that's not to say the other members don't contribute, but you know what I mean). One would think that someday there would come a point when most everything that could be done musically, would be done. Animal Collective is proving we aren't anywhere near that point. Right now, they are making the best music on the planet. The question is: is the planet ready for the Animal Collective? Conan O'Brien seemed a bit freaked out.