Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Favorite Albums of 2007

We're taking one step closer to the present with this one: 2007. As I was making that dreaded switch from middle school to high school, several of my favorite bands were releasing excellent albums. It was this year that I began embracing more experimental music (Throbbing Gristle, early Sonic Youth), and, though most of my top picks are more straightforward, I think this is a more sonically interesting group of albums. So, yeah. Enjoy.

1. LCD Soundsystem--Sound Of Silver
If Sound of Silver just had tracks 3 through 6, it would be the album (or maybe EP) of the year. "North American Scum," "Someone Great," "All My Friends," and "Us vs. Them" are four of the best songs of the year, with the middle two being arguably #2 and #1, respectively. But Sound of Silver has more than just those four songs. It has countless disco grooves, like the previous album. It has immeasurable sarcasm, like the previous album. But it has a personal, emotional feel unbeknownst to any James Murphy album or any modern electronic album period.

2. Panda Bear--Person Pitch
Panda Bear took a lot of what we loved about Animal Collective, and he made it, well, better. His samples are expertly chosen and expertly looped. His voice soars above said samples, drowned in reverb and background noise. The songs are poppy, but experimental. Long, but they go by quickly. Repetitive, but in a good way. It sounds like Animal Collective, but it's different enough that it feels uniquely just Panda Bear. And the thing that makes it different from AC (at least post Sung Tongs AC) is that it's truly a beautiful, personal album.

3. Animal Collective--Strawberry Jam
Which is not to say Animal Collective is not at all beautiful or personal, or not good. They're really good. I'd even say great. And Strawberry Jam is no exception to that rule. On it, they continue to mature, crafting songs with a little more feeling and structure than on previous works. The result is magnificent, as "Fireworks" is the best song they've ever written, and tracks like "For Revered Green" and "Peacebone" are up in that Pantheon. This album was mostly Avey Tare, so Panda Bear may win this year, but it's a darn close race.

4. Battles--Mirrored
This is probably the tightest debut album I've ever heard. A "supergroup" of sorts (one guy is from Helmet, one guy is from Don Caballero, one guy is from something else, and one guy is Ty Braxton a.k.a. son of Anthony), Battles created a truly unique, heavy, weird, but accessible album in Mirrored. The obvious standout is "Atlas," but the rest of the tracks have a similar energy and the same flawless production. Seeing them live confirmed my feelings because watching them loop everything and play with such vitruosity with my own eyes was awesome.

5. Burial--Untrue
I listened to Untrue every night for about a month after I got it, and, up until a week ago, it was still in my (well, my mom's) car CD changer. It's so atmospheric, I feel like I'm on a bus in London in the wee small hours of the morning every time I hear it, and, for someone who is usually sleeping during those hours, that's a refreshing feeling. Usually "personal" is a quality a value (and overuse in these reviews). Untrue should not be personal. Burial was anonymous when it came out. There are no unsynthesized vocals. But it's deeply personal, and it's great.

6. Dirty Projectors--Rise Above
Rise Above, as you probably know, is Dirty Projectors redoing Black Flag's Damaged. It didn't make much sense the first time I heard it, seeing as the bands are pretty (very) different, but then I actually heard the music. The songs are nothing like the originals at all. They are Dirty Projectors songs through and through. And here, on Rise Above, Dave Longstreth has finally found a cast of characters surrounding him that are talented enough to satisfy his vision. This album shows a more refined Dirty Projectors on their way to Bitte Orca, which is a good thing.

7. The Field--From Here We Go Sublime
It's techno, yes, but it's not at all like the Detroit stuff you've been hearing for the last 25 years. The Field samples his way to blissful, hypnotic dance music heaven. Sublime is an album, like many that I've talked about, that is certainly suited for the dance floor, but sounds great on headphones. It is simultaneously energizing and relaxing, light and dark, which is weird, but awesome. This album is different for me, because I usually like my dance music produced by DFA, but this is completely different from that, and I like it.

8. No Age--Weirdo Rippers
This album may have started the current trend of lo-fi punk and psychedelia (which I'm not too fond of), but it's still great. No Age combines sonic experimentation with smart, loud post-punk-y punk. They take a minimal approach (a reference point would be Pink Flag era Wire, etc.) that is refreshing. Punk is dead, there's no doubt about that. Sadly, it left the world about 25 years ago. But No Age's approach to punk may just be able to revive it, albeit in a bit of a different form.

9. Liars--Liars
Say what you will about them, but you can't call Liars complacent. Another new album yields another new sound for them. This time, they've abandoned the minimalist experimenting of Drum's Not Dead in favor of fuzzy, hard, shoegaze-y rock. And despite changing their sound a lot with every album, Liars are still really good. This album is for sure their most accessible. "Houseclouds" kind of sounds like Beck, even. Nonetheless, this is a heavy, fun, and scuzzy rock record that basically on par with their other work.

10. Dan Deacon--Spiderman Of The Rings
Spiderman Of The Rings is a completely absurd, ridiculous, schizophrenic work of electronic music. And it's awesome for it. Dan Deacon streamlined his sound on this album to create actual songs with actual hooks, but not at the expense of his noisy, clattery electronic experiments. "Fun" might be the best adjective to use to describe this, but, as fun as it is, it's also really smart and excellently produced. These songs are entirely wild and bizarre, and entirely fun and brilliant.

11. M.I.A.--Kala
M.I.A. continues to do what she did on Arular on Kala; she writes really catchy, fun, protesting pop songs that don't really sound like pop songs. (Except, of course, for "Paper Planes"). She's still very much pissed off at the world, but not so much that she'll stop having brilliant hooks and purposefully chaotic, worldly production. And this album certainly is worldly. It seems as if every song is dedicated to (and in the musical style of) a different impoverished nation. She sarcastic, snotty, and she just might save the world, too.

12. Deerhunter--Cryptograms
Cryptograms is one of the most psychedelic-sounding pop records to come out since the 1960s. But, while it is steeped in the tradition of both 60s garage bands and late 80s/early 90s shoegazers, it sounds quintessentially 2007. Periods of psychedelic droning are intermixed with big guitars and big hooks to create a truly interesting and unique pop album that set up a good template for what was to come on Microcastle the following year.

13. Caribou--Andorra
The write-up for the previous album on this list would actually suit Caribou's Andorra pretty nicely. It is definitely a psychedelic pop record that owes a lot to the 1960s while still sounding completely modern. Despite that fact, though, Andorra and Cryptograms are certainly different sounding. Whereas as Cryptograms is raw and dark, Andorra is a bright, beautifully produced pop album. It's very happy and fun while still maintaining a psychedelic vibe.

14. Deerhoof--Friend Opportunity
Friend Opportunity continues Deerhoof's pretty consistent streak of avant-pop albums. On it, the band continues to refine their sound and structures without losing any of their schtick. The vocals are the same and the heavy guitar riffs are still there, but it is definitely easier to swallow than any of their previous releases. That said, it's also their second or third best (1. Runners Four, 2. maybe Apple O'), so I'm not complaining.

15. Chromatics--Night Drive
Night Drive mixes synth-pop, Italo Disco, and some Kate Bush to create a sleek and fresh electro-pop sound. It's steeped in dance music, but it's slow and difficult to dance to. It's better suited for a nighttime car ride through the city. (Hence the title.) The music is cold and glossy at first, but it grows warmer with more listens. They cover "Running Up That Hill," and, while they don't change too much, it still sounds like a Chromatics original, which is good.

And roundin' out the top 30...
16. Beirut--The Flying Club Cup
17. Prinzhorn Dance School--Prinzhorn Dance School
18 Tinariwen--Aman Iman
19. Of Montreal--Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
20. Italians Do It Better--After Dark (compilation)
21. Health--Health
22. The Arcade Fire--Neon Bible
23. Pantha Du Prince--This Bliss
24. Robert Wyatt--Comicopera
25. Matthew Dear--Asa Breed
26. Bear Bones, Lay Low--Djid Hums
27. The Black Lips--Good Bad Not Evil
28. Radiohead--In Rainbows
29. Dizzee Rascal--Maths + English
30. A Place To Bury Strangers--A Place To Bury Strangers

That's what I think. Obviously. I posted it, didn't I?

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