Thursday, August 21, 2008

CSR's Top Albums of 2007

Here’s my better-late list of the top albums of 2007; like I said last year, I like to let them settle a bit, strip away the hype, and see which ones are really worth your cash, or if you have them already, which ones are still fun to pull off the shelf.

[20] The Big Doe Rehab // Ghostface Killah
Far from his best, but pretty good from Pretty Toney is better than 95% of the Hip-Hop out there; “We Celebrate” is a killer.

[19] The Good, The Bad & The Queen // The Good, The Bad & The Queen
Released in January of ’07, and virtually overlooked by the end of the year, this remains a solid collection of languid afro-dub-folk from Damon Albarn’s latest supergroup.

[18] Mirrored // Battles
The inventive techno-math-rock of Battles argues that if technology is going to keep changing the music business, then shouldn’t it change the music too?

[17] Neon Bible // Arcade Fire
Funeral was like a warm blanket in the winter, but the band wisely thawed out, and took to the streets with colossal anthems for the masses.

[16] American Gangster // Jay-Z
After the regrettable Kingdom Come, the world wished he had stayed away, but Jay made us all feel foolish when he dropped this surprisingly great album, one of his best.

[15] Myth Takes // !!!
While most of the rock bands that aimed for the dancefloor and failed move on to their next gimmick, !!! sticks to what they do best, filling floors with fiery, psychedelic punk-rave-disco-funk.

[14] Weird Rippers // No Age
It’s not so much the music, most of which sounds like it was dubbed onto cassette in a Cali garage in 1981, but the myriad possibilities of the do-it-yourself punk duo’s imagination and infectious innocence that slaps a smile on your face.

[13] Living With The Living + Mo’ Living EP // Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Whether the world wants to give him his propers or not, Ted Leo is one our greatest songwriters and Rock & Roll heroes; and whether you want to give yourself over to his fifth Pharmacists album – 15 songs, fattened with 5 more tracks on the bonus Mo’ Living EP, that covers power-pop, political hardcore, classic soul, arena rock, white-boy reggae and epic balladry – it still manages to be his excellent stab at making a London Calling-style opus.

[12] Kala // M.I.A.
I wasn’t as sold as Rolling Stone, which dubbed this sophomore slump the Album of the Year (granted the slump is mostly due to the brilliance of the debut, Arular), but this globe-trotting collection of fist-raisers has its own bright, colorful, party-igniting moments that stand up nicely.

[11] Below The Heavens // Blu & Exile
The most overlooked album of the year (if only because it’s hard to find in its physical/non-digital form), it’s a refreshing blast of the kind of Hip-Hop people still reminisce about, that summery early 90’s sound of acts like Tribe or Pharcyde; if you’ve ever wished Kanye’s rapping would live up to his beats or ego, or for Nas to stop trying to be so gangsta, then this album is for you.

[10] The Reminder // Feist
A rarity – a great Pop album for people over 18 years old, that is multi-faceted, and all the facets bear multiple listens; Leslie Feist’s ascension, to commercials (for once, marketing rewarding soul instead of sucking it out), to the Billboard charts, and to the Grammy stage, was one of the best things about music last year, all a tribute to the little wonder of this album.

[09] Because Of The Times // Kings Of Leon
Despite offering zero in the way of new ideas – all the classic rock clichés still apply to KOL – this album makes you realize that air guitar or air drumming may be a sort of reflex, like when someone lurches at you just to make you flinch; you want to play hipster police and complain that “Charmer” is a Pixies rip-off, etc, but by “Black Thumbnail”, you feel like windmilling Townshend-style.

[08] † // Justice
Electronic dance music tends to move too fast (faster than fickle Hip-Hop) for classics to be dubbed as such and then enjoyed for their brilliance, a genre shattered into dozens of soon-forgotten subgenres, each likely to have its one representative classic album or single, and little more; French duo Justice, like Daft Punk before them, circumvent this trend by making a straight-forward funky big-beat big-riff housequake of an album, timelessly suitable for all parties, everywhere.

[07] In Rainbows // Radiohead
The greatest band of our generation takes a break from raising the bar musically, and does it with their business model instead; this is the first time in fifteen years that they didn’t totally blow my mind, but it’s still a delicate, guitar-centric four-star affair, highlighted by the long-awaited appearance of the decade-old ballad “Nude”, and the haunting “All I Need”, an almost-R&B lament which turns out to be their best song in years.

[06] Totally Flossed Out // The Cool Kids
If Clipse were into rare sneakers, geek culture and BMX bikes instead of slinging crackrock, they might sound like The Cool Kids, the most refreshing Hip-Hop group to emerge in the last handful of years. Never officially released as far as I know, but traded all over the net and posted track-by-track on every hipster blog imaginable (and now partially re-recorded, re-sequenced, and released as The Bake Sale EP), this 8-song EP updates Too $hort, EPMD and Licensed To Ill-era Beasties for a post-Pharrell world, making 808’s, stonewash, and fat gold ropes fresh again.

[05] Icky Thump // The White Stripes
If I was friends with Jack White, after 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan I would’ve grabbed him by the shoulders and shook the marimba out of him. This is what we want – plug the guitar in, turn it up, and have some fuckin’ fun…actually, the success of this album makes it seem like Brendan Benson did just that.

[04] Untrue // Burial
Immersed in the miasma of the album, surrounded by disembodied voices getting bumped around by skittering beats, maybe this hazy “Dubstep” sound is the laptop equivalent of Shoegazing; MBV used one word – Loveless – to convey the entire idea behind their masterpiece, and Burial has done this with Untrue, every song soaked in tears and dipped in shards of broken hearts.

[03] Boxer // The National
For me, The National conjure that eternal American Post-WWII cool of the late 50’s and early 60’s, the time of Sal Paradise hopping trains all over the countryside, the romantic ideals, like when first kisses sparked fireworks, breakups were like stage-plays, and a picnic was a pretty picture, with “bluebirds on our shoulders”; they update that world as subdued, literate, pastoral, brokenhearted, post-punk noir, equal parts Scott Walker, Springsteen, Joy Division and Morrissey.

[02] Sound Of Silver // LCD Soundsystem
Years from now when music enthusiasts are looking back at 2007, this is likely to be the mostly fondly remembered album, that default classic that will represent the entire year – mostly because ’07 was very much about getting your groove on, dancing away the war and the gas prices, and here the twitchy, encyclopedic brain of James Murphy imagines a lost 1982 collaboration between David Bowie, Prince, The B-52’s and Giorgio Moroder, with the goal to resurrect disco and make it cool. It’s completely fathomable to imagine this album slowly spreading over the coming years, popping up in the collection of any discerning music lover, especially ones who like their dance music to be a bit more than a four-on-the-floor kick drum and a synth riff; Murphy has a less exclusive, more populist outlook though: “All the little people wanna dance, it’s true!!”

[01] Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga // Spoon
For me, it’s no contest. I admit complete bias – they are my favorite band at the present time, but after all these years of trying to think as a critic, how could I not personally love something that I regard as superb? Spoon hold two truly rare attributes in today’s musical landscape: they are great artists, and they are remarkably consistent. Those two things together put them in a sparsely populated V.I.P. that few bands have ever reached. Everything they’ve released in the last decade has been worth your hard-earned dollars, worth having those pieces of plastic on your shelf that so many are ready to put out to pasture. It doesn’t matter though if you have vinyl, CDs or MP3s, what matters is the music, and on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon has wrangled their best collection of songs. Though I may occasionally gripe over the odd choice to place “The Ghost of You Lingers” as track two, or that “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” is merely very good compared to the rest of the album’s excellence, the album remains crammed with classics, from the genius Motown pastiche of “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” to the house party starter “Finer Feelings”; from the dancefloor thumper “Rhthm & Soul” to the glorious single “The Underdog” to the cinematic Pop of “Black Like Me”, there’s something here for everyone. It would be a shame if you didn’t find a place for this on your shelf.

1 comment:

Nick said...

I have not listened to one song off of any of these albums. I have heard of 5 of the artists though, so I have that going for me.