We have finally reached the pinnacle of Lists of 2007. Yes, here are my favorite album releases of 2007.
I want to clarify here that these are my favorites, not “the best”, as no one has the authority to make such a claim, including Pitchfork. The albums in my “favorites” list are albums and songs I got really into, maybe even obsessed with, for a lengthy period of time this year. The “Noble Attempts” list reflects albums that really caught my attention, and I liked a great deal, but I didn’t spend an overwhelming amount of time with, for whatever reason.
So, let’s get to it.
Okkervil River – The Stage Names: I loved this the first couple times I listened to this, but for some reason it never stuck. Like I avoid listening to it. I sometimes do this if I really love something, because I’m either obsessed with something else at the time and can only handle one obsession at once.
Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris: I don’t love this whole album, but I really love “Turning on the Screw” and “Into the Hollow.” Josh Homme’s voice always grabs me with its clarity and slick ways of moving through a melody, but the guitars are sometimes a bit much. Plus I like that he’s a rocker with short hair.
Rufus Wainwright – Release the Stars: Finally, Rufus is back to making something I can handle. His lyrics here are some of his best, especially “America” and “Tulsa.”
Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog: I was really into this album even though all of the tracks kinda sound the same. Calixico have definitely helped him expand his sound, but they in turn have such a distinct sound, that it gets a little boring. I stopped listening to the album after I heard them do “Dark Eyes” on the “I’m Not There” soundtrack. Yuck — it is so stylized and irritating to hear. Then I realized it sounds like “The Shepherd’s Dog.”
St. Vincent – Marry Me: I cannot convey in words how much better St. Vincent is live than on this album. This album does her talent no justice. It is incredibly overproduced — all of the little sounds are completely unnecessary. The mix is good at least. Still, I’ve nearly moved this up to my actual favorite albums list, because it is growing on me. Favorite track = “Jesus Saves, I Spend.”
Neil Young – Chrome Dreams II: I haven’t spent much time with this at all, but it was such a relief to hear Neil back at what he does best — a mix of folk and rock with a political bent. This is certainly his best album since “Living with War” (which wasn’t that long ago, mind you).
Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha: I think this is the Birdman’s “Sgt Pepper” to his “Revolver”, which was “The Mysterious Production of Eggs.” Everyone knows “Revolver” is far superior to “Sgt Pepper,” but the latter always gets the press still. He may write something better than “Eggs”, but just in case, this comparison stands. I think that all the folks who missed “Eggs” a couple years ago grabbed this album and figured out how amazing he was, but in fact he’s been amazing long before this (not that I’m an authority — I became a fan when “Eggs” was released). But “Eggs” was overshadowed (rightfully so, IMHO) by Sufjan’s “Illinois” that year.
Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full: This is the definition of a “noble attempt.” Paul really was trying to make something fresh, but personal, that matched his style. He certainly succeeded in that. Maybe this will be his “Sgt. Pepper” to “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard”‘s “Revolver.” Oh.
Albert Hammond Jr. – Yours to Keep: I just like this album, that’s all. It’s not awesome, it’s not especially creative or original. It’s just nice soft-ish rock/pop. And it’s better than anything the Strokes have done lately.
Panda Bear – Person Pitch: In theory, I adore this album. As many have already said, it sounds like if Brian Wilson never stopped taking drugs but didn’t kinda go nuts either. It is sooo “SMiLE”-like, except in song length. How many times do you really need to repeat a line? I mean seriously. Still, an amazingly innovative album.
Joan as Policewoman – Real Life: This nearly made my favorites list too. It’s just not consistent enough though. The first two songs nail me every time, but after that I fade in and out of interest. I hope she makes another album, and works with Antony again.
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago: So, uh, yeah, I kinda know this blog/Pitchfork sensation. I went to college with him and many members of his first band, Mount Vernon. But that’s not why this album is so great. It’s actually very Iron & Wine, but in a better way than I critiqued I&W above. He’s such a great songwriter, and I wish him the best of luck. Check out some tunage and tour dates (including the Turf Club, locals!) here.
My Fave Releases of 2007
These are in no particular order. I attempted to make an order, but all I can come up with is #1s. Yes, it’s a tie, ladies and gentleman!
1. I’m Not There Original Soundtrack: It’s hard for me to label an album full of covers as my favorite, especially since it came out late this year. But, this album has brought me so much happiness, but in the soundtrack form, and in my newfound understanding of Bob Dylan’s music. I finally started listening to all those Dylan MP3s I’ve accumulated and soon after started playing guitar along with the tracks. What a joy! But back to the soundtrack — Stephen Malkmus’s songs are huge standouts. He’s really in his element and sounds so natural. And it’s a great way to get indie names to those classic rock dudes who stopped paying attention to music in 1977.
1. The National – Boxer: This album also brought me great pleasure…almost in the sense that I should change my panties after I hear it. No, no, that’s not quite true. But it is sexy in a slightly disturbing way, and it introduced me to this awesome band. I go back and forth between liking “Alligator” and “Boxer” more.
And now for the rest (in no particular order)…
Radiohead – In Rainbows: I think that everything that can be said about this album has been said. My favorite tracks are “Nude,” “Bodysnatchers”and then “Reckoner” on through to the end. The rest of the songs I can take or leave. Except “15 Steps,” I can’t stand that song.
PJ Harvey – White Chalk: It’s hard to believe this is actually PJ Harvey singing and not playing a guitar. This is a very daring album for her — much more daring, I think, than “Rid of Me.” I read an interview with Thurston Moore this year where he said something like it’s now bold and unique to sound quiet instead of loud. “White Chalk” proves this is true. I love that “Broken Harp” starts with “Please don’t reproach me…” Who says “reproach” anymore? Even her lyrics sound genuinely old.
Neil Young – Live at Massey Hall: I love Neil Young all alone, acoustic. He brings so much passion to every performance. This CD and the accompanying DVD (where we see the real “Old Man”!), are from a brief moment in time where the world did not yet know classics such as “Heart of Gold” and “A Man Needs a Maid” has different lyrics.
Yoko Ono – Yes I’m a Witch: This album wasn’t quite what I imagined. I thought Yoko would re-record some of her songs with these great indie and alt bands. Turns out, it seems like they mostly just used her original vocal track. The only other person who sings is Cat Power, in a gorgeous “duet” with Yoko on “Revelations.” Another stand-out track, which actually got a lot of coverage this year, was Spiritualized’s haunting version of “Walking on Thin Ice.”
Tori Amos – American Girl Posse: Yeah, yet another proud feminist in my list. Take that, Republicans! Anyway, see my review of this album here. I take back the “Friend Green Tomatoes” comment, though.
Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova – Once soundtrack: What a strange combo — the cute Eastern European girl and an Irish rock n’ roller turn into the best musical match on that side of the pond. I rarely pay attention to soundtracks, but this year two made my favorites list. Crazy!
Alison Krauss & Robert Plant – Raising Sand: Here’s the best, though most unlikely, musical match on this side of the pond. Where the fuck did this come from? Seriously, the combination is beyond weird, and the music? Well, the music is…damn good. Like this is one of the best new bands this year, if they were a new band. Maybe they should be. They sound terrific together, I think mainly because Robert is singing below someone. What a great dynamic.
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible: I loved this album for about a month then put it away, only to go back to “Funeral” and pick up this one maybe twice more before the end of the year. There are a couple really great songs, like “Intervention” and the one nobody else seems to like, “My Body is a Cage.” But overall, it just doesn’t stick with me like “Funeral” did.
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky: Jeff Tweedy’s home life does not interest me in the least bit, but thank God we’ve got some awesome guitar playing on this album, otherwise I wouldn’t have listened to this album more than once. But now, I crave its sound, not particular songs. The song structure and guitar playing are the highlights here, which is strange considering such a masterful lyricist and emotional singer like Tweedy is still in the band. Oh well, it’s still better than “A Ghost is Born.”
Rufus Wainwright – Rufus Does Judy Live at Carnegie Hall: This show FINALLY was released just a couple of weeks ago. It’s not as lively as I’d hoped it would be, and he doesn’t really nail the songs as I thought he would. He barely follows Judy’s phrasing, which I think is a mistake. But this makes it on my favorites list anyway because I adore that Rufus did this show.
Bruce Springsteen – Magic: I never ever would have thought I would add a Springsteen album to my favorites list. But “Magic” is flat-out, undeniably, a fantastic record. His songwriting is on par with both his older stuff and other current bands (I’ll refrain from going on about “the conversation“). Granted, any song with a measurable sax solo is still yucky to me, but tracks 1, and then 4 through 6 are amazing. I’ve seen the Light.
Thanks for sticking around everyone! I know this was long and drawn out, but I hope you managed to waste some time at work reading it. :)