Top Albums of 2007

This has been an interesting year for music. I haven't had more than a handful of albums in serious consideration for quite a while. To make it stranger, all of the albums I was anticipating heading in to the year (the Smashing Pumpkin's woeful Zeitgeist, for example) turned out to be fairly awful. So, that leaves me with a few established artists who stepped it up a notch to go along with a slew of new ones (new to me, at least) who renewed my faith in new music.

I typically try to get these things posted before the end of the year, but the sheer number of quality entries to consider slowed me down a bit. I tried to give each album a fair number of listens before judging them too harshly. Anyway, onward we go…

No. 10
John Vanderslice - Emerald City Cover
John Vanderslice
Emerald City
July 24, 2007

I've never been one to give Mr. Vanderslice the credit he probably deserves, but here he's near top form. This probably isn't even his best album (that honor likely belongs with 2005's Pixel Revolt), but there's plenty here to like. John Vanderslice has a finely honed sense of his songwriting style. He knows how to make the music say what he wants it to say, and he knows how to do it with his own unique flair.

Highlights: Time To Go, The Parade, Kookaburra

No. 9
Tegan and Sara - The Con Cover
Tegan and Sara
The Con
July 24, 2007

You've got to give Tegan and Sara some credit for creating an 80s power pop throwback album. Dimishing this album to only that, though, would be doing a disservice to the Quin sisters. The Con shows their sharp sense of melody, which is highlighted perfectly by the addition of the 80s style keyboards. They also have a tendency to use nonsensical lyrics (or maybe it's just them using a strange Canadian language I don't understand) which makes an odd pair with the earnestness of their vocals. All in all, these oddities make The Con that much more charming.

Highlights: Back In Your Head, Burn Your Life Down, Like O Like H

No. 8
PJ Harvey - White Chalk Cover
PJ Harvey
White Chalk
October 2, 2007
Island Records

This was the most difficult album of the year for me. I've been a huge fan of just about everything PJ Harvey has done and I've come to expect the unexpected from her. With that in mind, White Chalk was still tough to digest. It isn't just different, it almost sounds like another artist entirely. With time invested in getting to know these songs, there's tons of classic PJ Harvey material to be found lurking in the shadows…it's just wrapped up in a softer package.

Highlights: When Under Ether, The Piano, The Devil

No. 7
Burial - Untrue Cover
November 5, 2007

Burial's Untrue is a painfully beautiful album. From top to bottom you'll find an incredibly consistent listen with sparse electronic music that evokes strong feelings of desolation. The sampled vocals are chalk full of emotion. This is a perfect mood album to be listened to on a rainy day.

Highlights: Ghost Hardware, Archangel, UK

No. 6
Beirut - The Flying Club Cup Cover
The Flying Club Cup
October 9, 2007
Ba Da Bing!

It took me a while to get used to Zach Condon's vocal style, but once I did it wasn't long before the obvious french influence and extremely strong vocal melodies took hold. Strip away the cultural overtones and you'd still have a solid set of quality songs. Beirut uses thick vocal layering to near perfection here. The light violins, present throughout the album, provide a perfect counterpoint to the thick vocals and instrumentation. The Flying Club Cup has the feeling of a classic album, while hinting at great things to come from this young artist.

Highlights: Cliquot, In The Mausoleum, Cherbourg

No. 5
Kings of Leon - Because of the Times Cover
Kings of Leon
Because of the Times
April 3, 2007

Because of the Times was the first album this year that I completely got swept up in. Kings of Leon really showed significant growth in their music. There's an air of restraint to most of the songs as they let the music speak for itself. They don't hit you over the head with drum-fills and guitar solos. Everything is artfully put together and allowed to be absorbed on the listener's terms. I don't think the southern rock influence is absent here, I think the Followills have found a way to turn those influences into a sound wholly their own.

Highlights: Arizona, Fans, True Love Way

No. 4
Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga Cover
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
July 10, 2007

What really strikes me about this album is Spoon's deftness at playing with rhythm. The simple rhythmic interplay between the various instruments is artful and everything is perfectly punctuated by Britt Daniel's vocal style. They also have a knack for making layered music seem simple. On the surface everything seems simple, but with each listen there's something new left to discover.

Highlights: Don't You Evah, Rhthm & Soul, Black Like Me

No. 3
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver Cover
LCD Soundsystem
Sound of Silver
March 20, 2007
DFA Records

Sound of Silver is an interesting album. Its centerpiece is All My Friends, driven by a frenetic piano as the song relentlessly builds to its climax. Surrounding is an eclectic mix of dance music infused with elements of punk and disco. There isn't a weak track on the album and it's expertly sequenced, but more importantly, it's an album that exudes quality without taking itself too seriously.

Highlights: All My Friends, Someone Great, Get Innocuous!

No. 2
Radiohead - In Rainbows Cover
In Rainbows
October 10, 2007

In Rainbows is a classic Radiohead album, but still manages to feel fresh and new. For the first time in a while, the band feels like just that…a band. Once again we are allowed to revel in just how talented each member of the band is at their particular field, as well as how perfectly the members come together and play off each other. That isn't to say those qualities weren't present in previous efforts, just that In Rainbows is the most complete showcase of their collective talents since the 90s. Without a doubt in my mind, this is Radiohead's best album since 1997's opus, OK Computer.

Highlights: All I Need, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Nude

No. 1
The National - Boxer Cover
The National
May 22, 2007
Beggars Banquet Records

Boxer is an album that will sneak up on you if you let it. Each song is overflowing with a simplicity that conceals the magic hiding just beneath the surface. The band has a tendency towards subtle intensity, which kept me coming back for more. Each listen brings something new to the table and I've had a really difficult time choosing which songs to highlight. I honestly don't know if there's a single stand-out track on the album because each song is a stand-out in its own right. On first listen, you may not see what makes these songs so special, but give it some time and these songs just may worm their way into your heart.

Highlights: Squalor Victoria, Green Gloves, Apartment Story