2007 in MusicPosted: December 30, 2007
It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about music for this site, but the thrill of sharing/forcing my opinion on you once again calls and I must again answer the urge to make a list. This time around, I’ll be briefly looking at the five best albums and the ten best songs that this year had to offer.
Before I kick things off, I have to give an honorably mention to the Cold War Kids’ “Robber and Cowards.” This album is simply great, great, great, and I badly want to include it on the list. Sadly, it was a 2006 release. I only came across it this year. As much as it pains me, I don’t want to be like the Grammys and only award something after it’s found fame. So I’ll give it an honorable mention, particularly for the songs “We Used to Vacation” and “Hang Me Up To Dry,” and I’ll keep my eyes open for their next album so I can heap praise on that at the appropriate time.
5. Dethklok – Dethalbum
Yes, I’m serious. Maybe I just have a thing for fictional/cartoon bands, be it Gorillaz, Electric Mayhem, or Spinal Tap. Or maybe Brandon Small and Gene Hoglan are just able to channel all the brutality of metal so well that I can’t tell the difference between “real” metal and a farcical album. Small bounces between subgenres effortlessly, from the mostly instrumental fantasy ballad of “Thunderhorse” to the Slayer-like shredding on “Better Metal Snake.” No group of music fans is as picky as metalheads, but “Dethalbum” provides solid evidence that alternating between subgenres will make your actually make your band more brutal.
4. Bloc Party – A Weekend in the City
Sophomore albums are tough. Especially when you have to deal with fans/critics (like myself) who loved the debut album and heaped absurdly high expectations on the follow-up. Bloc Party answered with a thematic album filled with much more ambitious and much less approachable songs. It might take more than one listen, but the end result is complex and rewarding. It’s such a relief to see a young band with the balls to try something different.
3. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
“Icky Thump” is the fulfillment of everything that failed in the White Stripes’ previous release, “Get Behind Me Satan,” and then some. It delivers hard rock (“Icky Thump”), catchy sing-alongs (“You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)”), a cover (“Conquest”), an odd skit/song (“Rag and Bone”), and… bagpipes? (“Prickly Thorn, Sweetly Worn,” “St. Andrew (The Battle is in the Air)”). Somehow the end result is perfectly coherent, promising that the band can move forward in into recklessly experimental ground without losing a drop of quality.
2. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Thankfully, the world’s first “pick-your-price” album download is also one of the best albums of the year. People were happy to fork over money they didn’t need to pay (the band reportedly raked in about $10 million in a week) just because the album was well-worth it. It’s a unique album in Radiohead’s library. Through the rocking songs like “Bodysnatchers” and the sad, lonely songs like “House of Cards,” there is an overarching sense of intimacy and rawness typically hard to find in music by established, veteran musicians. It’s comforting to know Radiohead isn’t resting on their laurels.
1. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Spoon might be the only band I know of that follows up every great album with an even greater one. It’s hard to imagine how it could get much better than “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” The band has tapped into some magical music vein where they can write songs that are endlessly catchy yet never tedious or annoying. The album opens on a scathingly political note (“Don’t Make Me a Target”) and ends with soft melancholy (“Black Like Me”). The in-between tracks include the single-worthy (“The Underdog,” “Don’t You Evah”), the slightly ambient (“The Ghost of You Lingers”, “My Japanese Cigarette Case”), and the uniquely rhythmic (“Rhythm and Soul”, “Eddie’s Ragga”). I’ve been listening to this album for months and I’m not the least bit tired of it.
10. Queens of the Stone Age – Sick, Sick, Sick
As pure and simple head-banging rock, this song can’t be beat. It’s simplicity is it’s biggest strength, though the guest spot by Julian Casablancas helps too. Now if only we could get Dave Grohl back on drums for them…
(Runner up from the same album: “3’s and 7’s”)
9. Dethklok – Awaken
It’s hard to pick out one track from the “Dethalbum,” which really works best as one giant sonic assault. However, no song was completed as well in the transition from TV to album as “Awaken.” The drumming is ferocious and extra solos are stuffed into every empty inch of the song.
(Runner up from the same album: “Fansong”)
8. They Might Be Giants – Withered Hope
Drums, guitar, bass, horns, keys, and sampling? TMBG’s always distinct narrative with “characters” with abstract names (ala “Particle Man”)? “Withered Hope” managed to stuff so many elements into one song, it’s far and away the most impressive track on “The Else.”
(Runner up from the same album: “Take Out the Trash”)
7. Noisettes – Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit)
My favorite new group from this year, though they have yet to receive much recognition. “Sister Rosetta” would be nothing more than a good punk song, except for the fact that Shingai Shoniwa is in the running for most talented female rock vocalist I’ve ever heard. She doesn’t just sing, she screams and growls ferociously.
(Runner up from the same album: “Hierarchy”)
6. Wilco – Impossible Germany
I still can’t figure out what this song is about, but it’s the guitar work that really makes it unforgettable. The main riff has a haunting, ethereal ring to it, and the jamming/solo at the end is simply beautiful. Great, great song.
(Runner up from the same album: “Hate It Here”)
5. Bloc Party – Uniform
Commentary on modern youth and a slap in the face to Hot Topic. Bloc Party might not be the first band to make an observation about “commerce dressed up as rebellion,” but at least when they say it they don’t sound like hypocrites.
(Runner up from the same album: “Song for Clay (Disappear Here)”
4. Radiohead – Jigsaw Falling Into Place
More than any other song on the list, I had trouble picking just one track of this album. “Jigsaw” wins because of its sharp vocals and tensely understated instrumentation, though the runner-up nearly took it simply for it’s hauntingly sad lyrics.
(Runner up from the same album: “House of Cards”)
3. Spoon – Don’t You Evah
This song alone has more rhythm in it than a year’s worth of hip-hop. A four note bass line that you won’t get out of your head for days. Hard to believe this is a cover, but Spoon does it right by finding an obscure song and bringing it to life, rather than attempting to do something new with a song that’s been done a thousand times already.
(Runner up from the same album: “Finer Feelings”)
2. Foo Fighters – The Pretender
The best single the Foos have released in years, possibly their best yet. It combines all the energy of the early albums with the music writing sensibilities of the later work, nailing a perfect balance in four and a half minutes that they couldn’t find in nearly two hours with their double album “In Your Honor.”
(Runner up from the same album: Nothing else on this album really comes close, but I suppose “Come Alive” would be no. 2)
1. The White Stripes – 300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues
This song doesn’t sound exactly like you think it would, based on the title. It’s much more complex and interesting. The vocals are soft with an accompanying gentle guitar riff. At certain moments, the drums start pounding a little louder, and the guitar and vocals start to tense up. Then back to softness. Then, out of nowhere, the guitar screams in an effects-driven wail for a few seconds. Then back to softness. It sounds like wild experimentation, and maybe it is, but even if it is, it’s the most fascinating song I’ve heard all year and I keep going back to it. Hell of a song.
(Runner up from the same album: “A Martyr for My Love for You”)