[I sent Ian a draft of my Top Albums of 2007, and asked him if he’d like to do the same. This is what he sent back to me, which is a terrific write up. I was especially curious to notice our similar placements of Neon Bible and In Rainbows. Enjoy! -TH]
I have listened to a surprising amount of music this year. Unfortunately for this list, half at least came from prior years. This is my list of albums I have enjoyed the most from 2007.
8: Jens Lekman- Night Falls Over Kortedala
I listened to this album for the first time this winter break, so I can’t really justify it going any higher than last on my best albums list. Perhaps if I had it sooner, but alas I didn’t have this gem sooner. Jens is just a Swedish crooner. I was first introduced to this album when I watched the video for “Sipping On Sweet Nectar.” This album is just a lot of really catchy fun songs. The one thing that really separates Jens is his lyrical ability. Listen to “A Postcard to Nina” and don’t laugh. If you can do that, you may not have a soul. Get that checked out. And check out this album for a nice changeup in your music listening time.
7: Spoon- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Spoon doesn’t like to throw in a bunch of bells and whistles into their songs. Well, the metaphorical ones at least. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga showcases the band’s development through the years. The album is a tight set of 10 quality songs. John Brion produced the first single “The Underdog” and that was my favorite song as I first listened to the record. It is probably the most produced song on the record. Good message though, as the chorus will tell you “You got no time for the messenger, got no regard for the thing that you don’t understand, you got no fear of the underdog, that’s why you will not survive” I started to really appreciate the production of the album. The transition between “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” and “Don’t You Evah” you can hear the sounds of them in the recording studio. It doesn’t distract from the listening experience, and I like the connection it builds between the performer and audience. This is a great album from a band that is simultaneously perfecting their sound and branching out.
6: Animal Collective- Strawberry Jam
Here is where I may lose some people’s faith in me. It took me a while to jump on board the Animal Collective train. To some they are just weird dudes, but I like to think of them as the Beach Boys on Acid. Take the opening track “Peacebone.” It starts with just some noise, but it slowly turns into a driving beat and a real song. Their drums are very tribal on the whole, and what just seems to be noise to a casual listener is a carefully constructed song. The album is great on the whole, but the middle two songs of “Reverend Green” and “Fireworks” are my part of the album. Animal Collective is a maker of longer songs, and that is exactly what I have been craving and enjoying all year. The main vocal melody on “Fireworks” doesn’t have any actual words and happens to be one of the longest lines around actually. I love it though, and I love the mood the Collective develops throughout their songs. With 6+ minutes on a song, you can become fully absorbed and be trapped in that final catharsis at the end of the song. Very similar to what Arcade Fire did on Funeral a couple years back. Not for everyone, but, finally, for me.
5: Arcade Fire- Neon Bible
This was my big album of the spring. Arcade Fire coming back after the masterwork Funeral. Could they shake the music world again? Yeah, but not as much. They put together a lot of great songs and you should feel free to listen to them on Tom’s list, because they are there as well. The biggest change in Arcade Fire from their debut to this sophomore album is cohesiveness. Even though the entire album has the same message, the songs are more distinct on this album. To a large extent, the intent is there in the lyrics, but the feeling isn’t there as it was on Funeral. Ian, why are you bashing your fifth best album of the year? Well, I am just putting the album in context. Funeral is one of my favorite albums of all time because every song made you feel. Neon Bible is not as great as that album, but it is a great album. I urge you to check out Funeral. Everything Tom says is completely right, and this album is a great album. I urge you to check out all of their stuff, because you will most likely enjoy all of it. Probably why they still play almost all of both albums live.
4: Good Shoes- Think Before You Speak
As with a lot of my albums, a single song sparks my interest. For Think Before You Speak, it was “Never Meant To Hurt You.” It is, with the entire album, a perfect summer album. Nothing makes me think of summer more than tight British guitar sounds. They are just a bunch of boys who want to have fun. “Small Town Girl” quickly became another favorite song of mine on this album. Clean guitar, moving bass line, predictable song structure is all I want when cruising in a song. That bridge part just gets to me. They also take one of my favorite song gimmicks: stop the song right after one part and rest for a measure then come back. On the whole the songs on the album were changed a bit from the demo version I used to have, but I still love the songs. The album may not be actually as great as some of the other albums out there, but I enjoyed it so much this summer, and well this is my list.
3: Radiohead- In Rainbows
When a band is as popular as Radiohead and they pay so much attention to every song they release, what can’t they do? Tom speaks about all the wonders of this album, so I am just going to talk about the band. Radiohead has changed their sound from one album to another, all while maintaining that essence of Radiohead. They are the only band where I refuse to pick a favorite album, because they all shine in their own right. This album is almost another Thom Yorke album. I recently learned that he plays that great guitar riff in “Bodysnatchers.” If he is able to do that and you have Johnny Greenwood, what can’t you do? I love this band, and this is a solid entry point for anyone to get into Radiohead.
2: Menomena- Friend and Foe
Menomena broke onto my personal scene this year. Friend And Foe is their second album, and my biased opinion says it is better than their first. I really enjoy multiple singers, hence my affection for The Futureheads, and Menomena gives me that. They sound like a rag tag group of dudes making music out of Portland. “Muscle’n Flo” is my song of the year, literally. It eclipsed Andrew Bird’s “Tables and Chairs” on my most played list on Itunes, something I thought wouldn’t happen for a couple more years. The organ break in the middle is maybe my favorite musical moment of the year. I appreciate the sporadicity of their playing. It was something I wasn’t used to listening to, but was something to which I I immediately latched.
Cora Plug: my sister loves the “wall of sound” in the song “The Pelican.” The first two songs are more brazen than the rest. I appreciate the subtleties of the simpler songs like “Rotten Hell.” If I have learned anything about my musical tastes this year, it is that I am willing to wait for a payoff and this song has one. This isn’t high on a lot of people’s lists, but I have personally enjoyed this album a lot. It was different, yet comforting at the same time. Nothing is constant on this album, and really only two things stopped this from being my number one album. 1) The last song is not that great, and I love last songs. 2) I saw LCD Soundsystem live.
1: LCD Soundsystem- Sound of Silver
“The Time has come, the time has come, the time has come again.” So begins James Murphy’s lyrics on “Us v Them.” This song was their opener for their live show, and it just blew my mind. The song was maybe a little bit iffy on the cd, but experiencing the song was another experience. LCD loves to build, and they will take a while to get there. You can get lost in a song, only to realize 6 minutes later that the same beat has been going on for a while now. It doesn’t matter because you have been dancing. Constant drum beats, simple bass lines, and synthesizers decorate the landscape of this disco/electronica/punk hybrid band. Murphy turned down a writing job for Seinfeld to start a band, and he does have some good lyrics. “North American Scum” talks all about, well North American Scum. As in us…Americans. (He is from here, by the way)
The middle three songs on the album will take about 22 minutes of your time, but I have never considered it a waste. “Someone Great” was my first song on this album. Lcd layers in the different instruments amazingly well and that bell part that’s matching the vocal melody is just cute. This song quickly became my second favorite song as I kept on listening, as “All My Friends” is the next song. There are 2 chords in this song, and it all just keeps on building. The lyrics of this song are all about getting older and dealing with life. Everything is so simple with this band, but it all fits together to be something great. The final song on the album “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” is my favorite closer of the year. Murphy extols his feeling about how the New York of his younger days was better, even though it is safer and cleaner now. When he says “you’re still the one pool where I’d happily drown,” I still melt a little bit. A perfect solo follows and it ends. Well, then it comes back for a final hoorah with just the band.
This album has everything I have wanted this year. I could listen to it during the summer in a car. I could listen to it while working out. There isn’t a weak song. I changed favorite song many times. People have different opinions on what the best song is. It has a great closer. It has long songs. Oh yeah, and their live show is great. And James Murphy is the most adorably cute scenester in the world.
-Ian Noble, December 31, 2007
For a different take on 2007, check out Tom’s Top 5 Albums of 2007.