Dec 28, 2007

2007 Year in Review V: The Albums (part 2)
And we continue with albums 80-61 of my favorite 100 from 2007...

80. Dungen - Tio Bitar (Kemado)
These psych reviving Swedes drop their second U.S. album, picking up where the excellent Ta Det Lungt left off and further expanding their sound.
Recommended tracks: "Familj", "Mon Amour"

79. Sloan - Never Hear the End of It (Yep Roc)
Canada's greatest power-pop exports keep on evading their long, long overdue American success on this sprawling, 30-track burst of energy.
Recommended tracks: "Everybody Wants You", "Ana Lucia"

78. Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (Temporary Residence)
These Texans prove with this album that post-rock is not yet dead, cranking out six more climaxing epics.
Recommended tracks: "The Birth and Death of the Day", "It's Natural To Be Afraid"

77. Jay-Z - American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella)
Jigga bounces back strongly from the misfire of his first post "retirement" album with this loose concept album inspired by the Denzel Washington film. But it doesn't matter what sparked him, I'm just glad to have Hov back.
Recommended tracks: "Roc Boys (And the Winner is...)", "Hello Brooklyn 2.0"

76. Om - Pilgrimage (Southern Lord)
A bit more subdued effort from these ex Sleep boys, but all the more beautiful for it.
Recommended tracks: "Pilgrimage", "Bhimas' Theme"

75. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog (Sub Pop)
Sam Beam continues his winning ways on his latest release, I'm really digging the full band sound he has been chasing as of late.
Recommended tracks: "Resurrection Fern", "Flightless Bird, American Mouth"

74. Robert Pollard - Standard Gargoyle Decisions (Merge)
This is the (slightly) more experimental of Pollard's two 2007 releases under his own name, chock-full of his signature hooks and classic rock nods.
Recommended tracks: "Hero Blows the Revolution", "Spider Eyes"

73. The Hidden Hand - The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote (Southern Lord)
Swampy, stompy, Southern-gothic doom metal from the legendary Wino and his latest band.
Recommended tracks: "Spiritually Bereft", "Dark Horizons"

72. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights (Daptone)
Miss Jones' voice alone makes this worth hearing, but its the swing and oomph of her backing band that makes it fun.
Recommended tracks: "100 Days, 100 Nights", "Let Them Knock"

71. Handsome Furs - Plague Park (Sub Pop)
Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) pairs with Alexei Perry for nine tracks of sparse and wiry indie rock.
Recommended tracks: "Snakes on the Ladder", "Sing! Captain"

70. Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger (Lost Highway)
Ryan must have found himself a trustworthy editor, as this is one his most tight and concise albums yet - much more consistent than his recent patchy outings even if the highs aren't quite as high.
Recommended tracks: "Halloweenhead", "Two Hearts"

69. Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbals (We Are Free)
Difficult to classify experimental indie rock that roams from sugary pop to atmospheric noodling to propulsive drumming, fans of recent Animal Collective should enjoy this.
Recommended tracks: "2080", "Wait for the Summer"

68. The Ponys - Turn the Lights Out (Matador)
Chicago's Ponys rediscover the fire that made their debut so unforgettable, plowing through twelve tracks of garage rock goodness that sometimes recalls Sonic Youth.
Recommended tracks: "1209 Seminary", "Poser Psychotic"

67. Bonde do Role - With Lasers (Domino)
Breakout Brazilian stars crank out one of the most fun albums of 2007, combining Brazilian rhythms, hip-hop, and even pop metal into something truly original.
Recommended tracks: "Office Boy", "Solta O Frango"

66. Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation (Lidkercow)
If a peyote-doused Pavement left out to dry in the Western sun sounds good to you, you'll love this album.
Recommended tracks: "Devil's a Go-Go", "Murder Babe"

65. Robert Pollard - Coast To Coast Carpet of Love (Merge)
More pop-oriented and accessible than Standard Gargoyle Decisions, this is Pollard's best album since disbanding the Guided by Voices brand.
Recommended tracks: "Miles Under the Skin", "Our Gaze"

64. !!! - Myth Takes (Warp)
This album was quite a surprise for me, these indie funkers proved that there's a lot of gas left in the band. A shame about Out Hud though.
Recommended tracks: "Must Be the Moon", "Heart of Hearts"

63. Powerhouse Sound - Oslo/Chicago: Breaks (Atavistic)
Some fantastic jazz sessions from an excellent band that features the always intriguing Ken Vandermark, well worth a spin.
Recommended tracks: "Acid Scratch (for Lee Perry)", "New Dirt/King to Crown Pt. 2"

62. Machine Head - The Blackening (Roadrunner)
I had pretty much written these guys off once they turned into nu-metal also-rans, but this album proves they are not a band to be forgotten. Very brutal stuff here.
Recommended tracks: "Clenching the Fists of Dissent", "Wolves"

61. Ghost - In Stormy Nights (Drag City)
I was a newcomer to these Japanese experimental rockers with the last album, but this one places me squarely in the fan camp - very impressive.
Recommended tracks: "Hemicyclic Anthelion", "Gareki No Toshi"

Dec 27, 2007

2007 Year in Review V: The Albums (part 1)
After a short break for the holidays, I'm back and ready to reveal my favorite 100 albums of the year. To be honest, I also needed a little extra time to reconfigure my list after a couple late year surprises made me sit up and take notice (most significantly, I'm looking at you Lupe...). I think this year I heard more albums than ever before, it was surprisingly difficult to narrow it down to my top 100. But, as flooded as I was with good to great albums, there were very few that completely knocked my socks off and threw me for a loop. There were a few fun surprises though and a lot of music that I think I will be returning to quite often over the next several years. I'll start with albums 100-81 and update with more in the days to follow.

100. Blonde Redhead - 23 (4AD)
Blonde Redhead continues their evolution from Sonic Youth noiseniks to lush, lovely shoegazers.
Recommended tracks: "23", "Spring and By Summer Fall"

99. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works (Relapse)
These schizo-metal crazies toss even more curveballs into their sonic stew, including some (gasp!) pop gems.
Recommended tracks: "Black Bubblegum", "Dead As History"

98. El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead (Def Jux)
Underground uber-producer gets back on the other side of the mic, rocking 13 tracks of twisted, sci-fi paranoia.
Recommended tracks: "Smithereens (Stop Cryin')", "Flyentology"

97. Shooter Jennings - The Wolf (Universal South)
Waylon's kid comes back with his third and best album yet, polishing up his tales of love and loss without losing those rough edges that keep him well off Nashville's radar.
Recommended tracks: "Tangled Up Roses", "Slow Train"

96. King Khan & The Shrines - What Is?! (Hazelwood/Revolver)
The crazy prolific King Khan strikes back with his Shrines, giving you more of that classic garage rock that you've been aching for.
Recommended tracks: "Welfare Bread", "In Your Grave"

95. The White Stripes - Icky Thump (Warner Bros)
I think this seals it - Jack and Meg are simply incapable of releasing a bad album. This may not be as immediately likable as some of their earlier outings, but still very good.
Recommended tracks: "300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues", "Conquest"

94. Akron/Family - Love is Simple (Young God)
A lot of Akron fans may hate me for saying it, but these guys are my favorite hippie jam band going right now.
Recommended tracks: "Ed is a Portal", "Lake Song/New Ceremonial Music For Moms"

93. Babyshambles - Shotter's Nation (Astralwerks)
While the rolling Pete Doherty trainwreck sideshow continues to roll on, the man somehow manages to release music that validates his fame.
Recommended tracks: "French Dog Blues", "Carry On Up the Morning"

92. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha (Fat Possum)
This criminally overlooked Chicago multi-instrumentalist churns out another in his ongoing series of fantastic albums.
Recommended tracks: "Fiery Crash", "Dark Matter"

91. Circus Devils - Sgt. Disco (Ipecac)
The first of several releases from one Robert Pollard that will appear, this finds one of his weirder side-projects releasing its most cohesive work yet.
Recommended tracks: "In Madonna's Gazebo", "Summer is Set"

90. Minsk - The Ritual Fires of Abandonment (Relapse)
A delirious album's worth of psychedelic-doom metal from this Chicago band, one of the heaviest trips of the year.
Recommended tracks: "Mescaline Sunrise", "The Orphans of Piety"

89. Prinzhorn Dance School - Prinzhorn Dance School (Astralwerks)
Obvious Mark E. Smith influence aside, these Brits are a refreshing addition to the usually dance-heavy DFA roster.
Recommended tracks: "You Are the Space Invader", "Do You Know Your Butcher"

88. Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters (Southern Lord)
Easily the most haunting, spookiest album I've heard all year - dark and dense ambient black metal that sounds as if it were literally recorded in the depths of a haunted forest.
Recommended tracks: "Dia Artio", "I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Stones"

87. Feist - The Reminder (Cherry Tree)
Even though we're all sick of "1, 2, 3, 4" by now (thanks Apple!), this is still a great album by a woman finally gathering all the acclaim she deserves.
Recommended tracks: "My Moon, My Man", "How My Heart Behaves"

86. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)
One of the most exciting and consistent indie rock bands today drops another stellar record. But maybe not quite as good as others may tell you.
Recommended tracks: "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb", "The Underdog"

85. Neil Young - Chrome Dreams II (Reprise)
Good ol' Neil drops another near classic, this time resurrecting the idea for an unreleased 1977 album and filling it with gems from the past several decades.
Recommended tracks: "Ordinary People", "Spirit Road"

84. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Living with the Living (Touch & Go)
The hard-rocking and hard-touring Ted Leo takes a break from the road to give us one of the most lively protest records of the year.
Recommended tracks: "La Costa Brava", "The Sons of Cain"

83. Thurston Moore - Trees Outside the Academy (Ecstatic Peace)
Sonic Youth's resident noise-expert drops his first solo effort in over a decade. The surprising? It's chock full of graceful acoustic guitars. The expected? It's chock full of excellent guitar playing, and its awesome.
Recommended tracks: "The Shape is in a Trance", "Silver>Blue"

82. Klaxons - Myths of the Near Future (Geffen)
Don't buy into whatever nu-rave malarkey the British press is trying to sell you on, this is just plain old good music that borrows equally from rock and dance.
Recommended tracks: "Golden Skans", "Atlantis to Interzone"

81. UGK - Underground Kingz (Jive)
The underground legends finally get some mainstream love for this sprawling opus, unfortunately we lose Pimp C just a few short months later. R.I.P.
Recommended tracks: "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)", "Quit Hatin' the South"

Dec 19, 2007

2007 Year in Review IV: The Singles
As we near the end of via//chicago's 2007 wrap-up, its time for the first of the two big categories - the best singles of the year. As usual there were a couple of stellar mainstream standouts that will forever be linked to this year (numbers 1, 3, 5, and 9) and some fantastic tunes overlooked by the masses (numbers 2, 7, and 10). Let's take a look back on the year in singles...

1. "Stronger" - Kanye West
This was an easy and obvious choice for my favorite song of the year. Anyone sampling my favorite Daft Punk song would win points, but only 'Ye could make something completely fresh and exciting out of it. But its not just the killer hook that makes this song so fantastic, West's flow is on fire for the whole thing. His oversized ego served the braggadocio in this song perfectly.

2. "You! Me! Dancing!" - Los Campesinos!
As mentioned in yesterday's EP rundown, this is an absolutely fantastic single from a very, very promising young Welsh band. The anticipatory intro builds to a fever pitch before exploding in youthful energy all over the place. The male/female vocals almost topple over into too cutesy territory, but that killer chorus makes everything alright.

3. "Umbrella" - Rihanna f. Jay-Z
An inescapable song earlier this year, but for good reason. A great verse from Jigga that doesn't overstay its welcome, Rihanna's best vocal performance to date, and that awesome "ella ella ey ey ey" hook. In the wrong hands it would have been the most grating song ever, only she could have pulled this off so charmingly.

4. "Phantom Limb" - The Shins
It seems like a lot of people have forgotten about this album already, as seems to happen with lots of January releases. That's a shame because it stands up well with the rest of this fantastic band's catalog, especially this slice of Beach Boys-inspired pop heaven.

5. "Girlfriend" - Avril Lavigne
Quite possibly the most polarizing song of the year, but I fully believe that this is a perfect example of simplicity being the best approach. Between the cheerleader chanting chorus and the bratty snarl of the verses, this is the best argument yet for the continued existence of Avril singles. And "she's like, so whatever" - brilliant.

6. "Atlas" - Battles
Hands down the best math-rock single of the year! Tyondai Braxton's creepy Smurf-on-acid vocals combine with one of the most engaging and insistent beats on any single track I've heard all year to make for a truly unforgettable experience. Watch the video and dig John Stanier reaching waaaaaaay up there to hit that cymbal. Awesome.

7. "All My Friends" - LCD Soundsystem
A heartbreaking treatise on growing up and letting go of the glory days set to a fantastic New Order bassline and the greatest one-note piano line I've heard in years. It takes a couple listens for the power of the song to completely envelop you, but once the magic of lines like "and if I'm sewn into submission / I can still come home to this" hit you like a punch in the gut - this song owns you.

8. "Thrash Unreal" - Against Me!
I'd written off Against Me as another band in the endless Hot Topic mall-punk assembly line, but all it took was this sharp hook digging under my skin to make me a believer. The juxtaposition of the bubbly "ba-ba-ba-ba" melody and the lyrics about addiction make for a jarring, but wholly compelling pop tune.

9. "D.A.N.C.E." - Justine
A fantastic French duo, the kiddie chorus, a fantastic video, and lyrical nods to classic Michael Jackson made this one of the easiest to love singles of the year. Did I mention how great the video is?

10. "Fireworks" - Animal Collective
A lot of people tell me they just don't "get" Animal Collective when I try to push this song on them, but I think they may be trying way too hard to look for something that isn't there. For me this is all about the visceral experience, kicking back and let the sound wash over you. Maybe not the most accessible single on the list, but it deserves to be given a chance.

11. "Four Winds" - Bright Eyes
12. "And She Would Darken the Memory" - The Twilight Sad
13. "Must Be the Moon" - !!!
14. "I Still Remember" - Bloc Party
15. "Wrong Galaxy/Triumph" - Shit Robot
16. "Rocket" - Working for a Nuclear Free City
17. "Tonight I Have to Leave It" - Shout Out Louds
18. "See You at the Lights" - 1990s
19. "Teenagers" - My Chemical Romance
20. "Gunpowder & Lead" - Miranda Lambert

21. “Thnks fr th Mmrs” – Fall Out Boy
22. “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse” – Of Montreal
23. “Good Life” – Kanye West f. T-Pain
24. “Throw Some D’s” – Rich Boy f. Polow Da Don
25. “Can You Feel It?” – Apples In Stereo
26. “Tonto” – Battles
27. “1, 2, 3, 4” – Feist
28. “Hello Brooklyn 2.0” – Jay-Z f. Lil Wayne
29. “I’m A Flirt (Remix)” – R. Kelly f. T.I. & T-Pain
30. “O Katrina!” – Black Lips

31. “What Goes Around…/…Comes Around” – Justin Timberlake
32. “Beautiful Life” – Gui Boratto
33. “Roc Boys (And the Winner is…)” – Jay-Z
34. “Ruby” – Kaiser Chiefs
35. “To the East” - Electrelane
36. “If the Brakeman Turns My Way” – Bright Eyes
37. “Melody Day” - Caribou
38. “Tears Dry On Their Own” – Amy Winehouse
39. “Golden Skans” – Klaxons
40. “Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit)” – The Noisettes

41. “Read My Mind” – The Killers
42. “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)” – UGK f. Outkast
43. “Foundations” – Kate Nash
44. “2080” – Yeasayer
45. “Off the Hook” – CSS
46. “Jimmy” – M.I.A.
47. “The Prayer” – Bloc Party
48. “Someone Great” – LCD Soundsystem
49. “Ankle Injuries” – Fujiya & Miyagi
50. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” – Kanye West

51. “I’m Like a Lawyer with the Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You)” – Fall Out Boy
52. “Make Em Mad” – B.G. and the Chopper City Boyz
53. “Straight Lines” – Silverchair
54. “Dashboard” – Modest Mouse
55. “Our Velocity” – Maximo Park
56. “Get Buck” – Young Buck
57. “Boy with a Coin” – Iron & Wine
58. “The Game” – Common
59. “Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe” – Okkervil River
60. “Keep the Car Running” – The Arcade Fire

61. “Peacebone” – Animal Collective
62. “Hang Me Up To Dry” – Cold War Kids
63. “Jesus Christ” – Brand New
64. “Is There a Ghost” – Band of Horses
65. “Office Boy” – Bonde do Role
66. “Misery Business” – Paramore
67. “Piece of Me” – Britney Spears
68. “Drivin’ Me Wild” – Common f. Lily Allen
69. “The Heinrich Maneuver” – Interpol
70. “Direct Hit” – Art Brut

71. “Giddy Stratospheres” – The Long Blondes
72. “The Magic Position” – Patrick Wolf
73. “Same Jeans” – The View
74. “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You’re Told)” – The White Stripes
75. “With Love” – Hilary Duff
76. “Big Casino” – Jimmy Eat World
77. “What’s a Girl To Do?” – Bat For Lashes
78. “Two of Us” – Supermayer
79. “Earth Intruders” – Bjork
80. “Go Getta” – Young Jeezy f. R. Kelly

81. “Flux (JFK Remix)” – Bloc Party
82. “Absolutely No Decorum” – The Ark
83. “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down” – Oasis
84. “Shut Up and Drive” - Rihanna
85. “Cold Hands” – Black Lips
86. “I’m A Fool Wit It” – Twisted Black
87. “Baby Girl, I’m A Blur” – Say Anything
88. Myriad Harbor” – The New Pornographers
89. “Flathead” – The Fratellis
90. “Icky Thump” – The White Stripes

91. “In the Belly of a Shark” – Gallows
92. “Tonight the Streets Are Ours” – Richard Hawley
93. “Men’s Needs” – The Cribs
94. “You are the Space Invader” – Prinzhorn Dance School
95. “The Deception” – iLiKETRAiNS
96. “Coffee” – Aesop Rock f. John Darnielle
97. “She is the New Thing” – The Horrors
98. “Dry the River” – Maylene and the Sons of Disaster
99. “Someone To Love” – Fountains of Wayne
100. “Fancy Footwork” – Chromeo

Dec 18, 2007

2007 Year in Review III: The EP's
The power of an EP should never be underestimated. When done properly, an EP can pack a lot of punch in a small package - introducing us to new artists or hinting at new directions for the old ones. I've always been a huge fan of the EP and I'm glad more and more bands are taking advantage of the format by trying new and interesting things, not just dumping leftovers onto them. Here's a quick list of some of my favorites from the past year.

1. Los Campesinos! - Sticking Fingers Into Sockets (Arts & Crafts)
Undoubtedly one of my favorite new bands bursting onto the scene in 2007, this six-piece from Wales knew exactly how to best introduce themselves to the world. Toss in one of the most joyous singles of the year ("You! Me! Dancing!"), another nearly as fantastic ("We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives"), a Pavement cover ("Frontwards"), and a whole lot of youthful exuberance - and voila! you have one of the most promising debuts I've heard in years. I can't wait for the full-length next year.

2. Deerhunter - Fluorescent Grey EP (Kranky)
This can pretty much be considered the addendum to the excellent Cryptograms album, which is great - even more of a wonderful thing. Four more songs worth of swirling, disorienting ambient punk. Bradford Cox may be a magnet for controversy, but the dude is a talented songwriter.

3. Robert Pollard - Silverfish Trivia EP (Prom is Coming)
Of his thirty-four (or whatever) releases during the past year, this seems to be the least favorite of his longtime fans. I don't get it though, this is pretty good stuff. Fewer obvious hooks, but I think it stands up well as a cohesive whole. I dig this side of Pollard's songwriting genius.

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Is Is (Interscope)
This is mostly re-recorded versions of material originally written between their first two studio albums, but at the same time seems to perfectly demonstrate the continuing growth of this band's songwriting chops. "Down Boy" and "Rockers To Swallow" are obvious highlights, but there really isn't a bad tune in the bunch.

5. Jesu - Lifeline EP (Hydra Head)
Two albums and a handful of EPs into his post-Godflesh solo career, and Justin Broadrick has yet to hit a bum note in any of them. This definitely doesn't represent the heaviest work of his career, but I think the ethereal nature of these songs suits the Jesu imprint very well. A lot of fans have given him shit for the female vocals on "Storm Comin' On", but I find it a welcome change of pace.

6. Black Kids - Wizard of Ahhhs EP (self-released)
The best argument for the continued existence of MySpace I was able to find in 2007. This Jacksonville band offered this EP for free on their page and the indie web presence was quick to heap praise all over them. Thing is, all of it is totally deserved. "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You" is everything lacking from too much indie rock this year - energetic, fun, and endearing. I can't wait to hear what else these kids have in the pipeline, let's just hope the early hype doesn't bury them before they get a fair chance to shine.

7. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Follow the Lights (Lost Highway)
Buried amidst all the backlash and critical hatred towards Ryan's more (ahem) colorful antics, is the fact that this dude can still churn out a killer tune when needed. The three new tracks are alone worth the price of admission here, but the true stars are his surprising cover of Alice In Chains' "Down in a Hole" and the Cardinals reworking of Adams' own "This Is It".

8. Dead Child - Dead Child EP (Cold Sweat)
In which David Pajo of Slint and Tortoise fame decides to have a go at Priest meets Sabbath style retro-metal, bringing along a handful of Louisville indie stalwarts for the head-banging ride. Ultimately inconsequential, but good fist-pumping fun.

9. Sigur Ros - Hvarf/Heim (XL)
Released as a companion piece to the documentary DVD Heima, this double EP finds the Icelandic wonders giving fans one disc of unreleased gems and another of acoustic variations of various songs from their back catalog. Not as thrilling as any of the band's long players, but the raw and loose feeling of these recordings is a refreshing change of pace.

10. Bright Eyes - Four Winds EP (Saddle Creek)
A teaser of sorts from earlier this year, this provided us with a peek at one of Cassadaga's brightest stars, as well as a handful of B-sides from that same album. As usual with Mr. Oberst, the B-sides are nothing to sneeze at - especially "Tourist Trap". Great stuff.

Dec 17, 2007

2007 Year in Review II: The Various and Sundry
This is the catch-all category that covers live albums, label compilations, soundtracks, reissues - basically whatever doesn't fit under the category of single, album, or EP. Below are what I consider to be the twenty finest of such from the past year. Click on the links to buy them for yourself.

1. Daft Punk - Alive 2007 (Virgin)
Was there really any doubt? A nearly perfect document of the most amazing live experience of the year. I'll never be able to completely recapture the feeling of watching the robotic duo rhythmically enslave us all from their perch in the pyramid, but this comes damn close.

2. Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall 1971 (Reprise)
A truly remarkable live document of Neil at the height of his first classic era. Essential for any diehard fan, but also a pretty decent introduction for the newbie (if only to understand what made the rest of us the diehards).

3. Sly and the Family Stone - The Collection (box set) (Sony)
A beautifully packaged box that contains the first seven classic albums from these R&B/funk superstars. Mandatory listening for anyone with even the most passing interest in music that makes you shake your ass off.

4. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (collector's edition) (Rhino)
These boys' albums were due for a solid remastering job and they finally received it. Their first, and arguably best, album benefited greatly. The live bonus disc may be a slight disappointment to longtime fans already hoarding their releases, but you just cannot argue with how great the album sounds.

5. Elliott Smith - New Moon (Kill Rock Stars)
A posthumous double disc set that finally pushed me off the fence and into full-fledged fandom. I figured shit, if this guy has outtakes this good, I really need to check out the rest of his stuff. Fantastic stuff all around.

6. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation (deluxe edition) (Geffen)
This choice may be colored slightly by getting to watch them perform this album live back in July, but I really can't argue with a fantastic package containing one of my all-time favorite albums.

7. Various Artists - The Brit Box: U.K. Indie, Shoegaze, and Brit-Pop Gems of the Last Millennium (Rhino)
The title pretty much sums it up, a fantastic four-disc summation of some of the greatest music the Brits gave us throughout the '90s. The obvious culprits are here (My Bloody Valentine, Oasis, Pulp, Blur), but its the lesser known bands (Cast, Swervedriver, The Wonder Stuff, The Trash Can Sinatras) that make this such a joy to listen to.

8. Joy Division - Closer (collector's edition) (Rhino)
It was a good year for Joy Division and a great year for us fans, getting all these reissues and new live tracks to get lost in.

9. Various Artists - Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration (Stax)
If you already know what Stax is, you already know how incredible these songs are. If you don't, you need to order this thing immediately. Isaac Hayes, Booker T, Otis Redding - need I mention more?

10. Boris w/ Merzbow - Rock Dream (Southern Lord)
Another incredible package design from Southern Lord, this time capturing a live collaboration from some of Japan's most innovative and forward thinking musicians working today.

11. Various Artists - I'm Not There (soundtrack) (Sony)
12. Alkaline Trio - Remains (Vagrant)
13. The Killers - Sawdust (Rarities and B-Sides 2003-2007) (Island)
14. Various Artists - Death Proof (soundtrack) (Maverick)
15. Opeth - The Roundhouse Tapes (Peaceville UK)
16. Various Artists - Ed Rec Vol. 2 (Ed Banger)
17. Superdrag - Changin' Tires on the Road to Ruin (Arena Rock)
18. J Dilla - Ruff Draft (reissue) (Stones Throw)
19. Led Zeppelin - The Song Remains the Same (reissue) (Rhino)
20. Jaylib - Champion Sound (deluxe edition) (Stones Throw)

Dec 16, 2007

2007 Year in Review I: The Introduction

We reach the end of another year and the time has come once again to reflect upon the wonderful music the last twelve months has provided me. 2007 was not, as I've heard others suggest, a particularly weak year for music - you just needed to dig a little deeper and look to some unexpected sources to find the truly captivating and engaging stuff. Radiohead and Kanye West aside, it was a year when a lot of the biggest names failed to bring their 'A' game and instead handed us less than stellar material. The Wu-Tang Clan dropped one of the more flaccid records of the latter half of their career and T.I., despite releasing the outstanding King a year ago, churned out a half-assed concept album that was simply a chore to sit through. The Smashing Pumpkins, one of my personal favorites, completely dropped the ball with their long-awaited "reunion" album - falling well short of the already low expectations. And while they certainly weren't bad albums in any sense of the word, the latest from stalwarts like M.I.A., Rilo Kiley, The National, and Spoon all fell a little bit short of my high hopes after stupendous previous releases. Hell, even Neon Bible was a little bit of a letdown, but that was probably due more to my insanely high expectations than anything else.

But let us not dwell too long on the bad, because there was plenty of great stuff that graced my ears throughout the year. I continued to dig deeper into metal throughout the year and was rewarded with great to flat-out amazing albums from the likes of Pig Destroyer, Baroness, High On Fire, Between the Buried and Me, Jesu, and Earthless - to name but a few. And while there weren't a ton of five-star classic albums this year, rap vets like Jay-Z and UGK (R.I.P. Pimp C) dropped unexpectedly solid singles and albums during 2007. But the greatest joys, for me anyway, were those left-field albums that came out of nowhere to blow me away. Deerhunter, Battles, Chromatics, Working for a Nuclear Free City, and The Twilight Sad are all new names that made a big impact with me. Plus there were the latest albums from bands that I'd previously written off for one reason another, particularly Elephant 6 alumni like Of Montreal and Apples in Stereo.

Albums aside, it was also a pretty good year for the singles game as well. As far as I'm concerned Kanye West and his Daft Punk sampling ways ruled over all comers this year but Avril Lavigne, Rihanna, and The Shins all put up a good fight with fantastic songs. Los Campesinos!, a band to watch out for once their debut album drops in early '08, also gave us the fantastic "You! Me! Dancing!" - an ecstatic piece of pop that was stuck in my head throughout the fall of this year. "All My Friends" was one of the most heartbreaking moments of the year, while Against Me's "Thrash Unreal" gave us one of the year's most undeniable hooks from an unlikely subject matter. This all without even getting into the three or four minute bursts of joy given to us by Justice, Bright Eyes, Bloc Party, and the 1990's.

So check back over the next couple of days for my lists of the best albums, singles, EPs, and compilations/reissues of the year that was 2007. As always, feel free to leave a comment or two to express your agreement or indignation at my choices.