20 January 2011

Top Albums: 2007

{ The Police reunite and go on tour, Timbaland is accused of plagiarism, Elton John plays his 60th show - a record - at Madison Square Garden to celebrate his 60th birthday, Jordin Sparks wins American Idol and is never heard from again, the Spice Girls announce their reunion tour, Weird Al Yankovic plays his 1,000th show, Britney Spears' comeback single "Gimmie More" sells about 1,000,000 (!) copies shortly after its release, Radiohead announces that fans - like Priceline.com - can name their own price for their next record, Led Zeppelin reunites in London for the first time in 25 years. }

[Ed. Note: After a little hiatus in these Top Albums lists, I'll be knocking out 2007, 2008, 2009, and finally 2010 in the next week or so. Stay tuned! Thanks for reading!]

Looking back on 2007, there were a ton of albums that were released and it was truly difficult to craft a list of the best five albums.

Some of the albums that missed the cut?

Kanye West's brilliant record Graduation, Amy Winehouse's debut record Back To Black, Band of Horses sophomore release Cease To Begin, the debut album by Damon Albarn's The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Interpol's Our Love To Admire, the debut record by Justice, Arcade Fire's epic album Neon Bible, and the thrilling instrumental reinterpretation (with steel guitars!) of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless by Japancakes.

Some records that I discovered (and loved) later on were Myth Takes by !!!, Wilco's Sky Blue Sky, Pop Up by Yelle, Andrew Bird's Armchair Apocrypha, and the self-titled album by The Mary Onettes.

With all those great albums from 2007, what records did make the Pet Bear Sounds top five list?

Here are the best albums of 2007:

5. Lily Allen - Alright, Still

Alright, Still was originally released in 2006 but the United States didn't get an official release until January of 2007. Like the Arctic Monkeys before her, Lily Allen's initial success came from releasing demos on Myspace and through rampant file-sharing (Hey, RIAA, it's not necessarily a bad thing).

But her claim to fame (and her personal isn't just a handful of catchy tunes that just happened to capture the ears of kids on the Internet.

Alright, Still is a legitimately solid album.

Allen's conversational style of singing, the endearing English accent, the witty tongue and the unabashed lyrics combined with a deliciously retro Jamaican-reggae-ska vibe in her songs makes for one of the best pop albums of the year.

4. Mark Ronson - Version

Multi-instrumentalist Mark Ronson cut his teeth as a DJ and as a producer ultimately working with artists like Macy Gray, Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen.

And then came Version.

Whether you know the songs or not, it is really not difficult to enjoy this album. The retro-soul vibes and the splashes of the horns scattered through out the record make for a tasteful cover album.

This isn't a haphazard album of covers, it's an album carefully curated by Ronson and carefully crafted with love. Ronson isn't an opportunist but a music purist who dares not sully the songs that end up on his record.

Colplay, The Smiths, The Jam, Radiohead, Britney Spears, Ryan Adams, The Charlatans, Kasabian, all receive the Ronson treatment. And it's solid gold.

I really wish Ronson could just reinterpret all of my favorite brit-pop singles from the mid-90s.

3. Klaxons - Myths Of The Near Future

What do you want to call the Klaxons and how do you want to describe their debut record Myths Of The Near Future?

Dance-punk? Indie-rock? New-rave? Alternative dance? (Those are the genres Wikipedia kindly suggests for the record).

Their record is a bit difficult to pin-point, their influences aren't clearly painted on their sleeves but there is definitely a raw, lo-fi, punk edge to the hyper rhythms that drive the songs. Odd and infectious melodies permeate the entire record. And permeate the folds of my brain.

Whatever it is the Klaxons debut (a Mercury Prize winner) is new, fresh and adventurous and one of the best records of 2007.

2. Radiohead - In Rainbows

I feel as if the brilliance of In Rainbows is often overshadowed by the way they released the record (over the Internet with fans paying whatever price they want; you can read about it in practically a million different places).

For the moment let's ignore the hullabaloo surrounding the release and distribution of the record and the impact on a flailing music industry.

In Rainbows is simply one of the most beautiful records ever created by Radiohead. The album feels like it has more space than previous efforts (classics?), there is a wonderful warmth surrounding the entire record and I feel more sense of space and openness in this record.

The album also weighs in at an efficient 42 minutes over ten tracks.

While I adore albums like Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail To The Thief, I can find some fault with it and I find myself reaching for those records less often as time goes by. But Radiohead obviously could not have reached the point of In Rainbows without the albums before it. The painful process of experimentation, creation and art resulted in a modern day classic like In Rainbows and it is a record that will truly stand the test of time.

Until the next one, of course.

1. LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver

Is James Murphy the spokesman of an aging hipster generation and the nouveau-hip?

It's quite possible.

Sonically Sound Of Silver doesn't seem to make too much of a leap from the self-titled debut album but the songs on Sound Of Silver are stronger. The electro-punk sensibility of LCD Soundsystem calls upon the warm, vintage, analog sounds of the '70s and '80s and repackages it in a fresh and nostalgic way.

The record is paced near-perfectly and the grooves are relentless. I've seen them in concert twice and they have been a couple of the best shows that I've been to.

But it's not really the beats of the album that grab me hook, line and sinker, it's the (underrated?)penmanship of James Murphy.

Lyrics that touch upon the wistful and somber side of life combined with an upbeat melody has always caught my attention. And those honest qualities are often what makes a great pop song. (This is why Christmas songs are fantastic).

The heartbreaking quality of "Someone Great," "All My Friends" and "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" really puts James Murphy as one of the best songwriters of our generation. Or at least my generation.

Oh, and the ass-shaking songs doesn't hurt either.

2007 Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
  • Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
  • Interpol - Our Love To Admire
  • Japancakes - Loveless
  • Kanye West - Graduation
  • The Thrills - Teenager

{ There's a very slight chance you've never heard this album before. Very slight. }

Please be sure to read my post explaining this little project and, more importantly, the criteria that I'm using. Thanks!