I started 2007 by pointing out that it looked like every one of my favorite bands were going to release a record. What with Radiohead’s last-second offering, that was pretty much true. So in a year of strong albums, here’s my favorites in some sort of loose order of preference.
20. Page France – … And the Family Telephone
MP3: Page France – Ruby Ring Man
This record had a lot to live up to. I still think Hello Dear Wind is the best thing Michael Nau has yet created, but this record just goes to show you that second best can still be pretty darn fantastic.
19. Daft Punk – Alive 2007
A late contender. A bored afternoon at work turned into a monthlong obsession with this record. I still don’t own a physical copy of it, but that’s half the fun. Only having access to it at work is sort of like having a mistress and cheating on my record collection.
18. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
MP3: Wilco – Either Or
A total and 100% grower. I bought this record on vinyl during a summer lull and let it play through numerous times over the next two weeks. It’s beautiful, sad and silly; it tugs your heart in so many directions that you’re almost worn out when it’s over.
17. Miracle Fortress – Five Roses
MP3: Miracle Fortress – Have You Seen in Your Dreams
This record is just absolutely a mindblast. It’s catchy, psychedelic and makes me want to run outside with my eyes closed and open them at some dramatic moment in the song so as to be blindsided by the beauty of the world. In short: I like this album.
16. Justice – Cross
MP3: Justice – D.A.N.C.E.
For a collection of various singles and such, this album is remarkably strong through and through. “Newjack” blows me away every time and “D.A.N.C.E.” was just about everywhere this year.
15. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
MP3: Panda Bear – Comfy in Nautica
This album is one of the only records of the past few years to make you feel like you’re no longer on Earth, but ironically more a part of the planet than you’ve ever been. It’s weirdly and contradictory isolating and communal at the same time.
14. Bishop Allen – The Broken String
MP3: Bishop Allen – Rain
I spent about two months getting over the fact that the EP versions of the songs on this record are better than the redone products. After I could accept that, I realized that it’s still a darn good record. No, it’s not the bombshell life-changing pop record that might have been if it was recorded two years ago, but it’s still one of the top pop of the year. Nothing but fun and good melodies to be found in here.
13. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
MP3: Jens Lekman – Postcard to Nina
Oh, you’re so flawless Jens. This record is so honest and endearing that you can’t help but feel like Jens Lekman is one of your closest and most treasured friends. This record is like taking a long cross-country bike ride with him while he delights you with cute stories.
12. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
MP3: Arcade Fire – Keep the Car Running
This one was a bit of a grower as well. As numerous people have pointed out, it didn’t hit with the intensity of Funeral upon first listen, but upon closer inspection the songwriting is actually a little tighter. There are no misses on this album.
11. The Polyphonic Spree – The Fragile Army
MP3: The Polyphonic Spree – Running Away
I don’t want to meet the man whose heart is too hardened for the Polyphonic Spree’s music to soften it. Thumbsucker director Mike Mills coined the term “fragile army” when describing the Spree. Good thing they didn’t look to me for an album title or it would be called “Explosive Joy.”
10. Apples in Stereo – New Magnetic Wonder
MP3: The Apples in Stereo – Energy
Sure, it gets a bit weird at the end, but this record is solid pop. “Skyway” and “Energy” are among the best songs Schneider has ever written, and that’s saying something.
9. Radiohead – In Rainbows
MP3: Radiohead – House of Cards
The emptiest and loneliest record Radiohead has ever made. It’s so beautiful and unlike anything they’ve ever done before. Please, God, let this be the music my generation is remembered for.
8. Vampire Weekend – Blue CDR
MP3: Vampire Weekend – Bryn
It’s weird that Vampire Weekend doesn’t really sound that unique, but feels like one of the most refreshing records to grace my ears in a long, long time.
7. Tullycraft – Every Scene Needs a Center
MP3: Tullycraft – If You Take Away the Makeup
Some of the best melodies of the year combined with the witty type of lyrics that got you to fall for Tullycraft in the first place? Enough, you’ve won me over!
6. Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity
MP3: Deerhoof – +81
Deerhoof may not have a sound you can use to stereotype them, but they definitely have a type: mix the weird with the beautiful and repeat.
5. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
MP3: Andrew Bird – Scythian Empire
When compiling my top songs of the year, I was a little heartbroken not to be able to include Andrew Bird. It was only after pondering his high rank on the year end albums and the absence from the songs list that I realized this record is far more than the sum of its parts. There’s no single mindblowing track, but rather a breathtaking final product.
4. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
MP3: Spoon – The Underdog
I know deep in my heart that Britt Daniels will never let me down. I know this because Spoon is one of the most consistently solid bands going today. Ga x5 is full of surprises and more of the excellence we’ve come to expect from our favorite silverware-named group.
3. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
MP3: LCD Soundsystem – North American Scum
There are many, many reasons to love this record. First of all, the instrumentation is killer and reminds you of all your favorite bands. Next there are the lyrics that are every bit worthy of laud, followed closely by the melodies which lift them to your ears.
2. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
MP3: Of Montreal – Suffer for Fashion
Kevin Barnes is the most bizzaro, creative mind currently making music. Of Montreal’s songs are some of the weirder tunes that can still occupy the upper echelon of pop craftsmanship. This record, though catchy as hell, is far from the spoon full of sugar that his earlier work was. I can’t state a preference, but I will say that they’ve yet to put out a bad record (no small feat, considering that they’re nearly averaging one a year lately with a new one due this year).
1. Menomena – Friend and Foe
MP3: Menomena – Evil Bee
And here it is. From the opening cascade of drums in “Muscle’n Flo” to the final (hidden) piano notes of “West,” Friend and Foe is a truly fantastic record. The album has peaks (“Muscle’n Flo”), valleys (“Running”) and long stretching plains (“Rotten Hell”). It has skies (“Evil Bee”) and it has volcanoes (“The Pelican”). But most of all, it has heart.
I decided Friend and Foe was going to be my #1 pick of the year in November when I realized that the record had been my “Staff Pick” on our employee listening station at CD Central since it came out. I kept meaning to freshen up my pick with something more recent, but I couldn’t bring myself to take it off. Its sales stayed strong through the whole year, so I guess that’s a little bit of validation: if you hear it, you’ll love it.