Thursday, December 20, 2007

Best of 2007

I must say, 2007 was a much better year than 2006 in terms of music. We're not talking 2005 here, but there are so many good albums this year - it was quite difficult coming up with a "Best of 2007" list. However, I didn't find many "new" artists in 2007, as my list reflects bands that are on their second, third, or later albums - many of whom put out debuts that I loved.

First, while I cannot justify putting this on the list since it's a comp with re-issued tunes, I thought that the best release in 2007 was The Brit Box: U.K. Indie, Shoegaze, and Brit-Pop Gems of the Last Millenium - words cannot describe how fantastic this box set is. It might as well have been called "The Musical History of Christopher" as it spands all of the genres I've loved in my music-listening career - from 80's indie (The Smiths, Jesus and Mary Chain, The Charlatans, The Stone Roses) to shoegaze (Lush, MBV, Chapterhouse, Swervedriver, Ride) to Britpop (Suede, Oasis, Blur, Sleeper). It even had some stuff that I forgot I loved, like Ned's Atomic Dustbin's "Grey Cell Green" and Mansun's "Wide Open Space."

And now for the list...

10. Hard Fi - Once Upon a Time In the West - No in-your-face tracks like Stars of CCTV, and nothing as good as "Hard To Beat" (hands down one of my favorites of all time), but Richard Archer seems to have grown up a bit musically and came up with an overall solid effort. Single "Suburban Knights" probably ranks as the best track, but "Watch Me Fall Apart" and "We Need Love" show musical maturity. Nice work boys!

9. The Bravery - The Sun and The Moon - For a band that was loved and then hated by bloggers two years ago (people seem to be very passionate about these guys - and music snobs tend to hate them), seems like no one talked about them this year. All of their faux-theatrics aside, I've always liked their music (although Sam's vocals could be worked on - he usually talks or screams, rather than sings), and The Sun and The Moon provides me with more great music. The whistle singalong in "Bad Sun" is quite fun, and "Time Won't Let Me Go" and "Fistful of Sand" show that The Bravery can still bring it.

8. Chemical Brothers - We Are The Night - Pretty much what you'd expect from the Chems - big beat over tight synths, with vocals coming from indie heavy hitters (here, it's Kele Okerle and The Klaxons, among others). I'm not going to replace Exit Planet Dust with We Are the Night in my Chem rotation, but this is quite the effort.

7. Interpol - Our Love To Admire - I was very nervous when Interpol signed with a major label. I figured they'd up the Antics and come out with radio-friendly singles. Much to my delight, quite the opposite was true. "The Heinrich Maneuver" is indeed a great radio single, but overall, this album is nowhere near a commercial effort. With their usual dark and brooding sounds, Interpol delivered a good, not great, album that will not annoy me by being played on the radio every hour.

6. Kaiser Chiefs - Yours Truly, Angry Mob - A much better live band than a studio band, the Kaisers put together a pretty good tracklist with Yours Truly, Angry Mob. "Ruby" is a splendid singalong single, and actually, "Thank You Very Much" and "Everything Is Average Nowadays" are also great tunes to singalong to. With this album, the Kaisers have shown that they've matured musically in the past two years.
5. Radiohead - In Rainbows - The most talked about album this year was more for its distribution than its music. In Rainbows is good, but not in the same echelon as OK Computer, Kid A, or even Hail to the Thief. Some hauntingly beautiful tracks here though - especially "All I Need" and "Videotape." Almost gives you chills. Can't belive that this was the same band that gave us "Anyone Can Play Guitar" (which, after listening to Pablo Honey, really seems believable).
4. Underworld - Oblivion With Bells - Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have done it again. After five long years waiting for a new LP (although they did contribute to the Breaking and Entering soundtrack, as well as release some stuff on their website), they've come back with more of the trademark Underworld sound - swirling synths over big beats and non-sensical lyrics. "Crocodile," "Glam Bucket," and "Best Magmu Ever" standout. Their show in Central Park was incredible as well, and if you ever have the chance to see Underworld live - do so!

3. Apollo Heights - White Music For Black People - Rising from the ashes of the best band you've never heard of (The Veldt - whom I discovered while in school at Chapel Hill - saw them dozens of times, including as an opener for the Manic Street Preachers, and I'm probably the only person who owns all of their albums), Apollo Heights blends shoegaze-esque guitars over tight beats while adding soulful vocals on top (I believe they call their sound "soulgazing"). While only reaching in The Veldt's bag once (with a new version of "Babytalk" - if they wanted to update something, I would have loved to hear "Juicy Sandwich" again), Apollo Heights starts where The Veldt left off. "Shallow By Shallow" shows their hard-edged guitar sound, "Everlasting Gobstopper" their Cocteau-esque shoegaze, and "Disco Lights" shows off Daniel Chavis' soul. With only a couple of weak, throwaway tracks at the end, and although the album's mixing level leaves something to be desired, White Music For Black People is a must-have that you should pick up immediately.

2. New Young Pony Club - Fantastic Playroom - NYCP's debut fits perfectly in the electro-disco-punk of Modular Recordings. Teased with various singles last year, we now get NYPC in full length form. "The Get Go" sounds as good as it did when I heard it in early '06, "The Bomb" and "Get Lucky" are nice musical assaults on the senses, and "Ice Cream" is known throughout the country due to its inclusion in an HP ad. Dancey beats with 80's-like synths. Fantastic Playroom indeed!

1. Moving Units - Hexes for Exes - If you thought their disco-punk past was outstanding, throw in some Cure-like synth and you get this gem. Really pleased to see Moving Units come out with such a great follow up to Dangerous Dreams. The trademark hi-hats and funky bass lines are here, but more rythmic guitars with the aforementioned synths make this a more complete album than Dangerous Dreams - more of an indie rock sound really. "Dark Walls," "Pink Thoughts," "Wrong Again," "Paper Hearts" are the standout tracks, but frankly, everything on here is good.

Others worth mentioning: Editors' An End Has A Start (a good album, but nowhere near as good as The Back Room. There are no in-your-face-fantastic songs like "Munich" (God that song was good!) but Tom Smith and co. string together a few good tracks here, including "The Racing Rats," "Bones," and "An End Has A Start"); David Gahan's second solo effort Hourglass(the singles "Kingdom" and "Saw Something" are worth picking up, and the album is very Playing the Angel-like); The Klaxons' Myths of the Near Future (the 2007 Mercury Prize winner; "Magick" and "Forgotten Works" really get you going); and Maps' We Can Create (nice, chillout music, especially "You Don't Know Her Name").

My biggest letdown this year was Bloc Party's A Weekend In the City. It's actually a decent album when compared to most music out there (and I love the title), but nowhere near as good as Silent Alarm or their earlier EPs. It has a fair amount of highlights, but it's slow and drawn out in parts.

See ya in 2008!