Albums of 2007

[Ed. note: I originally wrote this for the webpage of my old college-radio show.  I stumbled across it today (1/1/11) and decided to post it for archival purposes.  I'm not normally as obnoxious as I was here, but for that reason I thought it was somewhat amusing in hindsight.]

The Best of 2007?
Lack of exposure finds me grasping for a Top 10 list...

First, a disclaimer or two: I stopped doing a radio show early this year, so my exposure to most of 2007's new releases was minimal.  I'll also readily admit my bias toward songs with melody and prominent guitar, so a significant population of indie bands are out of the picture.  Finally, I make no attempt to list the "best" albums of the year (how could anyone even attempt such a feat?), but simply those I most enjoyed.  I would hope other list writers do the same, but it's quite clear that most sources are either copying each other, responding to one another, or attempting to situate themselves as preeminent tastemakers.  Meh.  [Insert hipster-insulting joke here]

With that being said, my take on 2007 is that is just wasn't as interesting as 2006 (hence the "lackluster" reference below).  There were a handful of good albums, but organizing them into a list was a haphazard process.  Was Idlewild's Make Another World really my favorite album of the year?  Maybe.  Was Collective Soul's album better than Radiohead's?  Probably not.  Think of the ranking as a cursory guess; the music itself is what's important.

The (Somewhat Lackluster) Top Ten
1. Idlewild - Make Another World  

  • Idlewild return to what made them kick ass: Balls to the wall rock and roll.  This CD is LOUD, and just when you think it'll blow your speakers, they throw in the subtle, horn-supported "Future Works."  If there was any doubt, Scotland's finest still have it.
  • Top picks: Everything (As It Moves); No Emotion; A Ghost in the Arcade
    2. The New Amsterdams - Killed or Cured
    • Killed or Cured sits in a peculiar position on this list.  Its strength lies in the marriage of two CDs packaged together: the original demos of these songs [the Killed disc], and their more glossily-produced counterparts [the Cured disc].  Some of the demos are clearly better (see "Just So Over You" and "Full Thunder Moon"), but the reinterpreted versions have their moments, as well.
    • Top picks: Just So Over You [Killed]; Wears So Thin [either]; Strangled by the Thought [Cured]; Full Thunder Moon [Killed]
    3. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
    • Absolutely deserves to be #1 on this list, but I just didn't listen to it as much as the previous two.  Sam Beam has always been recognized for his lyrics; this album establishes him as a masterful composer, as well. 
    • Top picks: House by the Sea; Resurrection Fern; Flightless Bird, American Mouth 
    • Notable b-sides: Arms of a Thief; Kingdom of the Animals
    4. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
    • This was my first Shins album, so I couldn't care less how it stands up to previous efforts.
    • Top picks: Australia; A Comet Appears; Black Wave; Phantom Limb
    • Notable b-sides: Nothing At All, Split Needles [alt. version]
    5. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
    • Like The Shepherd's Dog, this album could easily be #1, but drops for the same reason.  I recently said in jest that Andrew Bird might be the smartest person I "know," but in all seriousness, the man is brilliant.
    • Top picks: Heretics; Imitosis; Fiery Crash, Scythian Empires
    6. Collective Soul - Afterwords
    • After two lackluster albums (and an EP with lots of potential that never really delivered), Collective Soul have FINALLY gotten back to what made them a solid band.  Forget the glam-rock "Hollywood"; the rest of this album is everything good about the halcyon days of 90s post-grunge.
    • Top picks: New Vibration; All That I Know; I Don't Need Anymore Friends
    7. David Vandervelde - The Moonstation House Band
    • Blah blah blah.  [Insert pretentious compliment].  Good stuff.  Listen to it. 
    • Top picks: Nothin No; Jacket; Wisdom from a Tree; Murder in Michigan
    8. Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
    • It's strange to talk about a "return to form" when his last great album (Cold Roses) was released only two years ago, but Ryan Adams released two albums in the interim (the very country Jacksonville City Nights and difficult/complex 29).  Easy Tiger finds Adams tempering his country tastes and simplifying his song structures.  The result is one of his most accessible albums since the vilified (by fans) Rock N Roll.  I'll still take Cold Roses over anything else he's done, but this was a nice addition to his career. 
    • Top picks: The Sun Also Sets; Oh My God, Whatever, Etc; Two
    9. The National - Boxer
    • The guys from The National couldn't take a dump without finding someone waiting to heap praise on their last two albums.  Boxer is definitely good, but its 13 tracks start to sound the same on repeated listenings.
    • Top picks: Fake Empire; Start a War; Slow Show
    10. Radiohead - In Rainbows
    • Like The National, everyone was dangling from the nuts of the Radiohead boys this year.  Yes, they let fans decide how much to pay ... without letting them know they were buying low-ish quality (128kbps) mp3 files.  The rest of Radiohead's catalog is available for download at CD-quality 320 kbps, so what gives?  Thus, I got my digital copy of In Rainbows for free, and will wait for Jan. 1, 2008 to buy the CD version.  (It should be noted that Radiohead's poor choice in this area did not factor into my ranking.  In Rainbows was ranked #10 based on the songs alone.)
    • Top picks: Bodysnatchers; 15 Step
    Worth Mentioning
    11. Jimmy Eat World - Chase This Light
    • Really doesn't deserve to be on a best-of list, as it's their weakest album, but I'm including it here for the opportunity to mention two absolutely stellar b-sides ("Distraction" and the Springsteen cover of "Take Em As They Come").  Trimming the fat and including these outtakes would have made Chase This Light a solid album.
    • Top picks: Let It Happen; Here It Goes; Feeling Lucky
    • Notable b-sides: Take Em As They Come; Distraction; Open Bar Reception
    12. Feist - The Reminder
    • I absolutely need to listen to this more.  I can't rate it higher because I've only focused on four songs...
    • Top picks: 1234; I Feel it All; Sealion; My Moon My Man
    13. Sea Wolf - Leaves in the River
    • Dark, solemn, pretty.  Alter-ego of Irving bassist/co-singer Alex Brown Church.
    • Top picks: You're a Wolf; Black Dirt
    • Notable b-sides: I Made a Resolution
      [not actually a b-side, as it's available on an EP, Get to the River Before it Runs too Low]