2007 is just about over, so now it is time for me to count down my top ten CDs of the year.
11. The Shins - "Wincing the Night Away" - Okay, okay, I know, I'm cheating. I said it would be a top ten, but I can't leave this CD off my list! While it lacks some of the immediacy and the "hey, look at me!" of their first two albums, this newest one shows the band retaining much of what makes it special in the singing and songwriting. The playing is more polished, the songs seem to be in more of a sort of formula, but hey... with a voice like James Mercer has, and with the playing and arranging skills these guys have, I think they are going to be around for a long time. If they are settling into a groove, it looks like it's a good one.
10. Porcupine Tree - "Fear of a Blank Planet" - Steven Wilson can do little wrong, in my opinion. FOABP is yet another amazingly good prog-rock album in a series of many by Wilson and his band. Guest artists on this one include King Crimson's Robert Fripp and Alex Lifeson of Rush. Listen to this CD and you will hear dreamy passages, rough moments, soundscapes and sonic structures of all types.
9. Blackfield - "Blackfield II" - Their first album "Blackfield" was my favorite from last year. This time around they are just as good. Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson and Israeli star Aviv Geffen team up to create lush, melodic, introspective rock music. They are as great a "rainy day music" band as you'll find anywhere.
8. Wilco - "Sky Blue Sky" - Some people have been critical of this CD because they prefer the more experimental stuff Wilco was doing while band leader Jeff Tweedy was having his drug problems (i.e. "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and "A Ghost is Born", although when I saw Wilco this summer, the material from those two CDs translated extremely well in the "live" setting). Because I am more of a fan of Wilco's "Being There" and "Summerteeth", I find this album to be a real treat because the band is returning to doing more accessible, conventional-sounding songs; and I think that is what Wilco does best. Tweedy's reedy voice is great. Guitarist Nels Cline does some great work, and I believe the songs "Impossible Germany" and "Either Way" rank with Wilco's very best.
7. Andrew Bird - "Armchair Apocrypha" - I bought this CD on a lark because I loved the cover art. Turns out it is quite a nice album. Bird is a violinist, and he creates some cool sound textures by overdubbing bowed and plucked strings. He also whistles, and beautifully! I'd consider this to be quirky, light pop but not like other pop music you will hear nowadays. The track "Imitosis" has been used recently in television commercials, and is a great track. "Fiery Crash", "Armchairs" and "Scythian Empires" are other standout songs.
5. Annie Lennox - "Songs of Mass Destruction" - She is in fine voice, as always. Her songwriting is good, the production is great, the songs have good arrangements... and it all adds up to some of the best ear candy I have heard in a long time. If you like her voice, you have to check out this CD. In the new tradition of "Diva", "Medusa" and "Bare", Annie's post-Eurythmics career marches on, unobstructed, with "Songs of Mass Destruction". My album highlights are "Ghost in My Machine" and "Coloured Bedspread".
4. The Aliens - "Astronomy For Dogs" - Beta Band fans can rejoice, because three members of that defunct, revered Scottish band are back together for this reunion of sorts. This is a great load of fun psychedelic pop/rock with doses of whimsy, humor, and emotion. "She Don't Love Me No More" tugs at the heart strings and speaks of singer Gordon Andersen's time in an asylum, the 16+ minute "Caravan" hearkens back to the Beta Band's extended trippy tracks, and "Setting Sun", "Robot Man" and "I Am Unknown" are great, simple rockers. This one is vastly underrated, and well worth a listen!
3. Radiohead - "In Rainbows" - This band is still important, as those who have listened to their latest album know. No, of course "In Rainbows" isn't "The Bends" or "OK Computer", but it might be the next best thing to those two albums which represent the band's high water mark to most people. On "In Rainbows" the vocals are good like always, the guitar playing is as inventive as always, the drumming is as crisp and creative as always. The band still sounds experimental, yet several of the tracks on this disc are the most accessible they have recorded in recent memory. Check out "Reckoner", "House of Cards" and "Weird Fishes" ("I get eaten by the worms, and weird fishes..."), and you'll see what I mean. I don't know if or when this CD will be available in stores, but you can download it from Radiohead's website and pay whatever you think is fair for the privilege. And it is a privilege! (I think I paid them five pounds, or something like $9.30 for it.)
2. Arcade Fire - "Neon Bible" - I heard this CD before I saw Arcade Fire at the Sasquatch Festival at The Gorge Amphitheater in May of 2007 and I liked the disc a lot, but seeing the band perform many of these songs caused me to consider "Neon Bible" to be just about the best CD I had heard in the past few years. There is youthful energy, anger, sorrow, and enough angst in this material to move even the crustiest soul. Win Butler writes gut-bucket lyrics, and he belts with the best. The band is like a large organism, chugging along, self-sustaining, all parts equally important. See the band if you can, and get this CD for sure. The standout tracks are "Intervention", "antichrist television blues", Windowsill" and "Keep the Car Running", but the whole album is good.
1. Bruce Springsteen - "Magic" - The Arcade Fire CD would have been my #1, but then this disc came along! This was one I desperately wanted to like. I hadn't enjoyed much by Springsteen since "Darkness on the Edge of Town", with a few tracks from "Born In The USA" and "Tunnel of Love". It seems like the guy went on a long sojourn away from the mainstream to kind of do his own thing. Now he is back, in full force with the E Street Band, with songs that practically make me melt. The Boss is older now, and he knows it. He deals with this in a number of the album's lyrics, perhaps best in "Girls In Their Summer Clothes". Guys, those beautiful young women strolling by just don't get any older, but we do, eh... ! Springsteen and the E Streeters are in top form. Think "Born to Run" and "Darkness" with an edge of maturity, and you get this: sheer "Magic"!Honorable mentions:
Film School - Hideout
Rush - "Snakes and Arrows" - This band gets better all the time.
Modest Mouse - "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank" - Isaac Brock is an acquired taste, but I finally think I am beginning to figure out what he's trying to do. This is some well-played music, and some of the lyrics are hilarious.
Neil Young - "Chrome Dreams II" - Solid, not outstanding. Best thing he has done in a long time.
The Good The Bad And The Queen - "The Good The Bad And The Queen"
Pelican - "City of Echoes" - Epic guitar-rock instrumentals.There were a lot of songs I liked in 2007, but here are 12 of my "songs of the year":
Arcade Fire - "Intervention", "Windowsill"
Bruce Springsteen - "Radio Nowhere", "Girls In Their Summer Clothes"
Radiohead - "Weird Fishes", "Reckoning", "House of Cards"
Wilco -"Impossible Germany", "Either Way"
Blackfield - "Epidemic"
The Aliens - "She Don't Love Me No More"
Andrew Bird - "Fiery Crash"Stuff I discovered in 2007 that I liked, that had been recorded in years past:
Lambchop - "Damaged", "Aw Cmon", "No You Cmon", "Nixon", "Is a Woman"
The Beta Band - "The Beta Band", "Hot Shots II", "Heroes to Zeroes", "The Three EPs"
Tool - "10,000 Days"
Steve Hillage - "Fish Rising", "Green", "L"
Belle and Sebastian - I REdiscovered ALL their stuff... wow!
Sparklehorse - "Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly of a Mountain"
Grizzly Bear - "Yellow House"
Animal Collective- "Feels"
Dandy Warhols - first two CDs
John Cale - "Hobosapiens" - this is a truly outstanding CDStuff from 2007 people rave about that I still haven't heard (but which I have on order!):
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
The National - Boxer
Robert Wyatt - ComicoperaMy disappointments of 2007:
Eagles - "Long Road Out of Eden" - It's o.k., but I think it could have been so much better. I would have enjoyed hearing Joe Walsh sing more than just a couple of songs. I liked it a lot the first time I heard it, but I like it a little less now each time I listen... and I am ashamed I entered Wal-Mart to buy it.
Interpol - "Our Love to Admire" - It's o.k., but I don't know if they will ever recapture the energy of their debut "Turn on the Bright Lights" or the power of some of the standout tracks from their second outing, "Antics". This newest one is kind of boring and has a very antiseptic feel to it... there are some decent tracks, but not much in the way of new sounds.
All in all, I think 2007 was a very good year in music for me. I hope you all had a good musical year too. What did some of you hear that you liked during this past year?