Compiling Best of/Worst of music lists is always a risky endeavor. Inevitably you’ll have a bunch of people who are upset because this band or that song was either left off, placed too highly, or included at all. Luckily for me I don’t give a crap what anyone else thinks. That being said, I am including the caveat that I am only one man and simply don’t have as much time to listen to and absorb music as I used to, so I readily admit that I probably missed out on a lot of good stuff this year.
As far as what to include – I didn’t want to include so many albums/songs from 2007 as to render this list useless, but I didn’t want to overlook anything either.
The Best of the Best (Albums)
Field Music, Tones of Town – This is my favorite album of the year in a landslide. I am a sucker for intelligent Britpop, and this is first-rate stuff. Superb harmonies, clever arrangements, and tight performances elevate this far above Field Music’s debut album. So of course it figures that the band is now broken up (or on hiatus).
Minus the Bear, Planet of Ice – A big debt of gratitude is owed to the AV Club for this discovery. They posted a clip of “Knights,” and I was hooked instantly. Call it indie rock, math rock, or whatever you want – this is 21st century prog rock, and it is a beautiful thing. A few minor gripes aside (vocals tend to be too even-keeled, drags a bit in some places) this is the best rock album of the year.
White Rabbits, Fort Nightly – This is the music I would dance to if I didn’t bust moves like Herman Munster. My favorite pop albums and songs tend to be cheery on the surface but with an undercurrent of darkness, and this record is no exception. Whether or not the White Rabbits can follow that up remains to be seen, but things look very promising indeed.
Queens of the Stone Age, Era Vulgaris – No, this album does not scale the heights of the brilliant Songs for the Deaf, but it’s no slouch either. I’ve read a lot of comments dismissing this as nothing more than frat rock/metal, but nothing could be further from the truth. This isn’t music for frat boys who like Dane Cook, it’s music for those who show up to frat parties, drop acid, beat the snot out of Dane Cook fans, and steal their girlfriends.
The Octopus Project, Hello Avalanche – Another new band discovery for me this year. This album’s smart melding of traditional instrumentation and electronics scratches me right where I itch. As an added bonus, the songs are great as well.
Robert Plant & Allison Krauss, Raising Sand – While this seems like an unlikely pairing (a bonafide rock god and a bluegrass superstar), it is in fact oh so satisfying. Plant’s weathered baritone blends perfectly with Krauss’s lilting soprano. This is definitely not driving music, but don’t let that discourage you. It rewards not just careful listening, but multiple listens.
Paul McCartney, Memory Almost Full – I had to ask myself before including this one, if this was an album released by someone other than a former Beatle, would I still be impressed? The answer is yes. While the voice isn’t quite what it used to be, the songcraft is stronger than it’s been in years. Not every song is a winner, but enough are to elevate Memory Almost Full to the upper ranks of Macca’s solo work.
The Rest of the Best (albums)
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights
Caribou – Andorra
The New Pornographers – Challengers
Joe Henry – Civilians
Wynton Marsalis – From the Plantation to the Penitentiary
Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Happy Apple – Happy Apple Back on Top
Robert Glasper – In My Element
Koop – Koop Islands
Georgie James – Places
Manic Street Preachers – Send Away the Tigers
Backyard Tire Fire – Vagabonds and Hooligans
Tomahawk – Anonymous
Get Him Eat Him – Arms Down