Tuesday, January 08, 2008

2007 - The Year Behind

Every year, I try to a review of the best albums of the previous year, and I also like to take note of what we can look forward to in the next year. This is the former, for 2007.

2007 presented me with the promise of some very eagerly anticipated new albums from Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Ros, Björk, Explosions in The Sky, Massive Attack, The Cure, Arcade Fire, and Interpol. Most of those artists indeed released new albums (of varying success), some did not (Massive Attack, The Cure). In addition, this year was no different than any in which we were presented with bands we have never heard of or breakthrough albums by bands who have been lurking on the underground for quite some time. At the end of it all, I am really happy with 2007. It’s given me a number of truly good albums I’ll return to for years to come, and without further delay, here they are.

Saurab’s Best of 2007

  1. The National – “Boxer”: A near-perfect album. Each song flows from one to the next while keeping a consistency that makes an album truly complete. While I love songs like “Fake Empire” and “Slow Show”, the stretch from 2:30 in “Apartment Story” through the entire “Start a War” make the album for me.

  2. Radiohead – “In Rainbows”: By now, we all know the buzz generated by how this album was released. That aside, let’s not forget how wonderful this album is. Songs like “15 Step”, “Bodysnatchers” prove that Radiohead can still rock, songs like “Nude” and “All I Need” prove that Radiohead constructs soundscapes like no other, and songs like “Videotape” show that simplicity still reigns supreme in writing great music. I’ve commented on how this is still not quite an “OK Computer” or “The Bends”, but it is still Radiohead near the top of their game, and that’s tough to beat.

  3. Explosions In The Sky – “All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone”: another masterpiece by this Texan quartet. More “symphonic” in nature than their previous outings, I think this album is arguably their least superficially accessible but at the same time their best.

  4. Besnard Lakes – “The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse”: a newcomer to the list, and, arguably, the scene. I likened this album to a combination of the bombast of Led Zeppelin or Secret Machines with the psychedelic sound of Pink Floyd (late 60s) and the dreaminess of Luna. “Devastation” is another contender for song of the year.

  5. Café Tacuba – “Sino”: Café Tacuba have been around for awhile, and their fanbase is substantial. I was just ignorant. Not anymore. This album is a collection of songs that move from rock to reggae to punk and indie without losing the listener at any point. While most focus on “Volver A Comenzar” as the single of the album, I tend to prefer “Vamanos”, “De Acuerdo”, and “Agua”. This album makes me want to get up and dance (Saurab style). Certainly puts a smile on my face.

  6. Arcade Fire – “Neon Bible”: a strong “sophomore” (debatable) release, but still fell a bit short of expectations laid forth by the strength of 2004’s “Funeral”. Despite that, songs like “Keep The Car Running”, “Antichrist Television Blues”, and “No Cars Go” prove that they are still masters of their craft and are here to stay.

  7. Björk – “Volta”: arguably the most controversial entry on my list. Björk has become a very polarizing figure in music and it appears some are just destined to hate her as much as some think she can do no wrong. I’m clearly in the latter category. I wasn’t a huge fan of her previous outing, “Medulla”, but that shouldn’t take away from innovation it presented. Likewise in “Volta”. While the songs may not be as accessible as her earlier works, songs like “Earth Intruders”, “Innocence”, and “Declare Independence” show that Björk is as fierce as always, and her voice, musically and otherwise, continues to shine through in her music. This is a great album, at least for those who like Björk to begin with.

  8. Apples In Stereo – “New Magnetic Wonder”: 24 songs in 53 minutes? Rob Schneider (no, not THAT Rob Schneider), manages to pull it off and create another of my favorite “fun” albums of the year. These short pop-rock songs blow over with energy and, well, joy, and make this an album that is the perfect pick-me-up.

  9. Spoon – “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga”: I’ve never been a huge fan of Spoon. This album does not change my mind about their back-catalog, but I do really enjoy this album, if anything, upon the strength of songs like “Don’t Make Me A Target” and the infectious horns of “The Underdog”.

  10. Harvey, PJ – “White Chalk”: a haunting, if not outright terrifying album. Many have challenged the merits of this album independent of the artist – is it really a great album or are people just being “PJ Loyalists”? Even worse, is this a case of “Santana fever” where we’re just rewarding her for a great career? True, it’s hard not to evaluate this album in context of the artist, especially with her previous outings being much more guitar oriented and gritty. However, it is my opinion that this album allows her to shine even more as the great songwriter she is, and these piano-driven songs are astonishing in their simplicity and structures. It is a great album by an equally great artist.

There's the albums of the year. This year, I'm introducing a a new category:

Saurab’s Song Of The Year
"All My Friends" – LCD Soundsystem: Turns out this is not as much of a surprise as I thought it would be. I absolutely love this song, and I guess I’m not alone. I love its slow hypnotic off-rhythms and building intensity. I love the line “You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan and the next five years trying to be with your friends again”. This is not only my favorite song of the year, it’s likely one of my favorite songs in a very long time.

Well, there we have it – a great year in music. Let’s hope that 2008 can match the strength and diversity of 2007!


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