Monday, January 7, 2008

My Ten Favorite Albums of 2007

I will admit that I do not think about music in the same way as film or literature. I can appreciate artistic music, music that really makes you think and can make you feel really smart and like you are apart of a smaller subculture, patting yourself on the back for being the only people who know about a certain artist. I know that feeling. I remember feeling that way about Radiohead, Bright Eyes, Cursive, and others. But something has changed for me recently; my music experiences have become more organic. Basically, I like what makes me feel good. This list of my favorite albums in no way represents what may be the “best” albums of the year. I don’t know what those are, music is so subjective. People who like one genre but not another fail to see the little things that make that genre so good. And vice versa. I can never understand the appeal of Hip Hop or Rap, because I don’t like it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good Hip Hop musicians out there, I just don’t like it enough to care and take the time to notice the subtle differences.

You will notice there is no Feist, Rilo Kiley, Radiohead, Spoon, Interpol, Arcade Fire, or any other beacon of the Indie scene, because even though I liked those albums, you are going to see those on every music magazine top ten list. Some of those albums I really like, others were huge disappointments, but this list is to provide a diverse and hopefully unheard of group of albums so that you will become aware and seek them out, and perhaps give a listen. Enjoy.

10. Every Time I Die – The Big Dirty

A great metal album that sounds good with the stereo up and even better with the windows down (I was hoping that would sound like some cheesy infomercial).

9. Sigur Ros – Hvarf-Heim

The Icelandic postmodern power pop band do it again. The film that this score accompanies is amazing. There is a scene where they are playing one of their songs in a cave. Magical music.

8. Rocky Votolato – The Brag and Cuss

The best folk musician alive today. This isn’t his best album, but it has more of that bluesy bar room sound to it that is great chill music.

7. Circa Survive – On Letting Go

The post hardcore champions do it again. Oddly enough this album is not as good as their first, but the improvements lead it down some unfamiliar and semi-brilliant paths. It doesn’t always work and sometimes the songs seem too long, but it’s a great addition to any list.

6. Look Mexico – This is Animal Music

One of my favorite moments of 2007 was discovering this little gem. The band from Florida create some of the most laid back music, easy to get lost to, or if you prefer, it’s good for other things too. The epitome of chill music.

5. Portugal. The Man – Church Mouth

The ex Portlander’s are at it again with their best album to date. Imagine a group of Northwesterner’s who move to Alaska to make some of the craziest jazz/punk/funk albums to date. Also, imagine said group were to create an indie version of blues music from the 20’s. It’s a trippy and worthwhile experience.

4. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga

This was just a few songs short of being the best album of the year. But unfortunately there are two real stinkers on here. Other than that, it’s Bright Eyes at their best with Conor Oberst giving the cautionary lyrics a rest and focusing more on the storytelling aspect of folk music. I know the Dylan comparisons are said ad nauseam, but this really does remind of the “electric” Dylan. Great stuff…just skip track 4.

3. Minus the Bear – Planet of Ice

I admit that I have a bias towards Seattle bands. In fact, for the last three years my favorite albums have been by The Blood Brothers (2004), Minus the Bear (2005), and The Blood Brothers (2006). This isn’t the easiest listening (like their previous albums about beer, weed, boating, and women) with its complicated beats and guitar solos, but it is a lot of fun and is reminiscent of Wish You Were Here and Animals, two of the best Pink Floyd records. Not too shabby.

2. The Dear Hunter – Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading

With a title like this you know a band has aspirations to be something besides the typical post hardcore rock band. The second part to a dizzying story ( the first part, a five song EP, was 30 minutes long) clocks in at a little under 1 hour and 20 minutes, but it is possibly the best 80 minutes you will ever spend listening to music. Using every instrument he can think of, front man and brain child of The Dear Hunter, Casey Crescenzo creates a cinematic feeling while listening to the story, complete with one of the catchiest piano tunes and a somber (but fitting) end to the album where it is nothing but noises from a pier. It’s a prog rock fans wet dream.

1. The Snake The Cross The Crown – Cotton Teeth

Well, no other album made me as happy or feel as good as The Snake The Cross The Crown’s newest album Cotton Teeth. Despite what their name may suggest, the band doesn’t dip into themes of religion or what it means to be alive, but rather they play simple southern rock in the vein of The Band. And that’s a big compliment. Simple is not to say easy, in fact rock music this good and this simple is one of the hardest things to do. There is never a hint of grandstanding and there isn’t a pretentious thing about it. Simply put, it’s the best rock album of the last five years. It’s a shame this band remains so unknown, but part of me thinks they like it that way.

Almost made the cut:

Band of Horse – Cease to Begin
Saves the Day – Under the Boards
Feist – The Reminder
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Two Gallants – s/t
Thrice – The Alchemy Index: Volumes 1 & 2

Really disappointing albums:

Emery – I’m Only a Man
Rilo Kiley – Under the Blacklight
Interpol – Our Love to Admire
The Good Life – Help Wanted Nights
Ben Lee – Ripe


  1. Hmm, haven't got around to listening to your top 2 albums yet...even though you tell me to every time we discuss music.

    I've marked down the Minus the Bear and Bright Eyes albums as being good, but not great...not sure if they'd both land in my top 5 for the year. Of course, I'd probably have less hardcore stuff on my list than you do.

    I'll definitely agree that the Rilo Kiley album was horribly disappointing. Maybe they'll get it out of their system now and stop trying to be No Doubt.

    Bah -- now I've got to put together a top 10 of my favorite albums for the year. Thanks for making me do more work.