27 December 2007

Best of 2007: Music

Revisions since original publication date in bold.

NOTE: In compiling my list of the year's best albums and songs, I couldn't make a top 10. There was simply too much great music. So here is what I could pare it down to: a baker's dozen of the best discs and tracks of 2007.

Arcade Fire - NEON BIBLE (Merge)
Their debut was heralded as one of the best albums of the decade. How do you follow that up? With an album's worth of religious experiences.

Explosions in the Sky - ALL OF A SUDDEN I MISS EVERYONE (Temporary Residence Limited)
The Austin band never has to say a word to express the lost feeling emoted in every one of their songs.

Feist - THE REMINDER (Cherrytree)/St. Vincent - MARRY ME (Beggars Banquet)
Leslie Feist has the voice, and Annie Clark has the tenacity, but both have equally lovely breakthrough albums here, and they'll both put you in a dreamlike state, where even if things aren't going so great, their presence will carry you away to a better place.

Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová - ONCE (Canvasback)
It was a year full of great soundtracks (including ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and HAIRSPRAY), but none could touch the utter beauty of this Irish musical. Any track could be nominated and win Best Original Song at the Oscars.

Kings of Leon - BECAUSE OF THE TIMES (Hand Me Down)
A band that continues to get better. On AHA SHAKE HEARTBREAK they reinvented Southern rock, now they've kissed it goodbye completely, creating haunting hard rock that will stay with you long after it's over.

No album was as joyous or melodic or flat-out delightful as the Lebanese pop star's debut. Relax, take it e-zay, and just enjoy.

Nearly unlistenable before this, the band became the biggest indie band around (WWDBTSES debuted at #1) thanks to a new weapon: Johnny Marr. The former Smiths guitarists improved the production, songwriting, and let Isaac Brock finally start singing instead of droning.

Rilo Kiley - UNDER THE BLACKLIGHT (Warner Bros.)
After nearly breaking up, the L.A. band took a trip to the underbelly of their hometown and created some beautiful songs about beautiful people doing ugly things. And there you have it: this is new Fleetwood Mac.

Genius, epic, dark. These are the things My Chemical Romance's BLACK PARADE did, but Max Bemis and co. have done it better. Over two discs, the boys attack at all angles, creating some of the year's best song titles along the way ("The Truth Is [You Should Lie with Me]," "Died a Jew")

The lyrics are cryptic, sometimes downright incomprehensible. But the melodies are almost Beatles-like, and the Albuquerque band has made the British rock album of the year.

Stars - IN OUR BEDROOM AFTER THE WAR (Arts & Crafts)
Not as good as SET YOURSELF ON FIRE, but no one makes such truly lovely songs about such difficult things.

Kanye West - GRADUATION (Roc-a-Fella)
The best artist in mainstream hip-hop finally got his due, thoroughly pummeled the former King of Hip-Hop 50 Cent in sales, and he had the great music to show for it.

SPECIAL AWARD: BEST EP: 116 Clique - AMPED (Reach)
Most people roll their eyes when they hear the phrase "Christian hip-hop," but this group from Dallas prove they can be just compelling rapping about the mission field as other rappers are about hustling.

Arcade Fire - "No Cars Go"
From the album NEON BIBLE
There wasn't a single song as glorious as the World's Greatest Band demanding, "Let's go." But they don't need to beg, we're already following them.

The Killers - "Read My Mind"
From the album SAM'S TOWN
Take a closer look (or listen in this case): underneath all those synths, there's real heartbreak in Brandon Flower's voice, as he pleads with his lover to stay.

LCD Soundsystem - "All My Friends"
From the album SOUND OF SILVER
Ditching the histrionics and getting right to the music, James Murphy hides layers of regret and disappointment under his highly danceable tracks, and this is the best of the bunch.

MIKA - "Grace Kelly"
If you're not on your feet by the chorus, you're probably comatose.

Modest Mouse featuring James Mercer - "Missed the Boat"
You'll laugh all the way to Hell too alongside three tremendous talents (the reinvigorated Modest Mouse, the peerless Johnny Marr, and a guest appearance from the Shins' James Mercer).

Orba Squara - "Perfect Timing (This Morning)"
From the album SUNSHYNESS
You're probably wondering "Who dat?" but this track (by an unsigned artist, no less) is none other than the gloriously mellow song playing in the background of those ubiquitous iPhone commercials.

Damien Rice - "Rootless Tree"
From the album 9
Rice's lyrics cut like a knife, but there's something refreshingly angry when he ditches his poetic barbs for a simple refrain of "F*** you, f*** you, f*** you and all your friends."

Say Anything - "Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too"
Never has a song about a night of debauchery and its aftermath been so darn catchy.

Spoon - "The Underdog"
From the album GA GA GA GA GA
The Austin band started making good music (finally), and let their musical freak flags fly, complete with castanets and trumpets!

Robin Thicke - "Lost Without U"
It's not just that he's the first white dude to top the R&B chart since George Michael. Truly, the artist formerly known as Thicke and ne-yo are as close as we'll get to a pre-crazy Michael Jackson, which is kinda sad when you think about it, but it's easy to overlook when the music's this good.

Kanye West featuring T-Pain - "The Good Life"
From the album GRADUATION
Riding a killer MJ sample that must have cost a fortune, the only track that finds T-Pain not annoying you will make you feel like a million bucks as well.

Amy Winehouse - "Rehab"
From the album BACK TO BLACK
Her album wasn't quite as deserving of the praise it got, but this song basically summed up the plight of many a troubled female celeb. Ladies, it's time to go to rehab. I say "Go, go, go."

Animal Collective - "Peacebone"
Directed by Timothy Saccenti

Fresh from the WTF School of Film, comes the weirdest video of the year. The Knife passes on the crown from last year.

Feist - "1 2 3 4"
Directed by Patrick Daughters

Just makes you giddy, which is such an overlooked quality.

Foo Fighters - "Long Road to Ruin"
Directed by Jessie Peretz
In a quasi-follow up to the brilliant humor of the "Learn to Fly" video, the Foos play a fictitious, soap opera version of themselves, and bring the laughter, which had previously been hidden under the raw rage of "The Pretender," back to the forefront.

Justice - "D.A.N.C.E."
Directed by Jonas & François

The video of the year. Original, catchy, and mind-blowing.

Maroon 5 - "Wake Up Call"
Directed by Jonas Akerlund

Russ Meyer does film noir. A sleazy masterpiece.

Rilo Kiley - "Silver Lining"
Directed by Autumn de Wilde

This wedding ain't no happy day. "There Goes the Bride" would be an equally appropriate title.

Seether - "Fake It"
Directed by Tony Petrossian
Taking on the myths perpetuated by music videos, the South African band puts big-budget maestros like Hype Williams in their place. But the real miracle is that the song is halfway decent.

Snow Patrol - "Signal Fire"
Directed by Paul McGuigan

The upcoming Julie Taymor-helmed stage version of SPIDER-MAN won't be anything like this, but cut the kids some slack.

Kanye West - "Can't Tell Me Nothing"
Directed by Zach Galifianakis

This alternate version of Ye's first single, redone by funnyman Galifianakis, is about as brilliant as music videos get. Dance, white boy, dance!

The White Stripes - "Conquest"
Directed by Diane Martel

Jack White = great as the King in WALK HARD, terrible as a matador.

Arcade Fire - "Windowsill"
MTV, what have you done to me?

Bright Eyes - "Hot Knives"
Yeah, I've been f***ed/So what

Lupe Fiasco - "Dumb it Down"
You've been shedding too much light Lu (Dumb it down)
You make'em wanna do right Lu (Dumb it down)
They're getting self-esteem Lu (Dumb it down)
These girls are trying to be queens Lu (Dumb it down)
They're trying to graduate from school Lu (Dumb it down)
They're starting to think that smart is cool Lu (Dumb it down)
They're trying to get up out the hood Lu (Dumb it down)
I'll tell you what you should do (Dumb it down)

Glen Hansard - "Say it to Me Now"
'Cause this is what you've waited for/Your chance to even up the score...So if you have somethin' to say/Say it to me now

LCD Soundsystem - "All My Friends"
Where are your friends tonight?

Rilo Kiley - "Silver Lining"
I never felt so wicked/As when I willed our love to die

Say Anything - "Died a Jew"
My people were slaves before yours invented hip-hop

The Shins - "Australia"
Been alone since you were 21/You haven't laughed since January/You try and make like this is so much fun/But we know it to be quite contrary

Kanye West featuring T-Pain - "The Good Life"
Have you ever popped champagne on a plane/While gettin' some brain/Whipped it out she said she never seen Snakes on a Plane

The White Stripes - "Icky Thump"
Why don't you kick yourself out?/You're an immigrant too

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