Dan Boeckner (of Wolf Parade fame) and his wife Alexei Perry surprised in 2007 as the Handsome Furs with their synth-pop debut,
8. M.I.A. – Kala
M.I.A. has joined Kanye West and a handful of other rappers that it’s O.K. for hipsters to like. Her follow-up to 2005’s Arular is chock full of clever samples, near spotless production and interesting guest appearances. On “Paper Planes” M.I.A. borrows The Clash’s “Straight to Hell” and adds samples of guns reloading and cash registers slamming to glorious result. Kala runs the gamut of sounds and genres, showing off M.I.A.’s broad musical taste and aptitude. Whether it is Bollywood inspired songs like “Bamboo Banga” and “Jimmy,” or slowing down and distorting the Pixies “Where Is My Mind?” chorus on “20 Dollar” almost beyond recognition, Kala is a triumph.
7. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
Icky Thump, the sixth full length from the White Stripes, is a return to the more blues influenced rock music Jack White idolizes. Following the mixed reception of Get Behind Me Satan, another sub-par album could have doomed the band to mediocrity. Instead, Icky Thump brings a pure blues and country rock feel that cements the White Stripes as one of the premier bands of the decade. Unlike previous White Stripes albums, Jack White’s guitar is allowed to do much more of the talking – serving as the centerpiece to almost all the records singles. On “I'm Slowly Turning Into You” and “You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)” White lets loose and the result is some great blues/rock for modern and traditional music fans alike.
6. Klaxons – Myths of a Near Future
Rave. Nu rave. Dance punk. Whatever the Klaxons are labeled, one thing remains constant – Myths is a killer record. The Debut from the
Wolf’s story is one of an 11 year old prodigy with a knack for the violin, piano and writing songs well beyond his years. Releasing his first solo album at the ripe age of 20, Wolf has met near sweeping critical acclaim for all subsequent releases. 2007’s The Magic Position features a more mature and focused Wolf than in his previous efforts. His mix of strings, piano, synths and a wholly one-of-a-kind, crooning voice makes for one of the most unique listens this year. Although the record loses steam in its last third, the joy of songs like “Accident & Emergency,” “Bluebells,” “(Lets’ Go) Get Lost” and the title track, is undeniable. Also, extra points for best cover art ever.
4. Radiohead – In Rainbows
What can be said of In Rainbows that hasn’t been said already? It’s a much awaited release from one of the world’s most popular acts. It can be had for no cost, legally. Above all else - it is one hell of an album. In Rainbows can be filed under the “pleasant surprises of 2007.” Not because it’s a great record from an obscure band – quite the opposite. In Rainbows is a surprise because absolutely no one saw it coming. The album was announced mere weeks before it could be “purchased” through the band’s Web site. With so much positive PR, In Rainbows could have just been average and it would have been well received. But Thom Yorke and company decided to make one of their best records in years. From anthems like “Bodysnatchers” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” to sprawling emotional ballads like “Videotape” and “Reckoner,” Radiohead have done it yet again.
This is the most puzzling release of 2007. It went from not on my list, to tenth, to somewhere in the middle, to two - finally settling at three. Neon Bible may be atop every best-of list - or none of them. I have no idea. The fog surrounding Arcade Fire’s second full length may have something to with the astounding success of the band’s first record, Funeral. Practically putting
2. Feist – The Reminder
Although the single “1, 2, 3, 4” has been all but killed thanks to that infamous iPod ad, Leslie Feist managed to create one of the most beautiful albums of the year. Opener “I’m Sorry” is a wonderful break-up/apology song, showcasing one of the best voices in music today during the last 45 seconds or so. With soothing bass, acoustic guitar licks, upbeat piano and the silky smoothness that is Feist’s voice, the songs on The Reminder will thaw even the most jaded music fan’s heart. “Sea Lion Woman,” “Past and Present” and “I Feel It All” are all deserving of their own commercials.
It had been nearly four months and dozens of records listened to with Feist hanging on to number one. I honestly didn’t think it could get much better than the pop/folk perfection that was The Reminder. But from the opening video game beeps of Strawberry Jam leadoff track, “Peacebone” it was clear there was a new number one. Animal Collective have been a staple of the “freak folk” sub-genre since their first album in 2000. Their mish-mash of unnatural synth, tribal screams, alien guitars and ability to hide amazing hooks beneath it all, has made the band one of the most interesting acts around. Strawberry Jam is the apex of the band’s attempt at “pop” music. The haunting, slow-building “For Reverend Green,” the marching band-esque “Derek” and the spectacular ballad “Fireworks” take listeners on a tour of dozens of different sounds and styles – all of them worth the price of admission.
Honorable mentions: Okkervil River - The Stage Names, Bright Eyes - Cassadaga, Panda Bear - Person Pitch, Stars - In Our Bedroom After The War, New Pornographers - Challengers, Kings Of Leon - Because Of The Times, The Shins - Wincing The Night Away, Justice - Cross.