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Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Class Of 2007

So I was going to be all clever and iconoclastic this year and not do a year-end list. Year-end post, yes, but itemized list – perhaps taking advantage of HTML’s <ul> and <li> tags for quick and easy formatting? No. I was just going to write and write and be done with it.

But then I realized that as long as I talked about any specific albums – be it one or ten or a million – then that’s what I’d be doing. Making a list. Just less easy to scan. And so I relented and now we have a list. A list of ten albums that I would put down as my favourites of the year. I found 2007 to be a very good year for music, both in terms of solid to excellent releases from old favourites and new discoveries. Few out and out disappointments. After my top three picks – no, once again I’ve elected not to rank them but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done so in my head – it was a pretty wide open field with cases to be made for a lot of records but in the end, I whittled it down to those that spoke to me the most, that kept me coming back for more and acted as musical anchors in the barrage of new music that has become my existence. Ten records that soundtracked, reflected and defined my 2007 and will hopefully remain staples of my musical diet well into the future.

Observations – sometimes people worry that records released early in the year will be forgotten by list season, but in my case it seems the opposite. The older records are the ones I’ve had the most time to listen to and fall for and have also proven their shelf life whereas I regard my affection for more recent releases with a bit of distrust. More than half the releases are from acts that I’d essentially never heard before this year, which I find comforting in affirming that I’m still doing alright in seeking out new music. Sure, stylistically they all dwell fairly closely to my established musical tastes but that’s why they’re my tastes, right? I also find the comparison with last year’s list interesting. Whereas 2006 was dominated with American acts, mostly of the rootsier and/or downbeat variety, this year’s list is much more Commonwealth-friendly with most of the releases being either Canadian or British. I know I’ve made a conscious effort to explore more homegrown music this year as well as reconnect with my Anglophile roots so I guess we can call that a success. And, I suppose it means I’ve stopped moping quite so much.

Anyways, if you’ve been a regular visitor over the past year then there’s probably not too much in the way of surprises here, so we may as well get to it.


Most Likely To Make Me Want To Move To New Jersey
Nicole Atkins / Neptune City (Columbia)

Some have complained that the production on this record is too thick, too glossy, and I can see where they’re coming from but it suits Atkins’ voice and songwriting so well that I can’t help but love it. Even the odd sequencing has grown on me. Plus listening to this record reminds me of the five times I’ve seen her live this year, each time improbably better than the last.

MP3: Nicole Atkins & The Sea – “Party’s Over”
Video: Nicole Atkins & The Sea – “The Way It Is”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Neptune City”
MySpace: Nicole Atkins

Most Likely To Make Me Feel Defensive About Including Them In This List
Bloc Party / A Weekend In The City (Vice)

Another one that I don’t necessarily disagree with the detractors on. Yes, the lyrics can be overdramatic and ponderous, but there’s a warmth and earnestness to Kele Okerke that make me look past that and just focus on the grandiosity and splendor of it all. And come on – the guitars fucking ROCK. These excuses can also be applied to Editors’ An End Has A Start.

MP3: Bloc Party – “I Still Remember” (acoustic)
MP3: Bloc Party – “Sunday” (acoustic)
Video: Bloc Party – “Hunting For Witches”
Video: Bloc Party – “The Prayer”
Video: Bloc Party – “I Still Remember”
MySpace: Bloc Party

Most Likely To Have Made The List By Virtue Of Most Live Appearances This Year
Basia Bulat / Oh My Darling (Hardwood)

It’s been a real treat seeing Basia have a year as terrific as 2007 has been for her. From being inexplicably label-less in her home country while being signed to a legendary label in the UK at the start of the year to achieving the sort of rising star status that she deserves by the end of it, all the while never losing sight of the simple joy of making music with her friends.

MP3: Basia Bulat – “Snakes & Ladders”
MySpace: Basia Bulat

Most Likely To Be The Record On This List I’ve Listened To The Least This Year
Feist / The Reminder (Arts & Crafts)

…And what I mean is that the complete and utter omnipresence of Ms Leslie Feist on the television, clogging the tubes of the internets and piping out of every coffee shop in the nation did dissuade me from listening to The Reminder as much as I would have otherwise. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a tremendous album from a tremendous talent who can’t be pigeonholed and has earned every accolade she’s gotten. And iPod, shmiPod – I can watch that “1 2 3 4” video over and over again.

Video: Feist – “My Moon My Man”
Video: Feist – “1 2 3 4”
MySpace: Feist

Most Likely To Make Me Buy A Gretsch Even Though I Have Too Many Guitars Already
Richard Hawley / Lady’s Bridge (Mute)

I was also going to label this one, “Most Likely To Have Been Earned On The Merits Of Its Three Predecessors As Much As Its Own”. I was late to the Richard Hawley party and have since been immersed in his timeless, reverberated twang and he’s managed to sell me on the fiction that Sheffield, England is the most romantic place on Earth. And it’s entirely possible that Hawley siphoned off all the goodwill I had earlier in the year for Jarvis Cocker’s Jarvis, which he also produced. Perhaps the edge went to Hawley because he could be bothered to tour through Toronto – where were you, Jarv?

Video: Richard Hawley – “Tonight The Streets Are Ours” (YouTube)
Video: Richard Hawley – “Serious” (YouTube)
MySpace: Richard Hawley

Most Likely To Make Me Shake, Shake, Shimmy
Lucky Soul / The Great Unwanted (Ruffa Lane)

Every time I listen to this record, the most out-of-nowhere entry in this list, I keep expecting the spell to be broken. Surely something this addictively sugary has an inevitable burnout, some comedown around the corner? And yet more than eight months since their deliciously retro and timeless girl group/Motown sound hit my ears, I still can’t get enough. One of my top three records of the year and some days – namely the days when I play it – my very favourite. The Great Unwanted is my happy place.

MP3: Lucky Soul – “The Great Unwanted”
Video: Lucky Soul – “Lips Are Unhappy” (YouTube)
Video: Lucky Soul – “My Brittle Heart” (YouTube)
Video: Lucky Soul – “Add Your Light To Mine, Baby” (YouTube)
MySpace: Lucky Soul

Most Likely To Leave Me Without Words To Convey How Good This Record Is
Miracle Fortress / Five Roses (Secret City)

Though that’s not to say that this album leaves me speechless – I’m just drawing a blank in trying to articulate how much I like it. It’s dreampop that sounds rather unlike everything that has been labeled as dreampop before, a peek inside Graham Van Pelt’s wonderful, technicolour imagination where it’s a perpetual endless summer populated by robots.

MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”

Most Likely To Make Me See Things In Shades Of Sepia
The National / Boxer (Beggars Banquet)

In 2005, my top two albums were The National’s Alligator and Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy and while I consciously do not rank albums in my year-end lists, if asked I’d have said truthfully that the River had the edge. Two years later, we’ve got a rematch and this time the relocated Ohioans take the title. So lyrically and sonically rich and textured, taking the beautiful late-night bleakness of Alligator and injecting a dose of dusky sunlight and guarded optimism. The National’s latest took their game to a new level that I didn’t realize they had in them. I have no idea how they can top this one, yet fully believe they can.

MP3: The National – “Fake Empire”
Video: The National – “Mistaken For Strangers” (YouTube)
Video: The National – “Apartment Story” (YouTube)
MySpace: The National

Most Likely To Be The Best Album That’s Not As Good As The Last One
Okkervil River / The Stage Names (Jagjaguwar)

The consensus appears to be that The Stage Names doesn’t match the grandeur and majesty of Black Sheep Boy and for that, the inclination is to regard it as not as good as its predecessor. This is unfortunate because in truth, it doesn’t try to match Black Sheep Boy – instead, it steps out of the library and goes to the movies and, in the process, turns in Okkervil’s tightest, most rocking effort to date. Still a triumph.

MP3: Okkervil River – “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe”
Video: Okkervil River – “Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe” (YouTube)
Video: Okkervil River – “Girl In Port” (YouTube)
MySpace: Okkervil River

Most Likely To Make Me Wish I Had A Scottish Accent
The Twilight Sad / Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (Fat Cat)

Perhaps the most compelling debut of the year, all thundering walls of guitars, endless crescendos and bellowed anthems yet for all the volume – and there’s lots – there’s something delicate, even frail, underneath. These four young Scots are tapped into something special and powerful and if this is just them getting started, expect to see them on more year-end lists in the future.

MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Cold Days from the Birdhouse”
MP3: The Twilight Sad – “That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy”
MP3: The Twilight Sad – “And She Would Darken The Memory”

By : Frank Yang at 8:36 am
Category: Year-End List
RSS Feed for this post19 Responses.
  1. raph says:

    thats a pretty solid list man.

    here’s mine,
    if you don’t mind.

    1. The National – Boxer
    2. LCD Soundsystem -Sound Of Silver
    3. Radiohead- In Rainbows
    4. Spoon – GAGAGAGA
    5. Les Savy Fav – Let’s Be Friends
    6. Blonde Redhead – 23
    7. Chromatics – Night Drive (IV)
    8. The Black Lips – Good Bad Not Evil
    9. A Place To Bury Strangers – A Place To Bury Strangers
    10. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup

  2. Torr says:

    very nice work on this post.

    i really think this is by far Hawley’s weakest album ever though. I think a lot of people are including it in their list in the way that directors who’ve been around forever get an Oscar for their weak new movie, just cause they’ve never been given an Oscar.

  3. Matt says:

    Torr, I dunno about that. I was prepared to be disappointed after Coles Corner and Lowedges, but to me Lady’s Bridge is another very very solid album, with some fantastic melodies and lovely singing.

    Bloc Party to me is a bit of a surprise. Their music does nothing for me. :-/ What am I missing?

  4. Jason MacIsaac says:

    brilliant yearbook page concept…top drawer!!!!

  5. Scott says:

    Your yearbook page header:
    Idea making me most upset I didn’t think of it first…

    Nice, and you’re right – as a regular reader for the last year there’s nothing here I wasn’t expecting — but it’s always nice to see a clear summation of the high points…

  6. douglas martin says:

    for starters: THANK YOU for putting <i>a weekend in the city</i> on your list. that makes us the only two bloggers in the world that’s included it. in addition: i agree that <i>the stage names</i> isn’t as good as <i>black sheep boy</i>, the latter of which being my favorite record of 2005.

    p.s. the yearbook thing? best idea ever. i like the picture of kele.

  7. Damon says:

    Hahaha Alan Smithee, nice one.

  8. Rajiv. says:

    aaah hahaha

    "Most Likely To Make Me Buy A Gretsch Even Though I Have Too Many Guitars Already"

    Fantastique!

    Rajiv.
    xo

  9. dpatt says:

    The Bodies of Water CD has to be at the top of my list..

  10. Thierry says:

    Nicole and Basia? Really? I’m shocked. SHOCKED! ;)

  11. Bill Koch says:

    Frank,

    That Radio Dept. cover of Bachelor Kisses is beautiful. Thanks for the heads up regarding the Friendly Noise label.

  12. Brendan says:

    Thanks for your stellar work in 2007.

    How could anyone not pick Okkervil River? Comparing them against themselves is tough. Even their ‘second best’ (parenthesis because i don’t think it is the case but many claim it to be so) material is head and shoulders above the throng.

    Since you go to way more shows than any of us how about a top shows/live acts list?

    (It would also be interesting for you to revisit your 2006 list and see which records you still listen to on a regular basis. Would you change anything?)
    Thanks for all of your hard work.

  13. hedgehoggy says:

    I’m very, very happy to see The Twilight Sad being recognised because I think they are going to be this year’s Midlake – the band that everyone would love if they actually heard them, but they somehow manage to slip through the cracks for most people. It really is a wonderful, wonderful album.

  14. meegs says:

    Brilliant list, Frank! Love the yearbook layout – whip smart. kudos.
    I somewhat agree about feist…happy to hear that you’re not reminder’ed-out after a deluge of subliminal listening….

  15. Sad Will says:

    Just listened to "Cold Days From the Birdhouse." If you’ll excuse me for cutting this post short — I have an album to go buy.

  16. William says:

    I’m seeing a lot of National lovers. That album went from number ten , to 5 and now to joint 1 in my list.

    =1. The National – Boxer
    =1. Paramore- Riot
    3. Minus The Bear – Planet Of Ice
    4. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
    5. Editors – An End Has A Start
    6. Band Of Horses – Cease To Begin
    7. Funeral For A Friend – Tales Don’t Tell Themselves
    8. Manchester Orchestra – I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child
    9. Fall Out Boy – Infinity On High
    10. Rilo Kiley – Under The Blacklight

  17. herbie says:

    totally agree on that lucky soul record!

  18. Christopher says:

    I’m totally w/you on the Miracle Fortress record. The Bloc Party? Not so much. Check out my own highly subjective "Best of 2007" <a href="http://mybigmouthstrikesaga…"> <b>here</b></a>.

  19. Review of The Twilight Sad’s Forget The Night Ahead | MP3 Music at MixBurner says:

    […] Nic ShonfeldI’ve described – in spirit, if not precise words – The Twilight Sad’s debut album Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters as a sonically monolithic slab of angst, a crescendo sustained over 40 minutes, the sound of a man standing on a Scottish cliff face, arms raised and bellowing against the world. And also one of my favourite records of 2007. […]