2007 Recap: 100 albums to hear, pt. 1 (No. 100-76)

By • Dec 25th, 2007 • Category: Columns

With 2008 – and a crop of new records – just around the corner, putting a bow on the past 12 months would wrap up the year in music in a nice (not to mention great sounding) package. That is, however, if new music wasn’t constantly being discovered from years past. And because of that, no “Best of” list ever is complete or definite. As new records are unearthed, year-end summaries need to evolve to include things that flew under the radio at the publication date.

Additionally, there is no way to determine a “best” list when dealing with something as subjective as taste in art. What a person likes is less important as knowing why they like it – or dislike it, for that matter. Unlike sports or politics, music doesn’t have a statistical track record on which to base an argument for or against something.

Which is why this is not a “Best of” list, but rather a countdown of 100 recommendations from the past year.

The year saw Radiohead changed the face of music distribution and Daft Punk cement the duo’s legacy with a historic tour.

But besides these iconic feats, 2007 was a year of few others greats yet many good ones. Unlike past year-end wraps, the records near the top of this list didn’t distance themselves from the pack with the level of ferocity that they did as recently as ’02-06. Yet the bunch, which that created, upped the number of good releases despite lowering the number of powerhouse ones.

There are some eligibility restrictions.
- Original release dates only: The classic reason why adhering to this date is vital is The X-ray Spex’s seminal 1978 album “Germ Free Adolescents,” which was not released in the U.S. until the early 1990s. Just because an album might not have been on the shelves in your country does not mean it didn’t exist beforehand. Come down off your nationalistic podium and enjoy the music.
- No live albums: Live albums usually are greatest hits compilations and give an unfair advantage. Note: These are allowed on the list if they consist of entirely new material that is being released for the first time, a la The MC5′s debut “Kick Out The Jams.”
– No compilations: Various artist comps, such as movie soundtracks are not the result of an artist, but rather mix-and-match projects of a music supervisor with a knack for setting a mood. Note: Movie soundtracks are eligible if they consist of only new material by one specific artist, a la Badly Drawn Boy’s “About A Boy.”
- Previously unreleased material: Compiled B-sides can turn into faux greatest hits, most of which has surfaced in some form or another. Note: These sorts of hodgepodge releases are eligible if none of the rarity tracks have found their ways onto EPs or other limited releases.

So without further adieu … 100 albums to hear from 2007 (No. 100-76)

100. “Once Upon A Time In The West” (WEA)
Released: Sept. 19

The sophomore album from the suburban Staines quartet combines the same dub-rock fusion as the band’s debut. And although the grand themes and sweeping statements (such as the one about the depletion of albums made on its cover) slightly highlight the band’s generality and occasional mediocrity, it’s hard to avoid the strength of it’s opening few tracks.
Hear: “Suburban Knights” and “I Shall Overcome”

99. “Super Taranta!” (Side One Dummy)
Gogol Bordello
Released: July 10

As exhausting of a release as it is enticing, the face of gypsy punk gets even more solidified as Eugene Hutz takes his New-York-by-way-of-Ukraine ensemble down every direction in between those two locations. With quadruple Red Bull energy with a hint of Jolt Cola chaser, it’s no wonder that the nomadic act hasn’t stopped globetrotting since its conception.
Hear: “Wonderlust King” and “Your Country”

98. “Friend or Foe” (Barsuk)
Released: Jan. 23

On the band’s Barsuk debut, it utilizes the same formula as its first two releases: follow the rhythm section. The experimental break beats from choppy live drums keeps in perfect unison with electronic clips and propel this Portland trio.
Hear: “Air Aid” and “Weird”

97. “Volta” (Atlantic)
Released: May 8

No matter what uber producer and ego-centric mogul Timberland does, it always sounds like … well … Timberland. And the Icelandic pixie Bjork is no different on this avant garde dance record.
Hear: “Earth Intruders” and “Wanderlust”

96. “Hats Off To The Buskers” (1965)
The View
Released: Jan. 22

With the brash demeanor of other British rock acts, these teenagers from Scotland have the same nervous energy as their peers nostalgic for the late 1970s, but the big hooks and stadium eyes that call back to hard-rock’s classic stadium days.
Hear: “Coming Down” and “Wasted Little Olds”

95. “Liars” (Mute)
Released: Aug. 20

By throwing out the conceptual threads that bind the trio’s previous records, the straight-forward nature of 4-minute songs leaves the band in uncharted pop territories. Still bizarre at times and on edge at others, the 11 songs riffle through finely packed ditties more accessible and precise than any of the group’s catalogue.
Hear: “Houseclouds” and “Protection”

94. “Turn The Lights Out” (Matador)
The Ponys
Released: March 20

The Chicago band’s third LP, its first on Matador, finds the songs a bit less angular but darker. It’s not a huge departure from previous noise-pop and psychedelic-laced new wave outputs. Yet having slid into the producer’s role for the first time, the foursome had more control – and ultimately more responsibility – to make sure the tunes got there.
Hear: “Small Talk” and “Poser Psychotic”

93. “Lose All Time” (Paper Bag)
You Say Party! We Say Die!
Released: Aug. 14

The opening clip of the Canadian band’s sophomore album finds front woman Becky Ninkovic repeating, “This is a test.” How true, on this collection of a dozen bratty, cold and unapologetic tunes that are as urgent and danceable as rock’n'roll can be.
Hear: “Like I Give A Care” and “Giant Hands”

92. “Ten New Passages” (V2 UK)
The Rakes
Released: March 20

The opening tune of these Brit’s sophomore album might sport the genre’s most appropriate title: “The World Was A Mess But His Hair Was Perfect.” It might be talking about our countries’ leaders, or it could be referring to the always-stylish way the band jets through these hip-shaking pub tunes.
Hear: “Trouble” and “We Danced Together”

91. “Ciao, Baby” (Metropolis)
Released: June 5

The sleazy L.A. band must have missed the bus toward the Sunset Strip and glamorous West Coast lifestyle, and ended up on the one headed back in time to the best eras of Missing Persons and Depeche Mode.
Hear: “Fix” and “Blood On My Hands”

90. “Night Of The Furies” (Merge)
The Rosebuds
Released: April 10

Rebounding from a lackluster second LP, the North Carolina-based duo bellows through nine haunting songs that meld acoustic guitars over atmospheric keys and moody loops, while never allowing the song’s vocal melodies to get lost in the mix.
Hear: “Cemetery Lawn” and “My Punishment For Fighting”

89. “Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?” (Polyvinyl)
Of Montreal
Released: Jan. 23

On the band’s first imperfect release since signing to Polyvinyl in 2004, (Hey, three out of four albums ain’t bad) the Georgians’ undeniable experimental pop sensibility still shines through with a more defined focus than during those days before its current label.
Hear: “Suffer For Fashion” and “Gronlandic Edit”

88. “Good Bad Not Evil” (Vice)
Black Lips
Released: Sept. 11

If there were to be a “Grandchildren of Nuggets” box set, then this Black Lips record would be a sure bet. With a snarl and lo-fi blues tunes a la those seminal 1960s collections, this throwback act is as casual as it calculated.
Hear: “O Katrina!” and “It Feels Alright”

87. “Emerald City” (Barsuk)
John Vanderslice
Released: July 24

This year’s output from this singer/songwriter, home-studio wizard picks up where 2005′s “Pixel Revolt” left off, with marching drums and strummed guitars underscored by the occasional bleep or whizzing sound effect.
Hear: “Kookaburra” and “The Parade”

86. “Our Earthly Pleasures” (Warp)
Maximo Park
Released: April 2

With a pension for big choruses tucked between uneven verses, the snotty lads have let their post-punk roots grow into a radio-ready pop blossom.
Hear: “Girls Who Play Guitars” and “Karaoke Plays”

85. “Because Of The Times” (RCA)
Kings of Leon
Released: April 3

One of the year’s most polarizing releases hears these former Southern rockers ditching their lineage for a harsher and spacier set of tracks. With Caleb Followill’s gritty drawl now smothered over distance but heavy experimentation, instead of the blues, the Followill family turned a corner that it might not be able to return from … and they might not want to.
Hear: “Black Thumbnail” and “Camaro”

84. “Myth Takes” (Warp)
Released: March 6

The spelling of the band’s moniker more accurately describes these club-targeting rock tunes than its repetitive pronunciation (chk chk chk). Blending the electro aesthetic of dance music with indie rock’s alienating tendencies, the California group crafted the soundtrack to a sweaty warehouse dance party, just as long as everyone comes sporting Converse All-Stars.
Hear: “Must Be The Moon” and “Yadnus”

83. “King For A Day” (Thrill Jockey)
Bobby Conn
Released: Feb. 20

Although Bobby Conn’s visual-meets-audi0 onslaught conceptually always has been good, the Chicagoan reached his full potential on this eclectic release. Combining Bowie-esque glam with MoTown-ready R&B over hipster-approved rock, these 12 songs finally live up to the caliber of Conn’s stage-stealing persona.
Hear: “Love Let Me Down” and “Anybody”

82. “An End Has A Start” (Kitchenware)
Released” June 25

Mention Editors, and count how many words it takes before somebody brings up Interpol. (It this case, it was 12 words). Then see how long it takes before you’re reminded that this English quartet sounds a bit less like Joy Division than its closest peer, and flexes a bit more of a U2 influence. (It this case, it was the next sentence). Sometimes things become stereotypical because they are true.
Hear: “An End Has A Start” and “Bones”

81. “New Magnetic Wonder” (Yep Rock)
The Apples In Stereo
Released: Feb. 6

Less streamlined that the former Elephant Six giant’s past few records, this Yep Rock release reaches more than 20 tracks by tucking brief interludes between the experimental guitar-pop tracks on which the band has built its almost 15-year reputation.
Hear: “Energy” and “Sunday Sounds”

80. “Yours Truly, Angry Mob” (Universal/Polydor)
Kaiser Chiefs
Released: Feb. 5

If any album ever has sounded like a farewell, it’s this sophomore LP of dancy hooks and big rock-keyboard anthems. From the album’s name, to song titles such as “Learnt My Lesson Well” and “I Can Do it Without You,” these club-djs-turned-rockers sound genuinely exhausted … we almost should feel guilty about enjoying their misery so much.
Hear: “Highroyds” and “Everything Is Average Nowadays”

79. “Structure and Cosmetics” (Sub Pop)
The Brunettes
Released: Aug. 7

This New Zealand pair drafted more than a half-dozen musicians to flush out its brand of light-hearted pop tunes on the group’s third proper full-length. Yet despite the growing cast of extras, they still sounds minimal during this Sub Pop debut.
Hear: “Obligatory Road Song” and “If You Were Alien”

78. “Cold & Kind” (Parasol)
Released: Oct. 2

Recalling the best elements of 1970s AM radio, this jangly collection of breezy tunes pays homage to Fleetwood Mac and Carole King, without allowing any of those performers’ oft-cheesy moments to slip into the songs.
Hear: “When I Say Go” and “Two Ways”

77. “Smoke Rolls Down Thunder Canyon” (XL)
Devendra Banhart
Released: Sept. 25

At its best moments, the fifth record in almost as many years by this Venezuelan-raised performer is an extravagant display of songwriting. At its worst, it’s a hodgepodge of miscues and inaudible mumbles. Luckily, the bulk of the album hears the 26-year-old new-age hippie flexing his experimental muscle with a sensible spotter.
Hear: “Saved” and “Lover”

76. “Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever” (V2)
The Cribs
Released: May 21

After recruiting Franz Ferdinand front man, Alex Kapranos, to produce its third LP, these three brothers left the pub stage and landed on the dance floor. They still have their blazing guitars in hand, but now they’re more inclined to get us dancing than drinking alone in a corner.
Hear: “Our Bovine Public” and “I’ve Tried Everything”

Northwest Herald, Dec. 25, 2007

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