2007 Recap: 100 albums to hear, pt. 3 (No. 50-26)

By • Dec 26th, 2007 • Category: Columns

50. “The Cool” (Atlantic)
Lupe Fiasco
Released: Dec. 18

It would have been a whole lot cooler if the Chicago rapper didn’t cram 20 tracks onto his sophomore album. The release’s title would have been much more accurate had he slimmed back the number to include only his sharpest and most poignant rhymes, instead of hiding the best grooves within an almost overwhelming number. But there are so many guest performances here, it might have been impossible to include them all on a shorter release.
Hear: “Streets On Fire” and “Hi-Definition”

49. “Cookies” (Rough Trade)
Released: May 7

The band inked a deal with Rough Trade after a half-dozen shows, much on the strength of these debut tunes. But the contract must have been signed in a downtown office and not backstage after one of the group’s sweaty gigs. There’s no way the executives could have stopped hopping around and shaking their torsos long enough to talk business.
Hear: “You Made Me Like It” and “See You At The Lights”

48. “Grand Animals” (New Line)
Robbers On High Street
Released: July 24

Loosing a member and dropping to a three-piece just as the New York band entered the studio for its second album could have left holes in the songwriting. And it still might have, but the jangly songs filled the gaps with more melody and a lyrical sincerity that the band lacked the first time around.
Hear: “Kick ‘Em In The Shins” and “The Fatalist”

47. “Panic Prevention” (Virgin)
Jamie T
Released: Jan. 29

This was the appropriate album for a 21-year-old to make. The cockney Brit’s hybrid of hip hop and acoustic songwriting has all the alpha-male arrogance that you’d expect it to have, but it also is laced with a naivety and heartwarming honesty of a guy on the cusp of becoming a functioning adult.
Hear: “Calm Down Dearest” and “Salvador”

46. “The Black and White Album” (Universal)
The Hives
Released: Oct. 13

Although one of the big “The” bands from the garage revival of the early part of the decade steps back a tad on its fourth LP, the Swedes bookend this release with what it does best – pummels through heavy guitar hooks and yelping choruses with a tongue-in-cheek confidence. And though the dance numbers stuck toward the middle of the album are fun to listen to in passing, they get drown out by those traditional numbers that The Hives have perfected.
Hear: “Tick Tick Boom” and “Try It Again”

45. “Teenager” (EMI)
The Thrills
Released: May 15

The Irish band doesn’t sound as smitten with California as it did on its first two surf-pop records. It still laces five-part harmonies over jangly guitars, but the group must have discovered American roots-rock on their way back to the coast
Hear: “The Midnight Choir” and “This Year”

44. “The Good, The Bad & The Queen” (Parlaphone/Virgin/EMI)
The Good, The Bad & The Queen
Released: Jan. 22

This melancholy London foursome is the 21st century supergroup. Members of The Clash, The Verve and Blur/Gorillaz join an afrobeat legend en route to this plodding tales of rainy day England.
Hear: “80′s Life” and “Herculean”

43. “White Chalk” (Island)
PJ Harvey
Released: Sept. 25

“Polly Jean Harvey’s most sparse album since her lo-fi debut finds the soul-bearing performer joined primarily by just her piano. The gut-wrenching tales of a woman near her end are as sorrowful and depressing as they are beautiful.
Hear: “When Under Ether” and “The Devil”

42. “Autumn Of The Seraphs” (Touch & Go)
Released: Sept. 10

A slightly darker album – evident by its cover – finds the two-headed songwriting monster of Rob Crowe and Zach Smith tuning down the densely intricate layers and sounding a bit angry, for the first time in Pinback’s decade-old career. It’s by no means an aggressive record, but the cerebral act now seems interested in grabbing your attention, instead of just hoping you stumble their way.
Hear: “Good To Sea” and “Subbing For Eden”

41. “Boxer” (Beggars Banquet)
The National
Released: May 22

One the band’s fourth LP, The National hasn’t left the theatric orchestrations and chamber sounds of its catalogue. In fact, the group seems more interested in perfecting its sound than discovering new ones. Which explains why this release plays like a well-polished version of its past, and finally weeds out those few lingering traits that might have plagued earlier work.
Hear: “Apartment Story” and “Mistaken For Strangers”

40. “Shotter’s Nation” (EMI/Parlaphone)
Released: Oct. 1

Pete Doherty is bigger than his music. When the Libertines are looked back upon with rose-colored glasses, he’s elevated to iconic status. And when his looming drug overdoses are discussed, he’s penciled in as a martyr for his art. What he is, though, is a well-traveled and hard-partying rockstar with very public demons. But he’s also a musician who sounds like he was awake in the studio for the first time in years, during the recording of Babyshamble’s sophomore LP, and like he was conscious of his swaggering and cockney tales of London’s rougher sides.
Hear: “Delivery” and “You Talk”

39. “Proof of Youth” (Sub Pop)
The Go! Team
Released: Sept. 10

On its second album, the English sextet still sounds like electronic cheerleaders, but the band’s handclaps and rah-rah vocals now are as sticky as the cotton-candy that their audience might have picked up at the local concession stand before heading to their seats.
Hear” “Universal Speech” and “I Never Needed It So Much”

38. “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” (Definitive Jux)
Released: March 20

El-P’s strength always has been ignoring the conventions of typical hip hop, and embracing the free-for-all of his college-radio upbringing. His indie-rock leaning comes full circle, with guest appearances by Cat Power and The Mars Volta, as well as from Nine Inch Nails.
Hear: “Smithereens” and “Up All Night”

37. “Pocket Symphony” (Astralwerks/EMI)
Released: March 6

The Parisian duo’s ambient trance never has been short of finding its way onto soundtracks (see: “Virgin Suicides”), and that’s because the pair crafts unassuming scores able to both create and accent a variety of moods. And about a half-dozen releases into the group’s career, they’ve managed to continually reach near-perfect and magical vibes.
Hear: “Mer Du Japon” and “Photograph”

36. “Math and English” (XL)
Dizzie Rascal
Released: June 4

As one of the first, and arguably still the loudest, voice of grime, this U.K. emcee barrels through snarling tales of London’s underbelly. Now flexing his catchiest beats of his career, the former Mercury Prize winner released the best collection of smarmy hostility to date.
Hear: “Sirens” and “Flex”

35. “Trading Twilight For Daylight” (Eenie Meenie)
Great Northern
Released: May 15

Thankfully, Solon Bixler’s days in 30 Seconds To Mars were numbered. He wasn’t in the hard-rock outfit long enough to let that brand of cheesy rock’n'roll erase the memory of his classical upbringing, which ultimately placed him in the dreamy Earlimart. But it was when he teamed with fellow L.A. regular Rachel Stolte that this band locked into the sweeping orchestrations and wistful tunes that ended up on this stellar debut.
Hear: “Just A Dream” and “Into The Sun”

34. “American Gangster” (Roc-A-Fella)
Released: Nov. 6

Instead of working as a soundtrack to the film that shares its name, Jay-Z took inspiration for his return to cocky rhymes after seeing an early showing of the 1970s timepiece movie. The mogul drew the album’s gritty swagger and take-no-prisoner themes, which was much needed salvation after a handful of lackluster outputs.
Hear: “Success” and “Fallin’”

33. “Let’s Stay Friends” (French Kiss)
Les Savy Fav
Released: Sept. 18

After six years, the expectations – if at the very least from within the band only – were high for the faux-hardcore post-punk ensemble. And to the Les Savy Fav camp’s liking, it’s the strongest release of the group’s career. It is as powerful as the band’s previous work, but a half-dozen-year hiatus left the group refined and willing to branch out to incorporate a variety of instruments.
Hear: “Pots and Pans” and “Patty Lee”

32. “The Reminder” (Cherry Tree/Interscope)
Released: May 1

Thanks in part to commercial spots by Verizon Wireless and iPod’s Nano, a few of tracks from this Canadian folkster have been unavoidable. As the female lead of the Broken Social Scene, Leslie Feist works in tandem with a rotating cast. But on her own, she’s able to jump in front of the spotlight in which she’s had one foot in.
Hear: “I Feel It All” and “Past In The Present”

31. “Attack Decay Sustain Repeat” (Wichita)
Simian Mobile Disco
Released: June 4

Simian built its experimental cred by incorporating dance beats beneath its Beatles-esque melodies. But when its two primary songwriters wanted to flush out those club elements, the group disbanded and returned with an expanded name and this debut. The pair of producers flex their rock chops through the foil of the all-out dance music that they have wanted to make for years.
Hear: “Sleep Deprivation” and “Love”

30. “Last Light” (Altitude)
matt pond PA
Released: Sept. 25

A polarizing album among fans of Matt Pond and the songwriter’s previous bands. On the biggest record of the musician’s career, he’s branched beyond the lo-fi nature of traditional Americana and into the large soundscapes of throwback Brit pop.
Hear: “Last Light” and “People Have A Way”

29. “Mentor Tormentor” (Shout Factory)
Released: Aug. 21

With introspective but complex songs fit for cruising the hillsides in their Southern California neighborhoods, this spacey output draws on the sonic elements of peers such as Granaddy, while also rooting itself in the heartwarming purity of friend Elliott Smith.
Hear: “Answers & Questions” and “The Living Things”

28. “Heresy & The Hotel Choir” (Bad News)
Released: Sept. 24

Maritime’s third album is bigger and plays with wider aspirations than anything in the band’s brief life or in the member’s pasts, which include roots in Promise Ring and Dismemberment Plan. For the first time, musicians who helped carry 90s college radio to indie rock’s current mainstream marketability seem willing to play their songs in arenas instead of dark clubs.
Hear: “Pearl” and “Guns of Navarone”
27. “Challengers” (Matador)
The New Pornographers
Released: Aug. 21

The Canadian power-pop outfit has all but abandoned the simple fuzzy guitars from the band’s first two releases. And during this newfound love of more structure changes and altered tempos, the sextet has made those early outputs almost irrelevant. The band’s fourth LP is more subdued than 2005′s perfect, “Twin Cinema,” but it also hears A.C. Newman exploring the capabilities of his songwriting chops, pushing his band mates to stay embraceable while at their most challenging.
Hear: “All The Old Showstoppers” and “My Rights Versus Yours”

26. “Widow City” (Thrill Jockey)
Fiery Furnaces
Released: Oct. 9

After a pair of horrific attempts at becoming even more experimental, including a release featuring the brother/sister duo’s grandmother on lead vocals, Matt and Eleanor Friedberger scale back their kaleidoscope songs. With the same theatric stories as their early highpoints, as well as the awareness to edit those formerly epic songs into many smaller numbers, the duo is dangerously close to being at its best.
Hear: “Navy Nurse” and “Duplexes of the Dead”

Northwest Herald, Dec. 26, 2007

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