After a lot of thought (sort of), I figured I should uphold my status as a nerd and actually put down some thoughts on the year in music, since MK did such a fantastic job with the movie review side. First off, usually I care more about tracks, and this year is no exception - to facilitate that, I put together a 'mixtape' of some of my favorite songs (and mixes) from this year. Obviously it isn't exactly complete - how could it be, in 80 minutes? - but it should get things started:
RC's 2007 Mixtape Extravaganza
As far as albums, this year proved a bizarre one, with great albums springing up in odd categories. It would be nearly impossible to go through them all, but the ubiquitous and probably irrelevant Top 10 analysis is what blogs were made for, so pretty much FU.
Honorable Mention: The Hood Internet, (Mixtape No. 1) (which is just unreal - check these guys out here, it's the mash-up given new life as a remix . . . )
10. Okkervil River, The Stage Names
Where Black Sheep Boy traded in rough edges and some degree of inconsistency as endearing for the listener, The Stage Names works a borderline-melodrama into a much smoother, more consistent shape. A fantastic album, with a solid premise that never falls into "hokey" even though it could have at any point.
9. Simian Mobile Disco, Attack Decay Sustain Release
Originally, I found myself surprised this was so low on my list - I would guess that at least three singles off this album ("I Believe", "Hustler" and "Sleep Deprivation") had to be in the top-25 most listened to in my car this year. However, as an album, it falls into the "Electronic Music Trap": it just doesn't flow, the connectivity wains, and it begins to sound like a collection of singles instead of an album. This CD just didn't have the staying power for me - although the raw strength of it keeps it solidly in the top 10.
8. Spoon, Ga ga ga ga ga ga
Putting Spoon on lists like this is old hat - you just sort of pencil them in whenever they release something new, at this point. However, Britt Daniel's ego and songwriting benefited greatly from the inclusion of Jon Brion in production (and on bass), giving Spoon's stripped-down sound a sheen and depth that makes tracks like "The Ghost of You Lingers" work and not flop. Besides this, the album finishes with its two strongest songs ("Black Like Me" and "Finer Feelings"), which earns brownie points in my world.
7. Blitzen Trapper, Wild Mountain Nation
An oddball choice, to be certain - these guys are all over the map, sounding alternately like a retard Grateful Dead ("Wild Mountain Nation") and a '90s alt-rock cover band ("Sci-Fi Kid", which might be the best song released all year) and everything in between . . . but somehow it works.
6. Panda Bear, Person Pitch
My favorite 'review' of this album came from Bradford Cox of Deerhunter, who said that he hated this album when he first listened because it was "too perfect" . . . and it might be. A modern equivalent of all the best Brian Wilson Beach Boys materials, but with a sensibility and scope unlike really anything else released this year. Originally I wrote this off as a 'summer album' (something like The Boy Least Likely To last year), but I'm pleased to say out loud that I was completely wrong. This one just makes you feel better about everything when you listen.
5. MIA, Kala
If there was an award for being the favorite on the car stereo, this would be MIA's second such victory. Not really "rap" in the truest sense, nor "techno" in any reasonable sense, Kala strikes me as the ultimate evolution of the Baltimore Gutter scene fused with modern indie music - a connection that doesn't seem intuitive, but makes perfect sense when performed by a radical revolutionary who can't spell well enough to keep a MySpace blog (or get a visa into the US). "Paper Planes" also reaches the short list for best song of the year - really, it's everything that Kanye's "Stronger" did for modern radio rap, on a smaller scale.
4. Burial, Untrue
Burial makes dubstep for people who have never even heard of dubstep, and the results could not be any better. Whereas last year's self-titled album came off as creepy, rumbling and fresh, Untrue produces better songs and a nearly ghostly vibe. The haunted, echoing, chopped "vocal" samples can be hard to work with if you're not used to this sort of thing, but on the whole, this is an electronic CD that produces an album feeling better than almost any other out there. Dark, moist, dreary music that becomes beautiful in an unexpected fashion.
3. Justice, [Cross]
Likely the party album of the year, Justice makes sounds that should not come out of good speakers and somehow make the whitest white kid indie geek shake his/her ass. Among the static and the harsh tones comes Daft Punk reincarnate, with a sense of melody and proportion that rival the most immense of the French DJ set. Quick tip: the singles get the most attention, but "DVNO" is the track that gives me the biggest thrill when it comes on.
2. Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer?
An early-year release that blew the doors off my expectations - while some have considered Of Montreal a sort of novelty act, Hissing Fauna instead became Kevin Barnes's coming-out party. A quick, short move into a freakshow version of the glam-rock that infected mainstream radio, as well as a soul-searing separation from his wife produced an album that pleases the ears beyond previous Of Montreal work, as well as lyrics that produce both wonder and satisfaction to support the tracks. This CD is simply a blast to listen to, and has given me so many great listens over the year that it is amazing this can only rise to #2.
1. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
Then again, the #1 album just blows everything else out of the water. James Murphy, under the LCD Soundsystem moniker, has produced some of the best singles of the past 5-10 years . . . but until now, the concept of "album" has eluded him just as the concept of "cohesive, insightful lyrics" often flew by the wayside. Sound of Silver fixes both problems, producing a series of tracks that jump off the album and gain notice. A beautiful album about growing old, staying cool, finding yourself, rediscovering things like friends and music, and just living, Sound of Silver produced more spins than any other album in my collection in 2007. A worth champion, to say the least, and an album that should appeal to a broad base of music lovers, no matter whether they lean to the rock, electronic, indie or "other" sides of the aisle.