1) LCD Soundsystem: Sound Of Silver
The first LCD Soundsystem record was decent, but never came close to the heights of the groundbreaking singles and remixes that frontman James Murphy produced for other bands. Sound of Silver is exactly what I wanted. Every track fulfills the promise of early successes like “Beat Connection” and “Losing My Edge”, but Murphy explores moodier, more soulful territory than he has before.
2) Arcade Fire: Neon Bible
Lest you think Funeral was a fluke, Arcade Fire returned triumphantly this year with a record so good that it makes their legendary debut sound like a loose collection of demos. They also deserve major props for being among the best musical guests in the history of Saturday Night Live.
3) Radiohead: In Rainbows
It’s a shame that the revolutionary delivery method of this album got more headlines than the music itself. In Rainbows is the most stripped-down, straightforward music Radiohead has made since The Bends. It’s unmistakably a rock record, and arguably their most accessible work yet, but retains the ambition and scope that makes them the most indispensable band working today.
4) M.I.A.: Kala
A while back I wrote that M.I.A.’s fun loving, globetrotting politics reminded of The Clash and called Kala “the 2007 version of the focused, tightened-up Sandinista! everyone has always wanted.” The months since haven’t dulled the relentless beats of “Boyz” or the surreal pleasures of “Paper Planes” one bit, and her unlikely success almost makes me want to forgive America for continuing to buy the work of Nickelback.
5) The National: Boxer
Definitely the grower of the year, The National’s superb sophomore record Boxer is full of subtle hooks that may not pack much of a wallop at first but embed themselves in your head and won’t let go. Every track is a delicate masterpiece.
6) Amy Winehouse: Back To Black
Only Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears have received more trash journalism coverage. But unlike most tabloid queens Winehouse has real talent, and her personal troubles inform and deepen her music. When she sings about addiction and abusive relationships, we know she’s speaking from experience. And working with the extraordinary Dap Kings and Mark Ronson certainly doesn’t hurt.
7) Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
Kevin Barnes had a tough time recording his newest album as evidenced by lyrics like, “I spent the winter on the verge of a total break-down while living in Norway.” But he pairs these confessionals with shimmering pop tracks, giving Hissing Fauna an uneasy mix of up and down that makes it one of OM’s finest achievements yet.
8) Panda Bear: Person Pitch
I thought Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam was a laughable, pretentious mess. But this sophomore solo record from their chief sonic architect pairs his love of aural experimentation with actual hooks, resulting in an incredible set of Brian Wilson-esque epics.
9) Rufus Wainwright: Release The Stars
After years of fashioning himself after Leonard Cohen and various Weimar Republic-era cabaret singers, Rufus Wainwright has finally accepted his gift of writing timeless pop masterpieces like “Rules & Regulations” and “Going To A Town.”
10) Modeselektor: Happy Birthday
Modeselektor hearken back to a time around 1995 when electronic music was at its creative peak. Then electronic music became synonymous with chillout compilations and dinner parties and the dream was over. Not so, according to this genre-hopping Berlin duo who mix together IDM, dancehall, French rappers and even Thom Yorke to create a singular experience that’s very danceable but a little disturbing at the same time, like David Lynch if he was a German DJ.
Best Songs of 2007 from Albums Not Listed Above
1) Feist: 1234
2) UGK & Outkast: International Players Anthem
3) The White Stripes: Icky Thump
4) Battles: Atlas
5) Kanye West: Flashing Lights
6) Bruce Springsteen: Girls In Their Summer Clothes
7) Rich Boy: Throw Some D’s
8) Patrick Wolf: Accident & Emergency
9) The Frames: When Your Mind’s Made Up
10) Low: Murderer