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Best of 2007: Top 20 Albums (20-11)

November 29, 2007

I’ve been doing annual album lists the last few years and this one has probably been the easiest to do – simply because finding 20 albums that I have no reservations about was quite simple. Leaving things out was a lot harder. But with any luck, you’ll discover some of those albums off your own bat – you don’t really need me to tell you what to listen to. So here goes – the countdown begins.

 

The Clientele

#20 The Clientele – God Save the Clientele

Alasdair Maclean and his band of 60s revivalists hit a high-water mark a few years back with Strange Geometry and it was always going to be a hard act to follow. They wisely chose to expand their palette of sounds and it’s paid off. While the variations from Geometry’s dreamy reverb-heavy template mean the God Save the Clientele is less coherent overall, the songwriting is excellent and up-beat pop numbers like “Bookshop Casanova” make this record memorable.

The Clientele – “Bookshop Casanova”

 

St Vincent

#19 St Vincent – Marry Me

Annie Clark, lately of cult-like supergroups The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoisemakers, ventures out on her own – and we wonder why she waited at all. Marry Me is a literate, quirky and adventurous album and Clark is a charismatic and off-beat frontwoman. She’s a torch-singer for the terminally disaffected, a pop star for those bored with standard pop star antics. Our generation’s Kate Bush perhaps?

St Vincent – “Landmines”

 

Aesop Rock

#18 Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass

After the cryptic and dark diversion that was Bazooka Tooth, Long Island experimental rapper Aesop Rock takes a turn back to the mainstream…or at least a mainer stream than before. The production, from Ace Rock himself as well as long-time collaborators like Blockhead and El-P, is a great mix of sinister and melodic. The rhymes? They’re as rapid-fire and baffling as ever. Without the concept-album framework that his magnum opus Labor Days had (all about the 9-5 grind, apparently), you could easily miss the point. But it’s worth trying to figure it out.

Aesop Rock – “Five Fingers”

 

Rosie Thomas

#17 Rosie Thomas – These Friends of Mine

So, she’s not having Sufjan Stevens’ child after all, but Rosie Thomas has made a bloody good album. We’ll forgive her for getting our hopes up about indie rock’s First Baby. On first listen, These Friends of Mine is so accessible and mellow it sounds a bit – well, obvious. But it’s so jammed packed with beautiful melodies and endearing stories and Rosie’s voice is as stunning and evocative as always. Yes, all is definitely forgiven.

Rosie Thomas – “Why Waste More Time?”

 

Blonde Redhead

#16 Blonde Redhead – 23

23 marks Blonde Redhead’s latest step into the world of sophisticated art-pop. Compared to their no-wave beginnings and early comparisons to Sonic Youth, it’s a highly polished effort. The production values are amazing and the vocals from Kazu and Amodeo are eerily effective. Each song sounds like it should be a pretty slice of dreamy indie, but Blonde Redhead manage to make everything sound unsettling – if anything, the purity of the sound makes it creepier. It needs to be heard.

Blonde Redhead – “Heroine”

 

Monkey Swallows the Universe

#15 Monkey Swallows the Universe – The Casket Letters

After a debut that showed promise, but not a lot of consistency, Sheffield’s other monkey-themed band return with the album we’d hoped for. The band’s strengths – Nat Johnson’s world-weary vocals and mellow acoustic folk tunes thousands of Nick Drake fans dream about – are put to better use, bringing to life more memorable tunes. There are still stand-out tracks (“Little Polveir”, “Science”) rather than a constant flow of brilliance, but MTSU are well on their way.

Monkey Swallows the Universe – “Science”

 

Spoon

#14 Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

The most common observation about Spoon’s output is that they make an art out of making music from as little as possible. True, it’s hard to pick an album that’s more bare-bones than Girls Can Tell or Kill the Moonlight, but it’s not as simple as that. Britt Daniel and Co. make an art out of playing songs that use the building blocks of pop music, but end up sounding oddly unfamiliar. It’s all in the details and Ga (x5) is an album for detail people. It’s a pop rock record, sure, but there’s no fear of cliché because somehow no one else has ever thought to make a Spoon album.

Spoon – “The Ghost of You Lingers”

 

Josh Ritter

#13 Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of…

Dylan, Springsteen, Wilson, Guthrie. Now that we’ve got the obvious touchstones out the way, we can talk about how Josh Ritter has made an album that almost lives up to its own mythological aspirations. Fourteen songs, all shooting for timelessness rather than retro copycatting. Lyrics that draw on love, failure and all the other stuff and nonsense of classic rock. Music that draws from old Americana, garage-punk and chamber pop. It may have only come out this year, but Ritter’s musical conquests deserve at least a few pages of history.

Josh Ritter – “To the Dogs or Whoever”

 

Band of Horses

#12 Band of Horses – Cease to Begin

Some critics have bewailed the lack of a barnstorming rocker to equal “The Funeral” or “The Great Salt Lake” on the Horses’ second album. I’m not too fussed myself, because to me, Band of Horses has always been about the slow country ballads. Just as the slow-burning end to last year’s Everything All the Time was the strongest part of Album #1, the heartbreaking “No One’s Gonna Love You” and “Detlef Schrempf” give Cease to Begin a boost into the company of 2007’s best albums.

Band of Horses – “No One’s Gonna Love You”

 

The Field

#11 The Field – From Here We Go Sublime

With only a remix of Annie’s “Heartbeat” and a few 12” records to his name, Axel Willner’s 2007 was promising but not a dead-cert for success. Just as well he pulled together an ambient techno album set to appeal to everyone from headphone obsessives to late-night college crammers. The Field’s sound is a tweaking of the usual Kompakt minimalist house sound, using repetitive loops and pitch-shifting to great effect. It sounds icy and beautiful and perfect for dance parties when everyone’s too tired to dance any more.

The Field – “Sun and Ice”

To #10-1

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One comment

  1. […] Goodnight Believer Just another WordPress.com weblog « Uhuh Stoned and dethroned February 1, 2008 Goodnight Believer is back from holidays and full of new musical delights to share with y’all (I went to the Deep South, see).  But right now, it’s time to visit some standouts from last year that for one reason or another didn’t make it onto the bonanza year end list. […]



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