Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gold Sounds: Top Ten Albums of 2007

The following is a list of what are, in my opinion, the top ten albums of the past year.

Disclaimer: While I definitely did my best to rank these on their individual merits, this is more of a personal list than anything else, so the amount I listened to and enjoyed these albums counted for a lot. Also, this is my first foray into the music reviewing world, so do not make too much fun of me.

FINALLY, here's my top ten of 2007:

10) St. Vincent - Marry Me

St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark), member of The Polyphonic Spree, released her solo debut this summer. This one snuck up on me and I ended up liking it way more than I anticipated. Songs like "Now, Now" and "The Apocalypse Song" have very unique instrumentation, and the whole album has a quirky sense of humor, exhibited in "Jesus Saves, I Spend." I especially like how she spends the whole album worrying and names the last song "What Me Worry?"

Stream: Myspace

9) Dirty Projectors - Rise Above

I wasn't going to include this album here at first, but it recently occured to me that "Rise Above" is one of the most beautiful songs of 2007. The album's conceptually innovative (a 'reimaging' of Damaged by Black Flag), and while Dirty Projectors have never been known for making streamlined pop songs, Dave Longstreth succeeds in making his strange music fairly accessible. The syrupy backing vocals certainly help as well, especially noticeable and pleasant in "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie."

Stream: Myspace

8) Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Spoon, who already had a large audience, really came on strong in 2007. "The Underdog," arguably Spoon's catchiest song ever, was all over the radio during the summer, giving these guys some sweet publicity. Those going on to listen to the rest of the album found some more catchy melodies in "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb" and "Don't You Evah" as well as the band at their most haunting ("The Ghost of You Lingers," "Eddie's Ragga"). Though the songs vary, each song is distinctly a Spoon song, which is definitely impressive. Not many bands can write such different sounding songs in one album and still create a great, cohesive album.

Stream: Myspace

7) Do Make Say Think - You, You're a History in Rust

Another strong release from these guys. The album features Do Make Say Think's loudest, most explosive song to date ("The Universe!") as well as some of their prettiest guitar work ("A Tender History in Rust"). Yes, a couple songs have vocals, but you know what? Those sound great too, serving as just another instrument rather than being the main focus of those songs. Though post-rock has become pretty saturated in the past few years, Do Make Say Think is one band who should never be overlooked, and they proved it yet again with this album.

Also, as far as post-rock goes, it's much better than the new Explosions in the Sky album.

Stream: Myspace

6) Los Campesinos! - Sticking Fingers into Sockets

Yeah, it's a 16 minute EP, but it's also probably the happiest, catchiest, danciest (I never knew 'danciest' was a word, awesome) 16 minutes of music released this year. They discuss the romantic implications of a mix tape (while clapping), tell you to avoid reading Jane Eyre, and cover Pavement. What's not to love? Look for a full-length from these guys and girls early next year.

Stream: Myspace

5) Okkervil River - The Stage Names

While I'm not too familiar with Okkervil River's back catalog (I just found out about them this past year), the first thing that struck me about this album was how much less of a downer it was compared to its predecessor, "Black Sheep Boy." That album also lulled at times, while this one does not. The first three tracks of the album introduce a less mellow Okkervil River to the masses, and it's no surprise that these songs are some of the best the band's ever made (especially "Unless It's Kicks," which begs the listener to shout along). The middle of the album displays the more mellow Okkervil River, but with songs like "A Girl in Port," this isn't a bad thing either. The album ends with "John Allyn Smith Sails," which reaches a fist-raising conclusion and implores us to "live and love." With songs like these, I will gladly comply (that was corny).

Stream: Myspace

4) Bomb the Music Industry! - Get Warmer

Bomb the Music Industry! has released four albums in a span of two years, each of which deserve your recognition (and if you're a fan of fast punk/ska with crazy time signatures and strong lyrics, there's no reason why you shouldn't download all their albums right now). Get Warmer is the first BTMI! release featuring a full band (the other three mainly feature Jeff Rosenstock providing all instrumentation), and while the album is a little less frantic as a result, Jeff's skill as a songwriter has also become more apparent. Songs like "493 Ruth" offer some of his strongest melodies ever (plus, this is ska, and most of these songs have some sweet horn parts). If anything, listen to "I Don't Love You Anymore," which is the best breakup song of the year.

Stream: Myspace
Download: Official website

3) LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

LCD Soundsystem is another band that came on strong in 2007, and with good reason. Sound of Silver is a large improvement from their overly long, eponymous album. Sound of Silver keeps it simple: these are songs to dance to and savor, and every second of the album (perhaps with the exception of "New York I Love You," which, while not bad, seems misplaced with the other songs) accomplishes this goal. "Someone Great" and "All My Friends" encapsulate this the most, possessing some strong beats as well as some strong lyrics.

Stream: Myspace

2) Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew - Spirit If...

Arguments against the album include it being very dense and very trying, but I definitely disagree, and would go so far as to rank it ahead of anything else Broken Social Scene's ever done. This is definitely an album that needs to be listened to multiple times to achieve full enjoyment, but there are some songs that can be enjoyed immediately, such as "Lucky Ones," which is probably my favorite song of the year. The definition of epic, the song features driving verses and a soaring chorus, with guitar work from Spiral Stairs of Pavement fame. Though the rest of the album isn't quite like this, it's a good jumping off point for someone just starting to listen, and many other great songs can be found in the album upon further listening. I personally love feeling rewarded by listening to albums, and nowhere is this more true than here.

Stream: Myspace

1) Fourth of July - Fourth of July on the Plains

My most played album of 2007 and my favorite of 2007 as well. A simple, straightforward indie pop/rock album about a guy dealing with conflicting feelings in regards to his girlfriend being abroad in France. The album really succeeds thanks to its simplicity: the band writes twelve extremely catchy songs that are hard to ignore, and every song offers relatable lyrics. I was hooked at first listen and hope that you will be too.

Listen: Fourth of July "In Debt" mp3