Friday, June 08, 2007

Best Songs and Albums of 2007 (so far)

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We’re officially 43.3% of the way through 2007, so you know what that means...another “Best of 2007 (so far)” list!

And just in case you don’t read all the way to the bottom, I'll say this now: I’m soliciting advice on other purchases to make here. What great 2007 albums/songs have I missed out on so far? And for the love of God, where the hell is the hip hop? This has so far been the worst year of hip hop that I can recall. Granted, Talib Kweli’s new album is finally dropping in July (after like a decade of delays), and that will help, but...what else is out there? I've got to be missing something. One solid hip hop album is pathetic.

1. Rehab, Amy Winehouse
2. Truth Is, Brother Ali
3. You Know I’m No Good, Amy Winehouse
4. You Got Me, Elk City
5. On and On and On, Wilco
6. Intervention, Arcade Fire
7. Spitting Venom, Modest Mouse
8. What Light, Wilco
9. How Come You Don’t Hold Me No More?, The Hot Puppies
10. I Must Belong Somewhere, Bright Eyes
11. We’re Not Alone, Dinosaur Jr.
12. Tears Dry on Their Own, Amy Winehouse
13. (Antichrist Television Blues), Arcade Fire
14. Soul Singer in a Session Band, Bright Eyes
15. Dashboard, Modest Mouse
16. 2 O’Clock in the A.M., Swati
17. Find You, Andy Zipf
18. Back to Black, Amy Winehouse
19. Cler Achel, Tinariwen
20. Gallina, Ozomatli

Honorable Mention:
1980 World Champion, The Bad Plus
Esa Morena, Ozomatli
Everybody Knows, Ryan Adams
How Do I Let a Good Man Down, Sharon Jones & the Dap-King
If the Brakeman Turns My Way, Bright Eyes
Keep the Car Running, Arcade Fire
Parting of the Sensory, Modest Mouse
Side With the Seeds, Wilco
Walken, Wilco
And while we’re at it, let’s look at the best albums as well.

1. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black – As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not impressed with excess, and the travails of Winehouse’s excess have definitely made the rounds. It helped her get on the cover of Rolling Stone, for instance. But when the album’s this good, it doesn’t seem to matter as much. For instance, Pete Doherty is the current king of excess, but he hasn’t exactly made the RS cover. It still takes talent and success (I guess it still sometimes only takes the latter, not the former). This album is just fantastic. As you see above, it has two of my favorite three songs from 2007 on it (and four of the Top 20), and the mix of current R&B and old Motown sound (and a bit of hip hop) is beyond refreshing. And you have to love that she used the word “f---ery” as one of the key lyricals components of one of her songs (“Me and Mr. Jones”). It will take quite a bit for this album to not end the year as #1 on my list.

2. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky – As has been mentioned here many times before, Wilco never does what is expected of them. With Nels Cline onboard, it would have just been too easy to make a rocking powerhouse of an album. Instead, they stepped back and created a set of reserved, mature songs, and while the “I love it when Wilco rocks out!” side of me was disappointed, there is still nothing but quality here...really, not a single misstep.

3. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible – I loved it the first time I heard it, I was underwhelmed the second time, then I really loved it the third time. Guess I just have to be in the right mood for it...

4. Brother Ali, The Undisputed Truth – The only hip hop album on the list, which I addressed above. There’s really only one major standout track on the album (“Truth Is”), but every song is good. Ali’s mix of honesty, emotion, and battle-rapping skills mean just about anything he raps on is going to be good, and there’s nothing better than when he raises his game a notch here and there. If anything, the lack of diversity in production on this album holds Ali back a bit (things start sounding the same after a while), but the lyrics, subject matter, and delivery are high-quality.

5. Bright Eyes, Cassadega – This one’s growing on me. The first time I listened to it, I thought it was fine, but nothing amazing. The second, I thought much higher of it...guess I need to keep listening to it then.

6. Elk City, New Believers – This might go up or down after a couple more listens, but for now I’ll stick it here. I mentioned the discovery of Elk City in my latest My Month of Entertainment, and I’ll expand a bit here. Start with the sound of every European band with a female singer, pull out every trick in the Garage Band bag (that’s what it sounds like, anyway...not saying they actually used Garage Band for this), move every song in a completely different direction, and you end up with something like this. Like Brother Ali’s album above, there’s only one true standout song (the phenomenally quirky “You Got Me”), but this is an especially enjoyable listen. So far I’d have to say that EC is my 2nd favorite 2007 discovery behind Amy Winehouse. The Butterfly used to say that I don’t like female singers. Well, take THAT!

7. Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank – And speaking of quirky...a new Modest Mouse album never fails to wear me out the first couple of listens—they’ve just got so many unique and strange things going on at any one time. That said, the more I get acclimated to it, the more I like it. I loved “Spitting Venom” from the first time I heard it, but now more and more songs are growing on me—“Dashboard”, “Florida”, “Parting of the Sensory”...well, basically every other song on the album is growing on me at this point.

8. Ozomatli, Don’t Mess with the Dragon – I tried not to penalize this album simply because it wasn’t nearly as good as their last release, Street Signs. It’s still good, but there’s a pretty transparent attempt at a radio sound here. They’ve always had fantastic hooks and grooves, but they seem to be forcing it here. Nonetheless, when you’ve got a fantastic band like Ozo, their disappointing material is still more than listenable.

9. Dinosaur Jr., Beyond – A nice comeback effort from these guys. They still sound like the same band, but they’re not stuck in the early-‘90s. I’m impressed.

10. Tinariwen, Aman Iman: Water Is Life – One of the better African albums I’ve come across so far (not as good as Afro-Rock, but that wasn’t from 2007, now was it?). Bluesy guitar and creative close your eyes, and you can practically see the desert at night in the background.

And finally...just for fun...

Best Other Songs (i.e. not from 2007) Purchased/Obtained in 2007
You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure, Funkadelic
Apache, Incredible Bongo Band
How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times, Bruce Springsteen
Lived in Bars, Cat Power
Jacob’s Ladder, Bruce Springsteen
Girl in the War, Josh Ritter
American Terrorist, Lupe Fiasco
To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High), Ryan Adams
Maggot Brain, Funkadelic

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