Music Monday: Best Albums of 2007

Here we go folks!  Here are my top albums of 2007 (look back at my top 21 in 2006)  It has been a great year for audiophiles, no matter what Stephen King says.  A few other lists are out: Harp, Paste, Uncut, Stylus (adios!).  Metacritic will compile so many lists your head will spin in a few weeks. 

I just want to remind everyone that I'm not a music critic and I don't have every CD out there.  Far from it.  I'm just a music lover who searches for and finds a nice pile of music every year.  And let me add that it's much easier to rate albums released late in the year higher because they are fresher in my mind.  I tried to be as fair as I could, and even revisited some I haven't heard for a while to remember why I loved them.  In the end my real hope is that you will find a few of these albums for your own enjoyment.  Here are my favorites of 2007, with minimal commentary, and a download recommendation or two (though I'm an album guy).  Feel free to ask about an album if you want more, or look through my Music Monday posts where I have discussed many of these in some detail during the past year.

36. Peter, Bjorn, and John: Writer's Block 

Catchy pop songs insisting on a lot of toe-tapping.

Download: "Young Folks," "Amsterdam"

35. Iron & Wine: The Shepherd's Dog

It's not as good as everyone else thinks it is, but it's good.  A worthy album.

Download: "Boy With a Coin"

34. Josh Ritter: The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

Dylan he isn't, at least not yet.  But he's getting closer.  The Animal Years was my #16 last year.  This is another fine album.

Download: "Mind's Eye"

33. Derek Webb: The Ringing Bell

I listen to very, very little "Christian music."  This is the kind I like, and this is as good as Derek Webb gets.  Paste Magazine gave it 5 stars.  A fully enjoyable, artistic album. 

Download: "I Wanna Marry You All Over Again," "This Too Shall Be Made Right"

32. The Avett Brothers: Emotionalism

The Avett's are family favorites in my house, and this album gets plenty of play.  It's a little more sedate than the average Avett album, but still great.  Their Four Thieves was my #17 last year.

Download: "Shame," "Paranoia in Bb Major"

31. The White Stripes: Icky Thump

This is the first White Stripes album I have purchased, and it led me to get some earlier stuff.  It's really enjoyable and eclectic.  And it rocks. 

Download: "Icky Thump," "Conquest"

30. Blonde Redhead: 23

A recent re-listen reminded me of how great this album really is.   It's all about the vibe and the flow and the feeling the music generates.  Well done.

Download: "23," "The Dress"

29. Foo Fighters: Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace

A really good rock album.  They know the difference between acoustic and electric and make the best use of both. 

Download: "Let it Die," "Stranger Things Have Happened"

28. Low: Drums and Guns

Sometimes lovely, sometimes creepy.  Always thoughtful and good. 

Download: "Breaker," "Sandinista"

27. Miranda Lambert: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Don't be hatin', this is fun and sassy radio-country music.  Man, I dig her voice.  It's just one of those things.

Download: "Desperation," "Down"

26. Eluvium: Copia

Ambient and without vocals.  It's lovely, and perfect for background music.

Download: "Prelude for Time Feelers"

25. Sigur Rós: Hvarf/Heim

What can I say?  These guys are brilliant and can do little wrong in my eyes.  This isn't the best I've heard from them, but their pretty good is better than much of the stuff out there. 

Download: "Hafsól"

24. Wilco: Sky Blue Sky

Known recently for their experimental rock music, this album strips them down a bit and mellows them out.  I've had no problem enjoying this album while others have struggled. 

Download: "What Light"

23. Winterpills: The Light Divides

I can't figure out why I don't see more reviews of their albums, but both of them have been intriguing and beautiful.  This one is really good.

Download: "Hide Me," "Broken Arm"

22. Bright Eyes: Cassadaga

Bright Eyes is provocative and in your face at times, and so wonderfully creative that I can't help but recommend it. 

Download: "Clairaudients (Kill Or Be Killed)," "Four Winds"

21. Explosions in the Sky: All of the Sudden I Miss Everyone

Typical excellence from this post-rock powerhouse.  These guys redefine what it means to be delicately lead you to trust and then break your face off. 

Download: "The Birth and Death of the Day"

20. Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

If you don't like Spoon you deserve a fork in your eye.  It's all good, and this is a very enjoyable experimental rock album.

Download: "Don't You Evah," "The Underdog," "Black Like Me"

19. Cloud Cult: The Meaning of 8

Speaking of experimental, enter Cloud Cult.   Alt/Rock that sometimes just rocks and other times makes you want to dance.  At all times I am thrilled at how these guys develop songs and draw on our emotions.  Worth noting, Cloud Cult's songs are often inspired by the death of the lead singer's (Craig Minowa) son. 

Download: "You're 8th Birthday," "Please Remain Calm," "Chemicals Collide"

18. Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha

This talented guy keeps putting out hip folksy pop music for thinking people.

Download: "Fiery Crash," "Imitosis," "Armchairs"

17. Black Moth Super Rainbow: Dandelion Gum

This fairly new CD in my collection is getting lots of playtime.  It's outer-spacey and grandiose music that is as much engineered as played.  But it's intriguing. 

Download: "Melt Me," "Sun Lips"

16. The New Pornographers: Challengers

It didn't receive the hype or recognition of previous NP albums, but it's fantastic and fun pop music. 

Download: "All the Old Showstoppers," "Challengers"

15. LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver

Dance pop with soul and full of fun.  An album I've been enjoying a long time, and still worth discovering for the first time.

Download: "North American Scum," "Time to Get Away"

14. Band of Horses: Cease to Begin

Oh, this is way better than I thought it might be.  Their debut was great, my #4 of last year great, and while this won't be remembered as well as Everything All the Time, it's a great album.

Download: "Ode to Irc," "The General Specific"

13. Via Audio: Say Something

A shocking late addition to my best of '07 list, this album has really captured me with subtle harmonies and catchy melodies.

Download: "Modern Day Saint," "Enunciation"

12. El-P: I'll Sleep When You Are Dead

An amazing R&B/rap album, the best in the genre I've ever heard.  Now I'm no expert, but the lyrical depth and musical breadth is stunning.  Be aware, there is plenty of colorful language on the album.  But it's "true" language, not just for show or shock value.

Download: "Tasmanian Pain Coaster," "The League of Extraordinary Nobodies"

11. Alaska in Winter: Dance Party in the Balkans

A really enjoyable, mostly mellow electronic album with a Balkan flare.  Zach Condon of Beirut makes an appearance on the final track.  This album deserves much more recognition.

Download: "Balkan Lowrider Anthem," "Rain on Every Weekend"

10. Radiohead: In Rainbows

A lot has already been said about this album this year, as it was downloaded lawfully for free by thousands.  It's typically wonderful Radiohead. 

Download: "Nude," "Reckoner"

9. The Besnard Lakes: Are the Dark Horse

Sounding like indie rock-inspired Beach Boys, this is some of the best atmospheric rock I've heard.  A thoroughly enjoyable album.

Download: "For Agent 13," "Devastation"

8. Once Soundtrack

The best soundtrack I know of, from a pretty good indie movie.  The lead of the movie is the lead singer of The Frames.  This album delivers some powerful, angst-ridden tracks as well as delicate and beautiful numbers.  A great album, made better when the movie is seen.

Download: "Say it to Me Now," "The Hill," "Leave"

7. The National: Boxer

Thick, deep vocals guide you through this emotive album.  Boxer had to grow on me after the first few listens didn't click.  But it was worth the wait.  It's rich.

Download: "Fake Empire," "Squalor Victoria," "Apartment Story"

6. The Twilight Sad: Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters

An album I looked hard for.  When found I immediately was taken by the unmistakable Scottish accents and the balance between power and restraint.  There's an element of repetition in the lyrics I find really intriguing as well.

Download: "Cold Days from the Birdhouse," "Walking for Two Hours," "I'm Taking the Train Home"

5. Arcade Fire: Neon Bible

An early front-runner for album of the year, Neon Bible has hung tough and remained a strong favorite for me.  It works very well as a whole album, but a couple of tracks really blow me away ("Intervention" and "My Body is a Cage").  It's hard to believe they could follow up their previous effort, Funeral, with such an exceptional album.

Download: "Intervention," "Windowsill," "My Body is a Cage"

4. Loney, Dear: Loney, Noir

A personal and family favorite, it can be heard somewhere in my house or on my iPod at least once a week.  It's a bit dreamy and whimsical, but with a touch of depression as well.  Somehow that equals a great album.

Download: "Sinister In a State of Hope," "The Meter Marks Ok," "Saturday Waits"

3. Tegan and Sara: The Con

I never thought by the previews you can hear on iTunes that I would love The Con this much.  But it's really a wonderfully quirky, bubble-gum-pop album that has surprising depth to it.  It's a bunch of fun and catchy as well as thoughtful.

Download: "Like O, Like H," "Burn Your Life Down," "Dark Come Soon"

2. Beirut: The Flying Club Cup

One of the two concerts I saw this year.  This is a Balkan influenced band that has moved toward French influences with wonderful results.  It's a real pleasure to watch a group full of wacky talent embody the sounds of other places and other times.

Download: "A Sunday Smile," "The Penalty," "Nantes," "St. Apollonia"

1. Okkervil River: The Stage Names

Their concert was great.  Their album is better.  Literary rock is a genre you can sink your teeth into as well as crank up.  I have listened to this album over and over again, and it just gets better.

Download: "Our Life is Not a Movie Or Maybe," "Unless It's Kicks," "Plus Ones," "A Girl in Port"