Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The 2007 Generic Awards Part Two: Albums of the Year

These are the albums that marked 2007. Many are the year's finest releases. However, due to a surprising amount of records that let me down, I also added a list of the most disappointing albums of the year. Again, I'll offer up one video per album where possible. With apologies to LCD Soundsystem, here's part two of the Generic Awards...


5) Wilco / "Sky Blue Sky" - The latest release from Jeff Tweedy was by no means a bad album. Its problem was that unlike the group's previous five releases dating back to "Being There", it wasn't attempting to do anything new. They accomplished the goal of making a great Eagles record (something even the Eagles couldn't do in 2007), but what was the point of it all?
*Video is "Impossible Germany" (from the accompanying DVD)

4) R.E.M. / "R.E.M. Live" - I really got into R.E.M. this year, and was excited for their first ever live album. I should've looked at the tracklist first. Six songs from "Around the Sun" while only two from "Murmur", "Reckoning", and "Document" combined? Even if the execution wasn't mediocre (which it is), this album would've been.

3) Eagles / "Long Road Out of Eden" - 28 years without releasing any new albums, and this was the best they could come up with?
*Video is the title track

2) Devendra Banhart / "Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon" - Most years this would be #1. Banhart somehow thought it would be a good idea to attempt every genre within the musical cannon, whether he could pull it off or not. It's not until tracks 15 and 16 ("I Remember" and "My Dearest Friend") that we get anything equivalent to his earlier work.
*Video is "Seahorse"

1) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah / "Some Loud Thunder" - Not since the Stone Roses has there been a sophomore slump like this. Not everything on it is horrible, but after such a self-assured and masterful debut it sure seems like it. Alternative Press put it best: "'Some Loud Thunder' isn't without its successes--but it is defined by its failures."
*Video is "Satan Said Dance"


10) The National / "Boxer" - After two very good albums, Matt Berninger and his bandmates have finally released their masterpiece. The lyrics are much more direct than the stream-of-conscious verses on "Alligator", while maintaining a level of mystique. Sonically, it's tighter and more accomplished. I don't know if they can top this album, but if they prove me wrong they'll have released one of the decade's finest albums.
* Video is "Mistaken for Strangers"

9) Josh Ritter / "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter" - Josh Ritter is one talented singer/songwriter. He jumps through various genres, puts his own spin on them, and never falters. Whether it's the Spoon-esque "Mind's Eye", the country stomp of "The Next to the Last Romantic", or the simple acoustic elegance of "Still Beating", everything he touches turns to gold.
*Video is a live version of "Mind's Eye"

8) Dizzee Rascal / "Maths and English" - What it lacks in consistency, it makes up for with its high points. For every lousy track like "Suk My Dick", he throws down three tracks like "Sirens", "Where's Da G's", and "Hardback (Industry)". His beats are still the most original in all of hip-hop, and even Kanye could learn from his use of sampling on "Pussy'ole (Old Skool)". It might not be up to the level of "Boy in Da Corner", but to expect an album of that caliber would be ridiculous and unfair.
*Video is "Sirens"

7) Pale Young Gentlemen / "Pale Young Gentlemen" - Pale Young Gentlemen didn't set out to be this year's ultra-indie buzz band. One listen to their self-titled debut reveals a band just out to make music that's enjoyable to listen to and play to their strengths. They balance out fun tracks like "Saturday Night" and "Clap Your Hands" with slower ballads such as "My Light, Maria" to prevent the album from becoming homogenous. Their music is still raw enough, however, that I believe their best is yet to come. They're the band to watch in the coming years.

6) Arcade Fire / "Neon Bible" - Rather than retread the sound they mastered on 2004's "Funeral", the Arcade Fire adopted a more straightforward sound for their latest album. The numerous Bruce Springsteen comparisons seems especially accurate on songs like "Keep the Car Running". Even with the more rock-oriented sound, they weren't afraid to slow things down and build up to a climax on tracks like "My Body is a Cage". "Neon Bible" was the best kind of sophomore album. It successfully tried new things, while keeping the band's signature sound and strengths intact.
*Video is "My Body is a Cage"

5) Panda Bear / "Person Pitch" - A warm blend of Beach Boys inspired psychedelia, sounds of nature, and Animal Collective's originality. It not only painted a picture of summer, it created an environment of the season so convincing it could be inhabited. Unlike his Animal Collective partner Avey Tare's fans-only document "Pullhair Rubeye", "Person Pitch" was an album that could be enjoyed by those unfamiliar with the Collective, casual fans (I'd fall in this category), and die-hards alike.
*Video is "Comfy in Nautica"

4) Menomena / "Friend and Foe" - In 2007, Menomena moved from the unknown Muuuhahaha! label which had released their debut album to the much more relevant Barsuk label (which released most of Death Cab's albums, and is home to artists such as They Might Be Giants and Nada Surf). It was a perfect fit. The new equipment and studio technology available to them allowed them to make an album similar to their wonderful debut ("I Am the Fun Blame Monster!"), only bigger and better in every aspect. Every track is overflowing with instruments, vocals, and ideas, building to an exhilirating crescendo. Menomena took an already high bar and raised it right through the ceiling.
*Video is "Evil Bee"

3) Radiohead / "In Rainbows" - It's a new Radiohead album. It's already made nearly every top ten list. What else can possibly be written about it? In short, they exceeded fan expectations by finally meeting them.
*Video is "Reckoner"

2) Spoon / "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" - I seriously underestimated this album initially. It just didn't sound as impressive as "Gimme Fiction". I don't blame myself either. On the first few listens, Britt Daniels and company sound so effortless. It sounds nice and all, but it doesn't make you stand back in awe like "The Beast and Dragon, Adored". However, after subsequent listens you realize just how outstanding it is. You realize how flawlessly executed it is. You realize how impeccably produced it is. You realize it not only might be the band's best album, it is the band's best album.
*Video is "The Underdog"

1) Battles / "Mirrored" - The vocals are too weird. It doesn't have any emotional shifts, or really any emotions tied to it period. The songs are either too short or too long. It doesn't make any great cultural statements. There are a lot of reasons to believe Battles' debut is not the album of the year. I just don't buy into any of them. It was the first time an album had left me completely floored since Sigur Rós' initial American release, "Agaetis Byrjun". It sounded like nothing I had heard before or since. Hate it or love it, "Mirrored" was the most original album of the year. In your humble reviewer's opinion, it was also easily the best.
*Video is "Tonto"

1 comment:

Tom said...

you should review ratatat's self titled.