Monday, 17 December 2007

The BEST 40 Albums of 2007 : 10 - 1

OK, so it's finally here. My top 10 albums of the year. There's simple angular pop, melancholic Scottish rock and an anti-folk singer covering anarchist punk, there's even a record in there by a man who calls himself 'the Swedish Frank Sinatra'! Anyway here it is...

10. GOOD SHOES - Think Before You Speak

An ingeniously simple album. Spindly guitars clash and meld over bouncy basslines and simple drums creating a sparse yet likable sound. The lyrics go from the mind numbingly mundane to cheekily political, tales of watching films on planes with girls mix with barbed comments on private education and snobbery. The best moments been when the two collide, like on the wonderful 'Morden'. A simple song about their home town, a place infested with drugs and violence, where on every corner there is a pound shop or a KFC. These mundane, minute details of their bleak setting clash with larger spreading social ills to create a frightening portrait of modern British life. Overall Think Before You Speak is a witty, concise and fundamentally enjoyable album about young British life, the problems deeply personal and ultimately frivolous yet symptomatic of a larger communal malaise. However depressing this sounds this record can only make the listener crack a smile, chirpy melodies and witty, urbane lyrics peppering the whole piece from start to finish. Like The Rakes if they were 10 years younger and 100 times angrier. Cracking.


2007 was the year I discovered just how amazing Super Furry Animals really are. Before this year I had taken them for granted, a band that have always been around on the radio or the telly yet never quite pierced the musical part of my brain. It was only when a friend bullied me into checking out SFA's singles collectionSongbook that I really had my SFA epiphany. Hearing all those amazing songs in one place made me finally appreciate them for the great band they are and by the look of this, their eighth album, always will be. Hey Venus! is simply great pop music. Exactly what you expect from SFA but with something extra. Packed full of catchy choruses, strange imagery and spacey, bouncy guitars. A lesson in how to make a great 21st Century album, one that encapsulates everything that was good about the past but is firmly rooted in the future. Brilliant.

8. JEFFREY LEWIS - 12 Crass Songs

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. This album really is the impossibly twee anti folk hero Jeffrey Lewis covering 12 songs by the Essex based anarchist punk band Crass. OK, I know that was a shock, but now get up off the floor and get ready to hear the strangest album of the year. The strangest thing being that this album doesn't sound weird in the slightest. If you weren't told this was a bunch of Crass songs you probably wouldn't notice, Jeffrey's beautiful arrangement turning Crass' furious punk thrash into twinkling folk songs that burst into brash anti folk riots. He has completely made the songs his own, his unique vision paying off more than anyone could ever imagine. A classic work that's certainly up there with any of his other self penned albums. One day Jeffrey will be a star, just not yet.

7. MALCOLM MIDDLETON - A Brighter Beat

Brooding, melancholic and impossibly bleak, yet somehow uplifting and joyous, A Brighter Beat is Malcy's finest moment outside of Arab Strap. A combination of everything that was great about his previous two albums condensed into one amazing record. An album for anyone who has ever felt sad for no reason, felt lonely even with a thousand people around or just felt plain grumpy. The songs are sorrowful laments that charm your socks off with their honesty and humour. From the wonderfully silly 'We're All Going To Die', to the beautiful anthem for the shy ones that is 'A Brighter Beat' right through to the epic closer 'Superhero Songwriters', this is a consistently brilliant album. Every word a confessional, every note a wonderful bit of audio therapy. The self deprecating humour packed in every word stops the album descending into self obsessed misery, and forces the listener to crack a smile. A Brighter Beat is a testament to just how much Malcolm Middleton continues to grow as a songwriter. A caustic, grumpy masterpiece for the modern age.

6. THE ARCADE FIRE - Neon Bible

Distinctly more lo-fi than Funeral, Neon Bible sees a rawer, angrier Arcade Fire come to the fore. The attention turning from personal tragedy to global unrest. There is still the awe inspiring bombast of the bands previous work but now it seems slightly more unhinged and off kilter. This is a band who have grown and honed their craft before unleashing their second album, and it has paid off. Neon Bible is superbly understated yet magnificently epic, an ungodly mix of quiet and loud. There are songs that channel the spirit of Born To Run era Springsteen alongside downbeat funeral marches and massive string led operettas alongside a quiet mournful mandolin based lament, there is no particular sound to this record, just a feeling. There is an underlying aggression throughout, bubbling over in those louder, bombastic moments. Neon Bible is a wonderful record of twisted, confused American road songs that perfectly soundtrack our confused world.

5. RADIOHEAD - In Rainbows

Away from all the hyperbole surrounding this album and it's digital release, not many people have discussed the musical benefits of this wonderful album. Sounding like a mix of OK Computer ,Kid A and Hail To The Thief, with a pinch of Thom Yorke's own The Eraser album, In Rainbows is pretty much the perfect Radiohead album. Finding the perfect balance between experimentation and simplicity, Yorke's voice is no longer hidden behind filters and vocoders, coming through the mix to power the whole album alongside the twinkling, jangly guitars and beeping persistent electronics. The lyrical content is much more open than previous albums, almost personal in its simplicity and unveiled attitude. The album is also more human, more sensual. It's a more tactile and exploratory Radiohead, one that actually lives in the same mundane world as us, the humble listener. Much like OK Computer there is an underlying paranoia and a fear of your surroundings, yet now it's not quite as claustrophobic, there is an element of acceptance. In Rainbows is a confident collection of some of the finest songs Radiohead have ever constructed.

4. JENS LEKMAN - Night Falls Over Kortedala

A wonderfully lush collection of gloriously overblown pop songs. Jens' voice glides, like Stephen Merritt of The Magnetic Fields mixed with a Swedish Scott Walker, over slick layers of horns, strings and looped old fashioned samples. Jens' personality on this record flits from naive optimist to wide eyed Lothario, his beautiful songs covering love and loss, first kisses and crushes on hairdressers. One song even covers the strange goings on of a weekend at the house of Jens' lesbian pen pal, with Jens posing as her boyfriend to fool her conservative father! Brilliantly self aware and at times hilariously funny, Lekman's songs are unique and timeless, a flash back to a simpler time when pop music was big, brash and unashamed. You will fall in love with Jens Lekman, and it will probably sound like this record when you do.

3. THE CRIBS - Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever

I love The Cribs. Always have, always will. Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever, their third record, continues their flawless career. A fantastic collection of understated pop gems, The Cribs have bettered themselves again. Opener 'Our Bovine Public' is one of the best songs of the year, an aggressive ditty about the state of the musical nation and how Ryan never thought he'd be a hipster like everyone else and 'wear brown shoes'. 'Girls Like Mystery' is another self deprecating slice of Wakepop, with lyrics that reveal just what the brothers think of themselves and each other, trading lines like 'there's not much to say for me / that's OK you know that girls like mystery'. 'Men's Needs' is a wonderfully simple critique of modern relationships, and 'Moving Pictures' is one of the most overtly emotional songs in the Cribs' cannon, both showing a side of The Cribs more mature and less scenester bating than previous records. The next track 'I'm A Realist' has lyrics that dissect these two sides of The Cribs, 'I'm a realist / I'm a romantic'. 'Majors Titling Victory' is an attack on, yes you guessed it, MTV. A wonderfully rawkus grind that goes further than most of their tighter pop songs to highlight the influence of bands like Sonic Youth and Huggy Bear on their work. The Sonic Youth connection continues with the spoken word input of Lee Ranaldo on the cathartic 'Be Safe', arguably one of the best songs the band has ever produced. A huge, immensely bleak piece of beat poetry coupled with an impassioned, screamed chorus. Closer 'Shoot The Poets' is wonderful, a stripped back acoustic performance from Ryan that forms a delicate end to a less than delicate record. Put simply, this is a brilliant album that finally brought The Cribs to the larger audience that they deserve.

OK, this was such a hard decision. Who has made the best album of the year? What actually constitutes a 'best album of the year'? Do I award invention and experimentation or just pick the album that I personally have listened to most? Do I choose joyous pop abandon or cerebral forward thinking experimentation? Both albums are worthy winners, I can't stress that enough. Both are classic albums, they will last through generations and stand out as an indicator of just how good music was in 2007. Anyway here is my decision. At number two we have...

2. PANDA BEAR - Person Pitch

A few months ago when I started this blog I wrote an article, entitled 'A Study Into The Possibility That Panda Bear Has Made The Best Album of 2007', extolling the virtues of one Noah Lennox, founding member of Animal Collective and now the creator of the second greatest album this year as Panda Bear. Here's what I said about Person Pitch...

Opener 'Comfy In Nautica'is simply beautiful. The opening chants roll and crash, lulling the listener into a hypnotic trance. It's, at the same time, both a humbling and uplifting experience. The crashing drums and Gregorian chanting hit you round the face while Noah's sweet, tender and naive vocals caress your cheek to make it better. Its this mix of the grand and the simple that runs throughout the whole album, the grandeur of the music is contradicted by the simplicity and all round pop sensibility of the vocal patterns. As an instrumental piece this album would be an extremely experimental and rather avant garde, but nonetheless beautiful, prospect. The vocals give it that push over the edge into populist territory, a sweetener in a sour cup of coffee. Overall the album is a dual purpose product, you can either give your full concentration and study every nook and cranny, or you can just let it drift straight over you. It really is bliss to just sit and listen to this record and be taken away from life for 45 minutes and 36 seconds. It never gets old and this blissful feeling never dwindles. Put simply, it's a modern symphony. If there's any justice, Panda Bear will be looked at in a centuries time as a visionary and a genius. He is our generations shining light, our own little genius.

What can possibly beat a genius I hear you cry. Well, 4 geniuses might do the trick. And that's exactly the make up of the band that has made the best album of 2007...

1. THE SHINS - Wincing The Night Away

From the opening ethereal tones of 'Sleeping Lessons' to the delicate acoustic guitar of beautiful album closer 'A Comet Appears', Wincing The Night Away is a gorgeous journey through the wonderfully bright world of The Shins. An album of playful pop gems, wistful laments on life and opaque lyrics. A mixture of bashful naivety and joyous celebration.

'Sleeping Lessons' builds from just sparse, nautical keyboards and a heart wrenching vocal into an explosive symphony of guitars, crashing drums and twinkling keys. One of the best Side A / Track 1's ever, setting the scene for a pop symphony with a massive, building yet explosive start. 'Australia' is vintage Shins, bouncy melodies and powerful vocals creating a layered sound that twinkles and sparkles. 'Phantom Limb' is a great piece of songwriting, containing a shameless sing along hook yet still maintaining a cerebral and somewhat guarded lyricism, serving as a wonderful abridged summary of The Shins' sound. 'Sea Legs' is one of the biggest departures from this Shins sound of previous albums, a 5 minute plus lament powered by a distinctly hip-hop beat. The beat crackles and hisses underneath another nautical themed melody, the watery sound of a washed out slide guitar colliding with dreamy synths. 'Red Rabbits' sees another very different Shins, a reflective downbeat incarnation. A slow creeping bass runs underneath rather festive keyboards as James Mercer croons a lilting vocal melody. As the crackling sample of a cheering crowd fades away the opening jangle of 'Turn On Me' rings out into space. A wonderful song full of steel pedal guitars and charming lyrics like 'You must have known that I was fond of you / Fond of Y-O-U'. I get goose pimples every time. It's Mercer's delicate phrasing and heartfelt tone that push this album into the territory of greatness. His lyrics are full of oblique natural imagery and sea faring analogy, but can also be extremely honest and revealing. He doesn't give too much away, yet gives you a good idea of what makes him tick. He has the perfect balance. He is one of our generations finest frontmen despite his shyness and timid nature, he shows you don't need to be a posturing attention seeker to be a good band leader and frontman. Anyway back to the album and the spacey drone of 'Black Wave', a transitional atmospeheric track that feels like another movement of 'Turn On Me', albeit a darker, more experimental one. This is another reason why I adore this album, it works so well as a whole piece, it's not just a bunch of songs. There is a linear pattern to the way the songs are arranged. Put one track out of place and it would ruin the album. 'Split Needles' is as dark as 'Black Wave' yet packs a bigger punch. A mix of glorious offbeat drums and jagged, intermittent guitars, 'Split Needles'is a brooding march, full of introverted anger and discordant keyboards. 'Girl Sailor' is a mix of the Beach Boys esque melodies of their first album Oh, Inverted World and the more grown up country that graces parts of Chutes Too Narrow, coming together to form the perfect Shins ballad. But this is all just the appetiser to the 6 course meal that is 'A Comet Appears'. A finger picked guitar and the human voice form a powerful, heartbreaking moment. A bare, thoughtful lament on loneliness and faith. James Mercer's powerful, emotive voice weaves between each reverb soaked note to create the most truly touching moment on the album. Lyrically the most open track on the album, with beautiful lines like 'We can blow on our thumbs and posture, but the lonely are such delicate things. The wind from a wasp could blow them into the sea, with stones on their feet, lost to the light and loving we need'. Amazingly poetic and deeply profound for mere pop music.

Wincing The Night Away is a masterpiece, a classic in the making and truly the best album of 2007.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year xx

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

The BEST 40 Albums of 2007 : 19 - 11

OK, so we're into the top 20. From now on, for suspense (oooh!) we will be counting down 19-11 rather than 11 - 19 and so on. Just realised I should've done that from the start, ah well! So, it was Kubichek! at 20, who's at number 19? Who just missed the top 10? Who actually cares beside me?

19. ARCTIC MONKEYS - Favourite Worst Nightmare

A mature effort, the scummy men and taxi drivers of their debut are gone and in comes some beautiful songs about human idiosyncrasies and frailties. A more focused album full of songs that deal with less general social ills and focus on the individual. There are barbed critiques of our out of control fame culture alongside simple love and loss songs, it's a great mixture. This is a more confident version of Turner and co. The input of producer James Ford becomes apparent in the much more polished sound, the fuller arrangements and the general feeling of experimentation over repetition. A brave yet familiar album.

18. THE HORRORS - Strange House

Primal, raw and vital. A cracking collection of psychobilly gems from the band everyone thought was a joke. When they first emerged with their tight jeans, big hair and silly names, I thought 'oh deary me, more posers without songs'. For months I avoided them like the plague, the words surrounding them at the time being 1.NME 2.Myspace and 3.Goth, before accidentally hearing their song 'Gloves' on the radio. I didn't know who it was, I assumed it was a track from the late 70's. Vintage keys, screeeeemed vocals and guitars that sounded like the end of the world. This could have been The Cramps or The Birthday Party, but no the announcer's voice said The Horrors. The next day I bought Strange House, Junkyard and Songs The Lord Gave Us. This is the beauty of The Horrors, they get 'the kids' excited about bands they would have never have even considered before. As for Strange House itself, it's quite simply magnificent. Thrashing guitars, howling vocals and dark lyrical themes, all concise and exciting enough to keep you enthralled in the weird and wonderful world of The Horrors.

17. MAXIMO PARK - Our Earthly Pleasures

Now this is going to be more of a derogatory rant than you'd expect from a small review of the 17th best album of the year. Before I begin I must stress that I do very much enjoy this album, it's a lovely record. The songs are beautifully put together, lyrically obtuse and extremely heartfelt. There is one problem, Paul 'The Hat' Smith. I won't fully go into my gradual spiral from love to hate towards this man and his band (I will do that in a separate post!), but it is the reason this album didn't make the top 10. There's a general smugness and false over sincerity to this album that spoils the brilliant songs held within. Good songs, shit person.

16. DEERHOOF - Friend Opportunity

This year was the year I discovered the weird and wonderful world of Deerhoof. I know I'm very, very late but better late than never I say! I encountered them when a friend of mine dragged me along to their show at the Irish Centre in Leeds. They were spectacular, even though I had never heard a note of their music before I was enthralled by their fractured pop songs and non stop live show. The next day I invested in this very album and the excellent Milk Man, a great joint starting point. All the chaos and charming inconsistency of their earlier albums condensed into an 11 song record of fresh, exciting music. This is Deerhoof at their very best, erratic time changes, detached vocals and the odd moment of all out musical mayhem. Disjointed and free, yet perfectly formed and immensely enjoyable. A cracking album.

15. JAMIE T - Panic Prevention

Oh, little Jamie Treyes. With his cheeky, grubby little face and wonky smile he's the last person you'd expect to have suffered from quite severe panic attacks since his teenage years. This album is the soundtrack to those moments of terror, when Jamie would write songs or make mixtapes to take his mind off the impending doom in his mind. The songs come out loud and brash, a little clumsy yet altogether charming. From a simple acoustic bass and voice to a full band of ruffians, Panic Prevention shows just what he can do when let loose in a recording studio. Songs of love and hate, of nights gone awry and of young girls who've just had enough, the whole of Jamie's young life is in here. Honest, engaging and effective. A great debut.

14. NAPOLEON IIIrd - In Debt To

A great debut full of odd sounds, looped samples and timeless songs for the modern age. This is an album for the worker who sees their job as a mere sideline, a way to pay the rent, yet hates been told this by lad rock bands in pubs. Simple arrangements give way to orchestral barrages of samples and multiple voices, acoustic guitars merge with layer upon layer of found sounds and home made electronics. In Debt To has the bouncy feel of Fuzzy Logic era Super Furries if they were a one man band from Yorkshire experimenting with sampling units and tape loops rather than guitars and distortion pedals. This all comes together to form an amazing, genuinely unique sound. Napoleon IIIrd, under appreciated genius and West Yorkshire's very own Panda Bear.

13. INTERPOL - Our Love To Admire

This album contains some of the best songs Interpol have ever written. The perfect mix between the dark lullabies of Turn On The Bright Lights and the distinctly brighter pop gems of Antics, Our Love To Admire is their finest work. There is greater confidence in Paul Banks' voice than ever before, it's grander and just that little bit stronger. The guitars sing and the bass pulses and pops it's way through the whole lovely piece, the drums hit both hard and soft, controlled yet manic. Familiar yet enticingly different.

P.S. As a side note, Our Love To Admire is apparently their first cocaine free album, lets hope they stay off the stuff for at least a couple more albums!

12. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM - Sound Of Silver

A wonderful mix of cold electronic detachment and warm, fuzzy human emotion. Like Kraftwerk singing the blues, this is a much more honest and less hipster incarnation of James Murphy. Their debut was patchy, full of self indulgence and cowbells, yet had a certain charm when it really hit the spot, this whole album is like those better moments stretched out to a beautiful 9 tracks. Twinkling synths and tight drums mix with James Murphy actually singing lilting melodies with a heartfelt charm not previously seen from this electric grouch. The songs are perfectly formed and not a minute over the time they need to develop (unlike the sprawling, self indulgent 8 minute cowbell solo's of their debut!), 'All My Friends' been the perfect example, a solitary looped piano giving way gradually to a sonic cacophony of emotive vocals, skipping drums and a pulsating bassline. This was totally ruined by the cut down radio edit, proving LCD Soundsystem's songs are like a good cheese, they need time to breathe. Sorry that was awful! Put simply, and without cheese analogies, this is a great second album on which LCD Soundsystem have evolved into something so much better, so much greater and grander, yet simpler at the same time.

11. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE - Strawberry Jam

The moment Animal Collective stopped been outsider heroes and became the 21st Century Beach Boys. Bouncy melodies, catchy chorus' and lively chants rather than drones, this is a new Animal Collective, one of joyous dancing and celebration. The songs are less fractured than previous fare, looping melodies colliding and meshing rather than gong off on seperate tangents. 'Peacebone' is a great opener, all shouting and dancing with nonsense lyrics about 'dinosaur wings' and monsters and 'Derek' is one of the most beautiful pieces of music AC have ever constructed, a deliciously simple jangly ditty that closes the album well. A great album that brings the listener into a rather exclusive club of collected animals, that may now open to the public at large. A hypnotic, intense and overall fun album from one of the finest bands of the past few years.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The 40 BEST Albums of 2007 : 20 - 29

20. KUBICHEK! - Not Enough Night

A wonderfully dark album full of crap nights out, stolen taxi's and doomed friendships. Like A Weekend In The City but with the testicular fortitude to look at the rather rubbish side of city life, a la The Rakes. Musically there is a rather strange marriage between post rock and, well rock! Idlewild esque riffing aplenty yet dynamic soundscapes too, this is an album by a band who don't like boxes. Honest, addictive and full of amazing pop songs. Like Maximo Park with a full head of hair and both balls intact.

21. KING CREOSOTE - Bombshell

To me Bomshell is the sound of all KC's DIY efforts condensed into one masterpiece. All this time under the radar and now the King decides to make a big, happy pop record. Beautifully intricate and personal lyrics crooned over a myriad of different instruments ranging from accordion to violin. The sound is big and lush yet not over produced, the perfect new sound for an artist with so much to give to so many people. All hail King Kenny!

22. FIONN REGAN - The End Of History

Delicate and simple, The End Of History is the sound of a musician at peace with himself and his guitar. There's no need for high production values or too many session musicians, this record is just the sparse sound of voice and guitar with the odd splash of timid drums. A wonderful collection of folk songs sung with conviction and wonder. Should have won the Mercury Music Prize, damn you Klaxons!!!

23. ART BRUT - It's A Bit Complicated

Simple, concise and full of charm. A record of immense fun and frivolity, cute British charm mixed with some much more competent musicianship than their rather scratchy debut. That's right Art Brut have evolved from rather amusing novelty act to accomplished songwriting geniuses. Eddie Argos talks his way through tales of neurotic woe and awkward sexual conquests over some jangly, taut pop melodies. Eddie gives us stories of stopping mid fumble to turn up a pop song and living on no money therefore being forced to eat stale bread like looks like toast! He even taunts critics with wonderfully caustic and self-referential lines like "I'm nothing to my peers, the envy and hatred. How many girls have they seen naked!". The perfect second album.

24. COLD WAR KIDS - Robbers & Cowards

Ah, Cold War Kids. Well they've been a grower! On first encountering this record as an import last year I was not impressed. It all seemed a bit too earnest, a bit too much. As the record got it's UK release I thought I'd give it another listen and this time I was blown away. I don't know what had changed, I think at first I had heard them at a time when they were a myspace hype band, there was too much expectation. Anyway, this record is amazing. A mix of delta blues and gospel, it's the sound of the god fearing American South. From the hypocrisy of the church to the confessions of an alcoholic, Cold War Kids channel the rawest subjects into wonderful songs of redemption, joy and fear.

25. iLiKETRAiNS - Elegies To Lessons Learnt

I adore iLiKETRAiNS. Let's get that straight. When I first saw them at the bottom of the bill at Lincoln Uni a couple of years ago I nearly cried. Their debut album, although not quite reaching the peak of their overwhelming live shows, is a great introduction to all things iLiKETRAiNS. Elegies... is a bleak march into our countries chequered past, we are served up stories of assassinated Prime Ministers, whole villages wiped out by disease and the final days of doomed explorers. All set to a brooding wall of sound worthy of Sigur Ros, the words delivered in a voice like a strangled, grieving Morrissey. This is however just the beginning, one day they will be top of lists like this. This is not their masterpiece, that is yet to come.

26. ASOBI SEKSU - Citrus

Fuzzy guitars, layered ten times over, are soaked deep into this record, washing over sweet female vocals that step into the background like just another instrument. This, my friends, is shoegaze for the 21st Century. Lyrics sung both in English and Japanese are indecipherable, whatever language you speak, as they create gorgeous melodies over the amazing audio sludge of guitars, bass and drums melded together in a sonic landscape. Ferocious pop songs married to experimental noise, lovely.

27. EDITORS - An End Has A Start

Oooh I can feel this being an unpopular choice already! What words are you going to use, BORING! COLDPLAY! OVERBLOWN! Well I don't care, I've had a lot of grief for extolling the virtues of Editors this year and I feel it's all unjustified. This is a great album (the only reason it didn't make the top 20 been the rather poor and flat middle section that lets the whole record down). An End Has A Start is an honest, unashamed and emotive album. It deals with grief and loss in a very real way, there are no cloak and dagger hidden metaphors, it's all right there in front of you and that is exactly what you want from this album. Musically a step forward from The Back Room, their second effort is more ambitious and ultimately bigger in scope. The most heartwarming moment comes, however, when the sound is taken to a whisper on the beautiful, piano led 'Well Worn Hand'.

28. HOLLER, WILD ROSE! - Our Little Hymnal

I reviewed this one a few weeks ago so here's a snippet:

'The sheer pomp and general epic size of this album could put the casual listener off, for those who like a touch of pomposity however it truly is a wonderful piece of work. 'Our Little Hymnal' takes a million different influences and condenses them into an hour long masterpiece, said influences only part of a tapestry not the whole story. If you love music with a touch of the epic this is the record for you. An album that is simple and elegant, yet powerful and primal at the same time.'

29. BRIGHT EYES - Cassadaga

A strange record to pin down, and one that caused me a lot of problems when compiling this list. Just how much did I value this rather self indulgent yet quite staggeringly beautiful album? So anyway number 29 it is, I think this is fair. This is by no means Conor's finest work (that being in my mind a toss up between Digital Ash In A Digital Urn and Lifted, answers or abuse on a postcard please...) but there is something inherently likable about it. The lilting slide guitar, the coherent and faintly apocalyptic lyrics and the feeling that Cassadaga is a well rounded and almost concept driven album. If this is an album about the end of the world, we're going out with a confused expression almost breaking into a smile.

Monday, 10 December 2007

The 40 BEST Albums of 2007 : 30 - 40

OK, so it's been a while since I posted on here but I'm back after some big deliberations about the best records of this wonderful year of music. It's been a year of discovery for me, I've discovered avenues of music I'd never heard or even considered before. From Animal Collective to Battles, The Shins to Jeffrey Lewis, it's been a year of new loves and old flames rekindled. Anyway here is the first installment of my top 40 albums of the year...

30. BATTLES - Mirrored (Warp)

A selection of creepy twisted helium vocals, tight yet expressive drumming and songs so darn funky, yet so clinical and cold, that they end up sounding like James Brown jamming with Gang Of Four in an abandoned warehouse. Amazingly abstract yet so accessible. A triumph of invention.

31. MUM - Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy (Fat Cat)

Lush, atmospheric and beautiful. A heady mix of glitchy electronics, hushed vocals and off kilter lyrics. Their best and most accessible album to date.

32. PATRICK WOLF - The Magic Position (Universal)

Not a patch on his earlier work but still a cracking album. Lacks the dark imagery of Wind In The Wires yet somehow misses the fun and passion of Lycanthropy, sitting somewhere in between. A troubled trip encompassing disco, torch songs and ukuleles. Difficult listening in places but when it's good, it's superb.

33. BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE presents KEVIN DREW - Spirit If...

Songs sung with a whisper, melodies like ghostly nursery rhymes and guitars that jangle and brood in equal measure. Delicate and understated yet capable of letting go and becoming something much bigger, something massive. A great album.

34. THE STRANGE DEATH OF LIBERAL ENGLAND - Forward March! (Fantastic Plastic)
This amazing record has a big sound and a big heart. Crunching orchestral guitars, impassioned vocals and a tendency towards historical accuracy rather than introverted heartbreak. This album is big, brave and beautiful.

35. VON SUDENFED - Tromatic Reflexxions (Domino)

A marvelous marriage of Mouse On Mars and The Fall's evil genius Mark E. Smith. An album of deranged lyrics, distorted beats and arguments with builders. Tromatic Reflexxions is the realisation of all Smith's krautrock dreams set to a manic, electronic soundtrack. A much better record than The Fall's rather lacklustre Reformation Post TLC album, which didn't even make the list, consider this the real new Fall album*.

36. HOLY FUCK - Holy Fuck LP (Young Turks)

No vocals here. Nope none at all. Can you cope? I thought I couldn't with my short attention span but here we are, Holy Fuck have made the top 40. When I first clapped eyes on the filthy beggars, supporting the wonderful Buck 65, they were making such a racket out of just toy instruments and old record players. I thought it was a gimmick, this album proves otherwise. Accomplished and tight yet loosely experimental, much more exciting than the rest of the electronic fodder we got this year from insufferable bores like Simian Mobile Disco and Justice. A cracking record.

37. BLOC PARTY - A Weekend In The City (V2)

When I first heard this record I was horrified. After the wonderful Silent Alarm and its abrasive yet beautiful soundscapes this seemed, to be rude, a bit wimpy. As the year has progressed however I've begun to appreciate this record for what it is, a wonderfully naive and honest dissection of modern life. With anger replaced by fear, anti American statements replaced with watching kids playing football in the park with your partner. I think Kele is in love.

38. THE LODGER - Grown-Ups (Angular)

The best of the post c86 bunch. They play songs that you think you've heard before, great lost pop songs that somehow ended up in 2007 inside the mind of a rather unassuming man from Yorkshire. Grown-Ups is like all the best bits of The Wedding Present shot through with grit and cheap ale. An album of sharp, concise and very pretty little ditties.

39. BAT FOR LASHES - Fur And Gold (Caroline)

A wonderful, adventurous debut. Full of so much space, the drums echo as if recorded in a giant cave that stretches out to infinity and the vocals just glide over, flighty yet strong. Simple and to the point, this album tells you everything you need to know about young Natasha Khan in one record. This could be a curse or an indicator of just how great a debut this really is, we'll have to wait and see.

40. BAND OF HORSES - Cease To Begin (Sub Pop)

A solid record, one of those albums where every song could realistically be a single. It's full of winter blues, crisp fuzz-free guitars and an overwhelming sense of loss. A huge development from their 2006 effort Everything All The Time, and you feel there is much more to come, something beautiful rather than consistent.