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.

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