Aah, the good old top ten. These are the albums I’ve loved the most this year, and you should too.
10. Regurgitator – Love and Paranoia
I’ve loved Regurgitator since 1997, and had been waiting for this album for a very long time, but still had my doubts. Would they still rock out like before? What direction would they head this time? Will it actually be any good? Thankfully, Regurgitator delivered something that, while nowhere near as good as Unit, is much, much better than Eduardo and Rodriquez. For Love and Paranoia, Regurgitator’s gone for a sound that sits somewhere between Mish Mash and Unit, so basically it’s rock with synth bits (provided by newest member Seja). There’s also less rapping from Quan, as he seems to have split that out of Regurgitator and into his own solo stuff. Sure, there’s some terrible lyrics provided by Ben, but I’ve gotten used to that now, and focus on the music during his songs. He really shouldn’t be allowed to write political stuff. Quan’s tracks, which are more to do with love (hence the title), are much, much better. Overall, a solid album, and in no way a disappointment.
Key Track: Romance of the Damned is the album’s highlight – a wonderfully 80s-style synth-based song about obsession and stalking The bubble-synths in the solo will win your heart! (It’s also a really good video).
09. The New Pornographers – Challengers
This is a bit of a change for The New Pornographers. Their last couple of albums have been much more power-pop and upbeat, but for Challengers, they’ve toned it all down a bit, and it’s a much more easy-going record. As usual, the quality of songwriting is top-notch – AC Newman does some really great stuff, as does Dan Bejar, and the musicianship is, of course, perfect. My only gripe would be that the brilliantly talented Neko Case doesn’t have nearly enough to do on this as she has on previous records.
Key Track: Myriad Harbour. A slow-burning rocker with snarky backing vocals.
08. Midnight Juggernauts – Dystopia
Midnight Juggernauts are one of the best new Australian bands of 2007. Like Muscles (no. 14), this is dance music with personality. It’s definitely more produced than Muscles, but there’s still a uniqueness to Midnight Juggernauts. Most importantly, they play live. No pre-programmed beats here, they have a drummer. That’s a points winner right there. They can actually rock out, as well – Twenty Thousand Leagues is an incredibly 80s track, with string stabs and vocals reminiscent of that guy out of the Human League. But then the last forty-five seconds of the track is a crashing drums and distorted guitar rock-out. Definitely one of the best dance releases of the year.
Key Track: Into the Galaxy. It’s impossible to not dance about to this.
07. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
The rockest album of the year. After the slight disappointment that was Get Behind Me Satan, Jack White’s lightened up and got rid of that freaking marimba and have made what is probably their best album to date. Replacing the marimba and piano of the last album are the bagpipes (Prickly Thorn but Sweetly Worn) and mariachi horns (apparently played by some homeless guy on Conquest), which I much prefer. Thankfully, Meg’s only vocal contribution to the album is hidden beneath drums and distortion and more bagpipes – something that should have been done last time. While still skippable, it at least provides a partner to Jack’s romp through the highlands in the aforementioned Prickly Thorn but Sweetly Worn. The definite highlight, however, is Rag and Bone, in which Jack and Meg play rag-and-bone collectors over a very cool blues riff. Also, Jack’s got rid of that silly facial hair and now looks like himself again.
Key Track: Icky Thump is their best full-out rock song ever. That’s all that needs to be said. Oh, and Meg is dead cute in this live clip).
06. Field Music – Tones of Town
It’s sad that Field Music don’t have the recognition they deserve. They write intricate pop music, full of hooks and melodies and clever lyrics, but nobody seems to know who they are. Tones Of Town is a much deeper record than their first, self-titled album – they sound like they’re exploring a bit further, adding more layers than before, and this is only helping to improve their sound. But it’s all still very simple, almost like early 60s pop, where they didn’t need anything more than a good drum beat.
Key Track: A House Is Not A Home is a prime example of Field Music’s expertise at writing a great pop song. Also has a really cool piano line.
05. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Neon Bible is a big album. Everything about it is big, from the grandly orchestrated music and the themes of some sort of armaggeddon, to the way that even lines like ‘I know a place where no cars go’ feel like a major statement. What also makes Neon Bible great is its liberal use of those big booming drums. I reckon any song can be made grander by booming drums. Organs also do the job. Possibly even better.
Key Track: No Cars Go is really really good. This live vid (from Glastonbury) also shows how there’s a hot chick who plays accordion in the band. How cool is that?!
04. Architecture in Helsinki – Places Like This
Oh, how Architecture in Helsinki have changed over three short years. On 2004’s Fingers Crossed, they were like little kids with instruments, playing with their xylophones and trumpets, singing about silly things, all quiet and messy and not quite knowing what they were doing, but having a grand old time. But now, on Places Like This, it’s like a completely different band. Gone are the quiet whispering songs and hesitant singing, and in come steel drums, synthesizers, snarling vocals and crazy singalongs. Though I greatly enjoyed Fingers Crossed (and the follow-up In Case We Die), this is a hell of a lot more fun, really capitalising on their skill of crafting a stupidly catchy dancy song that doesn’t mean anything but is totally listenable. It’s also one of those rare albums where the last track is one of the best on the album.
Key Track: Hold Music is ridiculous, full of ‘hey-ya-ya’s and enthusiasm. And what better way to show off that enthusiasm than making a video in which they jump on tiny trampolines?
03. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
If Sound Of Silver was just an EP with North American Scum, Someone Great and All My Friends on it, it would be the best EP ever. But no, LCD Soundsystem went and made an entire record out of awesome. There is not one poor track on this, from the seven minute opener Get Innocuous, to the epic closer New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down, which is probably the single best piano-laden rock ballad by what is essentially a dance band in all of history. I don’t think anything needs to be said except for ‘watch these videos and love them’.
02. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
This is one of the most beautiful records I have ever heard. It is impossible to describe it in any other way. Jens’ way with words is amazing, being able to sing about such boring things like going to the hairdressers (Shirin) and turning them into wonderful little stories. And backing this songwriting talent is this incredible musical production, merging indie-pop with elaborate 60s Burt Bacharach via disco influences (check out Sipping On The Sweet Water for the best example of this). And even while he’s singing about having great untold depression and worrying about his sister (The Opposite of Hallelujah) or breaking up (I Am Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You) or injuring himself with an avocado (Your Arms Around Me), there’s a great joyfulness right through the album, which is why I’ve found it impossible to not fall in love with it. Sweden produces some of the best pop music in the world, and Jens Lekman is right at the top of the pile.
Key Track: The Opposite of Hallelujah, while also having some brilliantly funny lyrics, is just too sweet, and is a highlight of the album. This video is a live one so doesn’t have the best sound, but it’s clearly awesome whatever way you hear it. A Postcard To Nina is my favourite, though, because it’s a great story.
01. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
It was just too easy to choose this as my favourite album of the year. Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer is equal parts indie, glam, funk, rock and pop, and is the most perfect record of 2007. Tracing the transformation of depressed frontman Kevin Barnes into his alter-ego of transgender glam performer ‘Georgie Fruit’, HF, AYTD? (what a messy acronym…) is all drum machines and synths and melodies and mood swings in the first half, in which he considers isolation and religion to remove his present self from the world. And then comes the centrepiece, – The Past Is A Grotesque Animal – twelve minutes of angst and darkness and pain, surrounded by constantly building and swirling sounds. And out of this comes a whole new personality, with ‘Georgie’ getting all funky, delivering lines like ‘to me you’re just some faggy girl, and I need a lover with soul-power’ (Bunny Ain’t No Kind Of Rider), and getting very close to Prince-height falsetto on Faberge Falls For Shuggie. Brilliant. Not only lyrically but sonically, this is the most perfect album I’ve heard for quite some time, hitting just about everything I look for in music. There is not one mis-step at all. That’s why it’s number one album of 2007, and has quickly become one of my favourite albums of all time.
Key Track: Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse. Watch this and you’ll understand. And then you’ll go buy the album from iTunes or eMusic. And then you’ll watch this acoustic version of The Past Is A Grotesque Animal and wonder why you didn’t months ago.
That’s it. The top twenty, finally done. I hope at least one person’s found something from this list that they’ve enjoyed, or something like that. Please comment or whatever, I promise I won’t delete them like I (accidentally) did last time. And have a look at the videos. They’re all pretty damned cool (especially the Of Montreal ones). Thankyou, and good night!