The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Patrick Kelly’s Top 10 Albums of 2007

Written by: Ron Bricker

ImageThese are my favorite albums from 2007. These are not the best albums of 2007. I’m not a music critic and therefore, do not have the ability to proclaim such things. I do, however, work really hard to find good music. I spend time, way too much time finding and listening and listening and finding. This list is a way for me to justify the ridiculous amount of effort I put into yet another year of music.

10. Interpol, Our Love to Admire

Three years ago I didn’t understand. What’s the big deal? Paul Banks’ monotone voice always leaves something off the table. It always leaves you waiting for the reason he’s fronting the gig. How much range can you possibly have if every song, by its nature, sounds like the one before it? This year, I learned. It’s not about his voice (although it grows on you). It’s about how tight the sound is (listen to “The Scale”). How impeccable the timings are. How well the guitars complement the vocals. Or vice versa. How well the drums echo off the bass. It’s about the fact that this is what a band should sound like: Each part feeding of the next, yet adding an entirely new something to every song. That and it helps to have incredibly catchy songs like “Pioneer to The Falls,” “No I In Threesome,” “The Scale” and “The Heinrich Maneuver.”

9. Battles, Atlas

Here's the phrase that I’ve repeated the most this year: “Battles is planting the seed for an entire new generation of music.” Sure, they didn’t come up with the electronic/computer/instrument formula, but with Atlas, Battles has done it better than anyone before them. With no way to categorize and classify, I’ve officially deemed Battles as Schizophrenic Rock. If that doesn’t get you aroused, just trust me. If you haven’t heard them before, listen. Listen because there is no way to effectively describe this album. And listen to the album 10 times. You’ll eventually get it; it’s just a matter of how willing you are to let your mind wander. If that still doesn’t work and you can’t get into the album, I have a backup plan:

      Step 1. Get 10 Friends together for a party.

      Step 2. Drink.

      Step 3. Put on “Atlas” or “Tonto”

      Step 4. Try not to dance.

8. Okerrvil River, Stage Names

Duty number one for a band – pick a good band name. I hate this band name. I hate this band name so much that I didn’t listen to this band in years past specifically because their name is so awful. Ridiculous as that may sound, it’s true. I judge the talents of talented people by the (un)coolness of something that serves as nothing more than a way to locate the band efficiently. But, come on, I couldn’t just admit it was ok to condone such poor use of one of the coolest privileges in music. But with all of the “great” reviews and whatnot, one way or another, I heard the album. So good, is Stage Names, that I, the great band name decider, have completely negated my previous judgment. The album is completely fluid. Unbelievably gentle and powerful at the same time. The tracks blend together so smoothly it almost feels like a soundtrack. I balk at naming a stand out (although if I have to: “Plus Ones” and John Allyn Smith Sails”) because to truly realize this album’s greatness you have to listen to it as one continuous track.

All that I’ve learned from this experience doesn’t matter. I’ll probably make the same mistake in 2 years. The next Floyd will come around with a name like Dinglebarry Hatcake. I’ll revolt and eventually have to jump on the bandwagon when I hear them in 2017.

7. Jimmy Eat World, Chase This Light

Jimmy Eat World has to go far and beyond for me to consider one of their albums among my favorites of the year. Everyone has a band (or two or eight) that they hold to a higher standard. Produce something unsurpassed or else. You can’t forget how good the past album(s) was, so you set the bar at an unattainable height. For me, one of those bands is Jimmy Eat World. They produced something that is so close to perfection, in my eyes, that I can’t help but to expect them to do it every time out. Chase This Light is no Clarity, but it’s as close as I can ask. It’s exactly what I want out of JEW. Rangy, but not too rangy (You can listen as you weep over an ex or as you dance your face off). Great choruses and even better bridges. The songs are poetic (“Dizzy”) but still make you want to dance (“Here It Goes”). The album is great from beginning to end, and contains enough pure melodic rock moments, like almost any JEW album, to make your arm hair stand on end. 

6. LCD Soundsystem, Sounds of Silver

First, I wanted to point out that despite how good the album is, the ranking is probably a little inflated due to my attendance at this year’s Coachella festival (Where, in addition to driving the crowd to near hysteria, James Murphy had the balls to go out and finish his electronic set with the guitar-laden blues number “New York, I Love You But You’re Brining Me Down”.) That said: This album is near perfect. And that’s coming from someone who won’t go an inch out of his way to listen to electronica. The music is clever (“Someone Great”). Calling it energetic would be an understatement (“All My Friends”). The songs are smart as well as absurdubly catchy (“North American Scum”, “Time to Get Away”). But all those things aren’t what make the album one of my favorites of the year. It’s Murphy and Co.’s ability to give the music the sound it needs while distancing each song enough from the next one that sets it apart from other dance-a-indie albums. The album is fun to listen to from start to finish (although it does have some holes—“Watch The Tapes”, “Sound Of Silver”), but its songs are better used separately; highlights for certain situations. The complete opposite of Stage Names, in both sound and attitude, this album focuses on the prowess and power of individual songs instead of considering the album one whole.

5. The Good Life, Help Wanted Nights

Soundtracks usually only reach their maximum effectiveness when paired with the visuals they were intended for. Sometimes a film score seems general enough to pair it with anything, or nothing. And you try to listen to it alone, with no visual accents. 90% of the time the soundtrack doesn’t work. Blade Runner’s soundtrack = legit. Blade Runner’s soundtrack with no Blade Runner = nothing. But there are exceptions. Thomas Newman’s Road to Perdition soundtrack, when detached from the film, invites personal illustration and imagination. Help Wanted Nights is also one of the exceptions. Though it’s a soundtrack for an unfinished screenplay, the album is still a soundtrack. Its themes and mood seem so centralized, so specific. Yet they can be applied to anything. The acoustic guitar seems to be chugging along, describing the pitfalls or relationships, the unreliability of women and the overall hopelessness that life reveals. But as specific as those themes might be, you can apply it to anything you want. That’s why the album is so good—because you can make it your own. It’s as if you’re writing the screenplay yourself. You decide who the characters are. Their personalities. Their lives. It’s open. The Good Life has provided the perfect soundtrack…all you have to do is write the movie.

4. Menomena, Friend or Foe

If it wasn’t for Battles, I’d say Menomena did the best job this year of taking a previous idea and doing it like no one has done before. Menomena takes everything that you are used to hearing on an indie record—guitar, bass, drums—and transforms it into something else entirely. Upon first listen, the album sounds disheveled and unorganized with sporadic melodic moments. But after each listen, you appreciate what the trio has done more and more. You start to realize that every build-up, every crash down, every off-chord, every yelp has a purpose in the greater piece of each song. The method might not be clear, but after repeated listens you’re drawn in. Each song is crafted so thoughtfully and purposefully you can’t help but try to memorize each and every intricacy in hopes of stumbling upon an entirely new level. A couple months ago and eager to submerse my friends in new music, I took them two of them to a Menomena show. While being open-minded and eager to like something, they came away from the show unattached because every time they felt the music was going somewhere it just changed to another tone entirely, annoying and frustrating them in the process.  And while I was thinking about the fact that the Menomena show was probably the worst way to convince them to come to more shows, I thought of how much I appreciated the set. Its bands and albums like this that made me fall in love with music in the first place. You have to earn the album. You have to slowly and gradually appreciate the songs until you know them on a more personal scale. You can’t just walk in off the street and know what the music is about. Friend or Foe forces you to want to learn. It forces you to want to try to understand the album better. It forces you to hear the real sound, the sound that only Menomena can produce.

3. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

My explanation is no explanation. It’s Spoon. Perfect indie pop—-original, impeccably crafted three and half minute songs. 

2. The Arcade Fire, Neon Bible

There is simply no way that this album could have been as good as The Arcade Fire’s first release, Funeral. There is no way that Neon Bible could have lived up to the expectations their freshman record created. And once you accept that (which, it seems, most people can’t) you start to realize how good the album really is. Once you realize that the album isn’t the one before it nor is it trying to be, you take it for what it is—a great album. For some, the record might be too preachy—in the anarchist sense. The songs focus on the wrongs in the world, those who are wronged and what’s going to go wrong in the future. And as fun as that sounds, the mega-group seems to sing about the serious issues and their serious issues with the serious issues in the natural way. They aren’t chastising the listeners or barricading themselves in an abandoned Canadian barn. They just let the issues and their feelings take the songs in the direction they want to go—and it turns out beautifully. The group lets the songs flow naturally instead of making the mistake most bands make coming off an otherworldly debut album—-insert the pervious formula into whatever song whenever possible. 

Whether fair or not, Funeral’s success is part of this album. But what makes this record so good, is that in doesn’t force itself into the mold of Funeral. Sure, it has some of the patented Arcade Fire moments (second half of “The Well and The Lighthouse”, “No Cars Go”, “Keep The Car Running”), but it’s also filled with new life (“ Antichrist Television Blues”, “My Body Is A Cage”). The Arcade Fire let this album become its own, and it its own it came out a powerful and soulful album. And most importantly—-one that can be considered in the same breath as Funeral.

Image1. Explosions in the Sky, All Of a Sudden I Miss Everyone

"All Of a Sudden I Miss Everyone" is great and all, but only if I’m stoned and I need something to listen to before I go to sleep,” said my friend. True as that may be for most post-rock albums, it’s not the case for this one. This album is no regular post-rock album. This album, although there are no words, is complete. This album is my favorite album of the year because it doesn’t need anything else. Its fine the way it is. The album does not bore. Nor does it ever just provide noise for noise’s sake. Every progression in every song is calculated with their individual effect on the album in mind. For me to try to describe it would do it injustice. So listen to the album. Preferably with great headphones. Or really loud. Or both really loud and with great headphones. Really listen, I mean really listen—because I want you to feel what I feel every time I listen to this album.

Honorable Mention:

Of Montreal, O Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Kanye West, Graduation 
M.I.A., Kala 
Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam
Band of Horses, Cease to Begin