Best Music of 2007: Mid-Year Report

Artist: The National
Album: Boxer

With Boxer, The National have not only put together their best album yet; they have also quietly placed themselves above all the other albums thus far this year. Boxer never forces itself upon anyone, but with its beautiful, late-night melodies the album sinks deep into your consciousness and makes you wonder how you ever survived without it. Best tracks: “Fake Empire,” “Green Gloves,” “Start a War”

Artist: LCD Soundsystem
Album: Sound of Silver
James Murphy’s second album is a masterpiece. His first self-titled album was an astonishing debut, but this album is clearly the work of a maturing artist. Sound of Silver demonstrates an ever-widening musical palette combined with smarter, more memorable, melodies. Best tracks: “Someone Great,” “All My Friends,” “Us vs Them”

Artist: Arcade Fire
Album: Neon Bible

The second album by the Montreal-based band led by Win Butler and Regine Chassagne is no Funeral, but then again it doesn’t need to be. A lesser album by the Arcade Fire is still leaps and bounds above almost anything else. Neon Bible demonstrates the versatility and depth of this band. The Arcade Fire is the Radiohead for my generation: a band capable of commanding the limelight while producing richly textured music with lyrics that explore the full range of human experience. Neon Bible also shows that Win Butler & Co. are some of the finest lyrical artists in the world today, who never lose sight of crafting beautiful songs that compel listeners to sing along. Best tracks: “Black Mirror,” “Intervention,” “Black Wave, Bad Vibrations,” “Windowsill”

Artist: Battles
Album: Mirrored

Battles defy any attempt to classify them. Prog rock, math rock, whatever—Battles refuse to fit into any musical taxonomy. They stand alone, and they know it. From its opening track, you know Mirrored is going to be a musical experience unlike any other. And it is well worth the time. This album shatters what you thought contemporary music could produce, and the result is a gem, a classic that will live on long after the rest of the albums on this list are forgotten. Best tracks: “Race In,” “Tonto,” “Tij”

Artist: Spoon
Album: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Just released, the latest album by Spoon continues the string of great albums. After 2005’s excellent Gimme Fiction, this new album had high expectations—and it does not disappoint. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga boasts some of Spoon’s catchiest songs, while the use of horns, classical guitar, and other orchestration demonstrates an expanding sonic palette. Best tracks: “Don’t Make Me A Target,” “Rhthm and Soul,” “Finer Feelings”

Artist: Justice
Album: †

Few albums are ever as purely enjoyable as † by Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, who together form Justice, a French dance-electronic group. This album sounds like LCD Soundsystem mixed with elements of 70s and 80s rock and tailored for a late-night club with heavily distorted synths. The result is a debut album that is fresh and original, bursting with infectious energy. Best tracks: “Genesis,” “Let There Be Light,” “Waters of Nazareth”

Artist: The Twilight Sad
Album: Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters
The Twilight Sad are a Scottish rock band hailing from Glasgow that has clearly learned from fellow British groups Radiohead and Coldplay, but show that they are capable of infusing their own distinctive style into each song. Their new album demonstrates this band’s great promise. As the anthemic guitars wash over you, moving subtly from living room intimacy to arena fanfare, it is clear that there are great things in store for this band. Best tracks: “Cold Days From The Birdhouse,” “That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy,” “And She Would Darken The Memory”

Artist: El-P
Album: I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
Last year saw the release of fantastic rap albums by Ghostface Killah and Clipse, but El-P’s latest pushes them all aside. Like Mirrored by Battles, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead elevates the genre to new levels. The lyrics are full of depth, and the music is brazenly innovative at ever turn. While at times perhaps overly ambitious, this album nevertheless bristles with incredible energy and lyrical power. Best tracks: “Run the Numbers,” “Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love),” “The Overly Dramatic Truth”

Artist: Blonde Redhead
Album: 23
Three years after their magnificent Misery Is A Butterfly, Blonde Redhead return with possibly an even greater album. 23 surrounds you with a sonic landscape that seems familiar (My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead) and alien at the same time. The album contains some of the most beautiful moments in any album this year. Best tracks: “23,” “Spring and by Summer Fall,” “Silently”

Artist: Patrick Wolf
Album: The Magic Position
Patrick Wolf is often hailed as the new David Bowie, and for good reason. Wolf’s eccentric personality, refined musicianship, and over-the-top glam rock sound make for the perfect, if not always entirely consistent, combination. Wolf also shares similarities to Rufus Wainwright for a lot of these reasons, whose album almost made this list. In the end, The Magic Position shines above other similar productions and solidifies Wolf as a young artist worth following in the years to come. Best tracks: “Overture,” “Get Lost,” “The Magic Position”

Other albums that deserve mentioning: Panda Bear, Person Pitch; The Field, From Here We Go Sublime; Eluvium, Copia; The Besnard Lakes, The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse; The Sea and Cake, Everybody.


Macht said…
Besides some of the ones you've listed, I've also enjoyed Feist's The Reminder and The White Stripes Icky Thump. I'm also looking forward to the next The New Pornographers album.
Feist's album was an early contender for this list. I have yet to listen to the new White Stripes album, even though I own it. :)

And yes, I am a huge New Pornographers fan. I think it shows Dan Bejar and Neko Case at their very best.
a. steward said…
The Twighlight Sad rules. Where is Damien Jurado?
Steve Wright said…
I've been enjoying Modest Mouse's new offering, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Otherwise I am looking forward to the new release from Smashing Pumpkins so that I can relive my youth. I'm yet to get the new white stripes, but what I've heard of it so far sounds good.

Still, from my perspective 2007 is yet to beat 2006 in terms of new releases: The Dears, Tool, The Dresden Dolls, Placebo, Muse, Sara Blasko, Camille, Thom Yorke... I could go on.
John P. said…
Have you heard the album Carnavas by the Silversun Pickups??? It is kind of a throw back to old school Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, or even The Pixies...I have really enjoyed discovering them.
Anonymous said…
Corect me if I'm wrong but didn't Spoon's Gimme Fiction orginaly release in 2005 perhaps it was late 05?

You're absolutely right. I didn't even think about the year when I wrote that. I think it's probably because I didn't discover Spoon until last year. Oops. I'll correct it.
Anonymous said…
Apart from Arcade Fire's latest (which I may like more than their first album -- although I think I might be the only person to feel that way), I've been pretty unimpressed with albums this year. Two that I had high hopes for -- Modest Mouse and Bright Eyes -- both disappointed me.
a. steward said…
Dan, I'm with you in your disappointment with Modest Mouse. It was just totally boring. Same goes for Ryan Adam's "Easy Tiger," which I will easily do without. But seriously, there was all kinds of great stuff that's come out this year, if we're willing to branch out a bit. For instance, Chariot's "Fiancee" is fantastic, and pretty well sealed my new affection for hard core. Neil Young's newly released "Live at Massey Hall" (admittedly from 1971) is, i.m.h.o., the best he has ever sounded. And if you fudge the dates a bit, The Bird and The Bee was totally refreeshing, Damien Jurado put out another great album, and Nas put out his best since Illmatic. Oh, and Wilco - what about Wilco?!!?