Sunday, December 23, 2007

Best Music of 2007

This may or may not be my complete list for best of '07. It's 11:59 p.m. and I'm very tired. I didn't realize it was going to take me this long to put this together. I've been working on it for like three days. Maybe I don't really want to write about music for a living.


Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

Iron & Wine, aka Sam Beam, became a folk cult hero after just one album, The Creek Drank the Cradle. But anyone can grow a beard, play an acoustic guitar and sing pretty. It was The Woman King EP that really set Iron & Wine apart. The record felt like the soundtrack to oldie-timey saloon brawl, all brown teeth and chairs breaking over dudes' backs.

The Shepherd's Dog
feels like a mixtape of all of the styles Beam has experimented with over the past few years. It's quiet acoustic one minute, and distortion-drenched vocals the next.Though the album can feel a bit uneven at times, the style hopping makes for a great ride.

Standout Tracks: White Tooth Man, House by the Sea


Bishop Allen - The Broken String

Bishop Allen became blogger darlings when they accomplished their goal of releasing an EP of new music each month in 2006. The band chose to rework and rerecord 10 of those songs for 2007's The Broken String. Though the result is not what you would consider tight, the looseness of the sound is endearing. "Click, Click, Click" is hands-down the catchiest song of the year.

Standout Tracks: Click, Click, Click, The Chinatown Bus


Streetlight Manifesto - Somewhere in the Between

Ska, and all of its related subgenres, had a great run in the mid-to late '90s. But just as quickly as it skanked into our hearts, it skanked back out of style. Fortunately, either no one told Streetlight Manifesto or they just don't care. Somewhere in the Between is better than anything released in the '90's, with the exception of Catch 22's Keasbey Nights - an album that SM frontman Thomas Kalnoky also authored. Kalnoky is again on a lyrical rampage, but after touring endlessly with Reel Big Fish, the tunes are a bit peppier. The album doesn't pack the same bunch as the band's 2002 debut, but certainly won't disappoint fans of the band or the genre.

Standout Tracks: We Will Fall Together, The Receiving End of It All

Hip Hop

Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass

With commercial hip hop being weighed down by the bloated corpses of predictable/crappy albums (think 50 Cent and Kanye West), it's refreshing to hear someone take the genre in a different direction - or to another world. Though Aesop Rock's lyrics rarely touch down on planet earth, he certainly knows how to spit 'em. Here's a typical stanza, "If you never had a day a snow cone couldn't fix/You wouldn't relate to the rogue vocoder blitz/How he spoke through a no-doz motor on the fritz/Cause he wouldn't play roll over fetch like a #$@#$." If the lyrics are a bit too out-there, the production and delivery should bring you right back in. None Shall Pass is definitely a bright spot in this year's dirge of rap music.

Standout Tracks: Keep off the Lawn, None Shall Pass

Christian Rock

The Almost - Southern Weather

Chug-a-chug, chug-a-chug, chug-a-chug, chug-a-chug, BOOM! Southern Weather's opening track and first single "Say This Sooner" gets me every time. I start tapping my finger on the steering wheel, then my foot starts going and by the chorus I'm singing loud enough to be embarrassed when I notice the folks in the car next to me giving me an uncomfortable look.

Underoath drummer Aaron Gillespie took a break from Christian metaling to a do a bit of Christian emo-ing with his side project The Almost. Writing all the songs and playing all of the instruments on the record, Gillespie shows that he can do more than just keep the beat. He's got a knack for a melody, a solid voice and an ear for radio friendly pop structures. Mixing a little rock, a little country, and a lot of lovin' the Lord makes Southern Weather a surprisingly good record.

Standout Tracks: Say This Sooner, Dirty and Left Out

Pop Punk

Motion City Soundtrack - Even if it Kills Me

Motion City has always had the right elements - dancy punk singalongs, plenty of Moog keyboards, a singer with hair as big and out of control as his heart - but has had trouble bringing them all together. On Even if it Kills Me they finally succeeded. The album manages to be fun without being annoying, and touching without feeling contrived. And "Last Night" may be my favorite song of the entire year.

Standout Tracks: Calling all Cops, Last Night

2006 HoldOvers

For me, the best two albums of 2007 came out in 2006.

Silversun Pickups - Carnavas

How Silversun Pickups managed to make the best album of both 2007 (I know it technically came out in 2006) and 1991 at the same time is a mystery to me. With all of its big guitar riffs and spacey keyboard layering, Carnavas sounds like it should be follow-up album to Smashing Pumpkins Gish. Outstanding from start to finish, its hard to even pick the album's best track - and it gets better with each listen.

Standout Tracks: Well Thought Out Twinkles, Three Seed

Matt & Kim - S/T

[coming soon]

Standout Tracks: It's a Fact, Light Speed

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