Thursday, January 10, 2008

Glenn's Top 25 Albums of 2007

So, in creating this list I boosted the number from 20 to 25 because I felt there were 25 titles worthy of a mention. This list ranges from electro pop to indie rock. There's glam rock and actual rock. It's very diverse and all over the place, but that's what makes me so special!

Trans Am
Sex Change
An instrumental synth-driven rock album. Make sense? Sex Change is a blistering combination of styles. One track is all slinky synthesisers and beats and then it's changing into stadium rock. And then there are tracks that merge the two into some sort of epic explosion.
Best Tracks: "Exit Management Station", "4,738 Regrets", "First Words", "Tesco vs. Sainsburys"

In creating an album that acts like the disfigured incestuous cousin of Homogenic and Selmasongs (Bjork's soundtrack to Dancer in the Dark) she ends up with an album that's not as good as either, but is a welcome respite from the thought of an album delving even further into the realms of minimalism (however good Verspetine and Medulla are).
Best Track: "Earth Intruders", "Declare Independence", "Innocence", "The Dull Flame of Desire"

I was surprised too when I decided to put Robyn's comeback album at only number 23 on the countdown. But the reason I place it so low is that for every "With Every Heartbeat" or "Be Mine!", which are such great lyrically moving pieces of upbeat pop, there is a "Cobrastyle", which is fun upbeat pop, but is also sort of cartoonish.
Best Tracks: "With Every Heartbeat", "Who's That Girl?", "Be Mine!"

Armand Van Helden
WARNING: Explosive dance music within! Interesting samples, crazy tunes and stuff that really gets you pumped up for a night on the town. Ghettoblaster, which has some of the year's worst artwork, surprised me - I thought it'd be all shitty "Touch Your Toes" junk, but instead what I found was euphoric hands-in-the-air dance.
Best Tracks: "Go Crazy!", "I Want Your Soul", "NYC Beat"

Jens Lekmen
Night Falls Over Kortedala
Listening to Night Falls I can't help but create images of The Brady Bunch or other such family entertainment. The Osmands! I dunno. Lekman's music is just so irresistibly retro and smile-enducing. There are times when it almost becomes so sugary that it feels like it's rotting your teeth (see the Young Divas for an actual case of teeth-rotting sweetness). But throughout the kooky songs and the enthusiasm with which they are performed won be over. Big time. Lekmen would've been a superstar in the 1980s with his destinct vocals, but in 2007 he's a mere arty indulgence.
Best Tracks: "The Opposite of Hallelujah", "Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo", "Into Eternity", "It Was a Strange Time in My Life"

Girls Aloud
Tangled Up
Sigh. I KNOW! I feel almost like I'm betrayes Les Aloud by placing them at a destinctly low number 20, but I can't help but feel a pinch of disappointment about their fourth studio album Tangled Up. Something just feels missing. Some of the songs are laborious and go on way too long and as the album nears it's end the songs become bland. But, having said that, there is still plenty of vintage Girls Aloud on here. Maybe they could get some tunes next time though, hey?
Best Tracks: "Call the Shots", "Black Jacks", "Sexy! No No No...", "Girl Overboard", "Close to Love"

The Ark
Prayer for the Weekend
This Swedish Glam Pop Rock outfit was my favourite from 2007's Eurovision contest with their ace song "The Worrying Kind" from this album, but there's far more to enjoy than that song (which will feature quite highly on the top 75 singles of 2007 countdown). It's big, goofy fun with some of the most irresistible hooks of the year.
Best Tracks: "The Worrying Kind", "Absolutely No Decorum", "Prayer for the Weekend", "Little Dysfunk You"

Young Modern
On 2000's Neon Ballroom and 2003's Diorama there were more than enough hints that eventually Silverchair would go absolutely bonkers, but with Young Modern it sometimes feels like their next step will be a two-hour recreation of a Judy Garland concert (or something to that effect). Young Modern is a sweeping, often epic and utterly beguiling look into Daniel Johns' mind.
Best Tracks: "Straight Lines", "If You Keep Losing Sleep", "Those Thieving Birds (Part I) / Strange Behaviour / Those Thieving Birds (Part II)", "Young Modern Station"

Yoko Ono and Guests
Yes, I'm a Witch
Yoko Ono is an anomole in the music landscape. She was her generation's Bjork, but without this generation's occasional tolerance towards art-as-music (at least on the music side of things), especially when the party involved is one of the most controversial in the industry. With Yes, I'm a Witch over a dozen contemporary artists (amongst them Peaches, Le Tigre and The Sleepy Jackson) rejigger a particular song in Ono's repetoir and turn it (sometimes, sometimes not) into something entirely new. It's an experiment that riffs off the "tribute album" train of thought, but does so while keeping the attention squarely on Ono, one of the music world's most fascinating personalities.
Best Tracks: "Toyboat" (with Antony Hagerty), "Kiss Kiss Kiss" (with Peaches), "O'Oh" (with Shitake Monkey), "Shiranakatta (I Didn't Know)" (with Craig Armstrong)

Patrick Wolf
The Magic Position
A musical wonderland is what The Magic Position most represents. Wolf is credited with performing the grand piano, ukeleles, gongs, bells, string kontales and modular synths amongst many more. It'd almost be enough to tip the album into absurdy, but the songs Wolf crafts are so beautiful and, oh yes, magical.
Best Tracks: "The Magic Position", "Augustine", "Bluebells", "Magpie", "Accident and Emergency"

LCD Soundsystem
Sound of Silver / 45:33
That 45:33 is an album that Nike commissioned LCD Soundsystem to create so people could listen as they jog is perhaps not the most surprising thing about it. More surprising is that it's actually very good. It uses samples from LCD Soundsystem's other 2007 LP Sound of Silver, so the two seem to naturally go side-by-side. Seperate they're amazing, together they're euphoric bliss.
Best Tracks: "Someone Great", "All My Friends", "Us v Them", "New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down"

With their first studio album featuring newest member Amelle, the Sugababes turned down the edge, but turned up the pop. It's an album full of "Since U Been Gone" sequels, yet doesn't feel like they're simply jumping on a bandwagon. It's light and fun and delicious.
Best Tracks: "Surprise (Goodbye)", "About You Now", "Mended By You", "3 Spoons of Suga", "My Love is Pink", "Back Down"

Siobhan Donaghy
Speaking of the Sugababes, ex-'babe Siobhan Donaghy finally released her Revolution in Me follow up. Languishing in between studios and dealing with a producer with drug issues obviously helped as Ghosts is far superior. Songs float through the air like the helicopter she sings about on "Medevac". She sounds like a modern Kate Bush with a bit of Ray of Light-era Madonna thrown in for good measure.
Best Tracks: "So You Say", "Don't Give It Up", "Medevac", "Ghosts", "Goldfish", "Make It Right"

While everyone was seemingly foaming at the mouth over Muscles I though Pnau had the superior Aussie dance album of 2007 with their self-titled (but capitalised!) album. This stuff is like the soundtrack to an Atari game on mind-altering drugs. Or something to that effect.
Best Tracks: "With You Forever", "Lover", "Baby", "Wild Strawberries", "Embrace", "We Have Tomorrow", "Die With Us"

Just Jack
He's like Calvin Harris but he gives himself the great amazing songs. Unfortunately for Just Jack Overtones went largely unnoticed (except when Kylie Minogue guested on the American version of "I Talk Too Much" wtf) while Calvin Harris continued to bore the crap outta me. Just Jack is snappy, witty (love the lyric 'Now you feel like Mick Jagger' on "Starz in Their Eyes"), imaginative and creates some, yes I am actually going to use this phrase, wicked beats.
Best Tracks: "Starz in Their Eyes", "Disco Friends", "I Talk Too Much", "Glory Days", "Mourning Morning"

Kylie Minogue
OMG An album called X at no. 10? C-R-A-Z-Y-! No, but really, X is fantastic. Forget everything you've heard about disappointing sales and whatnot and go out and buy it. It's electric and poptastic and it's her best album since Light Years, which - in my eyes - is her best album ever, so take that as you will. It's nowhere near the personal journey that many were suspecting - think Impossibly Princess on a disco beat - but it's still amazing. How does it feel in her arms? AMAZING! It's unfortunately let down by two of the worst songs she's ever recorded (that'd be "Nu-Di-Ty" and "Heart Beat Rock) and missing several great demo tracks, which would've pushed it to top five.
Best Tracks: "In My Arms", "The One", "Speakerphone", "Wow", "2 Hearts"

Bruce Springsteen
It's become cliche now to call Bruce Springsteen's latest album Magic - his first with the E Street Band since The Rising, my second favourite Boss album - a sequel to 1984's Born in the USA. They're both big strong masculine rock albums that deal with America of old and where it's at now (a traditional topic for Springsteen). Magic isn't as good as USA - the second greatest album ever recorded by any artist that I've heard - but it's good enough to it in spirit and they definitely share DNA and I'm thankful for that.
Best Tracks: "Girls in Their Summer Clothes", "Radio Nowhere", "Livin' in the Future", "Terry's Song", "Devil's Arcade", "Your Own Worst Enemy"

Amy Winehouse
Back to Black
I swear, if I hear or read somebody make the same tired "They tried to make her go to rehab and she said No! No! No!" joke one more time I'm going to throttle someone (most likely the person who said it, or whoever is nearest to me at the time). But all of Winehouse's problems (of which there are, admittedly, many many) that doesn't take away from the fact that Back to Black is a stunning record and, while some may disagree, a more cohesive effort than her debut Frank. By mixing big band with hip-hop with pop with jazz she has created something altogether transfixing and it's fascinating to listen to.
Best Tracks: "Rehab", "Tears Dry On Their Own", "Back to Black", "Mr and Mrs Jones"

let it be known that "Rehab" was my #2 song of 2006 so it's not on this year's chart.

Hilary Duff
Yes, I am being serious. No artist made such a giant leap forward in 2007 than Hilary Duff. Before I used to feel a bit guilty liking the occasional Duff song, but with Dignity she went from "guilty pleasure" to, well, a legitimately stunning performer. Taking song cues from the paparazzi, family, fame whores and even hints that certain former boyfriends may have been a psychological abuser. She has amassed an incredibly strong album of electro-pop ditties. Even people like Rihanna had hinted that all they needed was a strong guiding hand. Dignity was completely out of left field. All of this album's songs would've been hits in the '80s for people like Sabrina or Appalonia. Alas...
Best Tracks: "Dignity", "With Love", "Gypsy Woman", "Dreamer", "Danger", "Outside of Me", "Happy"


There are two words I continuously come back to when thinking about Justice's debut album. "Epic" and "Intense". Because that's certainly what they are. While Daft Punk certainly weren't quiet this year - Electroma, Alive 2007 live CD and DVD, Discovered mix CD, touring - Justice seemed to take over as the French Dance Duo of Choice. The album works much better in one long listen than it does on a shuffle with songs stuck in between Avril and Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, but what can't be denied is the amazing brilliance on display.
Best Tracks: "D.A.N.C.E.", "Stress", "Newjack", "The Phantom Part I", "The Phantom Part II", "Dvno"

Darren Hayes
This Delicate Thing We've Made
Following on from the major surprise of The Tension and the Spark Darren Hayes was dumped by his record company and has since gone out on his own, creating this two-disc synth-driven epic all with a little help from a Fairlight CMI (if you don't know what that is then you don't know music). The end result is Hayes' passion project and it shows. He runs the gamut from touching ballads to high-funk to raver electronic music. It's a stunner that is only let down from there being just a few too many tracks, but demands your attention. Watch out if "Casey" is ever released as a single. It'll be staring down the barrel of the #1 spot on the Best Singles of 2008 countdown.
Best Tracks: "Casey", "Waking the Monster", "On the Verge of Something Wonderful" "How to Build a Time Machine", "Neverland", "Bombs Up In My Face"

Good Girl Gone Bad
This is more like it! Occasionally showing brilliance (songs like "SOS") Rihanna finally manages to create an entire album of great pop songs. Surprisingly the ubiquitous "Umbrella" (with Jay-Z's lifeless opening rap) isn't even the best track on Good Girl Gone Bad, which sashay's between dancefloor headbangers to synth-driven testimonials. This is the sound of an artist finding their feet after falling over multiple times and here's hoping she continues to walk upright for a long time to come. The birth of true popstars is rare in this day and age, but I think we saw one in 2007.
Best Tracks: "Don't Stop the Music", "Umbrella", "Question Existing", "Breakin' Dishes", "Push Up On Me", "Rehab"

Arcade Fire
Neon Bible
It feels like a natural progression after 2004's stunning debut Funeral, but double as stunning. Double as emotional. Double as epic. "Windowstill" is perhaps the first song to make me want to cry since Antony and the Johnson' "You Are My Sister". That song exemplifies Neon Bible as a whole. It cuts deep and the songwriting is just the stuff of revelations.
Best Tracks: "Windowstill", "No Cars Go", "Keep the Car Running", "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations", "Black Mirror"

The Veronicas
Hook Me Up
That I've put The Veronicas' Hook Me Up at #2 shocks me as much as it shocks you (*guffaw*), but I just had such an intense reaction to it. The moment the album started with that amazing string section on "Untouched" I was hooked. Sounding like the long lost soundtrack to a 1980s dance movie scored by Giorgio Moroder with songs by Kenny Loggins, Hook Me Up is all crazy fucked up synths and guitars. They didn't go around dropping names like Shiny Toy Guns just to be hip. Much like "Casey" from Darren Hayes' album, if they ever release "Someone Wake Me Up" as a single then it'll take a lot to beat it in 2008. For me it joins the echelon of breakup songs. If you've experience it or not you can feel it ripping your heard out. Amazing stuff.
Best Tracks: "Someone Wake Me Up", "Untouched", "Popular", "I Can't Stay Away", "Take Me On the Floor", "Hook Me Up"

I am fully and entirely 100% certain that Sri Lankan/British hip-hop star M.I.A. is actually a bonafide genius. She takes what she did with her first album, Arular (itself one of the three best albums of it's year), and multiplies it by a million. There are some songs on here that could crush bones when cranked up to the maximum. Not one to just produce a hip-hip album, or a dance album, or whatever crazy subgenre Kala falls into, she has made an album that merges all three and can appeal to the multitude of different audiences that those genres appeal to.

Songs have her now traditional political edges alongside her occasional arrogrant yet irresistible hooks ("I put people on the map who have never seen a map" and so on). She utilises bizarre sounds (there are chicken noises!) to create busy and overflowing soundscapes. There are so many things going on at once on much of Kala that it takes several listens just to get it all in.

M.I.A - Manthangi Maya Arulpragasam for short :p - was supposed to make an album with Timbaland, but thank god she didn't. There is nobody else like her and we don't need her tainted by Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado. Yeesh, can you imagine that? It's a scary though. I doubt Timbaland would have the balls to use an Australian indiginous rap troupe on one of his productions.

Kala is the best album of 2007. No doubt about it. Hello my friends, yes it's M.I.A.!


Dave said...

Sugababes above Girls Aloud is pure sacrilege. And just plain wrong.

Yay for Siobhan though. I like the tune of Just Jack's 'Starz in their Eyes' but I can't stand his singing, so I doubt I'd like the album much. Must say, most of these I haven't heard. Good to hear that Patrick Wolf is good though, I was thinking of checking that out.

Looking forward to the top ten with baited breath!

Barry said...

Did you like Wanderlust from Bjork?

James Henry said...

Wow, I definitely didn't expect Hilary Duff's album in the Top 10. I've never really liked her (aside from "Come Clean", which is actually a pretty good song) but I might have to give "Dignity" a try. Bravo on such a courageous pick.

Dave said...

Amy Winehouse was 2006 over here, but glad to see her get props. Kylie, too, that album got slated far too harshly.

"Casey" is apparently being released as a single, didn't you know? At least if this is to be believed.

I definitely need to listen to Kala again, then. I listened to it once and loved some and thought some were a bit distancing, and have only since listened to those I love (Paper Planes, 20 Dollar, Jimmy, XR2, Bamboo Banga and Boys).

A very nice list with great commentary. Looking forward to your singles countdown (even if the #1 is obvious :p).

Cal said...

Love the Girls Aloud, LCD Soundsystem, and Bjork inclusions. They were all in my Top Ten.

I LOVED Arular but I didn't get a chance to listen to MIA's Kala album. Your enthusiasm has given me a kick start - I'm downloading some of the tracks right now. Same with Arcade Fire :-P

Kamikaze Camel said...

Barry, I do, but not one of my four or so favourites.