My Favorite 20 Albums of 2007

For better or worse, this is now the twelfth year in a row I've posted a year-end list on my site. In that time, I've went through a couple jobs, gotten married, cultivated an ever-larger garden, and have found my musical tastes slowly evolving and changing. It's been a fun ride, and I've gotten to hear a lot of amazing (and sometimes even soul-shaking) music along the way. There isn't a great deal to say about this years list outside the blurbs posted below and what I've already written, but as with every update my only goal is to hopefully introduce someone to an album or group that they'll love. This is the second full year that I've been doing podcast reviews, so it's possible to download and hear music from every single one of the picks below (along with spoken reviews of varying audio and editorial quality my yours truly).

As I have been for the past 6! years, I'm doing a Readers List again. I always seem to find some gems that I missed on those, so please contribute yours.

As always, I'm flattered that you stopped by the site.

1. Battles - Mirrored (Warp)
This slab of android future rock kicked me in the pants the first time I heard it and is still getting loads of play in my life. Prog is not a four letter word, although sometimes listening to Mirrored makes me want to swear out loud anyway. Uh... rock! full review

2. Panda Bear - Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)
Quite possibly the best release ever associated with the Animal Collective, this album found Noax Lennox breaking off into some sort of beautiful territory that sounded inspired by everyone from minimal techno to the Beach Boys. More please. full review

3. The Field - From Here We Go Sublime (Kompakt)
This release brought out the old-school raver in me. Essentially a trance release with micro-sampling, semi-glitchy tendencies, this is an album that rides on waves of small changes and little wrinkles that give me goosebumps every listen. full review

4. Marnie Stern - In Advance Of The Broken Arm (KRS)
I didn't hear this one until well after it was released, but I'm really glad that I did because it's a heck of a wild ride. Ambitious, sometimes pretentious, and yes a little bit nuts, this debut album is a blast of fresh air. full review

5. Burial - Untrue (Hyperdub)
One small step for Burial, one giant leap for (and possibly past) dubstep. Some may not care for the move towards a blatantly more pop sound, but this dense follow-up is even more engrossing, enveloping, and hypnotic than the debut, and that's saying something. full review

6. Strategy - Future Rock (Kranky)
Although I'd heard and enjoyed previous releases from Strategy, I wasn't quite prepared for the expansion in sound that he presented with this release. Joined by local friends from bands like Nudge and others, it found him jumping outside his usual musical territory a bit and coming up with a heady, refreshing set of songs in the process. full review

7. Studio - Yearbook 1 (Information)
Although this is technically a compilation release, it stands well as a full-length and finds this Swedish duo creating something forward leaning and retro-nodding at the same time. With long jams full of hooks that get stuck in your head for hours, this one is worth splurging on. full review

8. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (Merge)
No sophomore slump here. Not as immediately accessible as their debut, this one nonetheless has a ton of staying power and just the right amount of lighter tracks and ones full of pomp and grandiosity. full review

9. LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver (DFA)
I never quite bought the hype on the debut from LCD Soundsystem, but this second release from the group had me from the first track and has gotten an absolute ton of spins since it was released. Much more varied and fleshed-out than his previous work while at the same time jetting off in a few new directions, this one's a blast. full review

10. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam (Domino)
Despite being probably their most pop-oriented album to date, this one took awhile to really sink in as fully. With Panda Bear making his own way with his outstanding release, this one found Avey Tare on vocals a bit more, and contributes his best vocal work to date. Insanely catchy. full review

11. James Blackshaw - The Cloud Of Unknowing (Tompkins Square)
To my ears, this is the release where Blackshaw has finally completely harnessed his powers and recognized his vital strengths as a musician. No real side-tracks here, he let's the 12-string do all the talking and it's a gorgeous, hypnotic strand of songs that completely weave you into their web. full review

12. Stars Of The Lid - And Their Refinement Of The Decline (Kranky)
Five years since their last release and it's like they haven't missed a step. Despite what many say, there really isn't anyone else creating ambient music quite like this. Melancholy without being draining, and achingly melodic, this is music to get lost in. full review

13. Ricardo Villalobos - Fabric 36 (Fabric)
I was one of those people who thought that Villalobos had jumped the shark after hearing Fizheuer Zieheuer, so I was as surprised as anyone when he dropped this single-minded (and some would say narcissistic) mix for Fabric. Yeah, technically it's not a true studio release, but every track is new and has his fingerprints, and it seriously slams. full review

14. Skeletons And The Kings Of All Cities - Lucas (Ghostly International)
The best over-the-top pop release that you probably didn't hear this year. Coming from the band who has now changed their name a bit with each release, Lucas is a twisted gem full of pounding percussion and dense production that sounds like a room full of friends making a glorious racket. full review

15. Do Make Say Think - You, You're A History In Rust (Constellation)
Amazingly, this fifth full length album from the group still shows some new wrinkles in their sound while managing to defy typical post rock sounds once again. A model of consistency, this group also put on the best live show that I saw this year. Goosebumps. full review

16. Deerhunter - Cryptograms (Kranky)
This one came out way earlier this year, but was too good to forget. Along with their excellent Fluorescent Grey EP, 2007 was a hell of a start for this group. With lead man Bradford Cox in another group (Atlas Sound) and plenty of public drama to go around, I hope it doesn't derail this group from banging out more music in the near future. full review

17. Patrick Cleandenim - Baby Come Home (Ba Da Bing!)
Full of croon and swagger, this debut release is a bit of a throwback and hits the mark just about all the time. Somewhat comparable to Beirut's somewhat precocious debut last year, this is a first album from a young artist that I can't wait to hear more from. full review

18. !!! - Myth Takes (Warp)
Finally harnessing all the promise they've hinted at on past releases, this release finds !!! locking into a killer groove from the start and never looking back. Loud and loads of fun, this will unlock your hip joints. full review

19. Thomas Fehlmann - Honigpumpe (Kompakt)
Creating music in a genre filled with young up-and-comers, Fehlmann is sorta like the cool older uncle who has somehow managed to stay hip over all these years. One of the best releases on a label with several great ones this year. full review

20. The Austerity Program - Black Madonna (Hydra Head)
Metal math progressive rock or something like that, this eight track debut full-length is lean and mean. Black Madonna is full of frenetic rhythms, abrupt shifts, and some of the most massive riffs you'll hear this year. full review

10 More Albums Worth Having

7 Great Reissues
Lubomyr Melnyk - KMH (Unseen Worlds)
Easily the most stunning reissue (and among my favorites regardless of release date) that I heard this year. I don't know if I can stress enough how beautiful of a release this is. Totally overlooked. full review

Bruce Haack - The Electric Lucifer (Omni Corporation)
An early electronic pop gem, this is twisted genius from a guy most people still associate with children's music. Still holds up well almost forty(!) years later. full review

Seefeel - Quique: Redux Edition (Too Pure)
Not as old or rare (although it fetched a decent price on auction sites) as some of the reissues that have come out this year, this is nonetheless essential as a perfect mixture of minimal early IDM and shoegaze music that still sounds rather otherworldly. The bonus disc is only icing on the cake here. full review

Lee Perry & The Upsetters - Ape-ology (Trojan)
My wife (who is much cooler than myself) has seen Lee Perry three times live, but I can only play the recorded albums loud and still be massively entertained that way. This cheaply-priced double-disc set collects both the once out-of-print Super Ape and Return Of Super Ape into one sprawling set of serious head-rattling dub goodness. A must-have for any collection. buy at amazon.com

Michael Garrick Trio - Moonscape (Trunk)
Supposedly, only 99 copies of this 10" album were originally made clear back in 1964, but I can't figure out why. This absolute gem of UK jazz from back in the day bounces and bangs with the best of them. Twenty-two minutes and not a wasted moment. buy at amazon.com

Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Leonard Cohen / Songs Of Leonard Cohen / Songs Of Leonard Cohen (Sony Legacy)
This is the year that I officially fell back in love with Leonard Cohen. I listened to his music a fair amount in college, but then for some reason lost the only CD of his I owned and never replaced it. I grabbed up these nicely-packaged (and remastered, with bonus tracks) reissues and remembered why I liked him so much in the first place. A poignant voice that still resonates and haunts today, Cohen is worth rediscovery even if he already resides on your shelf. buy at amazon.com

Laurie Anderson - Big Science (Nonesuch)
Like the Leonard Cohen reissues, Big Science wasn't rare or out-of-print, but a nice little remaster and repackaging did this one wonders. I was a late arrival on hearing this album (just a couple years ago), and I'm surprised by how many electronic music fans still haven't heard gotten around to it. That needs to change. full review

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