Friday, December 28, 2007

15. Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City

I seem to have a tendency of discovering bands one album after their critical breakthrough. A few examples that jump to mind from 2006...Joanna Newsom, Cat Power, The Futureheads. The previously mentioned Beirut would also be a pretty good example of this, but Bloc Party would have to be considered an exception.

If I remember correctly, I wrote off Silent Alarm after one listen, but thankfully returned to it later in the year and had a decidedly different experience. I was captivated by their combination of hook-laden arty brit-pop and emotionally charged ballads. One of the common criticisms of A Weekend in the City is that it doesn't show off the band's versatility as much as the debut. Regardless, it's an impressive followup that builds on the their obvious strengths, the most important of those being wrapping heartfelt lyrics around powerful songs with gorgeous melodies. A prime example is Kele Okereke's declaration on "Waiting for the 7:18" that "If I could do it again, I'd make more mistakes, I'd not be so scared of falling...I'd climb more trees, I'd pick and I'd eat more wild blackberries". But, the album's most impressive moment, and possibly my song of the year, is the nostalgic "I Still Remember", which powerfully evokes images of the sadness of reminiscing about past regrets, but still somehow maintains a certain hopefullness.

14. The Apples in Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder

Ever since I first heard The Apples in Stereo, on 1997's Tone Soul Evolution, I've been waiting for them to make an album that combines the eclecticism and pop genius, respectively, of their Elephant 6 brethren The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel. Of course, my reference point wasn't that specific back then because I hadn't yet heard of either of those two other bands. However, I felt knew a little something about their potential.

Well, those overwhelming expectations may, in fact, be a little out of the Apples' reach, but New Magnetic Wonder comes about as close as they could possibly get. Since it's pretty obvious that they wear their Beatlesque pop influences on their sleeves, this would be their Sgt. Pepper' album with sounds all over the map, that combines catchy pop with psychedelic soundscapes, coming across serious at times and just plain fun-loving at others.

13. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away

Although it does seem that fans of The Shins are in different camps as to whether Wincing the Night Away is another blast of wonderful power-pop, albeit more slickly produced that its predecessors, or a disappointing sellout, about the only negative thing I can say about it is that it took four years to complete. Although not quite as good as Chutes Too Narrow, my personal favorite, or Oh, Inverted World, I would definitely fall into the former category. Despite a couple songs that I would consider throwaways, this album does not disappoint, especially on "Australia", "Phantom Limb" and "Turn on Me".

12. Okkervil River - The Stage Names

I knew Black Sheep Boy, my album of the year in 2005, was going to be a tough act to follow. The Stage Names proves that Okkervil River is more than capable of building on the momentum of that masterpiece...musically, at least. Conceptually is where this album falls way short of its predecessor, but that's really an unfair comparison. If you care to catch up on why I feel that way, you can do so here.

The highlights are impressive, and they include "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe", "Savannah Smiles" and "A Girl in Port". I could have done without the pseudo-cover of the Beach Boys' "Sloop John B" that is "John Allyn Smith Sails", which closes the album. Given my affinity towards albums that start and end strongly, this may have prevented this one from cracking the top ten.

11. M.I.A. - Kala

After M.I.A.'s (aka Maya Arulpragasam) debut Arular, I figured she was a one-shot deal for me. Sometimes there's an intangible element that drives my enjoyment of a particular album or artist at a specific moment in time that can never be captured again. While I assumed that was the case with Arular, Kala turned out to be just as good, if not better.

Definitely outside of my realm, I have a difficult time describing what M.I.A. is all about, and it is certainly no easier to explain what it is I like about her music, but I do appreciate this description from

"Kala and Arular are similar in that they are both wildly vigorous and wholly enjoyable albums, generous with blunt-force beats, flurries of percussion, riotous vocals (with largely inconsequential lyrics), and fearless stylistic syntheses that seem to view music from half of the planet's countries as potential source material."

1 comment:

  1. Great list!!
    MIA really did a great job this year, she totally earned the 'Best 2007 album' with kala and here's why.