Sunday, December 16, 2007

Upon finalizing my top 40 of 2007 this weekend, I have to say that this has to be the earliest I've ever completed the list. I usually spend a little more time obsessing over it, but maybe I've finally refined the process to the point that it doesn't feel like a chore. In the first few years that I did this, I wouldn't finish until a couple months into the new year. I guess I was determined to really evaluate every album and be certain of my final list. But, in reality, this is not an exact science, so I'm never really certain. And besides, my philosophy has evolved to the point where I think of my year-end compilation as the soundtrack to my year, so it just wouldn't be right if an album on my best of 2007 list was one I listened to mostly in early 2008.

A potential downside to finishing this early, of course, is that I could overlook something. But, there's always something that I'm going to overlook, and there are always going to be friends raving about albums like Sky Blue Sky and wondering why it was left off the list. So, since I've decided that nothing I've begun listening to in the past couple of weeks is a contender, I'm confident that my list is complete. So, without further adieu...

40. New Buffalo - Somewhere, Anywhere

2005 was the first year that I expanded the list beyond a top ten due to the sheer number of albums I listened to (approximately 300). Near the end of that year, there were a handful of records that I had just picked up that I labored over the decision of whether or not they would crack the list. One of those albums that eventually didn't make it, was New Buffalo's debut Last Beautiful Day. That album may actually have been a little better than this one, but the second offering from this indie folk/pop outfit does not disappoint.

I remember reading somewhere that Sally Seltmann, the singer/songwriter of New Buffalo, had written one of Feist's more popular songs. In fact, she co-wrote "1234", the song from the iPod Nano commercial. Most of this album is not as upbeat as that one, but with mellow folk/pop gems such as "Emotional Champs" and "It's Got to Be Jean", it makes for a really pleasant listen.

39. Art Brut - It's a Bit Complicated

Another case of a band whose debut may very well be the real highlight of their catalog so far, Art Brut's Bang Bang Rock & Roll made them one of Pitchfork's darlings in 2005. I listened to it once and dismissed it as solid but "not my thing". I may have been wrong.

A couple months ago, I saw this band open for The Hold Steady, and immediately sought out their sophomore effort, It's a Bit Complicated. Witty, sarcastic and simple but clever lyrics sung to hook laden guitar rock, art punk is the most common description associated with this music. Highlights include a couple of hilarious breakup songs, "People in Love" and "Post Soothing Out", and the difficult to take seriously sexuality of "Blame it on the Trains" and "Jealous Guy". It seems to me this album had the potential to be great, and I suppose I'll have to find out if the debut lives up to that potential, but in the end, it's just good clean fun...not that clean is that important to me.

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