Top Ten Albums of 2007

Yep, if it’s good enough for lazy hack journalists, it’s good enough for me – end-of-year list time ahoy! I thought of doing a best films of 2007 list, but I don’t actually see that many new films per year, and most of the ones that I did were at the Leeds Film Festival, and got reviewed in various entries below. I buy a lot more new albums each year, and frankly 2007 has been a great year for disocvering new things. Of the ten albums on this list, only two (The Shins and Arctic Monkeys) were by bands whose previous albums I owned. So, in order of when I bought them, here are the albums that made my year.

The Shins, Wincing The Night Away

Released: January 29th 2007
Length: 41:42
Label: Transgressive
Producer: James Mercer & Joe Chiccarelli

The latest album from the Albuquerque indie-popsters is at once joyfully simple and rewardingly complex. Bounce-along tracks like “Australia” and “Turn On Me” can be enjoyed as simple pop songs, but repeated listening to the album reveals subtle complexities under the seemingly simple melodies. The lyrics are cryptic but amusing, and the whole thing plays out in a easygoing mood, ending with a bittersweet taste.

Download: Australia, Phantom Limb, Turn On Me

Liam Frost and the Slowdown Family, Show Me How The Spectres Dance

Released: September 11th 2006
Length: 37:29
Label: Lavolta
Producer: Danton Supple

Technically, this actually came out last year, but I only bought it this March and think it definitely deserves more attention. Acoustic singer-songwriter music is ten-a-penny, and not a favourite genre of mine, but Frost and his band play beautifully and create a remarkably cohesive album that almost feels like a sweeping romantic film without pictures. Ranging from big string-assissted numbers to spare acoustic ballads, the album never makes a false step.

Download: She Painted Pictures, Shall We Dance

Klaxons, Myths Of The Near Future

Released: January 29th 2007
Length: 53:43
Label: Universal
Producer: James Ford

This album that ended up on most people’s end-of-year lists, and with good reason. The Mercury Prize-winning debut is a endlessly entertaining psych-rock oddyssey, shifting mood from dark mystery to upbeat pop, and confounding the listener with songwriting that combined genres and styles to great effect. Myths… set a depth charge under a recent slew of uninspiring indie bands, and laid the way clear for more left-field, inventive acts to grab attention.

Download: Two Recievers, Gravity’s Rainbow

!!!, Myth Takes

Released: March 5th 2007
Length: 48:14
Label: Vital
Producer: Justin van der Volgen

More mythology on offer from the unpronounceable New York collective (they’re actually pronounced chk-chk-chk, but actually saying that without sounding like an idiot is a real effort). Their latest album leads the listener through a dizzying array of musical styles. The lyrics follow similar transformation, from sardonic social commentary in the tale of seduction gone wrong “Must Be The Moon”, to complete gibberish in the towering jazz-funk freakout “Bend Over Beethoven”.

Download: All My Heroes Are Weirdos, Must Be The Moon

Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare Released: April 23rd 2007
Length: 37:34
Label: Domino
Producer: James Ford & Mike Crossey

In a year where several bands struggled with a follow-up to an acclaimed debut, the Monkeys seemed to dash it off almost effortlessly. Their music expanded to fit enlarged expectations, keeping the furious pace and adding extra layers of invention. Similarly, the lyrics refused to dwell exclusively on the sarcastic dissections of modern life featured in the Monkeys’ debut, in some songs transforming into abstract incantations. In parts, funny, ominous and tragic, Favourite Worst Nightmare is a mixed-up album for our confused times.

Download: Teddy Picker, This House Is A Circus

Biffy Clyro, Puzzle

Released: June 4th 2007
Length: 49:47
Label: 14th Floor
Producer: GG Garth & Biffy Clyro

From opener Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies, with its arrhythmic orchestral stabbings and apocalyptic choirs, you know you’re in for something special, and Biffy Clyro do not disappoint. The Scottish rockers take a more melodic approach on this album, but still create bizarre and enticing concoctions. The album veers from hard rock singalongs to gentle acoustic tracks, with a strong thread of mortality running through the lyrics.

Download: Living Is A Problem…, Saturday Superhouse

The Hold Steady, Boys And Girls In America
Released: November 6th 2006
Length: 40:07
Label: Vagrant
Producer: John Agnello

Sounding like a Minneapolis-based Bruce Springsteen, frontman Craig Finn delivers tales of nights out, youthful confusion and broken hearts in The Hold Steady’s brilliantly simple pleasure of a third album. Straight-ahead American rock’n’roll never sounded so good.

Download: Stuck Between Stations, Hot Soft Light

Lucky Soul, The Great Unwanted

Released: April 9th 2007
Length: 51:38
Label: Ruffa Lane
Producer: George Shilling & Andrew Laidlaw

Taking over from The Pipettes as this year’s 60s revivalists, Lucky Soul deliver an album that sounds utterly fresh even as it looks back to the past. Catchy tunes are given extra weight by complex, multi-layered orchestration and the swoonsome vocals of singer Ali Howard. Breezing through the litany of romance, with a diversion into adivce on mixology (“The bitterest cream makes the best cocktail curdle”, according to “Struck Dumb”), the mixture of bopping and ballads is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Download: Add Your Light To Mine Baby, My Brittle Heart

Jack Peñate, Matinee

Released: October 8th 2007
Length: 41:16
Label: Beggars Banquet
Producer: Jim Abbiss

Peñate’s bouncy, ska/skiffle-influenced pop propels the album along in leaps and bounds. It’s cheery, comic, reflective and even includes a shout-out to classic French film Le Grand Meaulnes on “My Yvonne”. In short, it’s a very appealing package.

Download: Spit At Stars, Torn On The Platform, Second, Minute Or Hour

Burial, Untrue

Released: November 4th 2007
Length: 50:28
Label: Hyperdub
Producer: Burial

My interest was piqued by a Guardian interview with enigmatic dubstep producer Burial, who described his anonymity as being “a bit like a rubbish superhero”. His second album, Untrue, is an absorbing soundscape, described in his own words as like “when you come back from being out somewhere … walking home across London late at night, dreamlike, and you’ve still got the music kind of echoing in you, in your bloodstream, but with real life trying to get in the way. I want it to be like a little sanctuary. It’s like that 24-hour stand selling tea on a rainy night, glowing in the dark.” Untrue immerses you in a night-time world of wet concrete and half-remembered tunes from a night out, weaving a spell that won’t be broken until long after the last track fades into silence.

Download: Archangel

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