Sunday, February 10, 2008

Top 25 Albums of 2007

The nineteen-year-old version of myself wouldn't have bought this excuse, but I kind of forgot about making a top albums of the year list. Remembering to make a top albums of the year list used to be somewhere between remembering to eat and remembering to put on clothes. But here we are, mid-February--the ship has almost certainly sailed--and I have missed out on one of the foremost reasons to run a blog with a music criticism dalliance.

It came pretty easily, especially the top ten or so, and while it resembles a lot of other critics' top ten lists, it's truthful, which is more than I can say for the nineteen-year-old version of myself.

25. Justice- Cross

24. Cam'ron-
Public Enemy #1
23. Kevin Drew- Spirit If...
22. Dirty Projectors-
Rise Above
21. Black Milk-
Popular Demand
20. The Field- From Here We Go Sublime

19. Feist- The Reminder
18. Dizzee Rascal-
Maths & English
17. Battles-
Mirrored
16. R. Kelly- Double Up

15.

Jay-Z- American Gangster

14.

Menomena- Friend and Foe

13.

Band of Horses- Cease to Begin

12.

Various Artists- After Dark: Italians Do It Better

11.

El-P- I'll Sleep When You're Dead

10.

Panda Bear- Person Pitch

9.

Spoon- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

8.

Radiohead- In Rainbows

7.

Arcade Fire- Neon Bible

6.

M.I.A.- Kala

5.

Kanye West- Graduation- West's third outing with everyone's favorite matriculating ursine is vastly different form the first two: Sean Fennessy observed brilliantly, "Late Registration is the sound of someone trying to be great. Graduation is the sound of someone trying to be famous." His aesthetic has changed, (Seriously, dude, lay off the EPMD "ha-hey-ha-hey" button.) but the trait that ties the trilogy together is ambition. Not ambition of the Scarface variety, not a king-of-the-hill sense of entitlement, but a brand of artistic perfectionism that extends to every note. In an age of exalted celebrity, it's refreshing to believe that there's still a guy who gets more of a charge from hiring the Harlem Boys' Choir or getting a sample cleared by Donald Fagen than he does from being photographed somewhere fancy. This isn't to say that the guy isn't calculating or arrogant; but the songs sound like they were made by someone staying up all night by himself, and that's something that can't be faked.

4.

Daft Punk- Alive 2007- A live album of greatest hits is cheating, you say? I won't disagree. But these songs, recontextualized as they negotiate themselves into each others' damp bass hits and plaintive vocoders, serve, more than ever, to remind us why dance music is so vital after all. As the crowd--at least as much of a character here as any bassline--delights with the recognition of every fold, held captive with each perilous but assured break, the title of the album only becomes more apt. People often lament the failure of the electronic music craze of the mid-'90s, when major labels were wheelbarrowing money to Richard D. James to fashion paranoid symphonies from knob twiddles. They wonder why it didn't become the Next Big Thing, why two guys with laptops aren't rocking arenas right now with relentless songs to which we all know the words. All those people need to do is listen to Daft Punk, and they'll realize how wrong they were. The future is here; it's just a bit late.

3.

Animal Collective- Strawberry Jam- The first Animal Collective album you can sing along to. Their previous works did their part in cementing the quartet as one of the defining bands of the aughts by tucking indelible melodies under unbridled, joyous hoods of noise and drones. The trick they pull here on tracks like "Fireworks" and "Chores" is transposing those harmonies to center stage and gracing us with a structure that we never knew was missing. Listening to Strawberry Jam in the context of what was already an incredibly impressive output is like the transition from black-and-white films to color. We can talk forever about how much more difficult and artful drawing contrast and character from the former is, but doesn't the latter just feel a bit more real?

2.

Lil' Wayne- Da Drought 3- I shared a moment with a new student yesterday when he found out I listened to rap music. He asked who I liked specifically, and I answered, "Wayne. Cam'ron. Clipse. Uh, Kanye, Jay-Z, Ghostface." Another guy cut me off and asked, incredulously, "Cam'ron? That shit is wack. Cam'ron gay, dog. Boom-boom, poom-poom, poo-poo." The first kid immediately stuck up for me by pointing out, "Hey, he said Wayne first." It was one of many times in the past year I had seen the unifying, boundary-crossing power of the dread-locked rascal with a difident, druggy flow and '80s baby punchlines. The doorman at Pat O's laughed all night with one of my buddies, White fratboys populate hip-hop message boards, and my students know that "yellow diamond ring lookin' like a little Funyun" is a simile of the highest order. Clearly, something special is happening.

1.

Jens Lekman- Night Falls Over Kortedala- Yeah, I didn't really see this coming either, even if I did. I hate to keep dwelling on this, but I think it speaks to the age and uncoolness encroaching into my life. That doesn't sound like much of an endorsement, but when an idiosyncratic, cheeky, multi-instrumental Swede can appeal to me more than a New Orleans rapper croaking lines about doing "The Macarena," you know something has changed. The thing is, I couldn't be more happy about it.

1 comment:

Will said...

http://www.blogmaverick.com/2008/01/17/the-album-is-dead/