Arcade Fire, Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, The Shins, Interpol - GIITTV's TOP TWENTY ALBUMS OF 2007.
For some 2007's year in music will be remembered as the year of the reunion, the good (My Bloody Valentine, Led Zep, The Verve) the bad (Aqua), and the just plain ugly (Spice Girls) reformed in an attempt to follow Take That's lead. Forget the hype, and the sneering, for us 2007 was another year of good music under the banality of much of the mainstream. There were the cult heroes returning with brilliant follow-up albums (Arcade Fire, The Shins, Bloc Party, Maximo Park), the obvious mainstays of any list in '07 (P J Harvey, Arctic Monkeys, Bjork, The National), the word of mouth releases that had people downloading (Animal Collective, Burial, Besnard Lakes, Silversun Pickups) and a "pay whatever you want to download it” release that will perhaps change the way that music is distributed in years to come (Radiohead).
GIITTV zine is a collective, and as such we devised a unique way of calculating our top twenty albums of the year. Each one of our writers (well most of us) gave our top ten albums of the year; using a complicated points system (one point for albums at ten, ten points for albums placing first) then the scores were tottted up and the GIITTV best twenty of 2007 was born. Ok the system wasn't that “unique” but it produced a list that we think you'll agree has something for everyone, and a tip or two for all as well. Ladies and gentlemen we give you GIITTV's top twenty albums of 2007, our esteemed collection of writers have their say on each one:
1) Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
In the hands of almost any other artist, a follow up to 2005's critically revered debut Funeral could never have been more than a valiant also-ran, a brave attempt at that 'difficult second album'. But with Neon Bible, the magic emanating from the fingers belonging to Canadian troupe Arcade Fire surpassed all expectations in a simply epic 11 song LP.
From cathedral-filling organs forged in the depths of the human soul to heartbreaking motifs plucked seemingly from the very hairs on the back of your neck, Neon Bible was magnificence at work. Each song, bar the quaint title track itself, builds from humble, shimmering beginnings into a blazing fire of glorious sound. Sprawling without being too large, grandiose without being pompous, Neon Bible was a work whose emotional intensity was matched only by its sheer musical brilliance, and is a worthy winner of God is in the TV Zine's album of the year. (Tim Miller)
2) Radiohead - In Rainbows
With the cacophony of debate surrounding the revolutionary method of which this record was distributed starting to settle, and our stunning disc boxes arriving through the post, the music itself can now shine through. Warm and sensual, it's the most personal album the once depressing quintet have ever made. (Stas Werno)
3) LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
There are some records which speak to you from the dancefloor. There are some which speak from the comfort of your room. And there are some which speak from odd places, like the treadmill, the bus into work, or the background at a dinner party.
With the exception of the dinner party, Sound Of Silver, the second album from James Murphy, aka LCD Soundsystem, will speak from all of these places and more. The pounding beats and seductive basslines he makes have always been perfect for the disco, but this time around he has added grace, feeling and songs rather than grooves. It's telling how many of these songs drift over the five minute mark without ever seeming like there are too long. The arms in the air euphoria of 'All My Friends', the chanting on 'Sound Of Silver', and piano-driven curveball of 'New York I Love You', all make this a triumph for diversity. LCD no longer feel too cool for the rest of us, Murphy has decided to show his heart ('Someone Great') and on 'All My Friends' he manages to tap into the strong bonds we all have with our mates. An album for everyone: made by someone special. Hell, thinking about it, it probably could work at a dinner party, albeit one with dancing between courses. (Holly Cruise)
4) The Shins- Wincing the Night Away
This Portland quartet are such a diamond in the rough, it was with almost a sigh of resignation from fans that their third album was received widely as 'their best yet'. While there are those who snort derisively at people whose primary exposure to The Shins came incidentally through cult film Garden State, 2001's Oh, Inverted World and 2003's Chutes Too Narrow were still largely bypassed in the mainstream, but the irresistibly haunting and perfectly formed indie-pop of Wincing The Night Away, almost four years in the making, has changed all that.
James Mercer's voice, richer and stronger than that of the wide-eyed boy of previous LPs, nevertheless belies the fragility and insecurity of much of the lyrical content here, while the band's guitar focus on gorgeous chord progressions and arrangements of almost folk simplicity is blurred this time around by a swathe of electronics, keyboard melodies and warm atmospheres giving Wincing The Night Away a much deeper texture. The inventive melodies remain as lovingly orchestrated as ever, but massage themselves luxuriously into your subconscious rather than stick out through stark beauty. Natalie Portman said it best (grits teeth), but The Shins' third album is as stunning as they've ever managed, and was without doubt one of the very best releases of 2007. (Tim Miller)
5) Interpol - Our Love to admire
Initially coming across as a case of using "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" as inspiration, Interpol's third album divided opinions as to whether it showed any growth from the band or just repetition of the past. Yet "Our Love To Admir"e quickly proved its worth with repeated listens revealing greater detail and depth each time. In terms of the sound and themes there is no great departure from the previous releases but everywhere there is an evident evolution. The result is an album which works cohesively, a series of melodic songs that are cinematic, emotionally expansive yet rock with a real power. "Our Love To Admire" is recognisably Interpol, just a newly matured Interpol. (Louise Evans)
6) Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
In a bumper year for Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam brought a dose of manic abstract pop in counterbalance to Panda Bear's debut release. Sprawling out into an all-consuming whirlwind of beeps, swirling rhythms and unidentifiable noises, this album is a testament to how Animal Collective have grown whilst maintaining their adventurous nature. Stand out tracks include both singles 'Peacebone' and 'Fireworks' which manage to sound both like a messy collage and a perfectly executed intelligent masterpiece. Combined altogether the album proves how distinctive the band's sound has become, with a vitality and an expansive imagination which refuses to allow them to be pigeon-holed alongside anyone else. (Louise Evans)
7) The Cribs - Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever
It's difficult to dislike the Cribs. They may be regularly atonal, slightly on the derivative side and have really dirty hair, but the Jarman twins make up for it by being persistently frank in their approach to music. It's fantastic to hear this, as the record the band have threatened to make for a long time, being both lyrically and musically forthright whilst sounding accomplished and perfected. It's still unsubtle and obtuse, it's still shouting its Northern mouth off, and who cares if it's about as refined as weeing in the shower? Men's Needs… deserves your attention. (David Segurola)
8) Burial - Untrue
The sound of city lights and cold nights is encapsulated perfectly on this ambient masterpiece. Emerging from the tedious dubstep scene like a neon ray of light, this record has taken the country by storm, topping many end of year lists - and with good reason. It's nice to know there's still people out there able to breathe life back in to electronic music. (Stas Werno)
9) The Besnard Lakes - ...Are The Dark Horse
Unlike Arcade Fire's Funeral, this fantastic little gem is still to find a wider appeal among the record buying public and become the sleeper hit it so rightly deserves to be. Spectral Beach Boys-esque vocals float over a gently churning cauldron of sounds akin to some of the Decemberists more recent output, though that only scratches the surface of this woozy, laid back masterpiece. It has a distinct retro charm all of its own though, from the opening plaintive strums of Disaster through the riff-tastic Devastation to the closing notes of the breezy surf psychedelia that is Cedric's War, this is an album that oozes class, quality control and charm. Jagjaguwar have always had an excellent reputation for fantastic albums, but this one really is something a bit special, even by their high standards. (Angus Reid)
10) Bloc Party - A Weekend In The City
Filled to the brim with tales of hedonism, bitter regret and racial discrimination, 'A Weekend In The City' had a huge impact early on in 2007, demonstrating the sincere abilities of an already brilliantly established British rock group.
Widely anticipated as the 'impossible' follow up record to the band's debut, the album perfectly captured the culture of the time, instantly identifying with their already vast fan base. This record's sheer relevance is, throughout, truly stunning - providing justification for the colossal success enjoyed by Bloc Party over the past twelve months. (Duncan Bradley)
11) Battles - Mirrored
The rigid riffs, intense rhythms and originally executed use of electronics contained within Mirrored create one of the defining sounds of 2007. Often lazily described as a math rock super group, the album shows that Battles are in fact so much more. It is in equal measures the closest thing to both punk and jazz released this year. (Stas Werno)
12) Klaxons - Myths Of The Near Future.
2007 was the year that Klaxons actually released an album. It seemed like an unlikely event - creating the new rave subculture through a joke gone out-of-hand, getting a media hype towering above them, parties and DJ sets with the coolest people in the industry - all with only one EP and a few demos under their belt. Were they who seemed to be better suited to photoshoots by day and acid-fuelled raves and all night parties by the night time even capable of making an album at all, let alone a good album?
Myths of the Near Future, however, surpassed all expectations. The album couldn't be more far removed than the dance floor appeal of their earlier EP. Here was an album that completely shunned the new rave expectations and created a pop record rife with a combination of bizarre, mythical and space-like imagery and infectious pop riffs. Even three of the tracks that appeared on the "Xan Valleys" EP and a cover of rave classic "It's Not Over Yet" were reproduced to stick perfectly to this aesthetic. It wasn't without its shortcomings admittedly, from the noodling of the new version of "Gravity's Rainbow" and the screechiness of aforementioned rave cover to the simple fact that most of us had heard demos of almost all the songs on the album in the first place...but these seemed so small compared to the bigger picture - proof that beyond any hype and expectation, a band can break free and show the world that they know actually how to write damn good songs.
Myths of the Near Future's Mercury Music Prize was well-earned, the influence showing that there was room for genuine innovation in an otherwise stale indie scene of repetitive guitar pop, as well as broadening people's horizons into more electronic music, spearheading a dance revival with Justice, Simian Mobile Disco et al, once more filling indie club dance floors around the country. In short, 2007 would have been a very different year without Myths of the Near Future. (Sel Bulut)
13) of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer?
Not many people would have thought ramming disco and nervous breakdowns together would ever work - in fact, if your wife's just left you and your brain's crumbling, the last place you want to be is in the throbbing heart of a discotheque. Not so for Kevin Barnes, creative genius behind Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna… is an addictive extravaganza, immediately compelling in its garish spandex dance-suit, with the lyrical content of a vibrant imagination twisting violently and nakedly out of control. The album's greatness is confirmed with “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal”, a 12-minute pulsating, screaming soundtrack to the best bad trip you ever had. Nobody is making music with the same sense of intoxication, the same fierce variety of sound and vision.(David Segurola)
14) Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
Writing and recording a follow-up sufficient to please the worshipful fan base of the Arctic Monkeys was never going to be easy but Alex Turner and Co. had a damn good crack at it with Favourite Worst Nightmare, and like good wine it really does get better with age. Almost being entitled “Lesbian Wednesdays”, “Gordon Brown” or “Gary Barlow” the Arctic Monkeys' second album is a bright, intelligently written album of typically quirky, sarcastic quips and tales. Having listened to it a thousand times the differences between the debut and the follow-up are few and far between. Both have their fair share of full-on powerhouse tracks with the likes of 'Brianstorm' kick-starting the album with the distinctively gritty gentle rumblings of '505' to finish. Every track, it must be said, is intriguing and definitive of the Arctic Monkeys' style with refreshingly catchy instalments in the shape of 'Brianstorm' and 'The Bad Thing' making it a truly memorable album of 2007. (Paul Cook)
15) The National - Boxer
Boxer is 43 minutes 28 seconds of understated brilliance. Matt Berninger and company have produced another LP that rivals any of their frankly outstanding back catalogue. I've written in the past that the amazing quality The National possess is the ability to write an album full of songs that could potentially be singles and Boxer is no different. Berninger's lyrics are intelligent and thought provoking, while his vocal delivery is hushed and throaty and has the ability to put a tear in the eye of even the most hardened listener. Boxer covers the board with regards to content, with faster songs such as 'Brainy' proving reminiscent of 'Lit Up' from previous LP Alligator while tales of love and love lost are tackled in songs such as 'Start A War' and 'Racing Like a Pro'. Perhaps the greatest achievment on this album is the almost hypnotic 'Slow Show, where everything is going so wrong for Matt that even the walls are against him as he reveals "I leaned on the wall, the wall leaned away". Matt's ability to capture situations such as these that we can all relate to is what will ultimately make you fall in love with The National. If you've not discovered Boxer, or The National in general I highly recommend that you take the time to do so in the near future. I guarantee you will not be dissapointed. (Ross Cunningham)
16) P J Harvey - White Chalk
Something of a radical departure from the guitar laden feast that was Uh Her Her, White Chalk is an album comprised entirely of piano led songs of such startling, delicate grace and fragile beauty that it took many by surprise. At times it resembles Kate Bush with the soaring vocals reaching the upper limits of human hearing. This is a dark, dusty album; "Grow Grow Grow" could almost be the soundtrack to a particularly spooky silent film. The title track is an echoing, washed out thing of beauty. Everything about this work emits a distinct feel of a Victorian ghost story, right down to the pale, intense artwork. Truly the most lugubrious album of the year. (Angus Reid)
17) Bjork - Volta
Bjork never stands still, the post-modern Icelandic pixie with a voice that could melt the iciest of hearts, or maybe send a screeching pickaxe into it. Volta was a multicultural patchwork quilt of sounds, from the propulsive African rhythms of single 'Earth Intruders' the eerie glitchy electronica of 'Wanderlust' and the gorgouesness of 'Hope' featuring Malian kora player Toumani Diabete. Collaborations with Timbaland, Konono No 1, Antony Hegarty (Antony and The Johnsons) showed that Bjork was constantly looking to stretch her sonic palette.
Volta wasn't a return to the commerciality of her early work, it was instead a challenging record that revealed itself on repeated listens, it again proved that Bjork is a modern musical artist of serious quality, with a thirst for invention that's maybe only matched by Bowie and Beck. Volta was pop music that both invigorated and intrigued. (Bill Cummings)
18) Maximo Park - Our Earthly Pleasure
Our Earthly Pleasures provides another set of songs bursting with energetic guitars, driving bass and drums, along with the distinctive sound of Lukas Wooller's keyboard. Paul Smith's vocal stylings and lyrics have not been diluted and are still as intriguing as ever. From opening statement "you've been with me a year to the day" to his final remarks "I love the tiny veins on your back they remind me of the way that porcelain cracks" Smith draws you in and gives you a glimpse into his world. Although this album doesnt instantly grab you as a whole on first listen, it provides enough to make you want to go back and listen to it again and its on repeated listens that Our Earthly Pleasures will provides you with the most enjoyment. Songs such as 'Girls Who Play Guitars','Books From Boxes' and 'By The Monument' (even though the intro is blatantly "borrowed" from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' 'Nature Boy') have became Indie dancefloor hits for 2007. As dreaded second albums go (just ask the Futureheads) this is a very good one indeed. (Ross Cunningham)
19) Panda Bear - Person Pitch
Animal Collective's drummer put out one of the most unique albums of the year, an addictive collection of beautifully unfolding soundscapes. 'Person Pitch' was released in February yet continues to reveal new quirks with every play, from the odd noises hidden in the music to its surprising lyrical depth: 'Take Pills', for example, is not a spaced-out serving suggestion but a song about his struggle with anti-depressants. (Mike Mantin)
20) Silversun Pickups - Carnavas
An album that makes it onto this list through a technicality - it was released in the US in 2006, but in the UK it was held back until May 2007. Which is great, because this is a brilliant album, full of delicious pop nuggets, interwoven with a slight touch of shoegazing guitar fuzz, much like a full band version of Joy Zipper. The singles may be the best songs on here, 'Well Thought Out Twinkles' in particular, but the whole thing holds together well as an album. The real genius of Silversun Pickups is hidden in the details - the perfect Americana sound of the vocals; the gorgeous female bassist (note to bands: there is nothing cooler than a female bassist); the tight, effective drumming; the heavily treated keyboard sounds, often sounding eerily like guitars. Technicality or no technicality, this is one of those rare albums that starts as an 'instant like' then develops into being a 'grower' as well. (Angus Reid)
What do you think? Was 2007 a great year for debuts, second albums, established bands or reforming acts? Which albums released this year do you think have been overlooked by our writers? Comment on our top twenty below!