music / Columns

The Top 10 Albums From 2007

December 13, 2017 | Posted by David Hayter
Radiohead

So I teased that 411 had some fun surprises in store for you when the Album Of The Year countdown concluded and here it is: this week we’ll be looking back at the best records from 2007, 1997, 1987, 1977 and 1967! 50 years of music history!

Simply put, there are some stupendously good records released in each of these years, but these lists are all about having fun and sharing memories and we start with 2007.

2007: The Year In Music

What a year it was. There were so many crucial releases that defined burgeoning scenes and were back by organic, fan driven energy on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the States, modern emo reached its commercial peak as The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy’s Infinity on High hit stores. While in the UK, Arctic Monkeys followed up their record shattering debut with the thrilling, but terribly titled Favourite Worst Nightmare. Speaking of bad titles, Nu-Rave was a thing and Klaxons thrilled university crowds and festival fields alike with Myths Of The Near Future. If that was too wacky for your tastes, then perhaps The Cribs’ Mans Needs… scratched a more earthen indie need.

Despite the scenesters, Metalheads were happy as Machinehead returned with The Blackening – a bulldozing release while Baroness gave the world a glimpse of their potential on The Red Album. Rock fans were also given a treat as Against Me! unleashed New Wave winning a handful of AOTY awards in the process. Elsewhere, Kings Of Leon showed the first signs of making an assault on the arenas with Because Of The Times turning the Southerners in Festival headliners.

Pitchfork readers were also licking their lips as St. Vincent released her studio debut and Panda Bear showed that, even in isolation, Animal Collective could melt minds. Spoon, The Shins, Modest Mouse and Of Montreal rounded off a fabulous year for indie lovers with great, if not career best, releases.

Pop was bananas in 2007 as UK artists Lilly Allen and Kate Nash tried to bring kitchen sink normalcy to American shores at the same time as Britney Spears imploded on the brilliant Blackout. Luckily, The Boss maintained his late career purple with Magic, suggesting that there was a middle road between grit and glam. Jenny Lewis also came to the party, bringing the sunshine with her on Rilo Kiley’s Under The Backlight. Feist, meanwhile, kept up her loft standards on The Reminder.

Rap was in a weird headspace as the year was dominated by two releases Da Drought 3 by Lil Wayne and Kanye’s Graduation. Both were compelling listens, but neither was quite comprehensively brilliant. And of course, 50 Cent managed to lose his bet that he’d out sell Kanye, oh well. Jay-Z for his part released American Gangster, whether it was a triumphant return to form or a disappointment is very much in the eye of the beholder.

…So now to the question at hand: with so much great music already discussed, who on earth could have made our Top 10?

  1. 10. The Boxer by The National

Genre: Indie

The 411: It’s strange to think of Matt Berninger’s baritone as new or exciting. Today it’s considered a curmudgeonly old friend, that misery guts whose always just broken up with his girlfriend, but whose sad-sack-face, despite the sorrow, never fails to make you smile. Back in 2007, the world was just beginning to get its head around The National and their booming understatement still had the power to shock. In 2017, we can see how the fledging textures and nervous gestures of The Boxer would blossom into one of the fullest and most powerful sounds in modern indie. So, in this light, does The Boxer still hold up? The answer is a resounding yes. The modern day National feel cinematic and immaculate; this album is tense, full of friction and has an unease beneath the surface waiting to leap out and break loose (spoiler: it never quite does). This dark shadow would soon consume Berninger, but back in 2007, it was just an ominous spectre haunting an edgy young man.

The Critics Say: “Berninger’s baritone is just another fascinating, eerie addition to Boxer‘s sonic collage, and it might be more effective if his thoughts remain mysterious or unclear. Boxer works best as a mood piece; it’s also the first National release to work as a whole, and it’s the best album I’ve heard so far this year.” Slant

Metascore: 85%

9. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend by Miranda Lambert

Genre: Country

The 411: “Baby, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail/I’m mad as hell”, Miranda sure as hell wasn’t kidding. With a decade of riotous female led country music in the rear-view mirror, it’s plainly obvious that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is one of the most influential country releases since the millennium – hell, even the boys have been trying to catch up. Miranda Lambert is simply a force of nature. She’s not a rockstar posing as a country girl; she’s a platinum blonde with a twang and a bad attitude. She would go on to make more expansive works, but this is the album where everyone just got the hell out of the way and let her charisma and snarl consume everything in its path. The melodies are all in place, they just happen to be sung by a drunk cowgirl, with her hat eskew, her make up smeared and her eyes dead set on skinning her lovers alive. This is both smart, bad tempered country and perfectly composed pop.

The Critics Say: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend would have been impressive if it was just a showcase of her strengths as a singer or as a songwriter, but since it is both, it’s simply stunning, a breakthrough for Lambert and one of the best albums of 2007, regardless of genre.” AllMusic 

Metascore: 83%

8. Back To Black by Amy Winehouse [US Release]
Genre:
Soul

The 411: There’s no running from the fact that Back To Black is a wildly inconsistent album. The gap between the scorching highs and the meandering lows are staggering, but it’s hard to value consistency when the quality on display here is so timeless. “Rehab”, “You Know I’m No Good”, “Back To Black”, “My Tears Dry On Their Own” and “Love Is A Losing Game” – half of this album is made up of the best British singles of the new millennium. Even when Amy is just vibing, Mark Ronson’s production is luscious, full of thick, oozing, rum soaked soul compositions built on subtle hip hop boom-bap beats. The genius of the whole work is that it never feels like a gimmick. Amy is a classic singer, but one with modern woes: drugs, bad take away dinners, filth in lieu of glamour, etc…. Mark’s arrangements blend old and new techniques, but feel ornate and frankly perfect – neither revisionist or too modernistic. Back To Black is not immaculate, but in the moment, it feels as if it is – and that’s what really matters.

The Critics Say: “There’s something beguilingly perverse about the incongruity between Winehouse’s trifling lyrical concerns and Back To Black‘s wall-of-sound richness.” A.V. Club

Metascore: 75%

7. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver

Genre: Folk

The 411: Less an album, more an urban myth, For Emma, Forever Ago is a study in loneliness. Having fallen ill with mononucleosis and a liver infection, Justin Vernon’s career flagged and he became isolated. When he had recovered enough to record, he placed himself in self-imposed exile, moving to a his father’s secluded hunting lodge and relearnt songwriting. Lyrics where abandoned, in favor of raw melody: cries designed to capture a fleeting mood or a lingering state of mind. When the album was eventually released, it stunned audiences. This was rich music, melancholy and lonesome yes, but also surprisingly beautiful and rich in wintry and autumnal warmth. In his isolation narrative meaning may have been lost, but feeling came to fore, these songs swim in an emotional delirium: at any moment he could explode into a cathartic diatribe or he might just hum and sway hypnotically.

The Critics Say: “The album evocatively conjures the loneliness of a long northern winter, placing Vernon’s lovely songs in a distant, blurred vacuum of physical and emotional isolation.” A.V.Club

Metascore: 84%

  1. 6. Boys & Girls In America by The Hold Steady

Genre: Rock

The 411: The ultimate barroom record, Boys & Girls In America is one of those incredible releases that manages to be utterly sodden, grit-stained and yet so undeniably romantic. It could only have come from the United States. Between beers and falling from bar to bar, Craig Finn captures these crystalline glimpses into other people’s reality. The stories hiding behind the facade; the couple hooking up by the toilets, the guy slipping out to get a fix and the argument occurring in hushed tones. The result is a host of quasi-heroic images and timeless songwriting. “I love this girl, but I can’t tell when she’s having a good time”, that mournful lyric captures the essence of an album that deals in elated highs underwritten by creeping anxiety. Life is never as good as it looks in the pictures, but when you sit back and think about it, this sleazy, rough around the edges malaise is more intoxicating than an airbrushed existence ever could be. In 2007 The Hold Steady made one of the great American rock records, it might reek of bourbon and sound like bad poetry, but by god does it hit hard.

The Critics Say: “Finn and co. explore the side streets and dimly lit bars of a loveless and morally depraved culture; how in some disgusting piss-stained alley behind a bar, a moment can occur that could define, at worst, a night, and at most, a lifetime. It’s Craig Finn’s tribute to his own Mississippi upbringing and it’s The Hold Steady’s defining record, one that is both critically acknowledged yet criminally overlooked.” Sputnikmusic

Metascore: 85%

5. Neon Bible by Arcade Fire

Genre: Indie

The 411: Heavier, darker, far more obvious and clumsy than its predecessor, Neon Bible contained all the hints of Arcade Fire’s slow fall from grace, but for one glorious moment, those nagging flaws combined to create a bleak masterpiece. This is the classic outsider art school album: politics scream from every pour as they bleed into lonelier, more deeply held, resentments. Win Butler sounds as if he’s visibily shaking on this cacophonous arena filling exorcism of angst in its rawest form. What makes Neon Bible so brilliant is that, despite it’s obvious lack of any emotional subtlety (“Black Mirror” is unbelievable on the nose and “My Body Is A Cage” is pain incarnate), the arrangements are majestically crafted. There are crashing waves of sound lying beneath bright, booming stadium guitars and smooth pop melodies, all counterpointing Win’s dark cries. It’s a beautiful contradiction: a teenage album written by grown up musicians – pop music perfect for sold-out tours, crafted by noiseniks who’d rather dance on empty dancefloors to songs you’ve probably never heard.

The Critics Say: “Could Neon Bible actually best their stunning 2004 debut? Yes. On Funeral, the band wrestled with death and its aftermath. Here, they look outward at the world from, and this is crucial, an American perspective.” No Ripcord

Metascore: 85%

4. Untrue by Burial

Genre: Dubstep

The 411: It’s crazy to think how divisive dubstep became, because back when the sound emerged from the section of South London I call home, it felt so small and self-contained. Artists like Burial created the sounds for darkly lit, freezing cold, concrete clad nights. Untrue is the after-glow. Fresh from the rush of the dancefloor you’re thrown into the pitiless street to walk home alone – still buzzing on lust and intoxication, but aware of the alien coolness of your surroundings. Untrue is chilling thoughtful music, who could have know it would spawn such idiocy in the years to come.

The Critics Say: “The magic of Untrue, however, is that, rather than shifting pace and mood with each song, it keeps that blast of energy alive and distributes it artfully throughout its 50 minutes, bringing the beat to the front, dragging it to the back, and sometimes eliminating it completely in favor of tension-filled synth swells” TinyMixTapes

Metascore: 93%

3. In Rainbows by Radiohead

Genre: Rock

The 411: Introducing my favourite Radiohead album. In Rainbows is not the band’s most revolutionary offering, nor their strongest front-to-back listen, but this is the album that connected with me at the right time in my life. Perhaps the choose-your-own-price LP is so beloved, because it feels like a halfway house between the jazzy-alien noodling that defined the band after the millennium and the haunting melody driven rock of the 90s. In truth, In Rainbows has a bit of everything, Radiohead have found their groove, creating genuinely danceable-skipping rhythms (their best since “Idioteque”) while also making time stop with ballads both luscious and disturbing (“Nude”, “House Of Cards”). Ten years on, In Rainbows is a record that points back and forwards: it is a reminder of their glory years (we knew that at the time), but listening now we hear that sound that would inform “Lotus Flower’s” hypnotic grooves and the startlingly still beauty of A Moon Shaped Pool.

The Critics Say: “The most heartening thing about In Rainbows, besides the fact that it may represent the strongest collection of songs Radiohead have assembled for a decade, is that it ventures into new emotional territories.” Guardian

Metascore: 88%

2. Sound Of Silver by LCD Soundsystem

Genre: Indie

The 411: James Murphy fulfilled his promise on Sound Of Silver. He delivered heart-breaking reflections on aging and friendship alongside some of the biggest bangers of his career, all the while paying tribute to his heroes, most notably David Bowie. Best of all, he wrapped it all up in a tight 9 track, 56 minute package, making Sound Of Silver the flawless centrepiece of his career. The music is so sleek and frenzied in its detail, but performed with a wonderful air of amateurism (Murphy sounds as if he is singing with a heavy cold throughout). This isn’t a record that spills tears on the dancefloor – it goes beyond that – Sound Of Silver is a transcendent moment where you find, if only fleetingly, bliss in the sweaty arms of the people who matter most, in the place that you love – your friends, your city, the soundtrack to your soon to be extinguished prime.

The Critics Say: “Taken end to end, Sound Of Silver is a thrilling, exhilarating ride on a fast machine. Murphy’s hyperactive compositions have rhythm, energy, feeling and bite – and while dance music will claim it, that needn’t restrict its coverage. You’d be mad to miss out on one of this year’s essential albums.” musicOMH

Metascore: 86%

1. Kala by M.I.A.

Genre: World Pop

The 411: Introducing the sound of M.I.A.’s world town. We might be accustomed to multicultural, globetrotting pop music in 2017, but a decade ago Kala was revolutionary. This record, bearing the influence of, well, everywhere from the Carribean and Sub-Saharan African to Tokyo and Bollywood, could only have been made on the streets of London town. This was the bustling intessection of every culture and every sound: a glorious moment in time, before M.I.A. gave over to paranoia and while she and Diplo were still friends. The beats bang and M.I.A. is all smiles as she sets the world to rights. This sounded like the future in 2007 and, sitting her in 2017, we can confirm, it in fact, was. Slicker more manageable stars would ride these ideas to superstardom, while Diplo would dumb down and blow up commercially – nevertheless, Kala was patient zero on world sound epidemic.

The Critics Say: “For all the choices she might have made and the audiences she might have aimed at, the fresh-sounding, adventurous, and not-exactly-accessible Kala is the kind of record that obviously demanded a defined personal vision.” Pitchfork

Metascore: 86%