My Favorite 20 Albums of 2007
by dave heaton
Like every year, 2007 had a crazy amount of music that I got myself wrapped up in. I'll be honest, though, these days I feel like I have no time to look back. Even in the relatively quieter month of January I keep finding more music, new and old, to spend time with. Given that, I'm taking the lazy route by offering just a list of what I now consider my favorite 20 albums from last year, augmented with quotes from reviews I wrote of each. Is that pretentious, to quote myself? It's not about pretense, but about life moving ever forward.
1. Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl)
"Taken as a whole Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? is a bizarre and exceedingly pleasurable trip through the ins and outs, ups and downs of the human psyche. It's a highly personal album with the community feeling of a party album. It's Of Montreal's wildest, and best, album yet."
2. Wu-Tang Clan, 8 Diagrams (Loud)
"8 Diagrams is an update to that formula, one of major significance. As a producer, RZA has taken that style and blown it open."
3. Jens Lekman, Night Falls Over Kortedala (Secretly Canadian)
"...turning the sad, surprising and mundane qualities of life into pop music that's absolutely classic (echoing the romance of 1950s vocal pop) and fresh at the same time...the most moving album of the year and the most luxurious." [Big Takeover issue no, 61]
4. Kanye West, Graduation (Roc-a-Fella)
"Kanye West is following his own awkward path to super-stardom; his "ego" may get the attention, but he's laughing all the way to the bank." http://www.popmatters.com/pm/music/reviews/48263/kanye-west-graduation/
5. Phosphorescent, Pride (Dead Oceans)
"Minimalist folk music is played like a Zen drone, and mood-wise everything is cast with a glow. It's a remarkable achievement that elevates Houck's status as an artist with the ability to cast spells."
6. Robert Wyatt, Comicopera (Domino)
"Comicopera's three-act structure is broad in scope – lyrically and thematically, but musically, too…There's a wild streak within – clear-headed musicianship, but also many surprises, all coordinated gracefully by a maestro who into his sixties is making music that's as visionary as ever."
7. Lucky Soul, The Great Unwanted (Ruffa Lane)
"They take a history's worth of love-and-loneliness songs and turn them into their own glimmering, shimmering gold."
8. Joe Ely, Silver City (Rack Em)
[Apparantly I didn't review this one; I thought I did. It's one of the best albums in years from roadhouse troubadour Ely. Though as an acoustic-only collection of songs he wrote when he was in his teens and 20s but didn't record until now (he's 60 now), it looks like an eccentricity for fans only, it's really a remarkable batch of Texas border songs, ballads and fables from a well-travelled musician whose voice and guitar carry years' worth of wisdom.]
9. The Fiery Furnaces, Widow City (Thrill Jockey)
"Each song is like a story inside of a story inside of a story, on to infinity. It's Borges redone as classic rock, and that's a glorious (and thoroughly weird) combination." [Big Takeover, Issue No. 61.]
10. Jason Anderson, Tonight (ECA)
"These moments might look ordinary on paper for a rock song…but this is what life is built of: little stories and experiences. Moments. … He invests them with real rock n' roll glory, shows how momentous these little moments are by making them sound absolutely glorious and monumental."
11. The Clientele, God Save the Clientele (Merge)
"There's perhaps more references to dreams here than ever, or at least to sleep. But these dreams are of the gentle, mystifying variety…more mysterious new loves than figures lurking in the shadows."
12. Sleeping States, There the Open Spaces (Misra)
"Above all, it's a rare sense of intimacy that Sleeping States achieves. There the Open Spaces is one of those albums that immediately puts you inside your own head, and pleasantly so."
13. The Caribbean, Populations (Hometapes)
"The Caribbean's music has never felt anything less than human, but Populations feels especially human to me. There's harmony vocals galore, and love songs, maybe. At the same time it's wilder in sound than ever."
14. Namelessnumberheadman, Wires Reply (St Ives)
"It's like this remarkable album itself: a daring step forward that's also filled with a deep sense of yearning and a sincere, somewhat worried curiosity about what tomorrow will bring."
15. Eluvium, Copia (Temporary Residence)
"I can think of few musicians of any genre making instrumental music as involving as Matthew Cooper's ambient compositions under the name Eluvium."
16. Japancakes, Loveless (Darla)
"Maybe that's why an instrumental version retains all of the mystery and beauty of the original, while adding pleasure through the familiarity factor."
17. PJ Harvey, White Chalk (Island)
"Harvey herself is on the cover, dressed in white, looking pale as a ghost—and White Chalk sounds like a ghost story, start to finish."
18. Vic Chesnutt, North Star Deserter (Constellation)
"North Star Deserter is described in the press release as Chesnutt's best LP; looked at from a certain light, it might be."
19. My Teenage Stride, Ears Like Golden Bats (Becalmed)
"The album packs a punch (a melancholy-pop punch), with power moving in the direction of harmonic perfection, melodic optimism expressing uncertainty. Guitars that rise up to hide the tears."
20. Hallelujah the Hills, Collective Psychosis Begone (Misra)
"Smart, strange series of words find their way onto rising pop melodies that resemble rays of light, making you feel like a new day has dawned. But of course they've also got loud electric guitars with them, rock n' roll drums, random bursts of beautifully strange electricity."