For me this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. It is the time when we all reflect on the past 12 months and look at the road ahead. In the coming weeks we will hear about award season nominations and all that keeps us entertained and excited about honoring the achievements in the arts. This is the last and probably most important of my year end lists. My 10 best picks of the year for film will not come out until March after I can fully savor the films and pick them apart. Music however, unlike Hollywood, does not have to come out for a specific season and truly is a year long process to figure out the best. So without further ado, here are my picks for the 10 best albums of the year (in both short list and long form)
Short list for those with ADD:
10 Bruce Springsteen - Magic
9 The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
8 The Good, The Bad, and The Queen
7 Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
6 Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
5 Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
4 The Fratellis - Costello Music
3 Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City
2 Bjork - Volta
1 Radiohead - In Rainbows
Long form with Explanations:
10. Bruce Springsteen - Magic
If you notice, there are not many American musicians on my list this year. It was a lackluster year for music from this country, but the boss gave his homeland music some life and controversy. "This is not about magic, but about tricks," Springsteen stated in October at Madison Square Garden, he was referring to the Bush administration and what they have done to suck the life out of the American people. Magic tells all of this, whether or not you agree or disagree with Bruce, his points are valid and while pushing 60 he can still continue to stir the pot.
Key Tracks: Radio Nowhere, Terry's Song (Secret Song)
9. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
Natalie Portman and Zach Braff may have put this West Coast band's foot in the door, but their strong musical abilities kept the door wide open. The Shins embraced a very unique and eclectic sound on Wincing the Night Away. The album makes you feel as if you are floating in the air and suspended over the world, much like the opening to Terry Gilliam's Brazil, but by the end of the record you have safely returned to the soil and only want to go back up for more.
Key Tracks: Sleeping Lessons, Phantom Limb
8. The Good, The Bad, and The Queen
Certainly the most underrated of all of the super groups to emerge in the past years. Combining the musical talents of Damian Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), Paul Simonon (The Clash), Simon Tong (The Verve), African drummer Tony Allen and Danger Mouse. You will not find a stronger lineup in any new band. Mixing dub, rock, folk and even doo-wop. The album is an eye opener and a middle finger to the English monarchy past and present as well as showing us how history has an odd way of repeating itself. An intelligent disc from some of today's smartest artist, we need more from this band in years to come.
Key Tracks: Kingdom of Doom, Solder's Tale
7. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
One of the U.K's most prolific songwriters finally releases his much anticipated solo debut. Jarvis Cocker, the former front man of Pulp has been taking his time to perfect his musical autobiography. Between the demise of Pulp and creating this record, Jarvis has been writing with the likes of Nancy Sinatra, Johnny Greenwood, and Air. Jarvis, is a very personal record about love, life and loss. His seductive voice, witty lyrics and great musical composition are enough to make you to just want to hit the repeat button on your music player once the record comes to its end.
Key Tracks: Don't Let Him Waste Your Time, From Auschwitz to Ipswich
6. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
She maybe the biggest train wreck of the year and a tabloid's wet dream, but Amy Winehouse is one of the most talented singers and songwriter's out there right now. I hate the fact that it came to a shock to everyone this past week when the Grammy's were announced and she received six nominations. Winehouse is good, she is not some corporate slave pop singer, like some other train wrecks we know. She is what the Ronette's and Aretha Franklin wish they could have been able to do back in the 50's. Winehouse has no problem not holding anything back in her lyrics and that is one of the reason's we love her so much. She takes 50's doo-wop, soul and jazz and injects it with feminism, personality and controversy. Back to Black is not to be missed.
Key Tracks: Back to Black, You Know I'm No Good
5. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
To sum up this whole record in with just one word - "Wow." Every band with one album out should take note, if you want to know how to define the sophomore slump and create a brilliant second disc, listen to Neon Bible. The Canadian 10 piece stormed back from their 2004 debut, Funeral, with a record about modern times. A much more mature album, they may have lost their random dance breakdown's in the middle of songs, but picked up a narrative writing style that rivals most poets. They express what they do not like in this world, our obsession with young celebrity, war, and how we respond to natural disaster. Their combination of folk and classical with a punk edge makes them appeal to the masses.
Key Tracks: Keep the Car Running, [anti-Christ television blues]
4. The Fratellis - Costello Music
The most happy-go-lucky record to have been released this year. A throwback to garage rock and early punk, Scotland's The Fratellis have made their mark as the most fun you will have listening to anything in 2007. They may be best known for their Ipod comerical, but there is so much more from Costello Music that will have you jumping and jiving. If this record does not make you want to get up throw your arms and the air and let loose, you better check your pulse and make sure you are still alive.
Key Tracks: Flathead, Ole Black 'n Blue Eyes
3. Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City
I can not seem to understand how many people managed to tear this record apart and say very bad things about it. A Weekend in the City is a much more polished and mature record from one my favorite British Bands, it is the same as Silent Alarm but different. Bloc Party may have grown up and are looking for a more danceable approach to their style, but that does not mean it is bad. Combining lyrics about sex and drug use and caffeine micro beats, mixed with infectious grooves in the sound, it is a album with many layers and complexities. Yet, the most fascinating thing about this record is its universal appeal. It is through an through a European influenced album that can be taken anywhere. No matter where you wish to travel whether it is Munich, London or even my stomping ground of New York City, A Weekend in the City is the soundtrack to your escape.
Key Tracks: Uniform, On
2. Bjork - Volta
I am going to vent my frustration again, sorry to do this two albums in a row, but I need to get it off my chest. I hate it when people refuse to listen to Bjork because she is "weird, crazy or different." She is music for the open minded and maybe far too advanced for certain brainwaves to understand, but for me she is just perfect. Indeed, she may have put out some very experimental records like 2004's Medulla, a all A Capella record, that many may just not have been ready for. However, Volta is her way of reaching the top of her mainstream again. Teaming up with 2007's hottest producer Timbaland, she has combined electro, trance, African drum and rock in one of her most eclectic and prolific albums in years. Volta is a must own, even if you are a fan or not, there is certainly something for everyone on this.
Key Tracks: Wanderlust, Declare Independence
1. Radiohead - In Rainbows
Maybe it is because they told EMI to fuck off, maybe it is because they realize the golden age of album collecting maybe coming to an end and we need to adapt, maybe it is because they are musical geniuses. Whatever it is, Radiohead are always ahead of their time and are always willing to take chances. In Rainbows is no exception, announcing on their website just a week before they intended to release the new material, Radiohead told fans "pay whatever you want," and even do whatever you want with it. Granted an established band like so has the ability to do so, but the fact they did it is just very cool. Much respect to this band and this record, and it sums up the year perfectly. 2007 will be remembered in music (or at least in my eyes) as a very globally influenced year and it proves that music is still our strongest form of communication.
Key Tracks: 15th Step, Weird Fishes / Arpeggi
So that is it, a musical look back at the year that was. Thanks for reading and sticking with it. I promise I will not be posted long articles like this for a bit.