Josdigital’s favorite albums of 2007

Lists, charts, statistics. It’s that time again where we look upon the past year and reminisce about whatever makes us ‘flourish’, if you will. As a “music blogger first” and a member of the so called blogosphere, I kinda have to do what all bloggers do and make myself a “Years best” list . I don’t really think of it as a “best of” list. Music still is an art form and can’t be judged by the way it’s crafted, only the way you experience it.
I put a lot of thought in my top ten and I’m surprised to see so many electronic albums, unwillingly that is, because I thought I was revisiting the indie rock scene this year.
So, without further ado, here are my favorite albums of 2007.

1. Amon Tobin – Foley Room
I really didn’t know what to expect when I heard that Foley Room, as the name refers to, would be created entirely with organic and everyday sounds recorded with a high sensitivity mic. But after watching the promo trailers (1&2) and the crazy site with unlockable videos, I had my hopes up. And Amon delivered a dark captivating sound on a truly magnificent concept record. He is my kind of genius.

2. El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
Another dark album with some surprising cameos like The Mars Volta and Trent Reznor. El-p comes harder than ever, yet less aggressive and more thought out lyrics than his previous. It isn’t quite hip-hop and it isn’t quite rock, I do know that it’s sample based experimental production with a lot of influences and dedication, crafted by a revolutionary beat smith.

3. Kanye West – Graduation
Calling himself the “Louis Vuitton Don” and putting the “Christian in Christian Dior”, Kanye might be egocentric and maybe a little arrogant, but that’s what makes him the way he is. He goes with style and class as the hot topics to talk about. Some would call it pop more than hip-hop, but his rhymes are tight, his punchlines are well thought out and his production is on another level. Graduation is well worth being the best selling hip-hop album of the year and Kanye succeeded in making his “Stadium Status” with a solid record which people will be talking about for years after.

4. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
I really don’t know how to describe James Murphy’s music other than electronic danceable funk rock with an emotional complexity to it. For adults, cause he talks about getting older and the evolution in music and the social side of it. LCD’s second full length is as consistent as possible, every track is every bit as funky, rhythmic and melodic as the next one, all working upwards to a climax, sending shivers down your spine. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of this album and it always puts me in a good mood after a stressful day.

5. Caribou – Andorra
Through the years Dan Snaith strongly evolved in musical styles from his Four Tet like glitch-electronica with Manitoba to this 60’s psychedelic electro-pop with Andorra.
As a longtime fan of Caribou/Manitoba I can say that Andorra might be his best work yet. His tightly structured multi-layered electro-pop songs have established him as a great singer/songwriter with an eccentric warm breathy voice.
Definitely a killer album you shouldn’t miss.

6. Arcade fire – Neon Bible
It’s hard to follow up an outstanding album like Funeral. Neon Bible doesn’t sound as powerful and symphonic than its predecessor, but the transition to a more smooth and graceful work intensifies our listening experience with a more recognizable slow and shapely build up and fall away.

7. Radiohead – In Rainbows
It was a long wait, the name-your-price download on their website made them more popular than ever (and more sales then ever). Despite all the media attention and the fact that everyone compares it to OK Computer, In Rainbows isn’t as experimental and progressive as its predecessors, what they are otherwise known for. That might be due to the fact that Thom Yorke launched his solo career in 2006 with The Eraser and got all his electronic vibes and influences out of him. Radiohead does however bring a strikingly cohesive collection of “gorgeous ethereal ballads” and some darker rhythmic rock songs, which probably makes the album their most accessible yet.

8. Clint Mansell – The Fountain OST
I thought the movie was brilliant, inspiring and timeless, which had partially to do with this amazing score. Composed together with the Kronos Quartet (did a track on Foley Room) and Mogwai, the score is a perfect resemble to what Aranofski is trying to show us. I heard someone say on that the film is like a “moving piece of art”, the soundtrack is like “visual poetry” and you know what, I feel it too. It’s a symphonic post-rock ensemble that delivers such a captivating experience that it makes you think about life and death all over again.

9. The Cinematic Orchestra – Ma Fleur
The Cinematic Orchestra‘s Jason Swinscoe brings us another sample of contemporary classical music with a jazzy downtempo vibe, reportedly as the soundtrack to a movie that may never be made, which sets our imagination free to roam. The album opens with an all too beautiful “To Build a Home” where Canadian Patrick Watson sings with his warm breathy voice about the feeling and the longing for a place like home. To me this is the only song that doesn’t feel like classic Cinematic Orchestra repertoire, other than that it’s expected, maybe a little too safe, but no doubt another sensual melodious package with taste, style and rhythm from UK’s finest.

10. M.I.A – Kala
Despite of Maya Arulpragasam‘s political somewhat insightful criticism in her lyrics, Sri Lanka’s most verbose and colorful emcee brings her sophomore record with more daring intuitive compositions than her previous, a nice exotic feel and whole lot of attitude. Get your eardrums cleansed, cause Kala hits hard, original and stylish.

11. Simian Mobile Disco – Attack Decay Sustain Release
I would say SMD is the friendlier, more accessible version of Justice or Digitalism. They use analog machinery for a rougher sound and pump out intensely uplifting music with a more joyous feel which is great for those long trips in the car.

12. Múm – Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy
Icelandic musical group, Múm, brings us another set of chaotic and unpredictable, yet melodic style of experimental electronica.

13. Architecture in Helsinki – Places like this
Although I like their previous album In Case We Die more, Places Like This delivers more song structure and a wider range of influences, without diverting too much of their original sound and joyous approach to making music. Psychedelic, danceable and rich easy listening melodies crafted by talented multi-instrumentalists, what more do you want.

14. Modeselektor – Happy Birthday!
You can’t really post a genre sticker on their music other than electronic, some call it “bassbin-blowing techno hop dubstep core”. But whatever it is, Berlin techno-heads Gernot and Sebastian fuse together the most unfashionable or discarded elements of electronic music.

15. Justice – Cross
I think of “†” more as a concept album than others, mainly because it’s a mixed album and the fact that it sets a certain mood which progresses throughout the album. Maybe that’s why only D.A.N.C.E. became so popular, nonetheless Justice received a well deserved appreciation for bringing aggressive electro-house to the masses. Thank you, and more will follow.

16. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup
Some would pass on Beirut by their distinctive Balkan-influenced Eastern-European sound, but there’s no doubt about it that mastermind and frontman, Zach Condon, is a musical marvel. He created a very beautiful, sometimes tedious follow-up, but definitely not as legendary as Gulag Orkestar.

17. Common – Finding Forever
Common always delivers, once again he shows us that there’s more to (mainstream) hiphop than cars and money (and ego). Production is decent, catchy, smooth and rhymes are clever, intuitive and intelligent.

18. Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid – Tongues
Hebden’s epileptic kicks and electronic samples sound very well next to Reid’s laid-back drums. While some people might rate this very low for the lack of song structure, I applaud that thought, cause it’s not meant to be that kind of record. It’s more of an improvisational experiment and I think they’re just trying to show off their skills and let us know how great they work together.

19. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
I didn’t feel it as much as Everything All The Time, but nonetheless a solid indie rock album with a couple stand outs like Island on the Coast and Is There A Ghost.

20. Bloc Party – Weekend in the City
I, for one, welcomed their more experimental electronic approach with the new album. I really liked the album on the first few listens, but their sound became a little stale and corny. Could be me, but I hardly ever listen to it anymore except for The Prayer which is a great song.

This is where I stop numbering:

- Prefuse 73 – Preparations

- Digitalism – Idealism

- The Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam

- Bumps – Bumps

- The Field – From Here We Go Sublime

- Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full

- 65daysofstatic – The Destruction of Small Ideas

- Air – Pocket Symphony

- Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass

- Black Milk – Popular Demand

Albums I’ve either missed or haven’t listened to (yet):

  • Battles – Mirrored
  • Burial – Untrue
  • Cunninlynguists – Dirty Acres
  • Panda Bear – Person Pitch
  • Daft Punk – Alive 2007
  • Jay-Z – American Gangster
  • Percee P – Perseverance
  • Apparat – Walls
  • Pharoahe Monch – Desire
  • Menomena – Friend and Foe
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg – 5:55
  • Brother Ali – The Undisputed Truth
  • Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
  • The New Pornographers – Challengers
  • Bjork – Volta
  • Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
  • Wu-Tang Clan – 8 Diagrams

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