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Jim DeRo's Top 10 Albums of 2007

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I was going to publish my list of the 50 Best Albums of the Year in reverse order spread out over the course of this week, starting with 50 to 40, and building to the Top 10, since the latter won't appear in print until Sunday. Then I realized that I already talked about seven of these 10 albums on "Sound Opinions" last weekend, so why should I make you wait?

Look for 11 to 20 tomorrow, 21 to 30 on Wednesday, and so on. Hit the links to read my reviews as they appeared in the paper throughout the year -- and feel free to share your own lists, too.

1. Grinderman, “Grinderman” (Anti-)

Though he is now a published poet, novelist and dignified elder statesman, Nick Cave originally drew equal inspiration from the raunchiest blues and the most chaotic noise-rock. With his new side project, the 50-year-old artist weathered a mid-life crisis by reconnecting with those primal, abrasive and purely sexual sounds, producing some of the best “I Can’t Get No” songs since the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.”

2. Glenn Mercer, “Wheels in Motion” (Pravda)

It’s been nearly two decades since New Jersey cult legends the Feelies disbanded, but their influence continues to loom large on groups such as the Strokes, Arcade Fire and Yo La Tengo. This year, the Feelies’ co-founder, lead guitarist and vocalist released his first solo album, and it was as hypnotic and melodically infectious as his old band at its best.

3. Tim Fite, “Over the Counter Culture” (www.timfite.com) (Second review)

Based in Brooklyn, Fite has been a novelty rapper and a postmodern, Beck-like acoustic bluesman. Here, he combined both approaches for a searing indictment of rampant consumerism, charging that the result of our fascination with bling has been a nation blindly led to war. Befitting the topic, the album is available only as a free download; visit his Web site and check it out for yourself.

4. Modest Mouse, “We Were Dead before the Ship Even Sank” (Epic)

Isaac Brock, leader of Washington state’s long-running alternative-rockers Modest Mouse, linked up with legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and channeled Captain Ahab on a strong collection of skewed pop songs rife with watery imagery and charting a mad quest for, if not a great white whale, then some unattainable goal nearly as mythic.

5. Kanye West, “Graduation” (Roc-A-Fella)

On his third album, one of the most successful rappers and producers today continued to trace his journey from Chicago’s South Side to worldwide stardom, examining his sometimes obnoxious public persona with brutal honesty and self-effacing humor over another startlingly creative musical backing displaying a newfound fascination with electronica.

6. LCD Soundsystem, “Sound of Silver” (DFA/EMI)
(Second review)

Less immediate but no less rewarding than last year’s debut, the second album from the dance-rock band led by Brooklyn producer James Murphy continued the deft plundering of cult-favorite sounds and riffs (Kraftwerk! David Bowie! Pink Floyd!). But songs such as “North American Scum” and “New York I Love You” are so strong, you don’t have to know any of those references to love them.

7. Spoon, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” (Merge)

On their sixth album, the Austin-based art-punks expanded their basic sound -- stripped-down, propulsive rhythms punctuated by jagged, insistent keyboards and impressionistic observations of the modern world -- to incorporate some kicking Motown-like horns, making the always smart hooks all the more irresistible.

8. The Apples in Stereo, “New Magnetic Wonder” (Simian/Yep Roc)

These psychedelic rockers returned after a long silence with their strongest album yet -- a set of joyful, exuberant guitar pop that holds it own in comparison to the best by their heroes the Beach Boys, the Beatles and Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd.

9. Radiohead, “In Rainbows” (www.radiohead.com)

The second album on this list to be released as a free download -- Music Industry, are you paying attention? -- the latest from these British art-rockers was just as noteworthy for the subtle but effective change in Thom Yorke’s vocals and a mix that found the perfect middle ground between stadium bombast and avant-garde experimentation.

10. Air, “Pocket Symphony” (Astralwerks)

This French electronic duo makes ambient music you can hum along with, and here they gave us an album that unfolds like a great soundtrack, slowly building suspense and an atmosphere of dread with a seamless mix of synthesizers and classical Japanese instruments.

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8 Comments

Welcome to the club! Blogs, that is. Glad to see something as random (unfortunately) as the Glen Mercer in your top ten. I went to school in Jersey in the 80's so seeing Yo La Tengo, Poi Dog Pondering, The Fleshtones, Galaxie 500 and The Feelies at Maxwells in Hoboken was my indie-rock rite of passage.

Btw if you like to reminisce there's an album out this year by former Dumptruck frontman Seth Tiven that rivals the Glen Mercer.

http://www.songsillinois.net/?p=2940

Since I pretty much LIVED at Maxwell's from 1983 (I was only 18, but Steve Fallon got away with letting me sneak in because the club was attached to a restaurant) through 1991, when I moved out of Hoboken, I'm certain we were at some of the same shows.

And I've heard Seth's album. I think you've found the first serious omission from my list, since it should be somewhere in the Top 30 for sure. I just forgot about it; doh!

You make a list and a million people will write you to say "How can you forget _____ for the top 50 albums of the year!" So, on that note, here's my entry. How could you leave Kings of Leon "Because of the Times" off your list? Really solid effort from first song to last. But, opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one.

thanks to you for turning me onto GRINDERMAN....i watched a clip of them on youtube from 'later with jools holland', wow is that some great stuff! i enjoyed the best lp's of the year podcast a great deal.

Hey Jim.

Finally got around to checking out Tim Fite's "Over The Counter Culture," from your recommendation on the Sound Opinions Podcast. Thanks for the tip. Just brilliant stuff. Nice to finally have an American hip-hop artist who's recording something worth hearing. I'd pretty much given up on American hip-hop for all the reasons you and Greg Kot outlined. It's just seems blinged and gansta'ed out.
More interesting has been the English grime scene -- Dizzee Rascal's put out some of my favorite records of the last few years. Ditto for Mike Skinner of The Streets, though he seemed to have lost the plot on "The Hardest Way to Make An Easy Living."

Since one good tip deserves another, I'd point you in the direction singer/songwriter Kate Nash. She's sort of a Lily Allen protege. But her record "Made of Bricks," was one of my favorites of the back half of 2007. She's Allen minus the ska, but plus the kinda New Rave-y attitude. Very good stuff. Especially the single, "Foundations."

A final thought: I've been surprised that you and Greg haven't discussed the rise of MP3 blogs such as Fluxblog or Music For Robots. Surely, that's file-sharing on a mass scale. But oddly, the RIAA and their cronies haven't started firehosing lawsuits onto them. Could it be because the 'blogs, with their millions of page views, are just too valuable a free promotional tool for them to shut down? Hmmm ...

Anyway, enough out of me.
Digging the heck out of "Sound Opinions." The week wouldn't be complete without it.

All best for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

John Micek
The Allentown Morning Call
State Capitol Bureau
Harrisburg, PA.

What about Sinead O'Connor's "Theology"? Otherwise, the list seems
pretty good.

Sinead made No. 19 on my Top 50 list -- keep reading! (And thanks for caring enough to write.)

I would have to say it was a relatively weak year in music when works like MIA, Battles(short lived gimmick)and weaker outings by Arcade Fire & New Pornographers made many critics top-10 lists.

PS- What about Fragile Army (Polyphonic Spree)? No Mention?

Tony Anello
Bartlett, IL

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on December 17, 2007 10:21 AM.

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