Sunday, January 13, 2008

Top Albums of 2007

Once again, it was crowded at the top. However, 2007 was deep. While 2006 offered one truly great album and a few other good ones, 2007 yielded great album after great album. It was almost impossible to choose between the top two albums. And the next two, and so on. Eventually, you are left with a whole lot of really kickass albums.

Actually ranking the albums is honestly sort of a disservice to music. I’ll admit it accomplishes nothing, it’s totally subjective, and by no means comprehensive. However, it does foster some fun discussion.

When we rank albums as Dear Mr. Supercomputer, we ask two questions:

1) How creative is the album?

2) Will we be listening to it in five years?

So basically to rank high you need to be innovative and have longevity. While it’s tough to project the staying power of an album over the course of several years, it’s easy to get an idea of how much one enjoys an album by answering this question:

Corollary to question 2: How much we listen to it this year?

It seems like a banal question, but more often than not, it works. Those are the two/three driving questions that spur these rankings. If you disagree, well, of course you’ll disagree. If you don’t then either it’s an extreme coincidence or you’re easily convinced.

Enjoy!

  1. Neon Bible, The Arcade Fire

“But wait,” you say, “it’s not even their best album!” I don’t disagree with that statement, although it’s hardly a universally accepted sentiment. In fact, you have to really ponder at length if Neon Bible is better or worse than Funeral. And while I agree with the latter, the fact you can even have that debate shows you how great the album truly is.

It’s like picking the greatest baseball team of all time. You can debate between the ’27 Yankees or the 75’ Reds and develop well-reasoned, salient points. But the larger, undeniable fact is that those are two of the greatest baseball teams of all time. It’s not so important that one is better than the other.

And so it is with Neon Bible and the shadow of Funeral that it will undoubtedly always have to reside in. And as silly as it is to compare two baseball teams separated by almost 50 years, so too it is silly to compare two albums so awesome and declare that one is unilaterally better than the other.

If Funeral was by far the best album of 2004 and Neon Bible is pretty damn close in quality (if not better), then doesn’t it stand to reason that it should be up there in the rankings?

As for the top spot, well, that’s a personal choice. As I stated earlier, the two questions that each album must answer relate to creativity and longevity. Neon Bible scores perfect 10’s on both metrics. It charts new territory matched only by the Arcade Fire’s dazzling live performances. The sound of Neon Bible is 100% original and heretofore, unmatched in creativity. As for longevity, it’s tough to say that there’s any album I’ll be spinning as much in five years. Even now I already play it much more than any other album on this list and it’s been out for quite a while now. And it isn’t even getting close to tired. In fact, it’s getting better with each passing listen.

I’ll admit that the #1 slot isn’t as clear cut as in years past. But it’s entirely a factor of the outstanding quality at the #2 spot, not at all an implication of the greatness of Neon Bible.

  1. Boxer, The National

I strongly considered making Boxer #1B, but that would be totally pussing out. The truth is though, this is a great album that doesn’t contain a weak track. Quite the contrary, it’s difficult to even find a below average track. And the opener, “Fake Empire” will go down as one of the Songs of 2007 in the same way that Midlake’s “Roscoe,” Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” and TV on the Radio’s “Wolf Like Me” recall 2006.

I had the pleasure of seeing both of the top two album’s bands on the same day in the same order as they are on this list. Both were my favorite performances of the year and both are my favorite albums of the year.

  1. Marry Me, St. Vincent

In 2006, we “lost” Regina Spektor. In 2007, we “lost” Leslie Feist. Enter St. Vincent.

Now, when I say “lost” I don’t mean “they sold out” or anything like that. It’s just hard to imagine Regina or Leslie going back to where they were before they released their respective albums. Regina’s sailor-swearing and rawness of her debut album was replaced by the polish of her Sophomore effort and garnered her huge critical and financial success, and deservedly so. It’s hard to imagine Leslie Feist going back to showing up on Morning Becomes Eclectic unshowered, hair unkempt, sporting a gray hoodie-sweatshirt or making out with Peaches on stage. The iPod people wouldn’t allow it.

Now I love both of the albums that led to Spektor’s and Feist’s meteoric rise. And despite Mrs. Supercomputer’s continued assertions, it’s not “you don’t like them because their popular.” Rather, it’s just something fierce, raw, and independent, which you loved about an artist, can be lost when you rise that far that fast.

Anyway, the “loss” of Spektor and Feist is tempered by the arrival of the young Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent. She’s all those things Spektor and Feist were: fierce, raw, and independent, only much, much more so. And even better: she totally shreds on guitar.

Marry Me is great in and of itself. But it also gets bonus points for being an incredibly promising first album. While dark and treacherous with “Paris is Burning” and “The Apocalypse Song,” Clark still manages to charm the ever-loving daylights with the title track and “Crawling Through Landmines.”

And while we’ve blogged before about St. Vincent’s brilliance, it warrants another mention: Annie Clark will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

  1. In Rainbows, Radiohead

Here’s a case of the story of the album being bigger than the album itself. While a fantastic album, much of the talk of the album is not the content, but the method of distribution: choose your own price. Surely this is an groundbreaking, if semi-successful, method of releasing an album, but let’s not forget how innovative In Rainbows is on its own.

I think most people agree it’s their best effort since the revolutionary Kid A. That alone ensures its place on the top 10 list. Beyond that, In Rainbows contains a myriad of solid tracks.

  1. Friend and Foe, Menomena

“Wet and Rusting” is another one of those Songs of 2007. And the long touted video of the year.

  1. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon
  2. Wincing the Night Away, The Shins
  3. Sky Blue Sky, Wilco
  4. Drums and Guns, Low
  5. Hello, Avalanche, The Octopus Project

4 comments:

Ash said...

Good list. The St. Vincent pick above In Rainbows is a bold statement. But would we expect anything less from DMS? Of course not.

Now that the unveiling is occurred, it's time to get back to some basics. Baseball. Steroids. Congressional hearings. Selig. Mitchell. McNamee. Clemens. The Petitte factor. 5th Amendment. I need a good hearty post on the above. The dearth of any good information on this topic from DMS is shocking. Little Jude can spend a little more time with mama this week. (I love you Steph! :o)

Adam said...

So true Ash. How do we know what to make of this crazy world unless DMS helps us through?

Adam said...

By the way, I actually have four of the albums you listed. I'm having some trouble getting into St. Vincent and The National. I'll keep listening though. I like. I just don't love yet. As I've said elsewhere, Neon Bible and In Rainbows are my favorites of the year (in that order).

Also, I'm one who thinks NB is better than Funeral. I can only say that after having listened to it 30 times. For the first 15 listens, I thought Funeral was better. And I better say that I am talking about the quality of each album as a whole. I do think Funeral has some better individual tracks than NB.

gk said...

I agree. We'll get things back to normal around here starting tonight.