Dec. 18, 2007 — -- Wrap up the year and your holiday shopping with Allan Raible's list of the Top 50 albums of 2007. From rock to hip-hop and electronic to pop, there's something here for every music lover.
1. PETER BJORN & JOHN — "Writer's Block"
Three Swedish musicians play around with a standard rock trio setup of guitar, bass and drums, adding slight electro elements, some shoegaze guitar swirls, nods to garage rock and er … whistling! PB&J have a '60s vibe mixed with touches borrowed from '80s and '90s alt rock. "Up Against The Wall" sounds like New Order and the Jesus and Mary Chain in a fight for supremacy, while "Let's Call It Off" sounds like something off an original "Nuggets" compilation. The most famous track here is "Young Folks," a duet with former Concretes singer Victoria Bergsman. "Writer's Block" originally came out in Europe in 2006. It didn't arrive on U.S. shores until February 2007. It was worth the wait.
"Up Against the Wall"
"Let's Call It Off"
"The Objects of My Affection"
2. SPOON — "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga"
If you haven't been listening to Spoon, you should be. These Austin, Texas, natives have consistently been making great records for the last decade, and have made a solid string of classics since their 2001 album, "Girls Can Tell." On "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" all the elements are there — the minimalist, bare-bones chording, the cool rhythmic swagger, the sonic experimentation, and Britt Daniel's world-weary snarl. Nods to '60s pop and its back-to-basics feel make it particularly timeless. This is a record that will hold up well over time. NOTE: The initial pressing of "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" comes packaged with "Get Nice," a 12-track, 22-minute disc of highly experimental demos.
"You Got Yr Cherry Bomb"
"Don't You Evah"
"Don't Make Me a Target"
"The Ghost of You Lingers"
3. RADIOHEAD — "In Rainbows"
Here is the album that attempted to throw the conventional music industry on its ear. It's not available in hard copy until New Year's Day, but was available exclusively on Radiohead's Web site for two months using a highly daring "pay-what-you-want" approach. That sales tactic may have brought out the cheapskates but the album is worth a great deal. It's a highly percussive affair and less cryptic than a lot of the band's other recent work. It's an effective cross between their rock-edged material and their more experimental electro outings.
"Jigsaw Falling Into Place"
"All I Need"
"House of Cards"
4. M.I.A. — "Kala"
M.I.A. is a politically charged Sri Lankan-British rapper who uses cutting edge electronic backdrops to tell her stories about the plight of people often ignored by the West. She delivers her lines with a punk attitude and has a tendency to quote and sample from the likes of the Pixies, the Clash and the Modern Lovers. This can only widen her appeal among certain forward-thinking rock, hip-hop and electronic fans. This is not a record for everybody since her choice of subject matter is often gritty, but she definitely proves to be an original, besting her much respected 2005 debut, "Arular." It's like a cross between Boogie Down Productions, Bjork, and the Slits with an Eastern twist. At times, it's a challenging listen, but once you can get into it, it all becomes highly worth it.
"Mango Pickle Down River"
5. SHOUT OUT LOUDS — "Our Ill Wills"
Like many cool records coming out of Sweden these days, Shout Out Louds' second album, "Our Ill Wills," was produced by Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John. It's a lush, highly expansive sounding, extremely orchestral record full of emotion and beauty. Lead singer Adam Olenius sounds a lot more like Robert Smith of the Cure than he did on the band's debut. The nice orchestration recalls gentler indie-rock bands like Camera Obscura and Belle & Sebastian, while at the same time there seems to be a hint of Spector-esque "Wall of Sound" influence. The string sections can be monumental. This makes tracks like "Tonight I Have to Leave It" seem huge. It also makes for an appealing record, jam-packed with hooky melodies and heartbreak. Quite simply, it's a beautiful, nostalgic, romantically driven record.
"Tonight I Have to Leave It"
6. THE GO! TEAM — "Proof of Youth"
The Go! Team is very hard to classify. Old-school hip-hop MCs and solid break-beats collide with washes of rock guitar, cheerleader chants and fuzzy sounding music that recalls both "School House Rock" and the campiest of Vince Guaraldi's score work for "Peanuts." "Proof of Youth" is their second album, and it continues and betters the formula used on their debut "Thunder, Lightening, Strike" It is much more confident than that record was, and its bold eclecticism creates a striking concoction destined to be the soundtrack to many hip parties. They must be doing something right. They got Chuck D from Public Enemy to guest on "Flashlight Fight." Try to track down the edition with the bonus disc so you can hear the song "Milk Crisis."
"Grip Like a Vice"
"Doing It Right"
"The Wrath of Marcie"
"Patricia's Moving Picture"
7. LAURA VEIRS — "Saltbreakers"
Laura Veirs is a mild mannered singer-songwriter with a fascination with geological elements and "Saltbreakers" is the career triumph she's been long due. Sure, not many people have heard it, but many people should. "Pink Light" will catch your ear with its main guitar riff, and haunt you all day. In fact Veirs' songs often rely on haunting, sparse backdrops, while she delivers her lyrics in a gloriously deadpan way. There are moments of levity, like the upbeat title track, but mostly these are sweet, lovelorn odes of self-reflection.
Favorite Tracks: "Pink Light"
"Don't Lose Yourself"
"Cast A Hook In Me"