The Top 50 Albums of 2007

Radiohead, Spoon, M.I.A. and PB&J top the list of best albums of the year.


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.

Favorite Tracks:

"Up Against the Wall"

"Let's Call It Off"

"The Chills"

"Young Folks"

"The Objects of My Affection"

"Paris 2004"

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.

Favorite Tracks:

"The Underdog"

"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.

Favorite Tracks:

"15 Step"

"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.

Favorite Tracks:


"Paper Planes"

"Bamboo Banga"

"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.

Favorite Tracks:

"Tonight I Have to Leave It"

"Suit Yourself"


"Parent's Livingroom"


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."

Favorite Tracks:

"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"

"Phantom Mountain"

"Cast A Hook In Me"


8. LILY ALLEN ? "Alright Still"

Released in the United States in January, Lily Allen's "Alright Still" is proof that there are pop albums that hipsters can like. With producer Mark Ronson by her side, Allen sings reggae and R&B infused songs packed with attitude. Her level of sass and use of humor are very distinctive, whether she's singing about an upset ex-boyfriend ("Smile"), describing a London street scene ( "LDN") or singing about her underachieving brother ("Alfie"), the wit and delivery are all her own. You want to hear what she has to say, and yet at the same time, you know that you'd never want to cross her. Her voice is often sweet, but her lyrics are often pointed and unforgiving. She seems like she might be a troublemaker, but that's part of the fun. Her intelligence and her attitude make her stand out in the field of vacant pop-stars, which makes her seem all the more authentic.

Favorite Tracks:



"Littlest Things"

"Take What You Take"

"Knock 'Em Out"

9. ELENI MANDELL — "Miracle of Five"

Eleni Mandell is a Los Angeles-based acoustic guitar-strumming chanteuse. She's the kind of singer you might find singing at any urban nightspot. You can listen to her soft, descriptive songs and just imagine her dressed in black, with the spotlight on her in a smoky bar. "Miracle Of Five" is her sixth album in eight years. It's also her most straightforward. The payout is huge. Her songs are full of characters and scenery, whether it is the snowy descriptions in "Salt Truck" or when she's singing "I can't be seen kissing the make-out king." There's a humorously reflective quality to these songs. At times she comes off like a less snarky Nellie McKay. "Girls" is a career high. On the deceptively simple track, she asks "Do you still cry about girls you wanted?" and with that she opens a floodgate of nostalgia for anyone who has ever lost love. Similarly "My Twin" is a disturbing bluesy death song, and "Moonglow, Lamp Low" is a song meant for lovers. Altogether, this is a disc that should really find more of an audience.

Favorite Tracks:


"Make-Out King"

"Salt Truck"

"Moonglow, Lamplow"

"My Twin"

"Miss Me"

10. YEAH YEAH YEAHS — "Is Is" (EP)

Yes, it's only five songs. Yes, it's less than 20 minutes long, but it's worthy. All five songs are single-worthy. The band sounds bold and focused.. Brian Chase wallops his drum kit, Nick Zinner unleashes unpredictable guitar attacks, and Karen O squeals and yells with authority. You can feel the whole band fighting to climb out of your earphones and into your ears. It is loud and powerful. For a few minutes, we all know rock and roll is safe!

Favorite Tracks:

"Down Boy"

"Rockers to Swallow"

"Kiss Kiss"

11. P.J. HARVEY — "White Chalk"

On "White Chalk" Harvey trades up the guitar for the piano to make a striking, sad, quietly haunting record. See the blog archives for a complete, in depth review.

Favorite Tracks:

"When Under Ether"

"White Chalk"

"The Devil"

"Dear Darkness"

12. MARK RONSON — "Version"

Four years ago, Mark Ronson was a party DJ playing celebrity gigs. This was the Ronson who released "Here Comes the Fuzz," a competent hip-hop mash-up full of celebrity cameos ranging from Rivers Cuomo to Q-Tip, to Ghostface Killah, to Sean Paul. What a difference time makes. While that was a decent record, "Version" is a great one. Now a powerhouse producer working with Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse, Ronson switched up his sound a couple of years ago when he was asked to do a track for a Radiohead tribute. He enlisted Phantom Planet's Alex Greenwald and the Dap-Tone Horns to create a funky cover of "Just." It came out so well, Ronson decided to turn the whole concept into an album. He covered mostly British songs, often substituting the guitar parts with horn parts and enlisting vocalists to participate. He we get an instrumental upbeat take on Coldplay's "God Put A Smile Upon Your Face," Lily Allen singing the Kasier Chiefs' "Oh My God," Amy Winehouse singing a lung-busting version of the Zutons' "Valerie," Kenna reworking Ryan Adams' "Amy," a strange but interesting cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic" featuring of all things, a posthumous verse from the "Ol' Dirty Bastard, remixes of songs by Kasabian and Maximo Park among others. It's a great party record and a great listen. Too bad it doesn't include Ronson's recent remix of Bob Dylan's "Most Likely To Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine.)" Behold the new maestro.

Favorite Tracks:

"Oh My God" (with Lily Allen)

"Valerie" (with Amy Winehouse)

"Amy" (with Kenna)

"L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)" (with Kasabian)

"God Put A Smile Upon Your Face"

13. NINE INCH NAILS — "Year Zero"

The most striking thing about "Year Zero" is that it is one of Nine Inch Nails' best records. Not only that, a lot of the beat-work makes it seem like Trent Reznor must be listening to some old hip-hop. Tracks like "The Warning" and "Vessel," are some of the greatest breakdance ready tracks recorded in the last ten years. (Yes, you read that right!) After the highly enjoyable "With Teeth" two years ago, this has proven to be a fruitful rebirth for Reznor considering his long periods of dormancy. Nearly 20 years after "Pretty Hate Machine," that's pretty remarkable. Sure, there is more standard NIN fare on here, like "Capital G." and "Survivalism," but the radically trippy tracks are the major feast. "Year Zero" is a concept album of apocalyptic proportions, but Reznor has never sounded more alive. The album's thesis isn't self-loathing like earlier work like "The Downward Spiral." The concerns are more global is scope, with thinly veiled references to war and our current political climate. It is violent and messy and bothersome. ." If the end is nigh, it's good that Trent Reznor has given us something to dance to until it comes. I'll meet you after school. I'll bring the boombox, you bring the cardboard for headspins!

Also recommended is the separately sold remix album, "Y34RZ3ROR3MIX3D."

Favorite Tracks:

"The Warning"


"The Good Soldier"

"My Violent Heart"

14. COMMON — "Finding Forever"

It was a shockingly underwhelming year for hip-hop unfortunately. Common however released "Finding Forever," The king of "consciousness rap" schools us on body image and materialism on "Drivin' Me Wild," racial inequality and injustice in the hood on "U, Black Maybe," and just about everything else on "Forever Begins." He throws in an old-school battle-rap on "The Game," and a nice dose of smooth-loving on "I Want You." Ultimately it seems like Common wants to be hip-hop's answer to Marvin Gaye circa "What's Going On?" and he is pretty close. Upset with what he sees, he's the dude standing in the back rushing toward the front, ready to grab the mic and tell us about all the social ills. It can get occasionally heavy handed, and he falls off his mark once or twice, but ultimately, "Finding Forever" is a dynamic, jazzy ride.

Favorite Tracks:

"The Game" (with DJ Premier)

"Drivin' Me Wild" (with Lily Allen)

"So Far To Go" (with D'Angelo)

"Forever Begins"

"The People"

15. K.T. TUNSTALL — "Drastic Fantastic"

The Scottish singer's second studio album is just as appealing as her first, showcasing her strong talent as a songwriter and a musician. See the blog archives for a complete, in depth review.

Favorite Tracks:

"Saving My Face"


"If Only"

"Beauty and Uncertainty"

"I Don't Want You Now"

"Hold On"

16. MAXIMO PARK — "Our Earthly Pleasures"

You should know Maximo Park. Odds are that you don't. They are a highly successful band from the UK (in the vein of the Kaiser Chiefs, the Futureheads or Franz Ferdinand) but here they are only a little blip. "Our Earthly Pleasures" is less flinch-happy and jumpy than its predecessor, "A Certain Trigger," but no less intense. Highlights include "Our Velocity," a Devo-like rocker compounded with a powerful guitar wall, and "Books From Boxes," one of the most sensitive and intelligent breakup songs recorded in recent years. These songs both should be hits here.

Favorite Tracks:

"Books From Boxes"

"Our Velocity"

"Kereoke Plays"

"Girls Who Play Guitars"

"The Unshockable"

17. RILO KILEY — "Under The Blacklight"

This album is as seedy as its title would have you believe. It is one of the most sexually-charged (yet never really filthy) records of the year, full of unglamorous looks at club-life and the pitfalls of Hollywood. The sultry bounce of "The Moneymaker" sounds so skeezy, but Jenny Lewis works with care to make sure these stories of depressive down-and-out protagonists are vivid and enjoyable. It's a smart, surprisingly dark record that holds up from listen to listen. Lewis' voice keeps getting stronger, whether she's singing a funky dance tune, or dishing out a slice of alt-country.

Favorite Tracks:

"Under The Blacklight"

"Close Call"

"Smoke Detector"

"The Moneymaker"

"The Angels Hung Around"

18. ALBERT HAMMOND JR. — "Yours to Keep"

This is another January release which hit Europe last year. The Strokes' guitarist goes out on his own and delivers an album just as enjoyable as "Is This It." He proves he can sing as well if not better than Julian Casablancas, and that he's a strong songwriter in his own right. Of course, songwriting is in his genes. His father, Albert Hammond, was known for his hit song "It Never Rains In Southern California."

Favorite Tracks:



"In Transit"

"Bright Young Thing"

"Everyone Gets a Star"

19. AMY WINEHOUSE — "Back to Black"

I'm guessing you've heard "Rehab" or "You Know I'm No Good," so I probably don't have to tell you much. With producer Mark Ronson by her side, this young, brash Brit has brought forth her unique brand of soul. If Shirley Bassey had been signed to Motown, it might have sounded close to this. She's a great talent who hopefully will get her act together and be around for a long time. Finally, something for those of us who wished the girl-groups of the early sixties had worked a little blue.

Favorite Tracks:

"You Know I'm No Good"


"Back to Black"

"Tears Dry on Their Own"

20. A BAND OF BEES — "Octopus"

All around the world, except for the U.S., this band is known as "The Bees." They are a highly technically proficient group thriving off their eclecticism, from their rootsy opener "Who Cares What The Question Is?" to the Smokey Robinson-esque "Listening Man." Listen to this if you like slight psychedelic touches and some strong horn-section work.

Favorite Tracks:

"Listening Man"

"Got to Let Go"

"Love in the Harbour"

"Left Foot Stepdown"

21. FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE — "Traffic and Weather"

While it isn't the career-defining triumph of 2003's "Welcome Interstate Managers," "Traffic and Weather" is another dose of witty, irreverent songs about young, mostly urban-dwelling professionals. Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood don't write songs, they write short stories set to music. Instead of "Stacy's Mom," "Maureen," or "Denise," this time we meet the likes of Seth Shapiro, Beth Mackenzie and Yolanda Hayes, among others. Let the intelligent lunacy continue.

Favorite Tracks:

"Someone to Love"

"Yolanda Hayes"

"Strapped For Cash"

"New Routine"

"'92 Subaru"

22. ELLIOTT SMITH — "New Moon"

He died four years ago, but Elliott Smith's impact is still major. Listening to this double-disc of previously unreleased material recorded in the mid-nineties, is a nice reminder of what he was capable of crafting. "New Moon" doesn't come off like a shallow, post-mortem cash-in. It comes off as a cohesive unit, stacking up well next to his albums. It's really nice to have the early version of his Oscar nominated theme to "Good Will Hunting," "Miss Misery." Elliott, you are greatly missed.

Favorite Tracks:

"Miss Misery" (early version)

"Angel in the Snow"

"All Cleaned Out"

"Fear City"

"High Times"

"Riot Coming"

23. IDLEWILD — "Make Another World"

Idlewild started out as a Scottish pop-punk band, but they have slowly molded their sound to add elements of influences like R.E.M., U2 and the Smiths into their sound. "Make Another World" is another strong addition to their catalog. Why Snow Patrol is big, and a better, more lively band like Idlewild isn't, I will never understand.

Favorite Tracks:

"No Emotion"

"In Competition for the Worst Time"

"If It Takes You Home"

"Everything (As It Moves)"

24. WILCO — "Sky Blue Sky"

Call this Wilco's lost '70s album. It's rather low key and close to sounding like The Band in spots. When "Walken" takes a left turn and rocks out, it's stupendous.

Favorite Tracks:


"Either Way"

"Impossible Germany"

"What Light"

"Please Be Patient With Me"

25. THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS — "The Else" / "Cast Your Pod to the Wind"

More than 20 years after they debuted, the Brooklyn-based duo gives us "The Else," one of their most twisted and enjoyable records in a long time. After a few albums aimed at children, it is nice to hear something as insanely twisted as "The Cap'm," or to know that they can still craft something as poignantly angst-driven as "Climbing The Walls." As a great bonus, when "The Else" came out, it was packaged with a second disc dubbed, "Cast Your Pod To The Wind," a collection of songs from their podcasts. Actually, out of the two discs, the bonus is the better one because it recalls the simple structures and random inspiration of their early work. As a double album, both discs stand well together.

Favorite Tracks:

"The Else"

"Climbing the Walls"

"The Cap'm"

"Take Out the Trash"


"Upside Down Frown"

Favorite Tracks:

"Cast Your Pod to the Wind"

"Brain Problem Situation"

"We Live in a Dump"

"Why Did You Grow a Beard?"

"I'm Your Boyfriend Now"

26. SLOAN -- "Never Hear The End Of It"

When Sloan came out of Canada in 1992, many in the rock press praised their debut "Smeared" for its fuzzy guitars and strong songwriting. Over the years, the band's sound has mellowed from their grungy beginnings to a more retro late-sixties/early seventies vibe. That "next big thing" status never came to fruition for Sloan, at least in the U.S., but that didn't mean they didn't release a solid stack of albums. Their latest, "Never Hear The End of It" finally got a U.S. release in January. It's a massive 77 minutes, containing a mammoth 30 tracks! If you've never heard Sloan, and you want to know their range, you should either pick up their singles collection, "A-Sides Win" or this album. Having all four members trading off songwriting and singing duties have always served the band quite well.

Favorite Tracks:

"Live The Life You're Dreaming Of"

"Everybody Wants You"

"Ana Lucia"

"Listen To The Radio"

"Ill Placed Trust"

27. THE PERISHERS — "Victorious"

Another soft and delicate collection from the Swedish band who brought us the equally great "Let There Be Morning" two years ago. See the blog archives for a complete, in depth review.

Favorite Tracks:

"Never Bloom Again"

"8 AM Departure"


"Best Friends"


28. FEIST — "The Reminder"

"1234" and "My Moon My Man" are everywhere, elevating this previously semi-underground Canadian singer into the mainstream. With her sweet, honey-soaked voice, it's a wonder why it didn't happen sooner.

Favorite Tracks:


"I Feel It All"

"My Moon My Man"

"The Water"

"So Sorry"

29. THE HIVES — "The Black & White Album"

The Swedish garage rockers return and make their longest, most eclectic album to date. Hopefully this album will be the hit their last album wasn't. See the blog archives for a complete, in depth review.

Favorite Tracks:

"Square One Here I Come"

"You Got It All Wrong"

"Tick Tick Boom"

"Won't Be Long."

"Return The Favour"

30. CARINA ROUND — "Slow Motion Addict"

Something must've happened to hold up "Slow Motion Addict." It was originally supposed to come out more than year before it actually did. The production by Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill") makes it sound more polished than her previous album "The Disconnection," but then you hear something as volatile and raw as "Ready To Confess" and all bets are off. The production boost isn't necessarily a bad thing, Round will probably never escape her comparisons to P.J. Harvey, but she's got her own haunted vibe which is alternated with a real tenderness. She can yell and be authoritative like on "Take The Money," and she can whisper softly in your ear as she does on "Down Slow." Indeed, she is someone to watch.

Favorite Tracks:

"Take The Money"

"Down Slow"

"Ready to Confess"

"How Many Times"

"The City"

31. UNDERWORLD — "Oblivion With Bells"

"Oblivion With Bells" is a surprisingly soft and textured effort from the rave-music innovators. See the blog archives for a complete, in depth review.

Favorite Tracks:

"Ring Road"


"Beautiful Burnout"

"Glam Bucket"

32. BLOC PARTY — "A Weekend in the City"

"A Weekend in the City" is muted and less jaw-dropping than Bloc Party's debut, "Silent Alarm," but give it time, and it will sink right in. Where "Silent Alarm" bashed you over the head with its rhythmic tightness, "A Weekend In The City" has more subtle charms. If you turn up the softer tracks, they will wash you in atmosphere. It's a kind of beauty that could be lost on those who don't bother to really listen. Harder, louder tracks like "The Prayer" and "Hunting For Witches," in turn, are decorated with subtle electronic elements. It's a different turn, but just as vital as its predecessor.

Favorite Tracks:

"I Still Remember"

"Hunting for Witches"

"Waiting for the 7:18"

"The Prayer"


33. ALICIA KEYS — "As I Am"

With "As I Am" Alicia Keys steps further from mere "hit-maker" status and closer to "legend." She's topped the charts multiple times with a classic R&B vibe that is as musically savvy as it is popular. That is quite a feat, indeed. All you have to do is listen to "No One" or "Sure Looks Good To Me" and it's obvious what sets her apart and makes her a star.

Favorite Tracks:

"No One"

"Sure Looks Good To Me"

"Lesson Learned"

"Where Do We Go From Here"

34. THE SHINS — "Wincing The Night Away"

Their first album since the movie "Garden State" turned them into superstars, gives us a much more radio-ready Shins. "Phantom Limb" is gloriously tuneful and sweeping, and "Sea Legs" delivers an unexpected dose of trip-hop. The 56 seconds of "Pam Berry" is an interesting rumble. "Sleeping Lessons" begins with some soft synth work. It's much different from their previous two records, but great bands should be allowed to blossom and change. It'll be interesting to see where they go next.

Favorite Tracks:

"Phantom Limb"

"Sea Legs"

"Black Wave"

"Sleeping Lessons"

35. TEGAN & SARA — "The Con"

Tegan & Sara are Canadian twins who mainly make music somewhere between power-pop and new-wave. "The Con" is much darker and more experimental than their last album, "So Jealous." They take a lot of chances and it works out for them well. Then, a straight-ahead pop gem like "Back In Your Head" comes on, and all is right in the world.

Favorite Tracks:

"Back In Your Head"

"Are You Ten Years Ago"

"Hop A Plane"

"I Was Married"

"Call It Off"

36. KATE HAVNEVIK — "Melankton"

This Norwegian singer gained some notice when her song "Grace" was featured on "Gray's Anatomy." That song isn't here, but what is here is compelling. If you like Imogen Heap or Bjork, you'll like this too. The Imogen Heap comparison is particularly interesting, considering that some of the songs on here were co-written by Heap's Frou Frou bandmate Guy Sigsworth.

Favorite Tracks:

"Unlike Me"

"Not Fair"




37. BEASTIE BOYS — "The Mix Up"

When the Beastie Boys' instrumental album "The Mix Up" came out, it was painfully obvious to distinguish the true hipsters from the poseurs. The poseurs were the ones who pretended they had been Beastie Boys fans all along and then said things like, "Get this. They actually play instruments on this record!" The hipsters knew that the Beasties were not merely rappers. After all, they began as a hardcore punk group in 1982, and then slowly morphed into the rap-trio we met four years later of "Licensed To Ill." (Trivia fact ? Their original drummer was Kate Shellenbach who was later a member of Luscious Jackson.) Anyone who listened to the Beasties' nineties output would know that there were three sides to their sound: The hip-hip side, the hardcore side and the instrumental funk side. "The Mix Up" is all about the instrumental funk. With longtime keyboardist Money Mark by their side, they rip through a groovy 12 song set. Yes, it's not the tightest sounding record, but is that always important. "Suco de Tangerina" sounds like Henry Mancini on a pseudo-Latin side-trip, and "The Gala Event" is both ominous and cool. All the naysayers should keep quiet. It's cool that this record even exists. Name another group who would take such a bold chance and test their range like this. This is a great soundtrack for relaxing on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Favorite Tracks:

"Suco de Tangerina"

"The Gala Event"

"Electric Worm"

"B For My Name"

38. KEREN ANN — "Keren Ann"

Keren Ann is a New York based singer-songwriter with Dutch and Israeli roots. She became a success as a singer in Paris. This self titled album is her second album completely recorded in English. (Her last album, "Nolita" was part in English and part in French.) As an album, "Keren Ann" is sort of hazy, moody nine song set. It's as woozy and chilled as it is hip. "Lay Your Head Down" is the obvious hit, while the folky "Between The Flatlands And The Caspian Sea" is downright Dylan-esque. Another arty, moody, magically atmospheric record.

Favorite Tracks:

"Lay Your Head Down"


"Between The Flatlands And The Caspian Sea"

"Where No Endings End"

39. NEW PORNOGRAPHERS — "Challengers"

Considering their name, the New Pornographers are somewhat of an innocent band, doing first class power-pop. "Challengers" is their most mellow record to date, but they are still at the top of their game. The Canadian ensemble includes alt-country star Neko Case and respected songwriter A.C. Newman among others. A major highlight is the Case-sung title track.

Favorite Tracks:


"All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth"

"Myriad Harbour"

"Mutiny, I Promise You"


40. CROWDED HOUSE — "Time On Earth"

"Time On Earth" is Crowded House's first record in 14 years. The New Zealand band reformed after being shocked by the suicide of drummer Paul Hester. The remaining members regrouped and recorded this relatively low-key set with Beck's former drummer Matt Sherrod filling the hole left by Hester. All these years later, despite having a huge hit with "Don't Dream It's Over," Neil Finn remains one of the most under-rated songwriters of our time. I hope someday he gets his due. Be sure to check out "Farewell To The World," the double disc and DVD documenting Crowded House's last show before they originally broke up. It was also released this year, and is excellent. Welcome back to the world! If only Paul were here.

Favorite Tracks:

"She Called Up"

"Pour Le Monde"

"Don't Stop Now"

"Even A Child"

"Walked Her Way Down"

41. GORILLAZ — "D-Sides"

"D-Sides" is Gorillaz's fifth release. It collects all the tracks left over from the sessions for recording 2005's "Demon Days." The animated band's rejects are just as good as their keepers, so this is truly excellent. A limited edition double disc version is also available with remixes of the "Demon Days" singles.

Favorite Tracks:

"Bill Murray"

"The Swagga"

"Hong Kong"


"We Are Happy Landfill"

42. SUZANNE VEGA — "Beauty & Crime"

It's been five years since Suzanne Vega's last studio album, and the 32 minute length of "Beauty & Crime" is shockingly short, but it's truly a solid set of songs with a mainly New York based pseudo film-noir vibe . If all you know by Vega is "Luka" or "Tom's Diner," you are missing out.

Favorite Tracks:

"Frank & Ava"


"Zephyr & I"


"New York Is A Woman"

43. AIR — "Pocket Symphony"

If you've ever listened to and enjoyed an Air album, odds are you'll also enjoy the latest from the French, chilled out duo. Like much of their other work, it plays like an ethereal movie score. This one also has experimentation with Japanese instrumentation and a nice guest appearance by former Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker.

Favorite Tracks:

"Space Maker"

"Night Sight"

"One Hell Of A Party" (with Jarvis Cocker)

"Once Upon A Time"

"Left Bank"

"Mer du Japon"

44. THE WHITE STRIPES — "Icky Thump"

Here's more hard-edged blues rock from Jack and Meg. This time we get Jack White's best Iron Butterfly impression on the title track, and a strange but cool cover of the Patti Page song, "Conquest."

Favorite Tracks:

"300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues"

"Icky Thump"

"You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You're Told)"

"Little Cream Soda"

"I'm Slowly Turning Into You"


Detractors will say that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are squandering the good buzz that their more acoustic, blues-driven album "Howl" gave them by plugging their amps back in and continuing to emulate the Jesus and Mary Chain. Those people would be wrong. Listen to "Baby 81" and you'll find it's bolder and more informed than the band's earlier records, as if they are infusing all they learned making "Howl" back into their old sound. "Baby 81" isn't quite as good as "Howl," but it gets the job done.

Favorite Tracks:

"Killing The Light"

"Weapon Of Choice"



"Need Some Air"

46. KRISTIN HERSH — "Learn To Sing Like A Star"

The former Throwing Muses vocalist has a vocal delivery so raw and wounded sounding, but she demands your attention on "Learn To Sing Like A Star." Her twisting, minor chord progressions in combination with that voice wind up making her sound a little like a female Kurt Cobain. It's a captivating record.

Favorite Tracks:


"Day Glow"

"In Shock"

"Nerve Endings"


Serge Gainsbourg's actress daughter resumes her long dormant singing career with "5:55." The album is produced by Air, who also co-wrote the songs with the help of Pulp's Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon from the Divine Comedy. Essentially, it sounds like another great Air album, only with Charlotte's peaceful whispery singing style taking center stage. Hopefully Serge is somewhere smiling.

Favorite Tracks:

"The Songs That We Sing"

"The Operation"



"Little Monsters"

48. PREFUSE 73 — "Preparations"

Scott Herren's latest album under the name Prefuse 73 doesn't find the glitch-master switching up his formula too much. He still delivers mostly instrumental, digitally assembled music somewhere between the hip-hop and electronica realms. Call it "glitch-hop" if you will. No one quite sounds like Herren. His masterpiece is still his 2003 album "One Word Extinguisher," but this continues his career nicely. Look for the deluxe version with an almost classical-sounding bonus disc.

Favorite Tracks:

"The Class Of 73 Bells"

"Let It Ring"

"Smoking Red"

"Girlfriend Boyfriend"


This collaboration between Plant and Krauss may seem unusual on paper, but the two make an excellent pair on this collection. See the blog archives for a complete, in depth review.

Favorite Tracks:

"Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)"

"Please Read The Letter"

"Rich Woman"

"Fortune Teller"

50. KANYE WEST — "Graduation"

I stand by all my criticisms of this album in my initial review, but West's mastery as a producer and what he does with beats and samples on here makes it worth putting on the list. I can't think of what happened in 2007 hip-hop without thinking of Kanye West. He may not be the best or most humble lyricist, but he does have skill. See the blog archives for a complete, in depth review.

Favorite Tracks:

"Can't Tell Me Nothing"



"Big Brother"

"Good Life"

Let's hope 2008 is as good a year or better.

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