Friday, December 28, 2007

The Best Records of 2007

Posted By on Fri, Dec 28, 2007 at 11:29 PM

10. Tie: Lil’ Wayne, Da Drought 3 (self-released); Radiohead, In Rainbows (self-released)

Ties are cop-outs only when they fail to tie together. Aside from junior statures and jacked-up grills, Lil’ Wayne and Thom Yorke revealed that they have at least one more thing in common: Both raised the question of what quality music in 2007 is really worth. Wayne’s cursive, Web-streamed slurs confirmed the Cash Money grad as the Greatest Rapper Alive, while Yorke mocked the RIAA by letting downloaders pay whatever they wanted for his serene, sublime In Rainbows, effectively reverting 20 years of padded price structure by dropping a tip into the hat of the World’s Finest Rock Band.

9. The Tough Alliance, A New Chance (Sincerely Yours)

Back in October this spot was occupied by fellow Swede and lite-pop sideswiper Jens Lekman. But then the Tough Alliance’s undeniable mix of pre-nightfall Knife and post-adolescence Architecture in Helsinki came along and picked Lekman’s already-bare pockets. He’s probably writing a sad song about it right now.

8. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)

Gaga times two-and-a-half? My sentiments exactly.

7. Klaxons, Myths of the Near Future (Geffen)

Nowhere does the oceanic gulf between America and England seem as vast as on a British rag’s best-of list, where retreads like Arctic Monkeys are annually assured — by mandate of Her Majesty! — of finishing no lower than fourth. NME’s and The Guardian’s affection for exhilarating dance-rockers Klaxons, whose firestorm of a debut inexplicably made nary a peep stateside, almost makes up for the slobber afforded Kings of Leon’s latest. I said almost.

6. M.I.A., Kala (Beggars Banquet)

Besides being the hottest woman on the planet, Maya Arulpragasam makes part-battle-cry/part-dance-anthem calls to action for a generation characterized both by creative activity and political inertia: We say we want a revolution, but we can’t seem to get off the couch.

5. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible (Merge)

A bombastic, grandstanding funeral for the sophomore slump.

4. Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl)

I’ve stalked Kevin Barnes so much this year, sooner or later he’ll be paying a girl to hit me. From the Oct. 30 Gambit: “A graduate-level creative writing course could be comprised solely from Of Montreal’s serpentine track titles. Some special selections from the Athens, Ga., band’s latest not-to-be-missed pop syllabus: “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse,” a hyperactive sonnet on singer/songwriter Kevin Barnes’ chemical imbalance; “A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger,” a summery recounting of a wintertime Scandinavia breakdown; and “We Were Born the Mutants Again With Leafling,” the irrepressible record’s striking, melancholy-stippled closer. Elsewhere, there’s “The Past Is a Grotesque Animal,” a decidedly more direct statement. The 12-minute vent is a spoken-word piece in which Barnes spews out every last stream of vile consciousness about an embittered relationship, all while trudging on a beat-powered treadmill ratcheting up the tension with each new dirty-laundry verse. It’s the musical equivalent of eavesdropping on a fireworks therapy session: unbearable if it wasn’t so explosively listenable.”

3. Electrelane, No Shouts No Calls (Too Pure)

As the only band on this list who no longer are together, Electrelane ought to be bumped to No. 1. The tracks on this swan song — particularly the driving, bittersweet and drop-dead gorgeous side A — make their own argument.

2. Rock Plaza Central, Are We Not Horses (Outside Music)

Who the hell are Rock Plaza Central, and how did they make almost the best record of 2007? The calculus goes something like this: forgotten ‘90s folkies Lullaby for the Working Class plus Neutral Milk Hotel minus Anne Frank plus post-apocalyptic steel horses. Oh, and they’re from Toronto.

1. The National, Boxer (Beggars Banquet)

Yeah, a strong case could be made for Arcade Fire, among others. But the National are my pick for the best new band of the nascent new millennium. The Brooklyn outfit’s 2005 debut Alligator was a stirring, soulful murmur, rain-slicked and barely lit by a thousand incandescent moments of seemingly accidental genius. Boxer has more, and is better.

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