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. Waynes 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 Worlds 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 Alliances undeniable mix of pre-nightfall Knife and post-adolescence Architecture in Helsinki came along and picked Lekmans already-bare pockets. Hes 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 rags best-of list, where retreads like Arctic Monkeys are annually assured by mandate of Her Majesty! of finishing no lower than fourth. NMEs and The Guardians 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 Leons 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 cant 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)
Ive stalked Kevin Barnes so much this year, sooner or later hell be paying a girl to hit me. From the Oct. 30 Gambit: A graduate-level creative writing course could be comprised solely from Of Montreals serpentine track titles. Some special selections from the Athens, Ga., bands 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 records striking, melancholy-stippled closer. Elsewhere, theres 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. Its the musical equivalent of eavesdropping on a fireworks therapy session: unbearable if it wasnt 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 theyre 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 outfits 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.