Here’s my personal top 10 of records that came out this year. I went through a brutal day-long internal struggle, trying to decide which album should be on top of the list – but I just couldn’t say whose new album was better, The National’s or Interpol’s. As a result, there are now two records of the year because I couldn’t pick one over the other. The same can be said of the rest of my top ten, which I had to list in alphabetical order because judging the quality of a record by saying it is better than this but worse than turned out to be an impossible task…
Album of the Year I
The National – Boxer
This is an album of an incredible density – once the songs have drawn you in, you’ll find yourself unable to escape them. Matt Berninger’s seemingly calm baritone voice forces you to listen closely due to its slight monotony and thus creates a certain intimacy between himself and the listener. These songs speak to the audience through their familiarity of themes like everyday white-collar drama, the transience of youth and the path of uniform conformity a lot of people choose to take. You’ll find yourself haunted by melodies that are being pushed forward by sharp, precise rhythms of an almost hypnotic quality. The additional instruments (horn, cello, piano, violins etc.) aren’t just the icing on the cake but have a voice of their own and enhance the general feeling of menace and darkness. At the same time, the songs are very clean in their textures as they aren’t overloaded with layers. They never lose their aforementioned density which in itself forms a sort of strong connection, a thread that binds all the songs together into one brilliant whole.
Album of the Year II
Interpol – Our Love To Admire
OLTA shows a lot more variation than its predecessor Antics. It’s more open, more dramatic to a cinematic extend and it’s perfectly sequenced so when you listen to it in one go, you won’t have to skip one single song because they unfold like one big narration, with intricate songs carried by grand instrumentation followed by faster catchier songs which aren’t less beautiful. The two closing songs, Wrecking Ball and The Lighthouse, suggest a completely new direction to the band’s sound altogether and are so overwhelmingly intense… The album clearly has its faults and weaknesses, but it’s also a testament to the band’s growth and considering the album as a whole, as a sum of its songs, it’s simply majestic.
(Just where in the world did the bass go?)
Albums # 3-10 in alphabetical order:
3. Band of Horses – Cease To Begin
Small town idylls meet epic arrangements meet country elements meet lyrical love songs named after… Detlef Schrempf? Band of Horses have managed putting all of these things onto one record and the result is quite amazing!
4. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup
My favorite francophile album of the year. No seriously, I didn’t like the Balkan pop of the debut album but this one takes you on a voyage through France which, as a culture, I find ultimately more accessible as far as musical influences are concerned. A great and charming, at times pompous pop record.
5. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
Wide in scope, this is a personal but at the same time universal record which is reflected both in the lyrics as well as in the music itself. It’s a bit of the private versus the political, and the songs focussing on the former are clearly the stronger ones as the political-themed ones often seem to be the exact opposite of subtle. Nevertheless a beautiful record!
6. Feist – The Reminder
This is an album that’s diverse in sound but brought together by themes like love and loneliness which Feist delivers in her truly unique, dreamy voice. The contrast of the music and the lyrics creates a good sort of tension, as even the most uplifting-sounding songs can quite unexpectantly bring tears to the listener’s eyes due to what the singer expresses in the lyrics.
7. Okkervil River – The Stage Names
Some might say Okkervil songs might be too weighty on the lyrics side to an extend that the music and the melodies suffer but I couldn’t disagree more, at least as far as this record is concerned. The music supplement the lyrics so well and in a few instances, the melodies are simply so fantastic they make you follow them so closely that you forget to pay attention to the actual words for a moment. When you do listen to the lyrics though, you’ll get to hear some dramatic, personal and sometimes downright hilarious (in all their tragedy!) stories you won’t forget any time soon.
8. Radiohead – In Rainbows
There’s absolutely no doubt that this is a fantastic and unexpectedly accessible album, the only question that remains is: could this album just as well have been released in 1997?
9. The Shins – Wincing The Night Away
I still love this album as much as when it came out, or even more now which is a surprise really because I first thought that one day I might grow tired of the catchy hooks and wonderful melodies of the album’s most outstanding pop songs like Phantom Limb (which features the best impressionist lyrics ever) or Australia – but that never happened even though this is one of my most-played records of the year! And even better: the songs that seemed slightly less accessible or maybe even bland at first revealed their true beauty after some time. So it’s a really rewarding album that also didn’t lose any of its initial appeal.
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is EP
Simply the most powerful and sexiest of this year’s releases, period.
Songs from almost all of these albums (plus a few others) can be downloaded in the songs of 2007 post.