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02.02.08 Top 24 Albums Of 200712.14.07 Late Discoveries Of 2007

Top 24 Albums Of 2007

This is something I dread approaching every year. Ranking music is quite easy, if the music being ranked is music you don't care too much about, but when the list of the best albums released during the year is to be written, some lose their footing pretty quickly. This, however, is a list with the 24 best albums of 2007, according to the Bearsville Music Group from Stockholm, Sweden: for the first time finding its footing and creating a list we are proud of. It may not as varied as we'd like it to be, but we're still very proud.
In Rainbows

When I found out about the sudden release of this album, I promised myself that I would not get swept away and call it Album of the Year immediately, just because it's by Radiohead. I promised I would be as unbiased as I could possibly be and put it through every test I knew of and more or less let it suffer through the seven circles of hell before resurfacing, burnt and wounded but hardened and ready to judge, to grade, to understand what "In Rainbows" truly is, and if it is any good. I really did everything I could to make sure that this album did not stroll it's way to the number 1 spot, and I can gladly proclaim that it didn't. As mentioned further down, "The Shepherd's Dog" was number 1 up until recently but Radiohead know what they are doing, obviously. By releasing the album digitally at any price the customer wants, the music was available months before a physical copy dropped. So, the album has grown since October, but since the digital version was in lower quality, the CD version was like hearing it all again for the very first time but now with the advantage of knowing every second of every track before even playing the CD. Thanks to this, a new track is a favourite for each week that passes, and they are all but one, if truth be told, brilliant. The atmospherics, the rocking tracks, the piano-driven ballads that give way to heavenly strings; everything on this album is just very, very pretty. No matter how hard I tried, it just kept on growing. In the end, Radiohead stand victorious once again, and "In Rainbows" is their latest champion. Rightfully so.
Key tracks: Videotape, Jigsaw Falling Into Place, All I Need.
2Dillinger Escape Plan
Ire Works

The heaviest, roughest, craziest album of 2007 is not surprisingly "Ire Works" by The Dillinger Escape Plan. Eternally uncomprimising, The Dillinger Escape Plan continue what they begun in 1999 with "Calculating Infinity", polishing it slightly with "Miss Machine" and now, in 2007, push it towards all directions with "Ire Works". Infectious, falsettoed catchy popsongs? Check. Two instrumentals showing off the instrumentalists musical chops? Check. Rock'n'roll riffing with enormous choruses breaking through? Check. All out insanity, as usual? Check. Mariachi meets punkrock-ending? Check. The Dillinger Escape Plan might've lost members to injuries and comicbook-fans, but they are crazier and more alive than ever. "Ire Works" is, if you'll allow it to be, the real shape of all things to come in metal, hardcore and punk music. Never has something so heavy been so enjoyable to listen to for the Bearsville Music Group, and we'll be smiling all the way to the show that awaits in March here in Stockholm. Bruised and broken, we'll probably smile afterwards too.
Key tracks: Mouth of Ghosts, Sick on Sunday, Nong Eye Gong.
3 Iron And Wine
The Shepherd's Dog

From one man army+acoustic guitar to fullblown band with all the trimmings, Sam Beam has made an album he could take with him to his grave. This is perhaps the only album on the list that doesn't have a single fault, a single bad track. It is, dare I say, flawless. And up until the last week of careful consideration, "The Shepherd's Dog" had a firm grip around the top spot. But in the end, the only album that is flawless ended on a honourable third place. The songwriting is solid all the way through and the album is a highly enjoyable listen from beginning to end, but the album does lack what the other top ten entries are full of: variation. It IS creatively progressive compared to earlier Iron and Wine releases but while "The Shepherd's Dog" is one of 2007's very best albums on all levels, it does lack the variation that is necessary to make it all the way to the top on a Bearsville list.
Key tracks: Boy with a Coin, House by the Sea, Flightless Bird, American Mouth.
The Alchemy Index: Vols. I and II...

"The Alchemy Index Vol.1&2: Fire & Water" was the most anticipated albums for me during 2007. "Vheissu" remains one of the most influental albums for this band, taking its' name from the studio where the album, among many other favourites, was recorded. Thrice are long-time favourites at Camp Bearsville and are one of the bands that are most admired by us as a collective, and this is because of their relentless will to evolve, to push the envelope, to push themselves and raise the bar for themselves and their contemporaries. The first part of the two-part "The Alchemy Index" concentrates on 2 of the 4 classical elements, fire and water. Naturally, fire is thus rather heavy, not unlike earlier Thrice material, while water is more subtle, more mellow, more electronic. Some of these songs contain by far some of the year's more intriguing song constructions and best lyrics and are, all in all, some of the best songs to be released during 2007. The album does, however, not show Thrice at their best even though some of the best songs they have ever written are on this the first part of "The Alchemy Index". The second part, due in April, is therefore by default 2008's most anticipated.
Key tracks: The Whaler, The Messenger, Open Water.
5Explosions in the Sky
All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone

This album had completely slipped our minds when gathering information in order to make this list. Not in the way that would disqualify it from being on the list but more in the way of feeling that this album had been around for so long that it couldn't possible be from the past year. This latest piece of artwork from the Texans Explosions in the Sky has been present in our collective lives for almost as long as we can remember, or so it seems at least which is reason alone for its entry at spot number 5. The tracks this time around aren't as lushly epic or long-running as on "The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place" but with the entry of pianos and other keydriven instruments, the songs are shorter but more focused and joyfully intrumental than before. Another beautiful album released in 2007, and without a doubt the most breathtaking one of the year.
Key tracks: Welcome, Ghosts, Catastrophe and the Cure, So Long, Lonesome.
6 El-P
I'll Sleep When You're Dead

The people that know who is writing this list and who know what music the people that are the Bearsville Music Group usually listen to all probably think that this would never happen: the inception of a hiphop album to a top 10 list narrated by a member of this group. But how could we not include "I'll Sleep When You're Dead? The tracks are fun, rough, heavy, smooth, funky, furious and a million more adjectives. Why, exactly, is "I'll Sleep When You're Dead" 2007's best album, though? Well, the lyrics are better than most from the past year, the production is suberb and blends rock with hiphop and slightly electronic influences brilliantly and the best thing is that El-P, Mr.Jaime Meline aka Mr.Def Jux himself, manages to control the many, reportedly egocentric, guests he has managed to squeeze into 13 tracks. 3 members of The Mars Volta are easily tamed, as are fellow "jukies" Aesop Rock and Cage and also Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw, MCs Slug and Murs, Chan Marshall of Cat Power and even THE Trent Reznor. Making a good album is one thing, but managing to find so many talented musicians to contribute and then make them do something that works on YOUR terms, that is something worth celebrating. Hiphop is safe in the hands of the good people at Definitive Jux, and they don't mind partying with strangers either.
Key tracks: Dear Sirs, Run the Numbers, Smithereens (Stop Cryin').
7Against Me!
New Wave

These guys are the biggest sellouts ever. I mean seriously...what musician in his right mind would want to progress and evolve? What musician would sign to Sire Records, an imprint of Warner Bros., and then have the nerve to call himself a true punk? And open shows for Green Day and Foo Fighters? And let the producer of "Nevermind" work on their album? How dare they?!
These are things I have heard people say when talking about the Against Me! of 2007 and each moronic statement is as ridiculous as the next. All good musicians evolve and growth IS necessary; change IS inevitable. Sire Records was the home of The Ramones, who are more punk than 90% of those who call themselves punk these days, and that Green Day and the Foo Fighters have got more punk blood in them than most bands too (well, at least the Foos do...). Why so many insist on calling Against Me! sellouts I'll probably never know; they still make very true-to-their-art music that matters and evokes alot of feeling. And of course, their liveshow is still VERY riotous. "New Wave" is a better political album than "American Idiot" is, and just like "In Defense of the Genre", "New Wave" deserves to be heard by far more than it probably is at this point. Great punk, great rock, great album.
Key tracks: Thrash Unreal, Up The Cuts, The Ocean.
8Sigur Ros

Just like "New Moon", "Hvarf/Heim" partly consists of songs that have never really made the cut or just never taken in to the studio. While this 2 disc album's first half is all electric one-takes of 3 previously unreleased tracks, a song from "Von" and live-number "Hafs?l", the second disc is acoustic one-takes from the tour of Iceland documented in stunningly gorgeous documentary "Heima". "? G?r" sounds like Deftones falling into a slow, drooning coma while "Hafs?l" sounds like the dawning of the sun over the sea (appropriate, since it translates to "Sea Sun", and the acoustic versions of fan favourites are just as good as one expects from Sigur R?s. "Beautiful" is the only word that righteously describes "Hvarf/Heim" and "Heima".
Key tracks: I Gaer, Hafsol, Staralfur.
9Elliott Smith
New Moon

Unsurprisingly, Mr.Elliott Smith manages to break his way into the top 10 too with the posthomously released "New Moon". Collecting songs from the "Either/Or" and "XO"-era that proved to be the most successful and musically rewarding time of Elliott's life. Although this is supposed to be a collection of B-sides and unreleased songs that originally "didn't make the cut", some of the songs on this 2CD release are some of the best by Elliott ever. "New Moon" does nothing but further prove that Elliott Smith was and will forever be one of the greatest songwriters of modern times. It doesn't matter that some tracks are pretty bad by Elliott's standards when the other tracks are breathtakingly haunting and beautiful.
Key tracks: Half Right, Going Nowhere, High Times.
10Poison the Well

And here we are at the top 10. Here we have more heavy material than we have in the 14 spots we have passed to get here. And we start of with the only people from Florida to ever willingly leave its' sunny shores for the ridiculously cold winter months of Ume?, Sweden. Sure, they do it to record albums but still, growing up in this weather makes one rather confused when people choose to leave for northern Sweden in the winter. This time around, Poison The Well did what they do best and left their results inside an album with artwork as icy as the Swedish winter. The music is all but cold, ranging from acoustic spaghetti-western tributes to effectladen anthemic call-to-arms segwaying into hardcore aggression, to chugging portrayals of awakenings to rooms filled with dead bodies. Poison The Well, now 3 members, keep doing what they know they do best: pushing the boundaries of hardcore without losing their edge or credibility and continuing to make records that almost literally kick you in the head.
Key tracks: Nagaina, Composer Meet Corpse, Riverside.
11Strung Out
Blackhawks Over Los Angeles

When at this point looking down at the albums that have been mentioned up until now, the lack of metal or any really heavy music becomes overbearingly obvious. Surprising to many, we assume but also very surprising to us who preach in the church of Page and Iommi on a regular basis. Thanks to this, the position on the list for "Blackhawks Over Los Angeles" comes as less of a surprise. At the 2007 Roskilde Festival, the live set of Strung Out and all the metal elements that accompanied it was only matched by Mastodon, which is proof enough of how very metal the punk band from Simi Valley, California truly are. Soundwise, they blew Mastodon out of the water and fresh tracks like "Calling", "Dirty Little Secret" and title-track "Blackhawks Over Los Angeles" worked perfectly, earning the album another gold star for working well live. The technicality has been uped a couple of notches while managing to blend near flawlessly with the melodic and more poppy notions Strung Out have learnt to master over the years. One of the punk scenes truly most underrated bands has let the music do the talking, once again. If anyone will respond, we'll have to wait and see.
Key tracks: Party in the Hills, Dirty Little Secret, Orchid.
12Elliott Smith
Live at Largo

Technically not an album or even an EP since it was released with the recently released book by photograph Autumn de Wilde "Elliott Smith", "Live at Largo" is just 5 songs that have been laying around for years without ever really being discovered, like very much of Elliott's work. These are 5 songs that briefly show us the joking, nervous, shy Elliott Smith that many of his fans today have never, ever seen or heard of before. The book itself is beautiful and this CD is likewise, even though maybe not "officially" applicable for this list. We love the music too much not to include it though.
Key tracks: All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down), Between the Bars, Angeles.
13Aesop Rock
None Shall Pass

For years the cool hiphop kids of Stockholm have been talking about Aesop Rock aka Ian Bavitz. About how good he is and how this more underground of hiphop artists is one to pay attention to, together with El-P (also from the Def Jux family), Atmosphere and Sage Francis. In comparison to those normally affliated with hiphop when asking everyday Stockholm kids, like 50 Cent, The Game etc, these guys (and Aesop particularly) comes off as rocket scientists. "None Shall Pass" is an intelligent collection of very rock-oriented hiphop tracks, all brash and noisy but also slick and groovy, swiftly playing under Bavitz's rapidfire rants about wanting to make Pluto a planet again, among other maybe a little more socially conscious topics. Beyond the obligatory featuring of hiphop-artists, Bavitz throws in John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats (a very UN-hiphop act) into one of the albums gems, "Coffee" and finishes of one of the years without a doubt best hiphop albums excellently. This is hiphop 101 for the uneducated iPod generation. Start taking notes.
Key tracks: Coffee, None Shall Pass, Catacomb Kids.
14Foo Fighters
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

This is one of those choices we would call a no-brainer. Foo Fighters are not flawless, this was proved by "In Your Honour" in retrospect, so calling the entry of "Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace" a no-brainer might seem a little brave. But Foo Fighters have returned with an album that will punch you in the face in style and then grab the acoustic guitars to prettily sing about how easy knocking you down was, only to later reach down and help you up like the good sports they are. The quiet/loud contrasts seem to something Mr.Grohl still is very much in love with and has been ever since the Nirvana days and nothing disappoints or feels out of place for the first time in a long time for the Foos. Grohl also shows that playing the piano is right up his already long alley but this might alienate some fans that only want the Foos to rock and rock hard. "Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace" show Foo Fighters back in form. It's not as good as "The Colour and the Shape" and "There is Nothing Left to Lose", but the future looks bright.
Key tracks: Long Road to Ruin, But, Honestly, Come Alive.
15Bloc Party
A Weekend in the City

In early 2007, Bloc Party returned with their second album "A Weekend in the City". After the success of debut "Silent Alarm", expectations were high, not unlike those that Arctic Monkeys were met with just like many other young British bands. Also not unlike Arctic Monkeys, this album is far from a disappointment and lives up to all the hype. The album is at first rather difficult to digest just like "Favourite Worst Nightmare" but not because of the edgier sound that meets the listener when listening to said album but because Bloc Party have not only followed suit and darkened things up but also created a sample-heavy blend of all things good about today's British music. This can also be seen as the fatal flaw of the album since the Radioheadesque drumming blends with the Museish riffing may sound like cheap rip-offs and the use of samples makes the album virtually unplayable live, perfectly portrayed last spring on the David Letterman Show. This doesn't make the album any worse though, leaving it as the opener of the top 15 of our list.
Key tracks: Where is Home?, Hunting for Witches, Uniform.
16 Justice

Justice make the ground move. Literally. At the 2007 Roskilde Festival, Justice were booked to play at 2.20 a.m. during the last night of the festival not very far from my tent. Tired (and extremely muddy and soaked to the bones) as I was, I did not appreciate that these 2 frenchmen made it impossible to get some rest after 5 days of mud, mud, mud and some music. I did, however, appreciate the first 20 minutes of the show and the dancind and the ridiculously large illuminated cross and the relentless funk-punkyness of it all. Some of the tracks with vocals are nothing but annoying but this electronic album is so good you could (wait for it...) even play it with instruments! Like a REAL band!! How cool isn't that?!!
Key tracks: Let There Be Light, Dvno, Phantom Pt.II.
Our Love To Admire

There isn't much that can be said about this album, or at least from our point of view. It's very good, but why it is very good we haven't quite grasped yet. If the world of music was fair, Interpol's songs would be sung at juvenile, Swedish parties and not "Mr.Brightside". "Our Love to Admire" is just as good as everything else Interpol has released to date, and by far better than anything their contemporaries have.
Key tracks: Heinrich Maneuver, Mammoth, Who Do You Think?
18 Atmosphere
Strictly Leakage

Surprise release number 2 of the year is delivered by Minnesota's very own and ever-relevant Atmosphere. All of a sudden Slug and Ant were sitting in front of a cozy fire playing chess talking about this album the boys suddenly felt the urge to give away as a Christmas gift, and underground hiphopers worldwide rejoiced! It's not bad either, although obviously not as good as regular Atmosphere LPs. Which is alright: now we know what we can look forward to. Thank you, Atmosphere, and Merry Christmas to you too.
Key tracks: The Things That Hate Us, Get It to Get Her, Domestic Dog.
19Circa Survive
On Letting Go

That Anthony Green did the right thing when deciding to leave Saosin and creating Circa Survive becomes clearer as "On Letting Go" unfurls itself through the headphones. Endlessly creative and emotionally driven, Circa Survive have crafted a hopeful and more complete sophomore album that touches topics like band problems, troubles with religion and the hassles of recording. Though an instrumentally great album, listening to Green isn't the easiest of tasks for some. Though an extremely gifted singer, Green's voice does cut through the racket and comes off as slightly enervating at times. "On Letting Go" as a whole is very exciting and would've ended up higher up on the list of it wasn't for the extremely misplaced "Your Friends Are Gone" which would do more good if taking off the album then it does when on it.
Key tracks: Kicking Your Crosses Down, The Greatest Lie, The Difference Between Medicine and Poison Is In The Dose.
20Say Anything
In Defense of the Genre

Pop-punk and punk rock have always been something that has intrigued and brought many a loving smile to kids around the world for several decades. Like many, our collective infatuations with this genre started out with a meeting with Green Day some 10+ years ago and has grown strong ever since. Which is why a wide smile spreads when "In Defense of the Genre" is released. A wide and varied collection of punk-oriented songs are here spread across 2 discs which is in all honesty much more of a rock opera than "American Idiot" could ever be. Only problem is, 27 tracks on 2 discs becomes too grand for Say Anything to keep in control, thus leading to several of the tracks ending up without bite or edge and leaving them as nothing but filler. However, everything else feels like poppunk-brilliance and is filled with furious testimonials of love and heartfelt explanations concerning ruined tours etc. Even though the band is still very young, Say Anything prove with "In Defense of the Genre" that said genre still has some firepower left, and that the bands are not backing down or planning to stop anytime soon.
Key tracks: Spores, Baby Girl, I'm A Blur, The Church Channel.
21Dustin Kensrue
Please Come Home

As if his main work in post-hardcore trailblazers Thrice wasn't stimulating enough, Dustin Kensrue still managed to find something that the band hasn't touched on (yet..) and grabbed a couple of acoustic guitars and his harmonica and got all folksy for a while. And he did it good too, and did not overindulge or make a fool out of himself which many perhaps thought he would. Kensrue kept it short including only 8 tracks onto this endeavour and announced that another LP is due sometime during 2008, which will hopefully show Kensrue sharpen his songwriting skills for this particular brand of music. The songwriting that he has portrayed for the last decade in Thrice that makes the band special is somewhat missing in this solo project, mostly because of Kensrue's respect for the artists he admires and that inspired this LP. Kensrue does still make an effort worth applauding, considering the post-hardcore background he's coming from.
Key tracks: Please Come Home, Weary Saints, I Knew You Before
22Kanye West

Kanye West should be on this list for (hopefully) ending 50 Cent's career as a solo artist alone but since that event coincided with the release of the wonderfully poppy and egocentric "Graduation", he's on here thanks to that too. "Graduation", while not at all smart and artsy in the same way that "College Dropout" and "Late Registration" are, is still a smash-hit for Mr.West even if the constant Louis Vuitton-speak can get on ones nerves eventually. Still, his beats are perfect for the songs on the album and even the b-sides to the various versions of the album released are not far from brilliantly crafted. Kanye may have, hopefully temporarily, lost his more brainy and socially conscious way of expression but the songs are still full of life and joy, which is still the Kanye that is loved by almost all, especially himself.
Key tracks: Bittersweet Poetry (ft. John Mayer), Flashing Lights, Can't Tell Me Nothing.
23Sage Francis
Human The Death Dance

Definitely not as sharp and angrily volatile as "A Healthy Distrust" but still not very far off, Sage Francis returned in 2007 with his second Epitaph-released LP: "Human the Death Dance". Granted, Sage is still angry and doesn't (as always) hesitate to show it but the more overly, personal lyrics seem to be something Sage should have left out on this album. Not that they are bad, but compared to the more complete "A Healthy Distrust" tracks like "Water Line" and "High Step" feel rather subpar. Nevertheless, the album as a whole and Sage Francis live (and what followed the show I was at...) proves that this man is one of hiphop's most vital and entertaining artists today, and "Human the Death Dance" is one of 2007's best hiphop albums by far.
Key tracks: Civil Disobedience, Good Fashion, Hoofprints in the Sand.
24Arctic Monkeys
Favourite Worst Nightmare

Who could have seen this coming, honestly? A seemingly ordinary band consisting of 4 young english men exploding from out of nowhere, breaking all kinds of records with their infectious debut and selling out 1000+-capacity venues all over the world within the first 2 years of their existence. And who would've thought they could pull it off again after what some call one of rock history's greatest debuts ever? "Favourite Worst Nightmare" doesn't lose the Sheffield boys any momentum at all and takes off neatly from where the debut, "Whatever You Say I Am, That's What I'm Not", left us. The band has lost nothing and become a premier live act in rock today, and the album is just as youthfully ingenious as its' predecessor, save for some annoying solos and monotonous tracks. A great return, and a true force to count on in the future of rock music.
Key tracks: Teddy Picker, D is for Dangerous, Brianstorm.
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