Electricity & Lust

Sam’s Top 18 Albums of the Year

Posted in end of year lists, Music, Sam by Sam Unsted on January 3, 2008
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Why 18 you ask? I honestly don’t know. But I’ve chosen now so I have to stick to it. I was only going to do ten but it seemed nice to give a little shout out to some further albums and also, I feel like much past 18 and the number begin to become less meaningful. I really couldn’t tell you past eighteen why anything would deserve to be the number of places above anything else. Anyway.

This list is again based on albums released in the UK during 2007 and therefore, I know on in particular which will rankle with American readers on that point, is not based on those to have arrived in the US this year. Apologies for this. I cannot tell when this wrong will finally be righted and albums released in our countries on the same day.

Again, as with all the lists. If you see anything you want to know more about, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments. Enjoy. Next week will see the list for songs of the year which will be long and less well written. Look forward won’t you?

18. Grinderman – Grinderman

So Nick Cave streamlines the most aggressively middle-aged and cantankerous of his Bad Seeds, strips them to base instruments and unleashed the finest garage punk record of the year. In thrall almost fully to the brilliance of The Stooges, the abrasive guitars and thumping, sexually-charged vocals unveils Cave’s heavier aural side to partner his lyrical darkness. Best Track: No Pussy Blues

17. Rufus Wainwright – Release The Stars

An opulent melodrama in which Wainwright casts himself as the damsel at its centre, searing through intensely personal themes and arriving on the other side draped in gold and glorious rain. A huge, semi-operatic mansion of an album, this sets Wainwright alongside the Scott Walkers and Billy MacKenzies of the world as a chronicler of great sadness through enormous music. Best Track: Slideshow

16. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, You Are The Destroyer

Kevin Barnes had for years toiled away as the key figure in Of Montreal’s Paisley psych popsicles but in the past few years has discovered the joys of full, monolithic tunery and came into full bloom on this devastatingly brilliant album. It all centres around the astounding ‘Past Is A Grotesque Animal’, a motorik Neu-indebted work of propulsive genius, all filtered through Barnes’ kaleidoscope eyes. Best Track: Past Is A Grotesque Animal

15. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

They could never have hoped to capture the impact of Funeral again but Neon Bible is a strong attempt. While it lacks the raw, personal catharsis of its predecessor, the record is quite breathtaking on its own terms. The songs are bigger, stronger and politically furious, only really lacking the sense of self the first had to truly draw its audience into the mix. Still, you have to think that number three will be just beyond belief. Best Track: No Cars Go

14. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

While Ga x 5 isn’t as satisfying as previous Spoon albums, the taut white funk remained tight and the songs managed to find some of the expanse explored on Gimme Fiction, if without the full consistency of that album. ‘The Underdog’ though might be there finest ever song while the compact whole, while insubstantial, packs a mighty punch which seems to have futher propelled Spoon towards the big leagues they still seem unsure they want. Best Track: The Underdog

13. Kings of Leon – Because of the Times

For a short time this year, I was absolutely in love with this album. There previous had been a true grower, sneaking up in time to take its place among my recent favourites. This doesn’t quite manage it due to a sense of inconsistency and a lack of real peaks but it does contain some fabulous, chugging records and some of the year’s absolute best vocal performances. Best Track: ‘On Call’

12. Liars – Liars

I used to absolutely hate Liars. Pretentious tuneless nonsense. For album four, they set about to prove me wrong by finding their inner OMD and JAMC, churning out an album filled with menacing guitars and fuzzed up, leather jacket wearing New York art punk. Yet far from the spindly excesses of previous years, they complimented it all with a terrific, full noise and created their best yet. Best Track: Freakout

11. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala

Just the most sugar-meltingly lovely record of the whole year. Lekman constructed an arch-pop masterwork in the tradition of Paul Simon and provided a selection of downhome, keenly observed stories of love and cardigan-clad lust. A just gorgeous album to while away the hours drinking cups of tea and thinking about the girls whose parents hated you while spilling crumbs all down your woolly jumper. Best Track: Postcard to Nina

10. Radiohead – In Rainbows

There is nothing more to write about this. Yes, it did change the music industry. Yes, it is a very good record. No, it is not a patch on their two previous peaks, The Bends and OK Computer. Yes, it is low-key, quite sexy and sounds more like a Thom Yorke record. And Yes, it is absolutely worth listening too again and again because repeated plays reveal this as their most sensuous, lush record to date. Best Track: House of Cards

9. The Black Lips – Good Bad Not Evil

Skronky garage rock chugging from the bayou on the year’s most enjoyably old fashioned release. While Black Lips are hardly revolutionary, they play with a swagger and confidence which made me immediately fond of them while this albums continues to impress further upon repeat listens. They ain’t reinventing the wheel, but they are rolling along just fine. Best Track: Oh Katrina

8. Bjork – Volta

Bjork is one of those women in song who I am just a little bit in love with. I feel the same about Cat Power and Joni Mitchell but while I think time with them would consist of acoustic guitars, great bourbon and cigarettes, Bjork is an altogether different proposition. Streamlined by working with Timbaland, she delivered a breathless album of future-pop and space-torch ballads. Best Track: Innocence

7. PJ Harvey – White Chalk

I’m not in love with PJ Harvey at all, mostly because she frightens me greatly but this record, her most overtly fragile and tingly one to date, is an emotional battering ram. The familiar themes of sex and death remains but are explored in a hazy fog of piano-led gentleness rather than abrasive Albini-guitars and screaming orgasm vocals. That she is a genius was already set but now, she shows she can be a gentle genius too while still pummelling you with her song. Best Track: White Chalk

6. Menomena – Friend and Foe

A strange beast this lot. A great live band capable of a titanic racket and slinky tunes and makers of a true grower for the year. First listen revealed little of what was to come but soon it came, a semi-epic album of fairly straightforward indie. Yet something is there, something indefinable which makes me return again and again. I can’t explain it to you so I’ll just say you should try them and love them. Best Track: Wet and Rusting

5. Panda Bear – Person Pitch

If Menomena was a bit of a grower, this was an overgrown garden of evolution. I hated this when I first heard, just couldn’t understand the fuss. Now, it’s pushing for higher in this chart as I write this. Moments on this headphone masterpiece are sublime, transcendent even as Noah Lennox carries the Beach Boys through sumptuous house textures and lushly constructed mood pieces. Best Track: Bros

4. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver

A grown-up album of electronica and a truly great New York record, James Murphy really stepped up with this one. Delivering propellant grooves and epic Krautrock-inspired dancefloor monsters alongside pensive, reflective songs of aging, nostalgia and sadness. On the peaks too he provided both with ‘All My Friends’ the masterwork of his labour, a perfect dissection of the low after the years of high. Best Track: All My Friends

3. The National – Boxer

Their previous effort, Alligator, provided the midpoint between Springsteen and Tindersticks and was maybe the best album of its year. Boxer is more subdued, careful about its points and taking its time to create its atmosphere of 4am reflection. Best description of it all though comes from an unknown source; like Nick Cave wrapped in velvet. Sumptuous and worthy of breathing in. Best Track: Fake Empire

2. Battles – Mirrored

If there is anyone out there who thought that a math-rock supergroup would be among the top ten list of everyone who knows Tom, Dick and Harry, give them a round of applause. This record is really only math-rock in terms of categorisation, for it manages to transcend that at a canter. Battles, to coin this NME-esque hideousness in phrase, are the Led Zeppelin of math-rock, tight but loose with all the elements interacted with perfect precision and yet the feel of improvisation. Best Track: Atlas

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1. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America

Out in the US last year but January for us, I haven’t loved a record this much since Chutes Too Narrow by The Shins. Craig Finn spins his tales with the touch of a master, celebrating the teenage fuck ups and and beauty of the that experience with poetry, humour and jackhammer tunes. There just isn’t a moment on the album out of place and, by some distance it contains the best lines of the year. Choice for now being “She was a real cool kisser and she wasn’t all that strict of a Christian”, a teenage dream in fifteen words. Best Track: Chillout Tent

Other notable albums from the year were made by: Arctic Monkeys, Iron & Wine, The Twilight Sad, New Pornographers, Yeasayer, Les Savy Fav, Band of Horses, The Shins, Beirut, Sunset Rubdown, Nicole Atkins, Bon Iver (out in UK next year), Handsome Furs, Bill Callahan, Thurston Moore, Rilo Kiley, The Bees, John Vanderslice, St Vincent, Dinosaur Jr, Richard Swift, Bright Eyes, Queens of the Stone Age, The White Stripes, The Black Kids (EP), New Young Pony Club, The Broken West, Caribou, Dirty Projectors, Jason Isbell, Gonzales, Kevin Drew, Lil Wayne, Kanye West (in places), Magik Markers, Scout Niblett, Marissa Nadler, Miracle Fortress, Neil Young, Noah & The Whale, Pela, Phosphorescent, Ra Ra Riot, Seasick Steve, Wilco, The Maccabees, The 1990s, Stars of the Lid, Patti Smith and probably more besides.

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2 Responses

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  1. Michael said, on January 4, 2008 at 5:05 am

    why NOT 18? I asked myself the same question about 28.

    And damn…you have quite a chunk of tags there. haha…i’ve contemplated doing that with some posts but concluded I was too lazy.

    i shall come back and read your descriptions of the albums.

  2. Michael said, on January 14, 2008 at 4:17 am

    wait…did you say you DID NOT like Paul McCartney’s album?? I have trouble believing you are human…haha j/k..it’s okay. I just really like pop music. “Pop music” in the purest terms.


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