While most of this music flew a little below the radar this year, and admittedly, not everyone will find everything on this list enjoyable, I do think that there is something on this list that everybody can tolerate. And even if you only take my word for it, they’re all worth listening to.1. LCD Soundsystem – “Sound of Silver.” James Murphy’s second full-length album under the name LCD Soundsystem is the dance record of the year, but to place “Sound of Silver” under just one banner would be to miss the point entirely. This is an album that doesn’t just toe the line between rock n’ roll and dance pop music, it obliterates it completely. The album is about growing up and confronting the adult world, but with a vocal performance that owes as much to Prince as it does to Jonathan Richman, Murphy’s enthusiastic whoops, howls, and spoken barbs make sure everybody’s still having a good time.
2. Feist – “The Reminder.” Leslie Feist, you may know her best as that woman in the sparkling blue dress from the iPod commercial featuring her song “1,2,3,4” but those of us who have listened to her records, or seen her perform live, know her as one of the finest singers in pop music today.
The arrangements are spare, a sprinkling of piano, a dust of banjo even a splash of brass when it’s called for, but the instruments are there to add color, not steal the show. The focus remains eternally on Feist’s indelible voice, and indeed that is what holds the album together through its many shifts in tone. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
3. The National – “Boxer.” It’s not surprising that since the release of “Boxer” The National garnered the opening gig on The Arcade Fire’s North American tour, and were name dropped as one of Bruce Springsteen’s favorite new bands.
“Boxer” is the group’s fourth LP, and by all accounts is a deep and darkly beautiful record. The band’s ethereal guitars and subtle chamber orchestration provide the backdrop for most of the songs, and a lot of the music’s tension stems from the way Bryan Devendorf’s propulsive drumming and complex polyrhythms drive the songs through those lush settings.
At the heart of it all are Matt Berninger’s simple piano arrangements and plaintive baritone voice. Too detached to be considered earnest and far too sincere to be nihilistic, Berninger’s vocals are simply perfect, and lend weight to lines that might seem like throw-away details on the surface.
4. Jens Lekman – “Night Falls Over Kortedala.” Swedish singer/songwriter Lekman doesn’t just wear his influences on his sleeve, he steals them, literally sampling bits from orchestral ’60s pop, Motown, ’50s doo-wop and contemporary artists (fellow Swedes The Concretes and the Tough Alliance pop up,) and incorporating them into his own pop amalgamations.
His crooning vocals have been likened to Morrissey, and the result is a pop music cathedral of strings, horns, flutes, bells and toy piano that ranges from the gorgeous to the theatrical. However, whenever Lekman over indulges himself sonically, he almost always saves the moment with his lyrics.
5. Okkervil River – “The Stage Names.” On “The Stage Names” Okkervil River is as tight as they’ve ever been, every hook is well placed, and every musical decision helping to enhance the portraits of Will Sheff’s desperate characters.
The band is also playing around with genre more than they have on any other record, and whether it’s the shuffling R&B of “A Hand to Take Hold of The Scene,” the straight ahead rock n’ roll of “Unless It’s Kicks,” or the more familiar country-folk balladry of “A Girl In Port,” the songs all possess the sound of a band hitting its stride and having a hell of a time doing it.
So there you have it, my favorite albums of 2007. Rounding out my top ten for the year and also worth a listen are the Black Lips’ “Good Bad Not Evil,” Radiohead’s “In Rainbows,” Spoon’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga,” The White Stripes’ “Icky Thump” and Of Montreal’s “Hissing Fauna, Are you The Destroyer?”
Luke Bauerlein is a student at West Chester University majoring in liberal studies. He can be reached at LB561388@wcupa.edu.