Top 50 Albums Of 2007: 30-26
30. Mark Sultan - The Sultanic Verses (In The Red)
2007 was a really good year for back-to-basics garage-punk and no-one was as basic as Mark Sultan. After plying his trade under various monikers (BBQ being the most prominent, due to his hook-ups with King Khan) and with a multitude of bands (The Spaceshits, Les Sexareenos...), Sultan chose this album to record under his real name for the first time. It's understandable why, as The Sultanic Verses features his rawest, most unreconstructed music to date.
Indebted to rockabilly, 60s soul, 50s girl groups, mid-60s garage pop nuggets and pure sock-hopping 50s rock'n'roll, The Sultanic Verses is a bracing ride, but one that will leave its feather-headed hooks bludgeoned into your skull for some time after. There are breezy janglers like the opener 'Beautiful Girl' (replete with toy piano), brain-damaged psych ('Cursed World'), Stooges-esque punkers ('Warpath') and spooked out girl-pop (the closing 'Unicorn Rainbow Odyssey'), but it's all filtered through Sultan's skewed puritanism to the point where all that matters are the infectious tunes and isn't that how music's supposed to be?
Mark Sultan - Beautiful Girl (mp3)
Mark Sultan - Cursed World (mp3)
Bonus: Mark Sultan live in Paris.
29. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam (Domino)
And the award for most blogged-about band of 2007 goes to... Well, actually, it's probably Radiohead, but Animal Collective came in a close second. Not since Kid A has an album inspired so much fevered, enraptured clamouring from the internet tastemakers as Strawberry Jam. In fact, I reckon that the band were that confident their new album would garner so much fanboyish frothing that they felt compelled to throw the people itching to naysay a bone in the shape of one of the worst album covers of the year.
What lay inside though was a thing of warped beauty as AC took one step closer to some kind of freak-pop ideal through strange loops, fucked-up harmonics and, in 'Fireworks' and 'Peacebone', two of the year's most unlikely ANTHEM! moments. It most definitely isn't pop but it's as close as twisted art-folk will probably ever get. I still prefer their early stuff though.
Animal Collective - Fireworks (mp3)
Animal Collective - For Reverend Green (mp3)
Bonus: Animal Collective weirding up Conan O'Brien with a suitably deranged take on '#1'.
28. Freeway - Free At Last (Roc-A-Fella)
The best beard in hip-hop could have reason to feel aggrieved that his sophomore effort was the first in ages on Roc-A-Fella not to feature production from either Just Blaze or Kanye West, but Freeway just got on with it, making his rhymes tighter and calling in the best beats possible from some second-tier producers. The result is Free At Last, West aside, the best album to come from the Roc stable since The Blueprint.
Freeway is a charismatic MC - well, I say MC, but what he actually does is somewhere between crying and growling, his style emotive and guttural. He gives as good as his boss man on Jay-Z-guesting 'Roc-A-Fella Billionaires' (with, naturally, 'Hey Big Spender' sample) and elsewhere he enlists 50 Cent to do probably his most likeable guest turn in a while on irrepressible pop-rap belter, 'Take It To The Top', while the venerable Scarface graces 'Baby Don't Do It' with his inimitable presence. Even Cool & Dre (with Rick Ross in tow) turn in a nice and moody production on 'Lights Get Low'. Free At Last really impresses though when Free has full reign to do his thing, like on 'Still Got Love', 'Reppin' The Streets' and the title track. Thick, heavy soul with one of hip-hop's forgotten men making an admirable push for star status.
Freeway - Still Got Love (mp3)
Freeway - Baby Don't Do It (feat. Scarface) (mp3)
Bonus: Video for 'Still Got Love'.
27. Super Furry Animals - Hey Venus! (Rough Trade)
Another contender for worst album art of 2007, Hey Venus! was, cover aside, a marked improvement on 2005's over-produced, under-nourished Love Kraft. The polish was still there (that comes from working with Mario Caldato Jr., I guess), but this was a more pared-down, more song-focused set than its predecessor and it's when SFA are concentrating on making gorgeous psych-infused pop songs that they're at their best.
'Run-Away' was their best single since 'Juxtapozed With U', 'Suckers' showed they still had a wicked sense of humour, 'Neo-Consumer' and 'Into The Night' proved them to still be the peerless glam rockers they once were and the The Band-like country soul of 'Let The Wolves Howl At The Moon' was just pure heartbreak. As nothing is ever easy with this band, we also got the execrable 'Battersea Odyssey', but hey, you can't have it all ways. For nine of its ten songs however, Hey Venus! was Britain's most-neglected bands firing on all cylinders once more and that's cause for celebration in itself.
Super Furry Animals - Show Your Hand (mp3)
Super Furry Animals - Suckers (mp3)
Bonus: Watch the hilarious video for 'Run-Away', starring the man formerly known as Dixon Bainbridge, Matt Berry.
26. The Field - From Here We Go Sublime (Kompakt)
Had I done this list in, say, May, From Here We Go Sublime would have easily made the top five, but repeated plays doesn't become it. Maybe it's because Axel Willner revels so much in repetition that leads to the cracks showing after a lot of spins. Don't get me wrong, it remains an immensely enjoyable listen, but it just doesn't reveal much more on the 30th run-through as what you're already met with the first time around.
Which is probably why this album has crossed over outside the techno ghetto. Like Isolee's Wearemonster, The Field's debut takes some of that genre's more populist touches and a love of melody and amps them up for maximum euphoria. Unlike that album, however, it's not a jaw-dropping masterwork, just a really good album by a producer you suspect will get better as he continues to grow. He's mastered this technique and it's when Willner starts to play outside his comfort zone that things will really get interesting. For now, however, From Here We Go To Sublime still stands as one of the most thrilling electronic albums of the year.
The Field - Good Things End (mp3)
The Field - The Deal (mp3)
Bonus: Weird little American Grafitti fan video that makes great use of this album's title track.
Labels: top albums of 2007