Top 50 Albums Of 2007: 15-11
15. Radiohead - In Rainbows (Self-released/XL)
No doubt that the way In Rainbows was released was definitely a surprise, but the most shocking aspect of the album for most people was that, on listening to it, it was Radiohead's least risky album since The Bends in many ways. No-one expected the unchallenging, prosaic, yet thoroughly modern rock record that lay inside that zip file. Gone, in the main, were the Autechre-like glitchy flourishes that have adorned their last three studio albums, save for a few touches here and there, In Rainbows is Radiohead's most obviously palatable record in over a decade.
That doesn't mean that it's not an exceedingly good record. In fact, it only helped the songs that they were largely frill-free. This is the sound of one of Britain's greatest musical assets just cutting loose and enjoying themselves, not at the expense of the listener either. The snarling fuzz-rock of 'Bodysnatchers' is the first marker that this is somewhat of a departure for the band and they then proceed to build on that, proving it no red herring. The album then switches between heartfelt melancholia like 'Nude', 'All I Need' and 'Videotape' and borderline-linear rock tracks that positively swing, like 'Jigsaw Falling Into Place' and 'Weird Fishes/Arpeggi'. The name-your-own-price publicity stunt was just that, but happily it wasn't a smokescreen to cover for a weak record. The music within lives and breathes on its own terms, away from marketing strategies and stands up bravely against any snarky critical sideswipes. 'Down Is The New Up' should have made the cut though.
Radiohead - All I Need (mp3)
Radiohead - Bodysnatchers (mp3)
Bonus: Scotch Mist version of '15 Step'.
14. Panda Bear - Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)
When I first heard the 'I'm Not/Comfy In Nautica' AA-side last year, I knew that Panda Bear was on the way to releasing something Very Special Indeed (capitals necessary), but I never foresaw it catching on in the way it has. In fact, outside of Sound Of Silver, I think it's fair to say that Person Pitch is the most blogged-about album of 2007 (I'd check Technorati but I'm a very lazy man), which is staggering when you take a step back and realise that it's also quite possibly the strangest record released in the last twelve months.
Pleasingly strange, mind, as Person Pitch, at its best, tickles the senses in ways that no other album did this year. Noah Lennox took pretty much every style of music that has informed his work in the past with Animal Collective, plus some other bits and bobs and fed them through his cracked kaleidoscope, ensuring that something new and innovative came out the other end. My only minor gripe with the album is that it could have stood to be a little longer, but when that's your only quibble, you know you've got a winner.
Panda Bear - Comfy In Nautica (mp3)
Panda Bear - Search For Delicious (mp3)
Bonus: Full Panda Bear concert in two parts on YouTube! Part One/Part Two
13. Matthew Dear - Asa Breed (Ghostly International)
When artists, especially those in the dance sphere, choose to go under their given name rather than a pseudonym, alarm bells start ringing. This can only mean one thing: po-faced seriousness, often under the patronising blanket of 'home-listening' (as if you can't listen to ket-drenched, 15-minute techno workouts at home). Matthew Dear, on the other hand, chooses to go the other way. So far, his work under his own name (as oppposed to his output as Audion, False and Jabberjaw) has been relatively poppy, culminating in 2007's fleet-footed Asa Breed.
Some purists complained about the indie-rock aspects of the album, especially towards the end with the TV On The Radio-esque 'Midnight Lovers' and the skewed alt-blues of closer 'Vine To Vine', but even if these don't float your boat, there's a lot more to get your teeth into. Dear jumps from Afro-pop ('Elementary Lover', a collaboration with The Mobius Band) to slinky electro ('Shy') and itchy disco-funk ('Don And Sherri') to crystalline new-wave dance pop ('Pom Pom') with consummate ease, but its all undercut with a clear love for his references and influences. Sure, it's not techno, it's pop filtered through a techno mindset and its one of the most gloriously unique, incredibly overlooked records of 2007.
Matthew Dear - Pom Pom (mp3)
Matthew Dear - Fleece On Brain (mp3)
Bonus: Watch the video for 'Don And Sherri'.
12. Sorcerer - White Magic (Tirk)
'Understated' doesn't even begin to cover Sorcerer's debut album. In fact, it's so damn unassuming that most people don't even know it exists. They should as White Magic is one of the most slow-burningly beauteous long-players of the year. Daniel Saxon-Judd takes the Nordic Balearica of Lindstrom & Prins Thomas and Bjorn Torske and gives it a West Coast American spin. Instead of evoking ice floes and verdant fjords, White Magic conjures images of alabaster sands, lapping waves and campfire-lit beach gatherings.
Echoes of Cluster, Brian Eno and, of course, 70s soft-pop abound, but its Judd's ear for musicality that makes this more than just a whistle-stop tour through his music collection. Judd has a knack for a pop hook that pulls the listener through more than an hour's worth of instrumentals (save for the vocodered vox in 'Hawaiian Island'). Before concentration dips and this becomes mere background fodder, Judd amps up the interest with some innate propulsion (check the driving 'Airbrush Dragon' and the choppy white-funk of 'Surf Wax'). For the most part though, Sorcerer paints vivid pictures with his music, making White Magic a highly-evocative, addictive treat that you can just lose yourself in.
Sorcerer - Bamboo Brainwave (mp3)
Sorcerer - Surfing At Midnight (mp3)
Bonus: Sorcerer - Surfing At Midnight (Prins Thomas Miks) (mp3)
11. Deerhunter - Cryptograms (Kranky)
For all the articles and blog inches devoted to Deerhunter frontman, Brandon Cox' 'condition' (he suffers from Marfan syndrome), what still piques most people's interest at the end of the day is the band's thrilling sound. 2007's Cryptograms and its companion piece, the Fluorescent Grey EP showcase a band really coming into their own and display a rich, textural grasp of sonics and dynamics and a beautifully obfuscated way with lyrics that continues to bewitch and beguile almost twelve months since its release.
Cryptograms is all about the balance between the ugly and the alluring, the violent and the pure, so blissful ambient instrumentals rub up against barely-restrained furious 'songs', whilst Cox waxes cryptic on the mic. They sound almost post-punk and unrefined at times, but at others it sounds like there's 40-odd years of musical history coursing through them, but what keeps me coming back to the record is its wonderful pacing and sequencing. Taken as a whole, it's a sublime work of push-pull energy and vibrancy, lurching between the dark, driven likes of the title track and 'Lake Somerset' and gorgeous interstitials like 'Providence' and 'Red Ink'. Cox and his band are future greats and, might I add, they're pretty fucking brilliant right now.
Deerhunter - Heatherwood (mp3)
Deerhunter - Spring Hall Convert (mp3)
Bonus: Footage of the band performing 'Spring Hall Convert' and 'Hazel St'.
Labels: top albums of 2007