Before I dive into my top albums of 2007, I wanted to share this article I found yesterday. It's one of those "where are they now" sorts of follow ups with this one all about former figure skater Tonya Harding. I know, I know... who really cares, right? Well I was one who didn't. But I read it anyway, and Kansas City Star reporter Sam Mellinger does a very nice job with it. You almost begin to feel some sympathy for Harding by the end. That's the mark of a good writer... humanizing the demonic.
On to the meat and potatoes... Kapgar's Top 10 Albums of 2007!
As much work as these lists can be, they're still a lot of fun because they give you a moment to sit back and reflect. Maybe you can already tie one of these albums into some event in your life or maybe you just think about the first time you listened to it. Whatever the case may be, I love how music just carries you back.
Here is the list in reverse order...
10. The Polyphonic Spree - The Fragile Army
I think it was just a few weeks ago that I asked if anybody had heard this album yet because, at the time, I hadn't. And, judging by the comments on the post (or lack thereof), nobody else had either. Well, shame on me and all of you! I went ahead and purchased it and have since fallen in love with it. The Spree have a very unique, almost ethereal, sound coming from their enormously large choir of voices (varying from 13-27 people) led by Tim DeLaughter who also serves as lead vocalist, keyboardist, and guitarist. It can be an acquired taste, admittedly. But I have acquired it and would hope others might give it a chance as well.
9. Carrie Underwood - Carnival Ride
Not only is Carrie the hottest thing to come out of American Idol, but also the best voice yet and my only country entry on the top 10 this year after four albums hit the list last year. I actually enjoy this album more than her debut album, Some Hearts, a couple years ago. The range and variety seem to be much greater than her debut and I feel anyone can find some song on this album they could enjoy even if they are not a so-called country fan. I hate how genres can lead to a pre-judging of musical efforts.
8. Jay-Z - American Gangster (not available on iTunes; link will lead you to Amazon.com)
While you might think this is a soundtrack to the Ridley Scott film of the same name starring Denzel Washington and Russell crowe, this is not the truth. Sure, they have the same name, but, according to iTunes New Music Tuesday podcast (dunno why they were covering this album considering it's not for sale there), Jay-Z was given a sneak peek at the finished film and he immediately went home and tore through writing the lyrics and music for an entire album that is forever to be designated as "inspired by" and not "written for" the movie. Hey, I was schooled by all of you that I need to listen to Jay-Z and I am... and I'm lovin' every minute of it.
7. Joss Stone - Introducing Joss Stone
In a time period when most young female representation in the world of popular music consists of the likes of Hilary Duff, Mandy Moore, and Miley Cyrus (not that they're particularly bad... they all just sound the same after a while), it's refreshing to have a young voice as soulful as Joss Stone. And few can compare to Joss as she tears through songs with a passion the likes of which we haven't seen in decades and all from a white British girl who prefers to stalk the stage barefoot dressing like a modern-day Janis Joplin. Despite the misleading album title, this is actually her third studio album and her sound only improves as time goes on.
6. Eddie Vedder - Into the Wild soundtrack
I have a personal policy of not allowing soundtracks nor compilation/greatest hits albums on the top 10. I just don't feel it's right. An exception must be made, however, for Eddie Vedder's album written as a favor to Director Sean Penn's film version of Jon Krakauer's book Into the Wild about the life and death of Christopher McCandless. The sound is a bit different than that which Vedder usually contributes to his Pearl Jam efforts and the result is more down-to-earth and haunting than anything I've ever heard from him.
5. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
I hate to admit it, but I am also one of the people that became a fan of The Shins as a result of Natalie Portman's avowal in Garden State that their music "will change your life." Hey, I may no longer be as big a fan of Zach Braff as an actor, but the man has an ear for good music. Damn him for having the power to do something with it. Anyway... This album marks The Shins third studio release and it's a stunner. It is actually a bit of a departure with some slightly faster songs than what we are accustomed to from the band. But they do a great job with them. Those fans who claim this is not like the band of old clearly do not understand the concept of musical evolution. Sit down, plug in, and enjoy!
4. Foo Fighters - Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace
I think I said a couple years ago that any year in which Foo Fighters release an album, they're likely to win the top spot in my countdown. Not to say that this album is bad. It's far from it. However, there were just some other fantastic offerings that made the countdown above it. Sorry, Dave and Company. Nothing personal. This is still fantastic and I love listening to it from beginning to end. That's always a sign of a great album.
3. The Nightwatchman - One Man Revolution
So far as I've been told, the story goes that some dude who dubbed himself "The Nightwatchman" started playing small acoustic club gigs in some cities. Nobody knew who he was until they got there and found Tom Morello of Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine up on stage with an acoustic guitar. According to his explanation, when he would record with Rage, they began by playing the songs acoustically to refine the music and lyrics and then they recorded electronically. Turns out he loves the acoustic guitar and wanted to try to record an entire acoustic album. The result is One Man Revolution with some hard-hitting acoustic wizardry balanced by powerful, topical lyrics that sound like they're being belted out by Mark Knopfler's protege.
2. Sara Bareilles - Little Voice
Oh it was sooo close. I swear I was flip flopping between this and who I picked as the best for the top spot. I started this year having never heard of Sara Bareilles. But she happened to be opening for a pair of Rocco DeLuca shows Katie and I were planning to attend. After that, it was all over. We were both head over heels for Sara and her fantastic voice. While her live show was just her on keyboards, a guitarist, and a percussionist, her studio album has a full band backing her up and, thankfully, the audio mixers still allowed her voice to come through to the forefront. It would've been so easy to let the music drown her out, and it would have been a travesty as well seeing as how she now ranks as one of my all-time female vocalists.
1. Radiohead - In Rainbows (not available on iTunes; link will lead you to Radiohead's Web site)
I'm going to be perfectly honest with you, while I haven't hated them, any of Radiohead's albums from Kid-A on up have not really, well, floated my catamaran. But I do own them all. Then along comes In Rainbows, an album that is probably making music companies cringe because it is the first truly huge release to go out completely independent of their totalitarian mandates. That's right. Radiohead released this on their own through their Web site. And you were able to name your price. I have yet to see official stats on sales, but I've been told it did well.
Here is a secondary top 10 list of albums. Sorry, no commentary but they were certainly still worthy of mentioning. Here they are in order from top down.
- Kings of Leon - Because of the Times
- Blaqk Audio - CexCells
- Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
- James Blunt - All the Lost Souls
- Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
- Idlewild - Make Another World
- Velvet Revolver - Libertad
- Kanye West - Graduation
- Ozzy Osbourne - Black Rain
- Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
If you have any albums that you feel I should check out from this year (or any year for that matter), feel free to e-mail me or leave them in the comments. I'm always looking for recommendations!