Every year this seems to come faster and faster, and every year Glide starts off the ‘best of the year’ discussions saying there really weren’t that many great albums to choose from. What used to be flipping through a dozen stacks of CDs, and finding a few forgotten gems, has now become two-dozen page scrolls through iTunes. And before you get to the random, unnamed tracks at the end, you realize how much newly issued music had a truly significant impact on our ears the past twelve months. So, as quickly as we initially dismissed the year, we inevitably end up having a hard time keeping the contenders list under 100.
Band of Horses
Once the initial list was created, the usual debates ensued, the ‘either-or’ discussions got heated and a few email chains went from passive suggestion to adamant demand. But in the end, we painstakingly narrowed the masses down to twenty albums that encompassed the best this year had to offer.
And it’s not all about what’s on the inside. Ironically enough, in this m3-era, it’s great to see the art of the album cover is still alive and well. This was probably the best year we’ve seen for album art in a while. Apparently black is still the new black. Long live rock! In Alphabetical Order
It’s a pretty reflective album title for a band that runs the emotive table from folk, blues and Americana all the way to pop, rock and country. This melting pot trio covers it all, yet still manages to create an authentic sound all their own. Throw in some humble storytelling, stand-up bass and a potent banjo and it’s hard to keep these brother and a friend melodies out of your head.
YouTube: “Paranoia in B-Flat Major”
- Cease to Begin
With new releases from The Shins, Iron & Wine and now Band of Horses, Sub-Pop had a pretty good 2007. Last year we left BOH’s stellar debut, Everything all the Time
, off the Glide 20, but Cease to Begin
is a tad more sturdy, as Ben Bridwell and his haunting voice turns “Is There a Ghost,” “Ode to LRC” and “Detlef Schrempf” into goose-bumpers. With band members come and gone, Bridwell has re-worked his Band of Horses into Neil Young’s musical cousin.
YouTube: “Is There a Ghost”
- Armchair Apocrypha
For Bird’s 7th album, and dire task of following 2005’s Eggs
, the dramatic singer-songwriter switched album-to-album gears once again, though this time he skips the elaborate and provides a sense of clarity. His compositions continue to be multi-layered (assisted by the contemporary percussionist Dosh) yet his arrangements and darker lyrical work stray down a less winding path. The result is his most concise effort of his acclaimed twelve-year career.
Explosions In The Sky
- All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
Austin, Texas has certainly solidified itself as a critical component in the history of rock, and it’s safe to say this instrumental, post-rock quartet will become part of the great cities legacy. Epic crescendos, dramatic tension-and-release, ensuing chaos and melodic tranquility make All of a Sudden another wild ride through the Lone Star state.
The Good, The Bad & The Queen
YouTube: “Welcome, Ghosts”
- The Good, The Bad & The Queen
Damon Albarn (Blur/Gorillaz), Paul Simonon (The Clash), Tony Allen (Africa 70/Fela Kuti) and Simon Tong (The Verve) make for a random supergroup, but the collective effort makes for the most unique sound of the year. Although Albarn’s down-tempo voice is recognizable from his Gorillaz work, it generates new life in this debut that traces reggae, dub and punk into a colorful concept piece. Not to mention they make a serious run for band name of the year too.
Great Lake Swimmers
YouTube: “Kingdom Of Doom”
Largely inspired by their country’s majestic natural environment, the trio of Canadian indie-folkers meanders their way with an acoustic serenity. Like the landscape portrayed, the calm and gentle vocals of Tony Dekker rise in the distance to a vast and soaring height. The contrast of intimacy and quiet expansion makes Ongiara a much needed retreat from the mundane.
Iron & Wine
YouTube: “Your Rocky Spine”
- The Shepherd’s Dog
As president of the hush-and-shush crowd, Sam Beam has distanced himself from the singer-songwriter masses with the most complete body of work we’ve seen from him yet. The Shepherd’s Dog
sparkles beneath an orchestra of guitar, sitars, hand drums, banjo, keyboards, strings and backward tape loops. Breaking from his sparse acoustic past, Beam rejuvenates his sound, but within it all, still maintains his trademark intimacy.
YouTube: "The Devil Never Sleeps"
Sharon Jones & The Dap King
, 100 Days, 100 Nights
They could have called Amy Winehouse’s breakthrough debut, Amy Winehouse & The Dap Kings. As the backing band for rock’s most endearing new drunk, the ‘Kings’ deliver that late ‘60s, early ‘70s gritty R&B soul, and takes it to new heights with Jones delivering vocals with the conviction of Aretha Franklin. 100 Days and 100 Nights
is their best album – until they release a live record.
YouTube: "100 Days, 100 Nights"
Kings of Leon
– Because of the Times
On their third full length, these southern bad boys have done good, further plowing their army of guitar, bass, and drums into a collection of relentless rockers. Although their seemingly darker and less accessible than previous albums, Kings of Leon reclaim a sound that’s all their own on this time, yet they still pay homage to all eras of good classic rock, without sounding cliché.
Ted Leo and The Pharmacists
YouTube: “On Call”
– Living with the Living
On their fifth full-length release Ted Leo and The Pharmacists hooked up with Brendan Canty (Fugazi) to pump out new high energy punk anthems that define the early 90’s punk underground scene. Living with the Living runs through hardcore (“Bomb.Repeat.Bomb.”), Irish folk (“Bottle of Buckie”), reggae (“Unwanted Things”), and new wave (“La Costa Brava”) all with enough credibility to call it vital.
– Drums and Guns
For their eighth full-length album (second recorded with producer Dave Fridmann), Sub Pop’s ‘reluctant to call themselves Slowcore’ minimalists plunge deeper into the sparse, remote and darkness, this time through the bleak setting of war. Though contemporary in scope, the timeless themes envelope the whispered tones, creating yet another magnificently unsettling and haunting journey.
The fourth studio album from these melodic indie rockers proves to be their finest moment yet. It’s not a dramatic change from previous efforts, but Boxer
separates the unit from the Brooklyn masses - solidifying Matt Berninger’s distinctly warm vocals and the powerful ensemble surrounding the explosive drum work of Bryan Devendorf as a one of the most relevant bands of the 00’s. Weird, it’s 2007, but it still feels too early to write 00’s.
YouTube: “Mistaken For Strangers”
- I’ll Follow You
Somehow, within the sea of indie rockers inhabiting the studios of Brooklyn, Oakley Hall has managed to solidify their own identity and create a uniqueness many in the thriving borough have lost. An urban Americana, led by the male-female vocal harmonies of Patrick Sullivan and Rachel Cox drives the band from alt-country to traditional folk, with all the relevance of those subletting hipsters surrounding them.
YouTube: "Marine Life"
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
– This Is Somewhere
Grace Potter has gone from rootsy Vermont rocker to sexually assertive rocker in this major label debut. Breaking from writing in the facets of groove, Potter put songwriting first and scrapped all remnants of cookie cutter pop, giving us a true female voice that would do Bonnie Raitt proud.
YouTube: “Ah Mary”
- In RainbowsIn Rainbows
is more than Radiohead’s seventh album - it’s the first significant music project in these early stages of Web 3.0. Living up to the legacy of OK Computer
or Kid A
is kind of irrelevant. This latest collection of mp3s has all of the eerie, haunting Thom Yorke vocals, chaos, frigid percussion and absolute timeless compositions that surpass anything anyone else is currently writing. The only difference this time around is the format. And even that was innovative.
YouTube: Bodysnatchers (thumbs down version)
The Sea and Cake
On their first album since 2003’s One Bedroom,
The Sea and Cake continue to mold loose breezy rock on this new Thrill Jockey effort. Sam Prekop's breathy vocals and the coolness of the guitars and keyboards fall somewhere between jazz, experimental, lazy Sunday afternoon and post rock, giving listeners new meaning for “easy listening.”
YouTube: “Crossing Line” Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
With the worst album title of the year, Spoon has made perhaps the album of the year, with not a slouch track in the Ga
batch. From the Clash reggae stylings of “Eddie’s Ragga,” to the slinky groove of “Don’t You Evah” and the power pop of “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” Britt Daniel lifts his game to the premier of indie rock/scenesters on this powerful ten song effort.
YouTube: “The Underdog”
Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
- Like, Love, Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul
The gifted, Seattle-based singer-songwriter breathes a hardened life into the Sweet Hereafter alt-country tunes by evoking the authenticity of Neil Young and the whiskey growl of John Bell, for a gritty wail all her own. Sonic, psych-rock anthems and raspy indie-folk ballads weave along with a desperate yearning.
YouTube: “LLL” Eddie Vedder
- Music for the Motion Picture Into the Wild
So the story goes - director Sean Penn envisioned his pal Eddie Vedder writing a collection of songs for the big screen version of Into the Wild. Vedder took the project to task and placed the soul searching journey of Chris McCandless to music, laying every instrument on the soundtrack's nine original and two cover songs. Far from a Pearl Jam rocker, Vedder shows underlying depth and soul as a true singer-songwriter on this vivid but short soundtrack.
YouTube: “Hard Sun”
The White Stripes
, Icky Thump
Having brought back” real rock” some years ago, The White Stripes continue to bring “indie rock” credibility to their mainstream audience. Say what you will about Meg’s primitive drumming, however Jack continues to be a one man powerhouse, rarely shying away from an era or idea, making full use of the band’s “Icky Thump” with bagpipes and metallic guitars.
YouTube: “Icky Thump”
Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Assembly of Dust - Recollection
Battles - Mirrored
Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
Bodies of Water – Ears Will Pop and Eyes Will Blink
Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew - Spirit If...
The Broken West - I Can't Go On, I'll Go On
Caribou - Andorra
Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity
Earlimart - Mentor Tormentor
The Electric Six - I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master
Feist – The Reminder
Foreign Born – On The Wing Now
Galactic – From The Corner To The Block
Great Northern – Trading Twilight For Daylight
Patty Griffin - Children Running Through
The Harlem Experiment - The Harlem Experiment
Loney, Dear - Loney, Noir
The National Lights - The Dead Will Walk, Dear
Okkervil River - The Stage Names
Fionn Regan - The End Of History
Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
Bruce Springsteen - Magic
Kanye West - Graduation
White Rabbits – Fort Nightly
Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals