Thursday, January 03, 2008

Best Albums of 2007 (my list, anyway...)

Never heard of Band of Horses? Neither had I until a few months ago, but the Seattle group floored me this year with "Cease to Begin," rating number one. Read all my top picks below and have a great 2008!

Band of Horses “Cease to Begin” (Sub Pop) – This South Carolina-based outfit may recall Neil Young and My Morning Jacket, but Ben Bridwell and company crafted an original masterpiece with “Cease to Begin.” Bridwell’s soaring voice is perfectly suited to material that is beautiful and majestic (“Ode to LRC,” “No One’s Gonna Love You”), rousing sing-alongs (“The General Specific”) and country-styled sorties (“Marry Song”).

Arcade Fire “Neon Bible” (Merge Records) – Arcade Fire is one of modern rock’s best bands and it comes as no surprise that “Neon Bible” is one of the best albums of 2007. From the anthemic “No Cars Go” to the driving “The Well and the Lighthouse,” Arcade Fire’s second full-length effort is arena rock for the 21st century.

Bruce Springsteen “Magic” (Sony) – The boss has released so many wonderful CDs, it’s easy to shelve his current work. Don’t. “Magic” sounds great in 2007 and this collection that should continue to resonate as long as there are those who love rock ‘n’ roll.

Radiohead “In Rainbows” (TBD Records/ATO Records Group) – Forget about the endless insider industry chatter about “In Rainbows” being offered for download at whatever fans wanted to pay, Radiohead’s music plays front and center across “In Rainbows.” From the guitar-driven “Bodysnatchers” hypnotic “Reckoner” to the beautiful “Nude” and “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” Radiohead continues to thrill.

Neil Young “Chrome Dreams II” (Reprise) – Rock’s most consistently- and prolific-songwriter checked in with one of the most eclectic efforts of his long career. Beautiful ballads (“Shining Light,” “The Way”), extended rockers (“Ordinary People,” “Spirit Road”) and country-tinged confessionals (“The Believer,” “Ever After”) all get equal billing here.

John Fogerty “Revival” (Fantasy) – Although there are times when John Fogerty sounds as if he is simply mining the past, at least he is tilling the sonic soil that gave rise to his own legacy. Fogerty’s latest is actually one of the strongest releases of 2007, highlighted by the hopeful “Don’t You Wish It Was True,” retro-styled “Summer of Love” and country-tinged “Broken Down Cowboy.”

Paul McCartney “Memory Almost Full” (Hear Music) – Sir Paul followed up his wonderful 2005 album “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” with an even strong disc this year. “Only Mama Knows” is McCartney’s best rocker since his “Live and Let Die” and his Beatles-styled magic touch enlivens the genuine mood on “Ever Present Past” and “See Your Sunshine.”

Gary Allan “Living Hard” (MCA Nashville) – Modern country and cliché-free introspection don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, which makes Gary Allan’s “Living Hard” such a prize. In the wake of the suicide death of his wife, nuggets such as “We Touched the Sun” and “Yesterday’s Rain” express a rare power.

Travis “The Boy with No Name” (Sony) – The band that paved the way for Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Keane seemingly re-materialized in 2007 with “The Boy with No Name.” There is plenty to recommend on this effort, notably “Closer” and “My Eyes.”

Jars of Clay “Christmas Songs” (Nettwerk Records) – Modern Christian outfit Jars of Clay waited until the release of their 10th full-length effort to focus on Christmas. But “Christmas Songs” was worth the wait. The group offers up a few artfully-reworked covers into the mix (McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” the traditional “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”), but many of the songs are originals that drive home that the band approached this fantastic project with purpose of their other acclaimed works.

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