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 V.17 No.1 | January 3 - 9, 2008 

Year in Music

Top 10 of 2007

After throwing them at the wall, these are the albums that stuck

Top 10 lists are intimidating. What if I miss something good? What if I don't agree with the critics? There's no way I could have heard every single disc last year. How can I be an authority?

I probably will omit a favorite of yours from 2007. I don't usually run parallel with national critics. I didn't crack open every single release this year, but there were a whole lot of them stacked in messy piles on my desk.

I am but a humble music writer, pulling discs out of wastefully large press packets every week, thumbing through them and slipping most into my CD player for a quick run-through. The ones that stand out get deeper listens and then reviewed. The albums that make a lasting impression are still in my regular rotation—CDs to drive to, clean to, write to, party to. There's no accounting for why, exactly. Like pasta, when it's right, it's right.

Indulge me, and feel free to disagree at alibi.com.

10) Screamin' Cyn Cyn and the Pons

Screamin' Target Heart Rate (Crustacean Records)

Oh, man. These four theatrical punks from Madison, Wis., stopped in Burque for one tour date and sent their disc to the Alibi for promo purposes. And it was absolutely one of the best albums we got all year—from anybody. Unintentional art rock, Screamin' Cyn Cyn is funny, fast, poorly recorded and nearly perfect. Lyrics touch on slumber parties, panty-wearin' cowboys and setting the table, but the occasional brutal twist launches these ditties well beyond the usual trash-talking.

9) Modest Mouse

We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Sony)

Modest Mouse puts out its share of lazy discs. This isn't one of them. Isaac Brock barks his way through well-strung choruses. The Shins' James Mercer chips in his two-bits on "Florida." The Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr lends a bit of taste to the whole wobbly shebang. Miraculously, all those elements and sensibilities align for this, a Mouse rebirth.

8) Dan Deacon

Spiderman of the Rings (Carpark)

Truly, this disc starts to work my nerves after playing it on repeat for a couple of hours. With kid-like exuberance, Deacon manages to be both annoying and enchanting at the same time. Fuzzy synth sounds, not unlike those found in old-school video games, spin and buzz around like excited bees. Though it takes a special person to enjoy this after a marathon session, Deacon's Baltimore brilliance should be evident in limited doses.

7) of god and science

of god and science (Detach)

There's no fault to find with the recording or execution of this great local release. Making Albuquerque proud, these solid ambient indie-rock songs with subtle drum work stand up to the national releases I heard in 2007. Not bound to any one style, of god and science also occasionally plucks a fair country twang or rolls around in the blues. Diversity like this helps stave off the boredom that's encroaching on the indie genre.

6) Busdriver

RoadKillOvercoat (Epitaph)

Wordy, dense, opaque—not terms you usually associate with the bouncy joviality that is Busdriver's wit. Sure, every line didn't stab me in the gut with its unerring Truth, but I've been singing "post-recreational paranoia is the sport of now, so kill your employer" since January. Hey, hip-hop: Remember fun? Remember the party of wordplay? Nonsensical, maybe. Still, Busdriver uses the jargon created by the frenzied media feast of the last 20 years to artistic effect. And the beats are tight.

5) Andrew Bird

Armchair Apocrypha (Fat Possum)

Distilled literature—that's what Bird uses for lyrics. Better than most of those "greats" we keep hearing about, Bird's words flow silky-smooth from his careless lilt, accompanied by pizzicato violin and acoustic guitars underlined with unexpected rhythms, all of which unfold naturally. Graceful but not complacent, Bird's delicate hand deftly released Apocrypha into the air, where it flew without peer.

4) Queens of the Stone Age

Era Vulgaris (Interscope)

I heard from lots of QOTSA lovers who detested Era. But they are shortsighted fools. Rocking was not immediate upon impact, but the delayed bang was worth the wait. Solid songwriting, great guitar licks and, yes, even a catchy hook amid all the more unusual structures made Era one for the books. A few spins in and every real fan should know Josh Homme's still got it, even if "it" isn't exactly what you were expecting.

3) Rasputina

Oh Perilous World (Filthy Bonnet)

This thing grew on me like some kind of fungus until I absolutely itched for it. This rock cello trio teeters at the edge of the void of pretension without ever falling in. Melora Creager's weird cadence telling obscure historical stories takes a few listens before making the metaphorical sense she's going for. Though it comes off as Medieval pop, slowly these strange ballads grow hugely relevant.

2) El-P

I'll Sleep When You're Dead (Definitive Jux)

"Apocalyptic" may be El Producto's least-favorite adjective used to describe his music, but it sure sounds like his mind is a desolate landscape punctured with hot, angry eruptions. Every song on this album can stand on its own, though the album hangs together cohesively. It's his best work yet, far exceeding the other ’07 releases on this all-star hip-hop label.

1) Battles

Mirrored (Warp Records)

Loops link to loops, instruments call and respond, Battles first full-length LP was heralded as the rebirth of prog. But more than just tinkering like madmen with enormously complex layers, this album is a satisfying musical whole. Overarching themes recur; the mood shifts gradually. And though the "lyrics" aren't discernible as the vocal work interacts as just another player, there's meaning here, too.

 
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    YOU / ABANDONED MANSIONS
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