I feel like I say this every year, but dang, 2007 had some great music. Armed with a subscription to eMusic for the last few months, and a healthy does of some great iTunes gift cards, I've been able to get some great music this year. I'm going to do a top 10 of sorts, with some honorable mentions, b/c honestly there is just too much good music to try to cram it into 10 little slots. And further, I'm not David Letterman, I'm not that funny, and there were more than 10 great albums this year. So here goes:
Tied for #1. The National- Boxer. Big thanks to Seth for introducing me to this band out of NYC via Cincinnati. I can't stop listening to this album. And it's hard to pick just one great song, I feel like you have to listen to this album all the way through every time.
Tied for #1. Arcade Fire- Neon Bible. Arcade Fire is one of the most innovative bands around. I anxiously awaited this album perhaps more than any other this year, and it didn't disappoint. A little darker at points, with a beautiful tapestry of instruments in layers. A must have along with The National's Boxer.
3. Wilco- Sky Blue Sky. This is a fantastic album all the way through. The song writing is a bit more direct, without becoming shallow, and the music is also more clear without seeming trite. This album is one that I can just put on and let run the gamut.
4. Ryan Adams- Easy Tiger. I love Ryan Adams, and I really love Ryan Adams with The Cardinals. I am enjoying the musical direction of his last couple of works, and his songwriting is amazing.
5. The New Pornographers- Challengers. I've said it already, so I'll quote myself: "A softer side of this star-studded band. This is a fantastic album, well-composed and thoughtful." Neko Case is amazing.
6. Bodies of Water- Ears Will Pop and Eyes Will Blink. This is a Sufjan-sounding gang of singers and musicians that is a lot of fun and helps stretch traditional instruments into new places. This is my first listen to this group, and I'll be coming back for more.
7. Harp 46- Santuarium. This album brings one of my favorite bands into a new realm. The addition of Amanda Lee helps capture with a new instrument (being Amanda's voice) the deep and soulful spirit of this band. Along with the original lyrics and original compositions, this album hit me square in the heart.
8. Patty Griffin- Children Running Through. This acoustic-folk record is my first glimpse into the world of Patty Griffin. I really enjoy her powerful and unique voice, and the sort of genre-challenging quality of this album.
9. Lifesavas- Gutterfly. I can't believe I'm on #9 already and am just now interjecting a hip-hop album, but this is a great indie hip-hop band out of Portland that is combining jazzy beats with clever lyrics. I highly recommend them, and say thanks to Ben for introducing me to this great group.
10. Derek Webb- The Ringing Bell. As usual, Derek's music and lyrics continue to challenge and prod to eventually deconstruct the Christian music label, and provides provocative insights into the world of politics and faith. This is one of the most accessible pop-rock albums thus far in his solo career, and I have certainly enjoyed it.
11. Iron & Wine- The Shepherd's Dog. The latest from Sam Beam has created quite a stir for me. Beam has a more full sound in this album without overwhelming his whispered voice. The songs on this album are good stories put to music.
12. Radiohead- In Rainbows. Besides the magnificent pay-what-you-want aspect of this album, the music was great, and the lyrics haunting at times (in a good way...if that's possible). This album moved in a different direction than Yorke's solo release without losing the best qualities of his solo album and the best of Radiohead's previous work.
13. Kanye West- Graduation. While I hoped for more out of this album lyrically, the music is mesmerizing at times, and is amazing to run to. It's a fun album, that I hope will free Kanye to pursue some other artistic expressions away from the school scene.
14. Spoon- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. A straight up rock album that is really fun to listen to. This is a new band for me, but one that I have really come to enjoy and appreciate. They may help pave the way for rock in the future.
15. Andrew Bird- Armchair Apocrypha. On some days this album was higher up on the list, as it is moody, folky, and beautiful. This album was a first for my by Bird, and I am thoroughly impressed and am looking forward to getting to know more of his music.
16. Common- Finding Forever. Largely produced by Kanye, this album was not quite as good as Be, but was still really good. This album fell a little short lyrically for me, but the music was innovative and powerful.
17. St. Vincent- Marry Me. I have really loved this short album for the time that I've had to listen to it so far this year. Her quirky (in a good way) voice and interesting music to boot has been a great new artist to listen to this year.
And with that, I'll end my list. There are some other artists and albums I've enjoyed, but these have been some of the indispensable albums of the year for me. If you got some recent iTunes gift cards, check some of these bands out, or better yet, try out a subscription to eMusic for an indie-friendly music buying experience. Happy New Year and here's to another great year of music!