My highly subjective and painfully honest top 20 tracks of the year are as follows:
- Golden Skans
I've heard it 200 times and could endure it again without physical pain, which means that this is a pretty good song. Nothing more, though.
- Stay The Night
A feelgood pop song with no deeper meaning whatsoever. I love it, and positively know that if I ever hear another song by this band, it will be a disappointment of Orson
-like dimensions (those who checked out their album after hearing No Tomorrow
will know what I mean). A big hurrah for the one-hit wonders.
18. Arctic Monkeys
- Flourescent Adolescent
The Arctic Monkeys didn't feel quite as fresh in 2007 as in 2006, but their last album is still quite decent. This song about how the main character's (sex) life has gone cold is funny, but hardly subtle. I'm not sure if they're poking fun at us old people or if they've become a bit stale themselves.
17. The Twilight Sad
- Mapped By What Surrounded Them
This is a real grower. The contrast between the woolly shoegaze guitar wall and the crisp edge of the Scottish dialect works like a dream.
16. Bright Eyes
- Coat Check Dream SongCassadaga
was a huge disappointment to me after I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
, which is one of my all time favourite albums.
Why did you have to go and make a country album, Conor? I have to admit I had to subsidize him with a few sympathy points in order to even get one track into the top 20. Having said that, this song really stands out on the album with its disturbing tale of drugs and Apocalypse and dark atmosphere. Too bad it's partially destroyed with a misplaced section with someone wailing in Arabic towards the end.
- She's the One
Caribou is one of my discoveries this year - very complex, original and enjoyable - if more on an intellectual than emotional level.
14. Iron And Wine
- Innocent Bones
Sam Beam softly scorns Christian hypocrisy over Caribbean congas in this vitriolic song from the great, great The Shepherd's Dog
13. Elliott Smith
- Looking Over My Shoulder
How can a collection of unreleased, 10-13 year old material be one of the year's best albums? And how can songs that are mostly about drug abuse - a field in which I have extremely little experience - appear so acute and relevant to me? I think the universal aspect lies in Elliott's angelic voice and incredible sense of harmony, and how it contrasts so starkly with the disharmony, disillusionment and depression of his songs.
- 15 Step
This song builds wonderfully by adding layer on layer for each verse on the 5/4 beat. The "circular" beat fits the theme of the song well, trying to improve and get somewhere, but ending up back at square one again.
11. The Shins
I just found out what the dodo's conundrum is: To be a bird and not being able to fly. No wonder it became extinct.
10. Gogol Bordello
- Supertheory of Supereverything
It's impossible to listen to more than three songs in a row by this carnival posing as rock band. But in small doses, they're brilliant. This track gives a succinct account of atheism: "My brothers are protons/My sisters are neurons/I stir it twice, it's instant family!". Hilarious.
I had written off Pete Doherty as a celebrity junkie, but it turns out that he's incredibly gifted as well. Delivery is one catchy pop song straight from the heart of his misery. Who'd think Kate Moss could be such a muse?
- Arcade Precinct
A great song about innocent, teenage fun.
7. The National
The National's album Boxer
is in my view this year's best. It's difficult to pick one track - there aren't any weak songs on this album - but I like the stripped down closing track Gospel. The way I understand the lyrics, it's about the somewhat superficial pledges of support for American troops from the safe distance of the well-trimmed gardens of white, Christian suburbia.
6. Okkervil River
- Savannah Smiles
Okkervil River has been this year's revelation for many of us. This is a short story as much as it is a song. At first, I was moved by the lyrics about a father stumbling across his daughter's diary, realizing that she is not a child anymore and regretting that he hadn't been around more. In the background, you hear the rhythm of a ticking clock and childlike chiming bells. Later, I learned that the song refers to the porn star Savannah
, who committed suicide in 1994. She was born Shannon Wilsey (the lyrics refer to "Shan" and "Shannon"), and took her stage name after her favorite movie Savannah Smiles
. I'm guessing the first person in the song is her mourning father reflecting on her innocent childhood. In a further twist, porn star Savannah died on the birthday of the child actor in Savannah Smiles, who herself died of a drug overdose aged only 22.
5. Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse have sold out, which means they now appeal to a broader audience than the indier-than-thou crowd. I can only say Good News For People Who Love Bad News
. Dashboard is a dark, yet strangely optimistic song - the world is falling apart, but we still have what matters most to us right here, right now.
- The Park
A "less is more" track from a great album. Just Leslie Feist's electric voice, a beaten acoustic guitar and some subtle strings and horns towards the end. This only works when you have a melody of startling beauty, which is the case here. She has a story to tell, too, about how she imagines seeing the man for which she feels unreciprocated love in a London park. But why should he be there? It's cold, the seasons change around her, and she's left with a sense of sadness and homelessness that builds in despair towards the intense ending of the song.
This is a stroke of genius. The hook lies in the childlike chorus on top of disco rhythm and instrumentation, which makes you feel like you've never heard anything like it before. It's nearly the only song that makes me want to get off my singer-songwriter ass and actually - yes - d.a.n.c.e. I bought the album after hearing this track (and the hype around the band). I was bitterly disappointed - it was painful to listen to.
2. The View
- Same Jeans
This is an unpretentious, fun, three-chord song. When the vocalist starts off by gnarling "I've had the same jeans on for fourrrr days now, I'm going to a disco in the middle of the town" in that Scottish dialect, you can't avoid feeling an instant urge to go out and get pissed.
1. Blonde Redhead
This dark and spooky, yet energetic song is the soundtrack of 2007 for me. It refers to - I think - how everything in the world is related to the "magic" number 23 in the absurdist Discordian
religion. For example, the world changes every 23 seconds - "23 seconds, all things we love will die". The vision of life as dark and ephemeral fits with my experience of 2007. The distant and resigned ugly-beautiful vocals have followed me like a shadow throughout this strange year.