Anchors / Jordan Rogowski is a reviewer here at Punknews.org -ed
It's almost 2008, really? When did this happen? I feel like me and 2007 were just getting acquainted, but regardless of this year quickly approaching an end, it did give me plenty of great records, evenings watching hockey games, and more dumb drunk stories than I could ever even hope to tell my eventual grandchildren.
I unfortunately did not get to write as much for Punknews as I'd have liked, but I'm only a semester away from having to leave college and become a functioning member of society, and conbsequently, I've kept myself busy with a variety of things over the past year that have prevented me from spending time telling bands that they suck or giving them Fonzie's two thumbs up. Or maybe Carlton's wink-and-the-gun. I haven't decided yet.
All you fine readers here at Punknews will be happy to know I listened to way more hip-hop this year than anything else, and I didn't even realize it until I tried to start putting together this list. Much of what I really enjoyed was in hip-hop mixtape format, which technically disqualifies them from the main list, so I'll have a special section on that for anyone who's interested in hip-hop. For those who aren't, be it because you've never given it a chance or because you don't think there's any talent in the genre, you'll want to listen to some of the records that will appear in my list. That's not to say there was a talent drought in punk, hardcore, or indie; that couldn't be further from the truth. While many bands (ahem, Saves The Day) dropped disappointing and seemingly rushed efforts, others wowed with either a marked improvement or a spectacular debut. I won't say that it was as good a year overall as 2005 and 2006 were, but those who dug a little deeper than normal for great new music to listen to were handily rewarded.
Finally, I'd like to once again thank anyone who's read even one of my reviews; I'm going on my fourth year now writing for Punknews, and I can honestly say that was it not for the feedback some of you have given me over the years, I'd have stopped writing before I ever really even got started. So whether you love my reviews or cannot stand them, thanks for reading regardless, it makes more of a difference than you know.
Now, on with the show...
Top 20 Albums
#20. Minus The Bear - Planet Of Ice
Minus The Bear's most ambitious effort to date is a sprawling, gorgeous album that's as ambitious as it is calculated. The lush guitar tones can turn quickly into cascading riffs and pounding drums without any sort of notice, and the rich vocals mesh beautifully with the electronic aspects of the record. No two songs are alike.
#19. Jimmy Eat World - Chase This Light
I feel like a whole lot of people jumped off the Jimmy Eat World bandwagon when Futures came out, but missing out on this album would be pretty unfortunate. It wanes a bit towards the end, but I'll be damned if "Big Casino" and "Let It Happen" isn‚??t the best 1-2 punch to start an album I've heard in a while.
#18. Hot Cross - Risk Revival
I almost completely forgot about this album because of how early in the year it came out, but repeated listens in the last few days have affirmed the completion of Hot Cross' maturation as a band. Even in losing a member of the band, the chord progressions somehow became more intricate and the songs more interesting, and Billy's lyrics shine now more than ever.
#17. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
Singer/songwriter Sam Beam decided to branch out a bit on his third full-length; incorporating piano, keyboard, strings and electric guitar, his gorgeous narratives take on a life that had yet to be seen. The result? An even more earnest and engaging effort than we'd heard from Beam in the past.
#16. Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
Conor Oberst has really grown up. From a crackly-voiced teenager trying to belt "All Of The Truth" to the confidence exuded by "Middleman," it's hard to tell that it's the same person singing. Cassadaga is one of the strongest and most varied efforts to date for Bright Eyes, and one can only hope this serves as a prelude for great things to come.
#15. Modern Life Is War - Midnight In America
Rumors of MLIW's demise were greatly exaggerated. While the band may have toned down the speed a little bit, the unbridled aggression remained. You can feel the energy burgeoning in "Humble Streets," and the restraint shown by singer Jeff Eaton gives the songs all the more gravity.
#14. Do Make Say Think - You, You're A History In Rust
It was always the subtleties that set this band apart. They don't have the grandiose crescendos of Explosions In The Sky or the electronic wizardry of Telfon Tel Aviv, but what they do have is a strong sense of flow. Every hit on the snare drum or hard-hitting chord is calculated just the same, and the result is as complete an album as you'll find anywhere this year.
#13. Loser Life - I Have Ghosts And I Have Ghosts
One of 2007's more surprising records, California's Loser Life deliver eight songs of frantic hardcore punk that feel fresh and invigorating. The band's hard-hitting style and penchant for teaming extremely quick riffs with vocals to match are a welcome addition to an era where it often feels like this kind of music has long been forgotten.
#12. Maritime - Heresy And The Hotel Choir
Following up as good of an album as this one's predecessor, We, The Vehicles was assuredly no easy task, but Maritime's latest twelve songs manage to deliver some more amazing melodies and subtle quirks without repeating what made the band successful in the first place.
#11. Stars Of The Lid - And Their Refinement Of The Decline
Stars of the Lid are very good at taking minimal means and weaving them into delicate and engrossing epics; be it five minutes or twelve, every song is able to make a huge impact no matter the sound and no matter the direction. "Don't Bother They're Here" is haunting and gorgeous just the same, and in no time at all, you‚??ll be lost in the simplistic grandeur.
#10. Band Of Horses - Cease To Begin
Band of Horses again this year find themselves in the 10 spot, again because singer Ben Bridwell continues to have one of the most unique voices in indie rock. Cease To Begin sounds bigger, more fluid, and more confident than its predecessor all while maintaining the real honesty to their music which made them popular in the first place.
#9. Engineer - The Dregs
Engineer might very well be one of the most under-appreciated bands playing heavy music right now. Picking up where their last record left off, this Syracuse foursome continue to dynamically pulverize anything in their way.
#8. Chuck Ragan - Feast or Famine
Side One Dummy
After Hot Water Music's unfortunate split, 3/4ths of the band went on to put out a record as the Draft; Chuck Ragan was the remaining fourth, and this fine solo endeavor full of heart and grit proves that he can succeed without the rest of HWM. When he belts "I feel it in my bones when the storm is close," it's next to impossible to not feel it in your bones as well.
#7. LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver
I'm not usually one for this kind of music, but the analog synth-driven sound of LCD Soundsystem just works, and it works on a variety of levels. The impossibly catchy rhythm of "All My Friends" contrasts beautifully with the morose "New York I Love You," and both songs work because singer James Murphy has kind of voice that reflects beauty and bass just the same.
#6. Look Mexico - This Is Animal Music
I first saw Look Mexico live 3¬Ĺyears ago, and from the moment they finished their first song, I knew they'd be something special. This Is Animal Music is that assumption coming to fruition. The delightfully crisp sounds of the clean guitar-fueled rhythms make every song special, but it's singer Matt Agrella who brings a real warmth to the album.
#5. Jay-Z - American Gangster
Last year I wrote that Jay-Z's Kingdom Come was pitiful. This year I'm writing that American Gangster is my fifth favorite album of the year. Quite a turnaround for Hova, but this album is chock full of the best songs Jay has written in years. "No Hook" displays more lyrical ambition than I thought he was capable of in 2007, and "Fallin" is the brilliantly told story of Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas through the eyes of Jay-Z himself. As the prophetic one himself said on the track, "there's a price for overdoin' it, doin' it this big will put you on the map." And on the map he is, the King of New York once again.
#4. Angel Eyes - ‚?¶And For A Roof A Sky Full Of Stars
This band is the reason the word ‚??epic' exists. Angel Eyes make some of the most moving, enrapturing music that a band could possibly hope for; every scream and every calculated change in rhythm is perfect, absolutely perfect. The dynamics that this band is able to switch between on a moment's notice, all the while holding you in the palm of their hand, is simply incredible. Both of these two songs can go seven or eight minutes without any sort of vocal inclusion, and still manage to stay as interesting, if not moreso, than when their ferocious front manis bellowing as most of us can only imagine. At two songs and twenty-six minutes, this album still has more staying power than 98% of what came out this year.
#3. Achilles - Hospice
If you had told me Achilles would release an album like Hospice after I listened to their debut EP, I'd have called you a moron. And I'd now be eating my words. Talk about a band growing up; Rory VanGrol and company have turned Rochester's favorite sons into one of the most progressive sounds in metallic hardcore. The air of intrigue at every twist and turn makes every listen to the album unique; there's seemingly always something new to hear, some great rhythmic undercurrent, some inflection in the vocals -- it all paints a masterful portrait.
#2. The National - Boxer
This album is, in a word, gorgeous. Not in the way you'd conventionally think of beauty, though. There's no shimmering guitars, no pristine harmonies -- only the haunting but awe-inspiring baritone of singer Matt Berringer. The perpetually forlorn frontman for this extremely talented group is a continuous focal point. No matter the tempo or the music behind him, however somber the string arrangements or piano keystrokes or however up-beat the guitars can become, Berringer is constant. Constantly perfect.
#1. Joell Ortiz - The Brick: Bodega Chronicles
This is why I listen to hip-hop. For the hope, that maybe, one day, something this profound, intelligent, and amazing will affirm everything good that the genre has to offer. That affirmation, that affirmation is Joell Ortiz. Hailing from the hip-hop mecca of Brooklyn, Ortiz exemplifies what good storytelling can do for hip-hop. Every song is ripe with detail, and Ortiz's skill as a lyricist is apparent just a minute through the six-minute biography, "125 Part 1." Ortiz doesn't even need a hook, because his delivery bursts with confidence, and it's that confidence that allows his words to be the primary focus of each and every song. His perspective of learning from life experiences and using them to better himself is the reason for that confidence, and "Keep On Callin'" explains much of why that's the case. "Easter day everybody got fresh, me I just tried to look my best / Poked out my chest, never let ‚??em see me sweat / These are the things I used to wanna forget now I'm glad I remember." From now on, when I think hip-hop, I think Joell Ortiz.
Explosions In The Sky - All Of A Sudden, I Miss Everyone; The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour; Crime In Stereo - Is Dead; A Wilhelm Scream - Career Suicide; The Shins - Wincing The Night Away; Radiohead - In Rainbows; Wilco - Sky Blue Sky; The Minor Times - Summer Of Wolves; Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works; Pulling Teeth - Martyr Immortal; Rocky Votolato - The Brag & The Cuss
Top EP of 2007
Balboa - Project Mercury
How in the hell has this band not put out a full-length yet? This is technically a split with Rosetta (their side is real good too), but I really couldn't remember what EPs came out this year so I'm making the executive decision that this counts. Anyhow, Balboa have all the fury and talent of a band like Converge, all the while adding a political point of view to complete an incredibly hard-hitting, socially mindful package.
#5. Saves The Day - Under The Boards
Saves The Day's sixth full-length seemed rush and disorganized, a mix of b-sides from In Reverie and Sound The Alarm. After the solid effort that was last year's Sound The Alarm, this is underwhelming and disappointing.
#4. Hopesfall - Magnetic North
Maybe against my better judgement, I was excited for this album. I thought that their previous album, though a departure from their roots, showed potential. This album unfortunately did not expand on that potential, and though it's not awful by any means, there's little to no redeeming value.
#3. Angels & Airwaves - I-Empire
I think it's about time for everybody on Tom Delonge's god forsaken bandwagon to jump off for good. Through two full-lengths, the band has recorded one good song. And since "The Adventure" doesn't re-appear on this album, there's no reason to listen.
#2. Pelican - City Of Echoes
This one hurts. The Fire In Our Throats... was one of 2005's best, but this effort can't even hold a candle to it. It's as if they simply forgot how to write interesting songs.
#1. Against Me - New Wave
As somebody who had nothing whatsoever invested in the "punk ethos" of Against Me, I can say without equivocation, that this record sucks. It sucks as a punk record, it sucks as a rock record, and it sucks to know that the band who recorded "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong" forgot how to write interesting music. I don't care if this band plasters themselves all over the radio and TRL so long as the music, in whatever genre you call it, is good. That's unfortunately not the case.
Albums That If I Ever Have To Listen To Again, I Will Dress Up As a Pitbull and Go To Michael Vick‚??s House (Circa Before April 2007)
#3. The PoPo - The PoPo
This album makes me want to collect a bunch of synthesizers and light them on fire.
#2. XDeathstarX - We Are The Threat
This band has forty-seven vocalists.
#1. Sum 41 - Underclass Hero
I knew things would be bad when I heard about Brownsound leaving, but I didn't know it'd be this bad. Sum 41 had become one of my favorite bands over the past couple records because of their ability to mix two things I really love: pop-punk and Iron Maiden. The latter's influence is nowhere to be seen on this record and what we're left with are songs that I'd be insulted to listen to at a high school talent show.
#3. Every Time I Die - The Big Dirty
I thought this band was dead in the water after that absolute garbage they tried to propagate as an album with Gutter Phenomenon, but as with Norma Jean the year before them, they were able to tweak their style and return with intensity. A real return to form for the band.
#2. The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
To this day, I haven't listened to the Arcade Fire's debut, but I relented and gave this a shot. As the header for this group of records may have clued you into, I enjoyed it. The band does have a fairly unique sound, and each song is treated like it's the most important on the album.
#1. Anberlin - Cities
Tooth & Nail
This album is in this category for the sole reason that I didn't know it was coming out at all. One day I discovered they had released a new album, and it only took one song for me to deem it a pleasant surprise. Anberlin manage to fly pretty low under the radar, but tracks like "A Whisper And A Clamor" make them one of the best pop-rock bands around today.
Kayne West - Graduation
I could write a list forty-five god damn miles long of MCs better than Kanye West, and I could write a list just as long of celebrities who are more humble. Hip-hop bravado is one thing, essentially anointing yourself the black Jesus is another entirely. Straight talk: Kanye can't rap to save his life. As a producer, he receives my commendation for a job well done, just so long as he stays the fuck away from any and all microphones.
Best Album to Listen to While Smoking A Cigar And Drinking A Gin & Tonic
Eluvium - Copia
Truly a grand instrumental journey; just sit back and pay attention to every subtle nuance that Matthew Cooper throws your way.
Most Listened To Of `07 That Didn't Come Out In `07
#3. Jeff Buckley - Grace
There will never be a day in my life were the soft-spoken Jeff Buckley does not have a place in my stereo.
#2. Blink-182. - Dude Ranch
Every song's a classic, there's not even anything else to say.
#1. The Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death
Unquestionably my most listened to record of 2007. Songs like "Notorious Thugs" and "Niggas Bleed" get better with every single listen, and it's impossible for me to listen to any MC for longer than 20 minutes without thinking "you know, Biggie did this so much better." Truly a legend.Best Hip-Hop Mixtapes Of ‚??07
#5. Rick Ross - Still Hustlin'
The Rossfather delivers 24 tracks full of Miami flavor and some top-notch production. "Died In Ya Arms" has a beat that you won't be able to get out of your head for days, and guest spots from Young Jeezy, Juelz Santana, and Fabolous really stand out.
#4. Styles P - The Phantom Menace
The standout member of D-Block, Styles has a very smooth delivery, and like a chameleon can morph his flow perfectly to any kind of beat.
#3. Lil' Wayne - Da Drought 3
I don't think anyone could have imagined that the scrappy MC repeating "drop it like it's hot" over and over again at the end of Juvenile's smash hit "Back That Ass Up" would transform himself into one of the premier MCs of the day. Well, it happened. Weezy's intricate wordplay comes across in effortless fashion; he just makes it look all too easy.
#2. Papoose - Already A Legend
Papoose, pap...oose? Papoose is truly a unique MC; you'll barely find any other rappers appearing on his material and you'll hear very few hooks. He depends almost solely on his lyrical ability, and he's got enough for ten rappers. Whether it's rapping over Kanye's "Wait Til' I Get My Money" or the Dr. Dre-produced "Guns Of Mine," Pap sounds like a man who knows he's at the top of his craft.
#1. The Diplomats - More Than Music Vol. 2
Dipset returns with one of their best efforts to date, More Than Music Vol. 2. With only a couple versus from Cam'ron and Juelz Santana, it's mostly up to Hell Rell, J.R. Writer, and 40. Cal to pick up the slack. If you're familiar with Dipset, you know what they rap about and this is certainly no departure, but it's the production that shines here. "It's Over Part II." has a flawless beat for Rell and the rest to rap over, and "Get That Money" and "Gladiators" are no different. Dipset at their finest.
And With All Of That...
As I sit here trying to think of where 2007 really went, I realize that Tanqueray and Keystone Light are going to prevent that from happening. What I do remember, though, is a year where my musical tastes expanded beyond anything I had thought I'd be enjoying in 2006. I feel with every new record I hear, I'm looking for every possible aspect before seeking out the negatives. It's not until I do these lists every year that the amount of albums released in a year really sets in for me...it's pretty overwhelming. I can think of at least 50 albums right now that came out this year that I haven't even heard yet.
Regardless, I look forward to more of the same in `08. I look forward to my last semester in college knowing that I will enjoy every single night to the fullest, and I look forward to hearing more new music next year than I have in the previous 21. Thank you for taking the time to read my list, and maybe you'll check out a few things because of it you wouldn't have otherwise. If that's the case for even one person, I've done my job.
From me and everyone else at Punknews, thank you for reading, and may you enjoy the new year as much as I will.