Scott Heisel is an alumni news editor, reviews editor and reviewer here at Punknews.org -ed
I apologize in advance for the lack of an in-depth list this year; I've always taken a little bit of pride in the past with adding a variety of creative categories, audio links, etc., but unfortunately, real life has gotten in the way of me having a ton of free time, especially recently, as I spent the past few weeks traveling, interviewing a band many of you like and then writing a cover story on said band for the February issue of Alternative Press. For anyone who's actually let down by my lack of extras below, please check the story out in a few months; I think you'll like it.
The Top 20 Albums of 2007
#20. The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour
It's kind of weird to go from putting the Weakerthans' last album, Reconstruction Site, at the top slot of my Best Of 2003 list to their new one barely making the cut. Reunion Tour is still a wonderfully fun album, but it lacks the urgency and immediacy of its predecessor. John K. Samson's still probably the best lyricist in the punk scene, however.
#19. Locksley - Don't Make Me Wait
The first time I saw this Brooklyn-by-way-of-Wisconsin garage-rock quartet, it was opening for the Loved Ones in front of an audience of two (myself and fellow 'Org-er P-Fresh). The lack of a crowd certainly didn't stop them from delivering an energetic, bouncy set chock full of retro-pop that was straight outta `64. Their debut album is a fantastic offering of sunshine-drenched odes to love and life. Don't sleep on this band.
#18.Andrew Jackson Jihad - People That Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World
This rag-tag group of Arizona folk-punks came out of nowhere for me this year with one hell of a knack for socio-political sing-alongs. Who knew folk-punk could actually be not only enjoyable, but really good?
I'm not gonna front: I didn't listen to Dinosaur Jr. before this year, so I don't know how this record stacks up with their back catalog. What I do know is that this record is one long guitar solo that makes me want to chant "USA! USA!" along with it the entire time. When politicians talk about the terrorists taking away our freedoms, they're referring to J Mascis' right to wail.
#16. The World/Inferno Friendship Society - Addicted To Bad Ideas: Peter Lorre's 20th Century
Another band who I had heard wonderful things about for years on end but somehow avoided until a few months back. Man, have I been missing out: W/IFS are like a perfect mixture of Meat Loaf, Billy Joel, Blue Meanies and the Hold Steady, and Addicted To Bad Ideas is as infectious as it is wholly original.
#15. The Fall Of Troy - Manipulator
Show me another band who can switch from Every Time I Die-esque riffing to power-pop straight out of Weezer's playbook (and do it all flawlessly) and I'll give you one American dollar. Plus, Thomas Erak is an absolute motherfucker on guitar.
#14. Say Anything - In Defense Of The Genre
While some complain of too much filler between the two discs, after I spent a good amount of time with each disc on its own I realized that this record wouldn't be this record if any of the songs were omitted. It'd be like reading a 28-chapter novel with chapters 7, 12 and 19 removed -- you wouldn't get the whole story. And with Max Bemis, even the whole story sometimes isn't enough, so every last second of audio is appreciated by me.
#13.The Wednesday Night Heroes - Guilty Pleasures
This is currently the only street-punk album I own in my entire music collection, and it's the only one I ever plan on owning (until the Heroes put out a new record, however). The musicianship on this thing is insane (seriously!) and I highly recommend anyone looking for a more traditional punk rock record to add to their iPod gives this thing a spin.
#12. Against Me! - New Wave
These guys could've made The Shape Of Punk To Come for their major label debut and some of you still would've bitched, so why not just let them make the album they wanted to make instead? New Wave is blast after blast of intelligent punk rock tackling issues no other band on a major label dares even speak of (the fucked up nature of the music business, the futility of protesting the war in Iraq, the need for something new to keep music from stagnating). It's worth every line of critical acclaim it's receiving if more 15-year-olds become tired of Hinder. look for a change, pick a copy up and have their life changed.
#11. Lifetime - Lifetime
It's adorable how some of you were actually worried this thing wouldn't be up to par with the band's Jade Tree output from a decade prior. I mean, c'mon: Do you really think Dan Yemin, of all people, would've let a band he's in start to suck?
#10. Feist - The Reminder
iPods! Cell phones! Movie soundtracks! Considering how many Feist songs are currently circulating in the mainstream populace, it's a wonder anyone buys this record at all considering you can hear it for free on most TV networks. Regardless, this quirky Canadian singer put out an incredibly enjoyable folk-pop record in The Reminder, one perfect for relaxing on a Sunday morning or for falling asleep to while traveling on long road trips.
#9. Dan Wilson - Free Life
Remember Semisonic? Yeah, that "Closing Time" band. Well, here's my left-field pick this year: the frontman's long-delayed, Rick Rubin-produced solo album. Yeah, it's pretty much as adult contemporary as you can get (a 40-something dude who's been making a living recently writing songs for the Dixie Chicks playing piano with minimal instrumentation in the background), but goddamn, does this guy know his way around a melody. Revoke my punk membership card for this one (I mean, shit: Dude duets with Sheryl Crow on one track), but I love it.
#8. The Gaslight Anthem - Sink Or Swim
This release only made it this high on my list after seeing the band live twice, with their incendiary set at the Fest 6 taking the cake for one of the most powerful shows of 2007 out of the 125 or so I saw. Every song on this record sounds the same (thankfully, it's a pretty good song) and the sequencing on this thing is totally out of whack (that first song is a terrible opener, and I'd be happier if it weren't on the record at all), but even with those limiters, you can still feel the passion pouring off of this disc, and when it really comes down to it, that's what matters most.
#7. Chuck Ragan - Los Feliz / The Blueprint Sessions / Feast Or Famine
SideOneDummy / No Idea / SideOneDummy
And speaking of passion, nobody delivers more than Chuck Ragan. His three albums this year are nearly impossible to separate for me, and it would criminal to exclude one. They each fit a different side of Ragan perfectly, and I enjoy them all nearly equally, from the raw demos of The Blueprint Sessions to the racuous renditions on Los Feliz to the more fleshed out instrumentation and arrangements of Feast Or Famine.
#6. The Cribs - Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever
I tend to avoid British bands on principle, mainly because they nearly all get too much undeserved buzz and their music is almost always patently boring and/or a rip-off of a much better band. The Cribs avoid all of that, delivering a hell of a sophomore album, with quirky dance rhythms, big, brash sing-along choruses and a knack for making a three-piece sound like so much more. This, to me, is what Against Me! would sound like if they grew up in England. Maybe not 100% musically, but definitely attitude-wise.
#5. Crime In Stereo - Is Dead
This is one of those records where no individual tracks jump out, yet when played start-to-finish takes on a life of its own -- and what a tortured, fractured, difficult life it is. This band went from being just another run-of-the-mill pop-punk band to becoming a full-fledged progressive rock unit, capable of the highest of emotional highs and lowest of their lows all within the span of one record. Remind you of anybody?
#4. Paul Baribeau - Grand Ledge
It's absurd how brilliant Paul Baribeau is. He doesn't use clever wordplay or unorthodox song structures; he simply writes short, inspirational looks at the needlessly complex life of a bearded twentysomething who just wants to love someone.
#3. Big D And The Kids Table - Strictly Rude
The best ska record of the new millennium. That's all I can say about this record.
#2. Weatherbox - American Art
It takes a lot for me to truly believe in new band nowadays. And sure, Weatherbox aren't reinventing the wheel (a common description for the San Diego quartet involves comparisons to Say Anything, Cursive and Criteria). But there's just something about this record that makes me excited on music again. It's so real (uncomfortably at times), which is a feeling lost on most modern music.
#1. Minus The Bear - Planet Of Ice
There really isn't a more talented band making music nowadays than Minus The Bear. They're endlessly inventive and sound like no one else. This is a band who will be remembered as being important decades from now, and Planet Of Ice is the finest work of their career. This is a deep, dense record that takes repeated listens -- preferably alone and at night -- to really sink in, but the soundscapes the band create are absolutely breathtaking.
My Punknews.org Mixtape, 2007 edition
Thanks for taking the time to read my list. If you're interested in receiving my mixtape for the year (on CD format), I'd love to trade mixes with you. E-mail me if you're interested (scott at punknews dot org). I hope you all have a great 2008, and that you each find what you're looking for, or at least take a step towards it.