Best of 2007 - Ben's picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2007

Ben's picks (2007)

staff picks

Ben Conoley is a news editor and reviewer here at; he also provides our weekly Vinyl File feature -ed


Wowzers, what a year that was. I found that despite there being a whole lot of great music released this year, the albums on the top of my list kept me coming back when I should have been listening to that drawer full of new music that is still to be dealt with. My experience taking part in the Polaris Prize exposed me to a wealth of amazing Canadian artists, some of whom make appearances on my list. During the summer I discovered the Gaslight Anthem, who are amongst the best things to ever happen to me, at least musically.

This was also my first year as an editor here at the Org. I'd like to thank everyone who hasn't sent me hate mail for helping to make it an enjoyable experience thus far.

So without further ado - here's what I thought rocked in 2007.

Top 15

15. Abdominal - Escape from the Pigeon Hole
Do Right! Music
Canada's latest hip-hop great, Abdominal is the antithesis to contemporary commercial hip-hop. The Greek Jewish Torontonian fills his debut CD with as much diversity as the city he represents. Instead of rapping about his car, he busts rhymes about working as a bike courier. With smooth, quick flow, Abdominal's songs will make you want to get up off that seat and move.
14. Minus the Bear - Planet of Ice
Suicide Squeeze Records
It is becoming more and more apparent that Minus the Bear can do no wrong. The band's third full-length, Planet of Ice has them improving in nearly every aspect of their songwriting. With spacious and ambient moments that aren't afraid to let the rock loose once and a while, Minus the Bear may no longer be the best cottage music, as I once championed them to be, but they're great for an overnight drive -- another crucial listening environment.
13. The Good Life - Help Wanted Nights
Saddle Creek Records
Help Wanted Nights may have just seemed so great because it was better than the last Cursive album. I've always been preferential towards the stories songwriter Tim Kasher has crafted with this band as opposed to his other. Interestingly enough, Help Wanted Nights is the band's least narrative album. Created as a soundtrack to a screenplay that Kasher wrote, Help Wanted Nights is loosely focused on life in a small-town bar and the characters that shape it. The record is an easy listen, but like anything Kasher writes, gives you plenty of reasons to listen sharply.
The Weakerthans
12. The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour
Epitaph Records
As it always goes with a new Weakerthans album, it took Reunion Tour a little while to grow on me, but when our relationship was finally realized every subsequent listen has been like going to visit with an old friend. Pound for pound, there isn't a contemporary vocalist who can match John K. Samson's lyrics. Musically, it's one of their best efforts yet, and a step up from their last album, Reconstruction Site.
11. Attack in Black - Marriage
Dine Alone Records
I'm going to go ahead and reference my own review of Marriage and say that "Marriage is an absolutely beautiful blend of punk, rock and folk, with each element coming together almost perfectly with each stylistic influence making appearances at all the right times and almost always with enough show. The songs demonstrate an incredible amount of maturity, which one may not expect from a band's first full-length.

"The album's stronger moments can be perfectly unforgettable. 'Come What May''s rough vocals and stop-go verses lead into a huge chorus and a horn-led bridge. The 'na na na's in 'Young Leaves' have a similar effect in allowing a song that's seems wonderfully minimalist to blow up into a huge affair at just the right time."

Couldn't have said it better myself.
Bomb the Music Industry!
10. Bomb the Music Industry! - Get Warmer
Asian Man Records / Quote Unquote Records
First things first, Get Warmer has a song about riding bikes on it. But believe it or not, it has other qualities that I look for before calling an album "great." What's so wonderful about Get Warmer is the approach BTMI! takes in singing about everyday situations, all the while encouraging the listener to think about the bigger picture. It's perfectly clear that Jeff Rosenstock writes these songs because that's all he knows how to do. As such, BTMI! has as much integrity as anyone could hope for from a band -- that and a wonderful mix of punk, ska and keyboards.
9. Chuck Ragan - Feast or Famine
Side One Dummy Records
There's nothing more I love than when a band (or a man with a beard) writes music that matures along with me. Although my level of maturity is debatable, Chuck Ragan's solo work since Hot Water Music went on hiatus (and before they got back together) has filled a crucial void in my music collection. Although he released a pile of music in 2007, it's fair to say that Feast or Famine is a fair representation of what Chuck has been up to. Many of the songs on Feast or Famine are sober and haunting in nature, yet the record still manages to produce an uplifting feeling, probably because of the familiarity of Chuck's voice.
8. Against Me! - New Wave
Sire Records
Detractors can say what they will about Against Me!'s most recent output, but fans of good music should instantly recognize that New Wave contains three of the best songs the band has ever written. I don't care how many times people hear "Thrash Unreal" on the radio or how many strippers take it to the pole, it's still a great song, as are "Up the Cuts" and "New Wave." Against Me!'s weaker moments are more than made up for by the stronger ones as the band completes the transition they started with Searching for a Former Clarity.
Every Time I Die
7. Every Time I Die - The Big Dirty
Ferret Music
Here's one that I didn't expect to make my list. That is, until I actually heard it. With their latest outing,The Big Dirty, Every Time I Die seem to have perfected their potent blend of metal, hardcore and fun, all of which appeared to various degrees in past efforts. While the album may be their most accessible, which may have scared of fans of the hardest of the hard, The Big Dirty maintains plenty of aggression. Fans of Keith Buckley's lyrics won't be disappointed either as he continues to throw humor into the mix with lines such as, "You know I'm no good at court ordered goodbyes."
6. Lifetime - Lifetime
Decaydence Records
Psshh, and this was supposed to be a comeback album. Lifetime never went away, they were just copied (often poorly) by every band that had ever spun one of their records. Lifetime's return to recorded form was free of anything that fans might have worried about. Songs such as "All Night Long," "Northbound Breakdown" and "Airport Monday Morning" have proven to be instant classics. Lifetime continues to set standards for anyone who wants to play in an unabashedly melodic pop-punk band.
5. American Steel - Destroy Their Future
Fat Wreck Chords
I don't know what is was that happened to Fat Wreck Chords in between 1998 and 2003, but they certainly started releasing really good records. The latest record to benefit the public care of Fat is American Steel's comeback album, Destroy Their Future. American Steel's melodic punk is catchy enough for anyone, but mature enough for those old enough to want each of those attributes.
4. Joel Plaskett Emergency - Ashtray Rock
As a survivor of the Halifax Pop Explosion of the mid-`90s, Joel Plaskett has stuck with the east coast, and in the process has become a hometown hero for many. Ashtray Rock chronicles Plaskett's teenage years in Halifax, Nova Scotia starting with drinking in the park before winding its way through a narrative of the protagonist's years in a band and the band's breakup. Plaskett borrowed heavily from his own experience playing in Thrush Hermit to craft the story. The best thing about Ashtray Rock is that it is perhaps the finest moment of nostalgia ever written for people who came of age in the early-mid-`90s.
Fake Problems
3. Fake Problems - How Far Our Bodies Go
Sabot Productions
To be perfectly honest, it took a little while for me to really get into How Far Our Bodies Go. Fake Problems' first full-length effort sounds as though it was crafted by a band as excited as they were anxious to get an album out from under their belts. However, I now believe that my initial hesitation comes from being exposed to the band truly being themselves for the first time and writing the record they wanted to write. After taking some time to settle, How Far Our Bodies Go has proved to be quite the little gem.
2. The Swellers - My Everest
Search and Rescue Records
I want to shake the hand of whoever told this fine group of Michigan lads that it was perfectly okay to make melodic skate/pop-punk. Barely out of high school, the Swellers have made a record more mature than their years, and it has just enough Propagandhi Back to the Motor League aggressiveness to please me just about any day of the week.
Gaslight Anthem
1. Gaslight Anthem - Sink or Swim
XOXO Records
There was no contention as to what would take the first place spot on my list this year. If no other records were released this year, it would still have been one of the best in recent memory. Sink or Swim is an absolutely stunning album which at its core draws equally from punk, rock and folk. Vocalist Brian Falon's lyrics are full of Springsteen-esque Americana, peppered with elements of Billy Bragg and Woody Guthrie. His romantic references to driving and things having a tendency to work out okay are as enjoyable to listen to as the music, which at often times is carried by the modest but technically brilliant guitar playing of Alex Rosamilia.

Video Proof

Joel Plaskett Emergency - Fashionable People The Swellers - Tunnel Vision

Top 7"s

I was originally going to do a top ten 7" list, however it dawned on me that it would be incredibly clever if I did a top 7 7" list. Funny, eh?

7. Nothington - One for the Road
Left Off the Dial
This one almost didn't qualify for inclusion on my list this year. Released on January 2, it avoided my ears until after I saw the band's stellar performance at The Fest. Fans of Leatherface, Hot Water Music and Social Distortion should love this post-Tsunami Bomb project.
Say-10 / Custom Made Music
When the Riot Before released So Long, The Lighthouse earlier in the year, it was clear that they had the potential to write really great songs (some of which appeared on that very EP). My only real complaint with So Long was the clear gap in quality between the band's really good songs and their pretty good songs. Problems like this are solved on a split 7", though, as the band only has room for two numbers, and lucky for us they make them count. "Take That, The Government" is one of the band's best songs to date and should be one of their best loved songs in no time. Meanwhile, "We Are Wild Stallions" is a pleasant little ditty in its own right. Broadway Calls contribute two songs exclusive to this release: "Give up the Ghost" and "Awake at the Wheel." The songs aren't much of a departure from their recent self-titled full-length. However, the simple melodic pop-punk numbers come off a little more charming than they did on the full-length, which is largely due to a less shiny production process.
Fifth Hour Hero
5. This Is My Fist / Fifth Hour Hero - Split
No Idea Records
Fifth Hour Hero's swansong, Not Revenge...Just a Vicious Crush made my list last year, so it should be no surprise that one more song from those sessions was enough to get them back on this year. "Wrong Hit / Wrong Answer" is a perfect send-off from the Quebec band, featuring balanced vocal duties between Genevieve Tremblay and Olivier Maguire, one of the qualities that made the band such a pleasure to listen to when they were still active. This is My Fist also contribute a song from the sessions of their last album, 2005's A History of Rats. "Davy Crockett's Dead, You Know" falls on the poppier end of the band's spectrum, which works well when paired with Fifth Hour Hero.
4. The Hold Steady - Stuck Between Stations 1 & 2
Vagrant UK
For some reason, Vagrant Records tends to limit their 7" singles to the UK market, leaving North American fans paying import prices and high shipping costs. Despite their labels attempts to limit Stuck Between Stations 7" audience, the Hold Steady found a way to get themselves on my 2007 list after I neglected to include them in last year's list. Each 7" for the song comes backed with an exclusive track. The first in the series features the songs "Teenage Liberation" as well as a live recording of Boys and Girls in America's "Chips Ahoy." "Teenage Liberation" is as good as anything found on the album is was left off, while "Chips Ahoy" proves to be a great listen time and time again. The second 7" is backed with a cover of "American Music," which doesn't venture far from the original but is worth checking out nevertheless. I'd buy the first if I was limited to one and then write Vagrant and tell them to just put all four songs on one 7" in the future and quit gauging customers.
Fat Wreck Chords
Leave it to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes to make record collecting fun. Their square dance series, already three albums deep, has them taking one song off their latest album Love Their Country and another song written by the same country artist on each 7". So far, they're the only punk band to be releasing a series of square shaped records, which while useless in terms of functionality is a novel idea and a great conversation piece.
Get Up Kids
2. The Get Up Kids - Love Teller
Contrast Records
The final pressing for this classic Get Up Kids 7" got the star treatment from Contrast Records. Originally released in 1997, the songs are strong enough to stand up on their own. "A Newfound Interest in Massachusetts" and "Off the Wagon" represent what many consider to be the best years of the band's history. However, it's the packaging that makes this release so special. Contrast Records traveled all the way to Nepal and bought hand-made paper from a women's collective. The heavy stock paper serves as the sleeve for the 7" which comes with an actual photo of the band glued onto the front and the title of the album spray-painted onto the cover with a stencil. Throw in some individual hand-numbering and you've got one of the most beautiful vinyl releases of the past 10 years, never mind 12 months.
1. Papermoons - Papermoons
Team Science Records
Papermoons came out of nowhere and introduced themselves to me as my favorite new band of the year. Their album is a stunning post-punk achievement dense with ambitious song structures and overflowing with melody. If you haven't head them yet, quit wasting your time.

Looking forward to next year

First and foremost, I'm really stoked on the upcoming Gaslight Anthem 2x7" which I can promise you is going to be the bomb. Last year I was looking forward to new material from the Polar Bear Club, which still hasn't come out, so that's on the list once again. Hot Water Music's Til the Wheels Fall off is bound to be a good one. Build and Burn from the Loved Ones will be out in February and I can't wait to get my paws on it. February will also bring new material from This Is Hell and Paint It Black, both of which I'm anxious to hear. We should also be hearing new music from the Cancer Bats really soon and if last year's Birthing the Giant was any indication, it's going to be huge.