The best albums of 2007

The Vanguard’s music staff is a varied bunch, and our picks for the top 10 albums of 2007 prove it. From indie-rock to grindcore (and even ska), every type of music under the sun is represented, and chances are your favorite record makes an appearance.

The Vanguard’s music staff is a varied bunch, and our picks for the top 10 albums of 2007 prove it. From indie-rock to grindcore (and even ska), every type of music under the sun is represented, and chances are your favorite record makes an appearance. The music listed below represents the best of this year’s releases.

Top 10 by Shane Danaher

1. Battles
It’s rare that I say this, but there is truly nothing I have ever heard that sounds quite like Battles. Rather than perfecting well-worn musical paradigms, they have instead taken their virtuosity in an entirely new direction, and the results are stunning.

2. The Arcade Fire
Neon Bible
Though I was never quite as crazy about Funeral as many of my contemporaries, any doubts I had about the Arcade Fire were quickly dispelled by the sheer force of this masterful exploration of love, war and religion.

3. Of Montreal
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
In Hissing Fauna, Kevin Barnes employs a vast array of sounds thrown together at such a breakneck clip as to suggest that his psych-disco masterpieces might collapse at any moment from the sheer force of their own momentum. Somehow, though, it all holds together, and what results is one irresistible piece of sugarcoated malaise.

4. Kanye West
Despite whatever (most likely negative) things you have to say about Kanye’s public persona, you have to admit that he can pump out some killer pop music. Besides, it’s not like I want to hang out with the guy; I just want him to help me start a party.

5. Le Loup
The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly
This is a good electro-pop record, but the title really could have been longer.

6. M.I.A.
In M.I.A.’s own words: “Hands up, guns out, represent the world town.”

7. Modest Mouse
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Any diehard fans that jumped ship (pun intended) in light of Modest Mouse’s pop musings are hereby expelled from my inner circle. Isaac Brock’s move toward a smoother sound still retains the intelligence and lopsided quirkiness that have made Modest Mouse into icons.

8. Okkervil River
The Stage Names
It’s becoming exceedingly hard to deny that Will Sheff is one of the best songwriters in the United States. His investigation of the push and pull between art and public persona makes for a truly compelling and insightful album.

9. Gowns
Red State
Gowns’ latest offering sounds as though it might have been a country album before someone cut it up, randomly rearranged its pieces, and filtered the resultant mess through the kaleidoscope of a four-day ketamine binge. With such a disparate cohabitation of melody and noise, the band’s bleak soundscapes are a haunting approximation of middle-American ennui in the face of a perpetually lengthening war.

10. Caribou
Although Andorra loses some momentum in its second half, the near perfection of its leadoff track, “Melody Day,” is still more than adequate to redeem this collection of fuzzy psychedelic pop.

Top 10 by Ed Johnson

1. Oxbow
The Narcotic Story
An acid-blues, noise-metal hybrid, Oxbow released another masterwork of intense, yowling vocals and angular-guitar riffery. The Narcotic Story flirts with accessibility at multiple intervals, but really this album is an unrivaled artistic revelation. It’s hard to like, but Oxbow is slowly sexing the world, and all of us are just the horrified observers.

2. Menomena
Friend and Foe
This album is groovy, math-y and weird. I think the songwriting here is so engaging because it’s completely varied from song to song. These Portland boys did well, releasing the best indie-rock album of the year.

3. Brother Ali
The Undisputed Truth
Brother Ali is an inspired lyricist, touching on various topics (politics, relationships) but never seeming stale or trite. He also has a nimble flow, and on top of Ant’s impeccable beats, he is unstoppable.

4. Torche
In Return
The heaviest pop record you will ever own (and you will own it), Torche take heavy rock and make it completely listenable and creative. Think Black Sabbath meets the catchiest shit you’ve ever heard.

5. Liars
Liars re-invented themselves again to create a blissfully creative and engaging album. It’s noisy, sure, but beneath that skronky Liars filter lies a wholly impressive rock album.

6. The Austerity Program
Black Madonna
Pummeling drum machines and distorted bass and guitar rocking. What else do you need?

7. Madlib
Beat Konducta Vol. 3-4: In India
The insanely prolific Madlib released his second set of movie-score hip-hop instrumentals, this time based around Bollywood movies, and once again it’s a deliriously danceable beat attack.

7. Pig Destroyer
Phantom Limb
Catchiest grindcore record ever? Maybe. Heavy as hell? Definitely.

9. Grails
Burning Off Impurities
This instrumental band might be the best thing to come out of the neo-psych-folk movement. Featuring long songs influenced as much by Indian raga-music as they are by the dark sensibilities of doom metal, Burning Off Impurities is a truly great creation.

10. Big Business
Here Come the Waterworks
Hilarious yet fatalistic lyrics about the modern condition, paired with thundering bass and drums. Awesome.

Top 10 by Stover E. Harger III

1. Arcade Fire
Neon Bible   
The most gripping album of the year builds on the already established genius of the Arcade Fire. Neon Bible’s songs have unbridled joy and passion, with an undercurrent of sadness to them. The melodies on this album will be hard to shake. This is only the band’s second full-length, and yet they are already one of the best groups working today.

2. Neil Young
Live At Massey Hall 1971
This live album from 1971, released for the first time this year, gives us a restrained and gentle Neil Young performing toned-down versions of his then soon-to-be hits all by himself. One of the greatest rock songwriters, Neil Young proves that he was–and perhaps still is–a captivating performer, capable of thrilling an audience with a few plinking restrained piano notes and hushed singing.

3. Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen is back with his E Street Band and is playing music in the style that helped him conquer the rock-music world decades ago. This album is bombastic, yet organic sounding, and shows that Springsteen is still relevant and able to blow most other musicians out of the water with his dedication to providing the best thought-provoking rock out there.

4. Wilco
Sky Blue Sky
After the fuzzed-out anthems of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and the never-ending guitar solo armageddon of A Ghost is Born, Wilco chilled out with Sky Blue Sky, giving many fans something they didn’t know they wanted, but were thankful to receive. Like other Wilco albums, it takes a few listens to really appreciate, but once it hooks you, you can’t stop listening.

5. Modest Mouse
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
The news that former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr had joined Modest Mouse as a full-time member seemed to come out of left field, but what a fit. Giving the band that extra jolt they needed, Marr’s jangle-y guitar hooks and presence helped the band craft their best album yet.

6. Interpol
Our Love to Admire
Their mainstream-rock radio success might have been fleeting, but Interpol keep their excellent, gloomy and tragic sound from slipping with their most cohesive album to date.

7. The White Stripes
Icky Thump
Heavier and more diverse sounding than their last few albums, the White Stripes have given us another great skuzzy-rock record. What the White Stripes do with just two members is amazing, and with each new album they always seem to hit a home run.

8. The Shins
Wincing the Night Away
It took them four years, but the wait between Shins albums might have done the band good by letting them distance themselves from the hype Garden State helped create for them. Wincing the Night Away is the band letting their hair down and being unafraid to experiment with song styles and structures.

9. Rufus Wainwright
Release the Stars
Nobody does pompously arranged operatic pop quite like Rufus Wainwright. He’s got it down to a science, and this album, like all of his others, does not disappoint.

10. Arctic Monkeys
Favourite Worst Nightmare
More than just a flash in the pan, the Arctic Monkeys mixed it up with their second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, keeping the raw power of their critically adored debut and improving on it with superior songwriting skills.

Top 10 by Ryan M. McLaughlin

1. Beastie Boys
The Mix Up
The Beastie’s 12-song all-instrumental album has many a groove, and very cool cover art as well.

2. Tegan and Sara
The Con
My girlfriend’s favorite album is actually quite listenable, and the twins’ voices give me the bumps of a goose.

3. Blockhead
Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book
Aesop Rock’s primary beat-maker is on fire here, making sounds that hypnotize humans into doing various illicit activities whenever they listen.

4. Sean Lucy
Tiny Little Peaces
Albuquerque’s next Doug Martsch or Neutral Milk Hotel branches out with tightly written songs and perfect atmospheric jams that will melt your face off.

5. Built To Spill
They Got Away EP
Idaho’s finest have never recorded a reggae song until now.

6. Love as Laughter
Trademark of Quality
Isaac Brock’s favorite band laughs at your mistakes and writes delicious-sounding songs about coconut flakes.

7. The Shins
Wincing the Night Away
Recorded in Elliott Smith’s old house in Portland, it is nice to see the Shins’ long-awaited third album live up to its ridiculously high expectations.

8. Modest Mouse
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Although no longer very modest, mice will be mice, and they will always be great in their own way.

9. Streetlight Manifesto
Somewhere in the Between
This New Jersey ska band featuring the ex-singer of Catch-22 makes you want to dance the skankin’ pickle down by the boardwalk.

10. Mad Caddies
Keep it Going
Fat Wreck Chord’s reaction to the Slightly Stoopids and Peppers of this world, this album is a solid effort by Santa Barbara’s surf-rock bad-asses.