Arts & Entertainment
5 min

Two takes on 2007’s top albums

Britney or Tegan and Sara?

We asked two of Xtra’s regular contributors to tell us their top albums of the year. Are these guys out of their minds — or is Britney’s album actually a pop gem of 2007, responsible for bringing more homos to the dancefloor than any other act this year? Comment below and let ’em know!

Top albums of 2007

— John Wesbter

Here are my top albums for the year 2007. It was a very good year.

Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer by Of Montreal (Sonic Union). There wasn’t an album all year that I enjoyed so much. Singer Kevin Barnes is Amy Winehouse-fucked. He’s as desperately sad, drugged, drunken and lost but his mind and the band’s arrangements are kaleidoscope crazy. He’s got disco in his soul and glam rock up his ass. It’s most inventive and, for me, thoroughly perfect pop.

Neon Bible by Arcade Fire (Merge Records). The second release from Montreal’s eight-piece Arcade Fire was another epic album of soaring ballads and stadium-rock anthems. Woodwinds and strings play Red Rover with the crashing guitars and twentysomething adults who sing like frustrated but determined innocents. It’s all so beautiful.

Back To Black by Amy Winehouse (Universal Music Group). I want Winehouse to live for a long time and break my heart and make me ever so happy with her music till I’m buried and gone. With her Ronnie Spector bouffant (by way of Marie Antoinette), Cleopatra eye-ticks and bad teeth, she’s a stunner. With that voice of hers — and the pain it wears proudly like the sailor tattoos on her arm — Winehouse echoes the music greats. She’s Sinatra, Aretha, Billie and Piaf. No, she’s Amy Winehouse.

Sound Of Silver by LCD Soundsystem (EMI). Cuddly and beefy are words that could describe both James Murphy and his musical collective LCD Soundsystem. On this album, the group’s second, LCD Soundsystem makes pulsating, punky tunes with lyrics that are mature, whip-ass smart and plain silly. Wish you were a teenager again? Murphy sings, “You remember the feelings of a real live emotional teenager/ Then you think again.” Brilliant.

Kala by MIA (Select). UK singer/rapper Maya Arulpragasam records in seven countries and comes up with another eclectic world-beat masterwork. Nobody swings with so much brazen musicality and cultural respectability as Arulpragasam. She says she’s finished with the music business. I hope not. What the world needs now is MIA, sweet MIA.

Writer’s Block by Peter Bjorn and John (V2 Music). “If you knew my story word for word/ Had all my history/ Would you go along with someone like me?” For that lyric alone, Writer’s Block deserves a moosh and a cuddle. Shoe gazing on a mirrored floor.

Proof Of Youth by The Go Team (Fusion). Love these kids! The Go Team’s second album is 1960s girl groups mixed with hip-hop coolness and a truckload of “be true to your school” glee club giddiness. Guitars fly, drums kick it and chicks tell you what it’s all about. A keg party in Strawberry Fields… FOREVER, y’all!

The Magic Position by Patrick Wolf (Polydor). Wolf’s third album is a dazzling grand piece of flamboyant pop from a red-haired, thin white twink with a rebellious attitude, a heart of gold and an ear for organized chaos.

Fur and Gold by Bat for Lashes (EMI). Natasha Khan’s debut echoes the work of Björk and Kate Bush. Her look (long black hair and bangs with thin headbands) echoes Buffy Saint Marie mixed with The Cockettes. She wears three-foot peacock headdresses and war paint with hoodies like you wear jeans and a T-shirt. Her music is divine, youthful and heady. Her single, “What’s a Girl To Do” plays like The Shangri-Las in the Twilight Zone.

Blackout by Britney Spears (Sony). Yeah, I know… come on Webster. How about The Shins, Sharon Jones, Madlib or even your beloved Siouxsie or Tracy Thorn? How could you? Well, let me tell you something. Truth be told, I’ve probably listened to this album more than any other. Earlier this year I listened to Blackout joyfully, nonstop, for two days straight. No album had more anticipation for disaster than this one. But with a ton of inventive, smart producers and writers working through Little Miss Train Wreck and her spinning out-of-control life dramas and media coverage, Blackout works big time. Listen to “Piece of Me” and tell me that’s not brilliantly written pop shit. Sure Brit Brit is a total puppet but just because an artist isn’t in total creative control doesn’t mean brilliant respectability. Um, Joanna Newsom, hello.

Blackout also proved that without promotion, concert tours or even a half-decent video, Britney could still sell a whack of CDs and have a number one single. There’s something refreshing about that. And Blackout is totally tacky, warped and gleefully gay… totally.

****

Top alternative albums of 2007

— Bradley Turcotte

Looking over other people’s picks from 2007 has left me confused. The resurgence of electronic music baffles me. LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver has a handful of decent tracks, but other ‘top picks’ seem to me like choice cuts from Dance Mix 1994. In a year when Rihanna’s Umbrella scored a Grammy nod, we clearly need to recognize some alternative musical talent:

Our Love to Admire by Interpol
The New York quartet’s third album and first major label offering is innovative, interesting and infectious. First impressions may range from subdued to glum, but with each additional listen each song becomes catchier as more layers are peeled back. Echoing Joy Division and The Afghan Whigs, Paul Banks and the boys meld power-pop-punk sensibility and emo-new wave depression into 11 tracks of predominantly bleak but snappish narratives. Banks’ haunting vocals rarely change tone and his emphasis, which is usually on ass, antics or apologies, remains consistent. They’re happy but they don’t want to show it.

Key Tracks: No I in Threesome, The Heinrich Maneuver, Mammoth, All Fired Up

The Con by Tegan & Sara
Tegan and Sara’s fourth studio album has enough strong, jumpy ditties that make it one of the best of the year. When Tegan takes the lead as principal song writer (Hop a Plane, Nineteen), the tracks are more poppy and accessible. When Sara takes the reins (Relief Next to Me, Like O, Like H), she crafts a fabulous adult sound that might alienate some casual listeners at first. With help from members of Weezer and AFI and produced by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla, The Con is Tegan and Sara’s emo opus, topped with a slick synth sound.

Key Tracks: The Con, Hop a Plane, Nineteen, Floorplan

New Moon by Elliott Smith
I’d never heard Smith’s music before listening to this posthumous release of demos. Judging by these tracks his studio albums must be absolute gold. Soft as spider webs, New Moon showcases Smith’s fragile and ultimately tragic existence, a far cry from his beginnings in punk outfit Heatmiser. The early version of Miss Misery rivals the Oscar nominated version, which lost out to Celine Dion and her overplayed ‘My Heart Will Go On.’ Much of the album is acoustic, which gives it a hollow but comfortable resonance. Recorded between 1994 and 1997, Smith’s pessimism is there but there’s also hopefulness that can be heard, which gives this collection a different meaning all of its own.

Key Tracks: Angel in the Snow, First Timer, Placeholder, Miss Misery (Demo)

What’s the Time Mr. Wolf? by the Noisettes
The UK’s Noisettes are a great band you probably haven’t heard of. On their first full length album they seamlessly skip between garage-rock and soul-infused ballads. Singer/bassist Shingai Shoniwa has been described as Billie Holiday fronting the White Stripes, but I’d say she’s even better. Shoniwa’s frenzied vocals and churning bass lines make for the album’s best tracks, as if ribbons of British taffy are being poured right into your ears. Slower efforts like the Count of Monte Christo and Mind the Gap miss the mark a little, but ultimately hit the bull’s eye with standout track Bridge to Canada.

Key Tracks: Don’t Give Up, IWE, Bridge to Canada, Nothing to Dread

Bradley’s honourable mentions:

  • The Reminder by Feist
  • Era Vulgaris by Queens of the Stoneage
  • Favorite Worst Nightmare by the Artic Monkeys
  • Because of the Times by the Kings of Leon