Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Top 20 Albums of 2007

It was a weird year for the album. It would be premature to say that the album is done for, at least at this point, due to factors whose influence extend far beyond the music world. An impending global economic depression and related technology gap will undoubtedly ensure that the cd, and, for that matter, the cassette tape (still THE delivery mechanism for new music in the third world) will survive for at least another decade and probably long afterward. Here in the US, we watched the last, grotesque twitches of the major record labels as they jettisoned employees, bled money and died. But (with a few notable exceptions) the indie labels jumped in to pick up the slack. Arch, affected, sissified disco-rock: the Editors, Killers, Of Montreal, LCD Soundsystem, ad infinitum, was the fad du jour, ensuring that the fate that befell the major labels waits around the corner for every small label who adopted a similarly suicidal corporate strategy. Meanwhile, independent artists weathered the storm, many of them holding out, waiting for the dust to settle as music retailers struggled, gas prices made touring even more difficult than it already is, and everybody helped themselves to a billion or so free mp3s floating around the internet.

 

Yet, there were some incredible cds released this past year. This list isn’t meant to be definitive: the volume of what we haven’t heard dwarfs what we have. Consider this a snapshot, a sounding, an accurate sample of everything that was good about 2007. All of these albums are so good, it’s impossible to rate any one of them over another.  

 

As with our Top 100 Songs of 2007 list, if you don’t see your favorite album, or the album you recorded, that doesn’t mean it’s bad: it just means we didn’t hear it, or we listed it somewhere else in 2006 or we might be waiting til this time next year to include it!

 

1.  Rachelle Garniez – Melusine Years  

A richly melodic, beautifully sung, chillingly apocalyptic memoir of sorts. Arguably her best album. For that matter, one of the best of the entire decade. Just like her last one. 

 

2.  Richard Thompson – Sweet Warrior  

Some would argue that he’s the greatest songwriter of our era. And also possibly the greatest rock guitarist. This album has a fire and an intensity equal to that of his greatest work.

 

3.  Big Lazy – Postcards from X  

The most stylistically diverse and cinematic album by the incomparable, reverb-loving Brooklyn noir soundtrack instrumental trio.

 

4.  Jenifer Jackson – The Outskirts of a Giant Town 

Her best album, a gorgeously melancholy, brilliantly intricate collection of jazz and samba-inflected rock songs recorded live in the studio.

 

5.  Love Camp 7 – Sometimes Always Never 

Their best album blends everything that’s great about this band: their spot-on feel for 60s psychedelia, their passion for history, love of the Beatles and ability to think outside the box.  

 

6.  Mark Steiner – Fallen Birds  

One of the greatest singers of our time, the haunting baritone who used to front Piker Ryan and Kundera sounds more focused and intense than ever on his solo debut. 

 

7.  Melomane – Glaciers 

Their best album so far. Lush, orchestrated art-rock with guitars, keys, horns and strings, a dark, uncompromising and spectacularly imaginative album.  

 

8.  Greta Gertler – Edible Restaurant 

The singer/keyboardist goes deep into the oldtimey/ragtime genre, while retaining her unique vision, lyricism and potent keyboard chops.

 

9.  Willie Nile – Live at the Turning Point  

A wild, scorching, acoustic trio performance that mixes new material and old classics by this legendary NYC songwriter. It’s a wonder the place was left standing after the show was over. Other rockers ought to try this sort of thing.

 

10. Les Chauds Lapins – Parlez-Moi d’Amour   

They’ve singlehandedly resurrected the work of French cult legend Charles Trenet and other similar songwriters from the 30s and 40s, for an American audience. What a great discovery. And what a beautifully lush, romantic album.

 

11. Amy Allison – Everything and Nothing Too 

This gets the nod simply for containing the most riveting song we heard all year, the absolutely terrifying Turn Out the Lights. And she’s never sung better.

 

12. Ninth House – Realize & It’s Gone 

The last thing they recorded when they were a straight-up Nashville gothic unit, as disturbing as you would expect.

 

13. Leslie Nuss – Round 3

Is there anything this woman can’t write? Fiery garage rock: check. Catchy Beatlesque pop: check. Meditative psychedelia: check. Some of the sexiest stuff you’ll ever hear.   

 

14. Tinariwen – Aman Iman: Water Is Life 

The Malian rockers alternate between hypnotic one-chord jams and their take on what sounds like Mississippi hill country blues, recently riding a wave of hype in the wake of a successful world tour. They deserve every bit of it.

 

15. David Wechsler – Vacations  

The once-and-future Pinataland accordionist’s vivid, rain-streak travelogue, an impressively diverse, literate mix of Americana styles.

 

16. Secretary – Secret Life of Secretary  

Moisturizer frontwoman Paula Henderson’s soundtrack-style instrumental side project is every bit as beguiling and fun as her regular band.

 

17. Custard Wally – Estrogennia Dementia  

Rock music for people who think the nastiest gangsta rap is entertaining. Or for anybody who misses their punk rock days, when bands were supposed to be funny and fun.

 

18. 17 Pygmies – 13 Blackbirds 

A real departure for them, this proves they can play stately, classically-inflected acoustic chamber rock better than pretty much anyone else. Plus a bonus disc of very strange stuff.

 

19. Flugente – 1st lp  

The once-and-future Blam frontman’s wickedly lyrical, slashingly funny solo acoustic debut, a tale of a trip around the world that almost went off the rails.

 

20. Linda Draper – Keepsake  

She’s back to the style she succeeded so well with on her first album: catchy, terse, lyrically driven acoustic songwriting that matches words to music effortlessly. Vocally, she sounds like she’s still leading the choir.

 

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January 3, 2008 - Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music

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