2007 In Review:
Silverchair and Brandi Carlile
top Best CDs of the Year list

By John Everson

Pop Stops reviewed or mentioned more than 200 albums in 2007 and came up with a handful of 4.5-5 star albums, which is always a good indication of a strong music year (there have been years that I've not given out a single 5-star rating).

I don't claim to have listened to every disc released this year -- for example, despite it being "free" for download, I never got around to checking out Radiohead's middle-finger-at-the-ailing-music-industry release. But generally I only have the space to mention one-third or one-fourth of the CDs that I receive to review, which means that the following is my distillation of at least 600 albums that I heard which were released in 2007. That's a pretty wide survey of popular music!

Following are my thumbnail reviews of my favorite 25 discs of the year, along with links to the reviews and the Pop Stops star ratings they received.

* * * TOP 25 ALBUMS OF 2007 * * *


Silverchair1) SilverchairYoung Modern (Eleven) Young Modern continues and builds on the cinematic intensity of their last release, melding Beach Boys-esque harmonies and string arrangements with a modern rock intensity. Legendary Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks reprised his Diorama role, penning orchestrations for three of the songs, and throughout the 11 tracks on Young Modern, the band displays an astonishing maturity and inventiveness, dropping song after song of catchy pop-rock that is, frankly, uncategorizable. There are lazy, cozy interludes, jaunty guitar stomps, falsetto croons, hip-shaking rock riffs… this is an album to get lost in – it's a panoramic world unto itself. If you like music, you owe it to yourself to hear one of the best examples of pop fusion that has been recorded this decade.
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Brandi Carlile2) Brandi Carlile The Story (Columbia): There are 14 songs on The Story (including one hidden “bonus” track about hiding one's heart away for fear of losing that which is loved). Every one of them is a victory in breathtaking songsmithing. As the year has gone on, I've probably listened to this disc more than any other (I've changed my original newspaper column rating from a 4.5 to 5 stars at this point!) Don't miss this gentle, tightly drawn album from a voice whose pen is far wiser than her years should allow.
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3) Amy LaVere Anchors & Anvils (Archer): Throughout Anchors & Anvils you can hear a twinkle of a quietly rebellious smile as Amy LaVere sings of the mundane frustrations of women locked in a thankless world of dishwashing, laundry and putting up with unappreciative louts. A 10-song CD smoldering with hidden, understated passions, it strolls across a tapestry of classic Americana music styles. LaVere sings with an innocence that belies the desperation of some of the lyrics and which ultimately makes the performances even more gripping. LaVere grew up on the border of Texas and Louisiana, and you can hear those influences in her vocal delivery, sometimes reminiscient of the whimsically girlish whisper of Kim Fox, as well as of the country-pop chanteuses of the ‘50s. LaVere's gently sweet cover of Bob Dylan's “I'll Remember You” closes an album that I can only describe as “too short.”
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Auralgasms4) Various ArtistsAuralgasms: Breath of Stars (Auralgasms): The third compilation from the Internet radio station Auralgasms.com is a collection to dream to, filled with warm fuzzy guitar songs, rich ethereal synthesizer tapestries, astonishingly affecting vocalists singing familiar themes of love and loss that reverberate with timelessness. My favorite tracks come from Sleepthief, Costanza and Ether Aura as well as from the dreamy Honeybreath and Lou Rhodes and the rhythmic but heavenly Sky Project. But there are also great songs from Trashcan Sinatras, Neverending White Lights and Hotel De Ville (who provide what sounds like a lost This Mortal Coil song) and many more. Breath of Stars offers some of the most entrancing music being crafted today, by artists who, at this point, remain largely unknown outside of the dreampop circle.
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Tegan and Sara5) Tegan & SaraThe Con (Vapor/Sire): For their fifth album, these Canadian sisters collaborated with Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie) introducing more keyboard and electronic textures to their songs than their previous work, resulting in a wide-ranging disc that allows the beauty of the twins' vocals to shimmer on every track as they dole out 14 songs that tend to focus on the trials of love gone wrong. The Con is a rich, varied album full of pop hooks and deep emotion – and one of the best albums of the year.
( ½)

 

6) Chris Pureka Dryland (Sad Rabbit): Issued on her own label, this is an album of autumn beauty – melancholic emotion colors the songs, which slip by as easy as the landscape on a long Nebraska drive. The drama is there, but you have to let it sink in slowly. Hers is a style that will overtake your heart, if you sit still long enough to let it. Now that I've let her voice in, I can't recommend this album enough!
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7) The FeelingTwelve Stops and Home (Cherrytree/Interscope): The Feeling lives somewhere between 1974 Paul McCartney & Wings and Gerry Rafferty's Stealer's Wheel, not to mention the ‘90s best harmony rock throwback band, Jellyfish. This is an album for lovers of the slick sounds of ‘70s harmony rock as well as for those who know that powerpop is timeless (and sweet as candy!)
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Tori Amos8) Tori AmosAmerican Doll Posse (Epic): American Doll Posse is an ambitious, confident sprawl of an album that ultimately pans out stronger than her last couple releases, and displays a rock passion that we haven't heard from the “Piano Girl” since her From the Choirgirl Hotel album nine years ago. Don't dismiss this on a first listen or two… let Tori and her dolls sing to you for awhile and you'll soon find yourself joining the posse.
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9) Chris KnightThe Trailer Tapes (Drifter's Church): recorded with just an acoustic guitar just prior to Knight's big break with his self-titled major label debut, The Trailer Tapes now stands as Knight's fifth released album, and finds the singer sounding melancholic and alone, a Steve Earle-whiskey-voiced lamenter in a Johnny Cash lonely wilderness. By turns lost, angry, hurt and haunting, The Trailer Tapes offers a lost emotional treasure that's thankfully been found.
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10) Travis — The Boy With No Name (Epic): A tour de force of melancholy harmony and quixotic guitar, this is an brit-pop dream-gazing album that you can't help but get lost in. After I put it on, I'm always surprised to find that I'm singing the final chorus so soon...
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TIE:

10) Kenna — Make Sure They See My Face (Interscope): A techno-pop gem, Kenna plays all over the quirky electronic pop map on his latest release, co-produced by The Neptunes.
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11) The FratellisCostello Music (Interscope): An infectious slam of cheeky rock ‘n' roll, this is an album of non-stop breezy fun. With a bevy of bouncing rollicking rhythms, a penchant for early Beatles-ish harmonies and smatterings of keyboards, bells and horns lurking between the chimey bass and guitar work, every track on Costello Music sounds like it was a party to record in the studio.
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Heavy Trash12) Heavy Trash Going Way Out with Heavy Trash (Yep Roc): The last person to use this much reverb on a recording may have been Buddy Holly! Heavy Trash – the invention of singer Jon Spencer (of Blues Explosion) and guitarist Matt Verta Ray (of Madder Rose) – reinvents the “be-bop-a-lu-la” sound in spades on Going Way Out… with the help of a parade of backing session musicians, including Canada's The Sadies. By the time the disc ends with its 13th track, the beat-poet twang-guitar backed spoken word experiment “You Can't Win,” you may have dug out your motorcycle jacket and pomade.
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13) WilcoSky Blue Sky (Nonsuch): While on a first listen, Sky Blue Sky is a fairly sedate recording, repeated listens reveal a wealth of melodic hooks (especially in my favorite track, “Impossible Germany”) along with the wonderfully clean, twining guitar work of Tweedy and avant-jazz guitarist Nels Cline that will remind you of the best of ‘70s AM rock radio. If you enjoy laidback guitar music, honest vocals and a hint of radio days gone by, check this one out.
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Carina Round14) Carina Round Slow Motion Addict (Interscope): if you like albums that don't rest simply on a bunch of quickly knocked out three-chord rock tracks that will be forgotten tomorrow… Slow Motion Addict is for you. This is an inventive and quirky pop-rock disc that melds New York glam and punk with offbeat pop vocal backups and an unabashed manic energy that Debbie Harry once might have approached. Round gets compared frequently to PJ Harvey and Patti Smith, who also work in offbeat pop palettes, and those comparisons ring true throughout the vocal calisthenics of Slow Motion Addict, where Round sometimes moves from quiet growls to high-pitched wails to whispery pleas — all in the same chorus.
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15) The Alarm Under Attack (EMI): While their later albums were colored with gobs of studio polish, Under Attack returns to the fist-raising punkier raw rock of the band's early days. From the pounding beat of “Without A Fight” to the rising “whoa-oh-oh” vocals of the anthemic “My Town” the disc bristles with energy and great hooks. Just listen to “It's Alright, It's OK” once and you'll be humming the chorus in your head for days afterwards — this one's begging for repeated radio play.
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16) The Lost Patrol Launch and Landing (self-released): The Washington Post called their sound “retro-surf-alternative-cocktail rock” which I suppose captures it as good as anything. This is an album that listens like a hip movie soundtrack. Dreamy, evocative, and catchy in a sneak-up-on-you kind of way. Coolness factor: 10! Highly recommended.
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The Pipettes17) The Pipettes We Are The Pipettes (Cherrytree/Interscope): A British all-girl trio with a jones for the Phil Spector wall-of-sound attack, We Are The Pipettes is a saucy 16-song collection rife with deliciously sweet “la-la-las,” sockhop handclaps, sugary string backups and snare-drum fun, not to mention a touch of lyrical lasciviousness.
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18) ScorpionsHumanity Hour 1 (New Door/UMe): While Scorpions have always known how to turn the amps to 11 and punch out some hard rock, they've also always had an exceptional melodic sense, and Meine's voice only seems to get better at exploiting that with every album. Tracks like “Your Last Song” will keep you nodding your head in thrall within seconds of its first play. And if it's driving guitars you want, give a close listen to the buzz of “The Cross,” which features a guest appearance by Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins. The day of pop metal may have faded, but the sting of the Scorpions remains as potent as ever.
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Gore Gore Girls19) Gore Gore GirlsGet the Gore (Bloodshot): Pegged dead-on in one review as the “gum-popping, guitar-toting granddaughters of Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys,” and in another as “The Stooges meets The Supremes,” Detroit's Gore Gore Girls have been carrying on the garage-rock, punky girl-group tradition now for a decade. Get The Gore is the band's third full-length album, just released on Chicago's Bloodshot Records, and it's a must-have for anyone who loves harmony backed but raw-energy bar rock (most recently given a shot in the arm by the Donnas). Big vintage guitars, white and black leather minis, go-go boots and ‘60s girl-group song structures are what the Gore Gore Girls are all about, and they have a blast with the gimmick. Overall, this is a party album, just waiting to be spun well into the sock-hop night. This is rock ‘n' roll the way it was meant to be — sometimes sweet, sometimes dangerous, and always a whole lot ‘a shakin' fun.
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The Hives20) The Hives The Black and White Album (A&M): No band since The Ramones has a band thrown down so many riff-rich anthems one after another played so…fast! The Hives are a Swedish quintet who broke onto the U.S. rock scene with Veni Vidi Vicious seven years ago, at the same time as a late 60's garage band-meets-late ‘70s punk music sound revival was in full swing (reference also The Vines and The Strokes). They've since learned when you pound out manic 2-3 minute songs one after another that you can't put together a very long album without changing it up a little. The Black and White Album clocks in at 45 minutes with 14 songs, and it crackles with energy, even on the “changeup” tracks. This is an album that needs to be listened to start to finish, as the pounding punk attacks slide into the quirkier rock explorations that serve to clear and whet the aural palate for the next attack of three-chord guitar distortion and anthemic vocal yells. The Black and White Album should bear the cover admonition: “must be played loud.” But listeners will undoubtably figure that out.
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21) Johnette NapolitanoScarred (Hybrid): Since her ‘80s hitmaking days with Concrete Blonde, Johnette Napolitano has continued to craft inventive, poetic, edgy and often dark pop-rock music. Her latest solo release includes her whiskey-tinged bittersweet cover of Coldplay's “The Scientist” (which originally appeared on the Wicker Park movie soundtrack) and finds her handling a folk-march rendition The Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties".
( ½)

 

The Klaxons22) KlaxonsMyths of the Near Future (Geffen): The album is definitely all over the map, with punkish attacks a la The Vines and even a melange of African rhythm with ‘80s techno and Brit-pop vocals. From experimental punk noise to polished synth pop, this is a CD that truly mixes it up – Myths of the Near Future is like a random rock jukebox, which never fails to interest, and usually manages to entertain pretty well too!
( ½)

 

23) Matthew RyanFrom a Late Night High-Rise (Plastic Violin): The Nashville-based folk-rock singer-songwriter has released a quietly moody 10th album that spotlights his acoustic guitar and emotion-laden, sometimes earnestly raspy vocals. Over his career, the singer has worked with Lucinda Williams and Neilson Hubbard, among others, and has earned critical raves on the alt-country scene for a decade, though he's never met with critical success. His latest CD listens like a bedroom confessional, stark and troubled, but achingly honest.
( ½)

 

Blaqk Audio24) Blaqk AudioCexcells (Interscope): While much of the first half of the disc has a moody gothy vibe to it, the second half starts to sound more bubblegum-oriented, with that sugary technopop hitting full force in tracks like “Semiotic Love” and the driving gallop of “Again, Again and Again,” which sound like a summit between The Lovemakers, Neuropa and Intuition. Focus problems aside, for fans of hook-laden synth pop, there's bound to be something here you'll want to add to your iPod songlist of the week.
( ½)

 

25) ChiefChief (TSRK): A Wisconsin trio with a thunderous bar-rock attack, their 14-song release initially struck me as a throwback to the early '70s era of hard rock. But repeated listens have revealed a wide palette of influences here, including Foo Fighters. In their own parlance, this is just good-time, 100-mile an hour, ass-kickin' rock. Play it loud.
( ½)