Friday, March 09, 2018

Revisiting the Top Ten Albums of 2007

The Winner, and New Champion
Not long ago, I was looking for something in the blog archives and stumbled across this post, about my Top Ten albums of 2007.  To save you the time of taking a look, this was the list:

1. Magic, Bruce Springsteen
2. Neon Bible, Arcade Fire
3. Kala, M.I.A.
4. Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley
5. Raising Sand, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
6. Revival, John Fogerty
7. Challengers, The New Pornographers
8. Children Running Through, Patty Griffin and West, Lucinda Williams (tie)
10. Dylanesque, Bryan Ferry

Perusing the list, three things immediately came to mind:

* I really over-rated Magic.

* I really under-rated Challengers (an album that took a while to sink in for me, but which I've grown to love).

* There were at least a couple of albums that weren't even part of my collection in 2007 that I suspected would break into this list, and an album from an artist you've probably heard of that has really grown on me over the years.

Wanting to be fair (as if that really matters at this juncture), I took the time to give each album at least another listen, and am now prepared to offer this revised list of the Top Ten Albums of 2007.

1. Neon Bible, Arcade Fire.  It's really not a stretch to say that this is a perfect album.  There was a time when it seemed like that would be true of all their albums, but alas that time is now past.  But there isn't a single misstep on this one.

2. Kala, M.I.A.  When this came out, I wrote, "The best part of it is that it just sounds exciting - music that you want to tell someone about..."  Nothing has changed on that score, and if anything the record feels deeper and more effective now than it did a decade ago.

3. Challengers, The New Pornographers.  Back in 2007, the car I was driving didn't even have a CD player, so I made a mixtape consisting of songs from this, songs from Bryan Ferry's Dylanesque, and songs from Fountains of Wayne's "Traffic and Weather."  That tape got a LOT of play, and over time the songs really began to sank in.  After a while, it became pretty clear that this was a great album.

4. Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley.  This holds up, although I know that there are few people who think this is their best album.

5. Magic, Bruce Springsteen.  It's not as if it is a bad album.  But like nearly everything Bruce has released since getting the E Street Band back together, it's inconsistent.  I was never a huge fan of the title track, and ten years in I find "Livin' in the Future" actively annoying.  A handful of other songs are just meh, but the core of the album can stand proudly with anything he's recorded.  For me, that core consists of "Radio Nowhere," "Gypsy Biker," "Last to Die," "Long Walk Home" and "Devil's Arcade."  Those I always expected with age with grace, but I never would have dreamt that over time, I'd come to believe that the album's one indisputably classic song was "Girls in Their Summer Clothes."

6. Planet Earth, Prince.  When Prince died, I went back and listened to a lot of his stuff, but focusing mostly on the albums released in the years after he was the biggest thing in the world.  How I missed just how strong this record is, is beyond me.  It's not "Purple Rain" or "Sign O' the Times," but it's a really, really solid album.

7. Graduation, Kanye West.  Make fun of me if you will, but in 2007 I'd never listened to Kanye West.  This is not his strongest album, but it's certainly good enough to crack the Top Ten.

8. Raising Sand, Alison Krauss & Robert Plant.  Down a couple of notches, but still sounds great.  If there were just a couple of more fast ones, it might have stayed where it was.

9. Emotionalism, The Avett Brothers.  Like Kanye West, the Avett Brothers were an unknown to me in 2007.  They'd release their best album a couple of years after this, but this one is still very good and includes at least three classics (including the immortal "Shame").

10. Traffic and Weather, Fountains of Wayne.  An expert "hard-pop" band, and this one has hooks galore.

Out of the Top Ten:

Revival, John Fogerty - A good, but not great album.  Still worth a listen.

Dylanesque, Bryan Ferry - Ferry has always had a bit of an obsession with Dylan, and when this is good, it is really good.  But some of the tracks are just a little too lightweight.

Children Running Through, Patty Griffin - Still very good.

West, Lucinda Williams.  I'm honestly not sure what I heard in this one.  She's still one of the most frustrating artists of my time.  But we'll always have "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road."