Wow, I can’t believe this is already the fourth year I’ve been doing this. I am truly an old fart because the years really are flying by now. That’s what happens when you’ve made 34 trips around the sun. I’m just scared to think what it’ll feel like when I’m 60.
Well enough angst. Let’s talk music. And there’s a lot to talk about: 2007 has, for my tastes at least, been an unparalleled year for new music. I would have a hard time identifying a year that’s produced more great music without going all the way back to 1971. (And I wasn’t around to experience that firsthand.) So, without further ado, here we go.
- 5. Rush: Snakes and Arrows
- I’ve been a Rush-head for over half my life now. A sad fact of a band this long-lived and prolific is watching the quality of their output deteriorate over time. The band’s last full-length album, 2002’s Vapor Trails, was surprisingly good musically, but suffered from some of the worst production in the last several decades. The band had been enthusiastically touting Snakes and Arrows for several months before its release, and with good reason. The album is phenomenal. Easily their best work since 1984’s Grace Under Pressure. Great, rocking music, with more dynamics and variety than we’ve heard from the boys in years; lyrics with surprisingly deep insight into the woes of early 21st century American society; first-rate production; and… well what can I say? Three instrumentals. It just doesn’t get much better in the Rush canon.
- 4. Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage
- Michael Brecker was at the pinnacle of the post-Coltrane jazz world for upwards of 30 years. Late last year he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia, and with less than 5 months to live, he put together a final farewell to those of us who’ve followed his brilliant music over the years. This album is full of moments of profound beauty and intense burning jazz as full of life as anything he’d ever done. Sadly he did not survive to see the album released, but it remains a fitting good-bye to this jazz legend.
- 3. Wilco: Sky Blue Sky
- I’ve enjoyed Wilco’s music since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and have been fascinated to hear the evolution of the band’s sound on each album. This is very much back-to-basics, and it works extraordinarily well. It’s simply not possible to listen to this music and not feel good. In a good way.
- 2. Radiohead: In Rainbows
- This is the album it seems everyone was talking about in October. It may still see a traditional release in stores in 2008, but so far it’s only available as a pay-what-you-want download from the band’s website. But that in no way means it’s inferior work. The band has covered some challenging musical ground in the past decade since the release of their masterpiece, OK Computer, and this album bookends that one nicely. (There’s plenty of speculation out there that the albums really were intended to integrate in Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon style, but I’ll leave that to the stoners to prove.) If you haven’t already, download it now. What are you waiting for? (I assume you are wondering what, if anything, I paid for it. Well, I sucked it up and bought the £40 deluxe package, which should be arriving next month.
- 1. Foo Fighters: Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
- I loved In Your Honor so I was eagerly awaiting the release of this album and it did not disappoint! From the lead single “The Pretender” straight on through, the band displays brilliant songwriting, impeccable chops (these guys can really play, and if you doubt that, be sure also to check out drummer Taylor Hawkins’ guest work on Coheed and Cambria’s No World for Tomorrow), and a wide stylistic and dynamic range. Dave Grohl’s voice matches the music perfectly, from a delicate whisper to a larynx-shredding scream. The best album of a great year of music.
As I said, it’s been a great year for music. It was hard to narrow the list down to 5. Here, in no particular order (OK, they’re alphabetical by artist), are some of the other great albums I enjoyed this year:
The Bad Plus: Prog
Beastie Boys: The Mix-Up
Circa Survive: On Letting Go
Coheed and Cambria: No World for Tomorrow
Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver
Minus the Bear: Planet of Ice
Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero
Pinback: Autumn of the Seraphs
Porcupine Tree: Fear of a Blank Planet
Room 34: Highway 34 Revisited (Had to put in a bit of self-promotion!)
And there are a few others that just missed the cut, like The Dear Hunter and Portugal. The Man. (“Portugal. The Man.” is one band. You have to give them credit just for the audacity of that band name.)