Friday, December 28, 2007

The 50 Best Songs Of 2007

[Were they actual singles? Were they commercially released in 2007? Who cares? This is a muddy-at-best list of the fifty tracks that grabbed my attention in various ways during the last twelve months, all available online in some form or fashion. Comment, argue, enjoy.]

1. LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends
[Now closer to 40 than 30, James Murphy is both old enough to remember post-punk the first time around, yet smart enough not to slavishly repeat it. Instead, the genius of “All My Friends” is how Murphy stares down his fading youth, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes angry, and all the while that incessant piano hook refuses to let up, resulting in an eight-minute song that never stops building.]
FIND IT ON: Sound Of Silver (Capitol)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=i2V_ZT-nyOs

2. Arcade Fire – Keep The Car Running

[The populist anthem of 2007: Despite the disadvantages of no video and no commercial airplay, “Car” became the gateway drug into Arcade Fire’s impossibly layered album, spawning high-profile covers from both Bruce Springsteen and Foo Fighters by year’s end. Neither of which topped the original, by the way.]
FIND IT ON: Neon Bible (Merge)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=bFFpL6Jj5II (Live TV version)

3. Wilco – Impossible Germany

[Ah, the irony: Wilco’s weakest record since Summerteeth spawned their best song since… well, ever. If most of Sky Blue Sky finds Nels Cline reduced to an Audi driven under the speed limit, “Impossible Germany” is his thrilling, glorious Autobahn.]
FIND IT ON: Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=97IT0-EDTtw (Live studio version)

4. Brand New – Jesus Christ

[To anyone who thought my pick for 2006’s best album—The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me—was a (to put it mildly) left-field choice, this single is mandatory listening. Religious questioning hasn’t sounded this intense since Bono waved white flags.]
FIND IT ON: The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me (Interscope)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=c_iNdbPvrYk (Audio only)

5. Ryan Adams – Two
[Just when we’d written him off, alt-country’s prodigal son returns with a pitch-perfect weeper straight out of Whiskeytown’s back pages. Sheryl Crow subs for Caitlin Cary, but it still works.]
FIND IT ON: Easy Tiger (Lost Highway)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=g695Q1t8MJc (Audio only)

6. The Shins – Phantom Limb
[Forget the #2 Billboard debut. All the reasons for loving The Shins can be found in the last 1:20 of “Phantom Limb,” as that wordless chorus slowly fades from your speakers like a fever dream.]
FIND IT ON: Wincing The Night Away (Sub Pop)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=OkITsv3Nk6M

7. Robyn featuring Kleerup – With Every Heartbeat
[On an album laden with singles, this is the coup de grace: Icy techno, chords that defy resolve, and Robyn’s voice hovering, understated, like a ghost, as the whole thing breaks down to a string quartet before rebuilding itself, yet again.]
FIND IT ON: Robyn 2007 (Island, import only)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=VB9vqCIviMk

8. Radiohead – House Of Cards
[The closest Radiohead has ever come to outright seduction, yet it’s a seduction based on lies, an “Every Breath You Take” for 2007. And only Thom Yorke could make the line “I don’t want to be your friend/ I just want to be your lover” sound absolutely terrifying.]
FIND IT ON: In Rainbows (TBD)
WATCH IT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yZBE5qLw8Y (Scotch Mist Version)

9. Editors – Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors
[Pegged as a Joy Division knock-off, Editors returned with their most heart-on-sleeve single yet. This is the sound of a band expanding and deepening, aiming for stadiums and succeeding (in England, anyway).]
FIND IT ON: An End Has A Start (Kitchenware)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=blP9LWyKqzI

10. Damien Rice – Rootless Tree
[Turns out the album version was just a stepping stone: Rice spent much of his turbulent year reinventing 9's standout track as piano-laden torch song, hushed harmonies (courtesy of the since-departed Lisa Hannigan) conveying the saddest kiss-off ever.]
FIND IT ON: 9 (Warner Bros.)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=xlnpedLeGbo (Live Abbey Road version)

11. Rihanna – Umbrella
[Resistance is futile. “Umbrella” is bigger than you or I. Along with “Hey Ya!” and “Come On Eileen,” it will outlast us all.]
FIND IT ON: Good Girl Gone Bad (Def Jam)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=a4X7eFbP3u4

12. LCD Soundsystem – Someone Great
[Mourning the death of a relationship, or a child, or both, LCD frontman Murphy drops the cocky attitude for actual emotion, as square-wave synths sigh in solidarity.]
FIND IT ON: Sound Of Silver (Capitol)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=kaYsczkWti0


13. M.I.A. – Paper Planes
[M.I.A.’s genre-hopping annoys as often as it fascinates, but this is a corker of a single: Moody Clash sample, ragamuffin toasting, and a chorus anchored by shotgun blasts.]
FIND IT ON: Kala (XL)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=7sei-eEjy4g

14. Neil Young – Ordinary People
[In typically perverse fashion, Neil’s best song in fifteen years turns out to be an outtake from 1988, eighteen head-spinning minutes of everything that makes him weird and wonderful.]
FIND IT ON: Chrome Dreams II (Warner Bros.)

15. Kanye West featuring Daft Punk – Stronger
[It took a typically brilliant Kanye sample, along with equally typical Kanye ego boasts, but 2007 was the year Top 40 finally embraced the genius that is robot rock. And props to Mr. West for waiting ‘til Single #2 to drop the now-redundant T-Pain collaboration.]
FIND IT ON: Graduation (Roc-A-Fella)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=3jzSh_MLNcY

16. MuteMath – Typical

[First there’s the brilliant video, a triumph of creativity over budget. Then comes the song itself, proof that MM’s boundless energy translates, with or without visuals.]
FIND IT ON: MuteMath (Warner Bros.)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=zNlZ4QFt7FU

17. Bruce Springsteen – Radio Nowhere

[The E Street Band rocking out like a bunch of garage punks half their age: A giddy preview of what would prove to be The Boss’s best work in two decades.]
FIND IT ON: Magic (Columbia)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=XmLt6kcZ72Q

18. Peter Bjorn and John – Young Folks

[Sure, it’s the hippest whistling since Axl, but why does everyone overlook the bass line? That bass line kills, man. It kills.]
FIND IT ON: Writer's Block (Wichita)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=51V1VMkuyx0

19. Counting Crows – Cowboys

[The first taste of the Crows’ Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings comes out whiplash rocking and angrily intense in a way we haven’t heard since “Angels Of The Silences.” Don’t call it a comeback?...]
FIND IT ON: the Internet (leaked)

20. Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good

[Unfortunate title of the year, yes, but there was reason for all that hype, and you can hear it the way Winehouse owns every sultry, sly, devilish syllable.]
FIND IT ON: Back To Black (Island)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=HFVM5pVTwkM

21. Modest Mouse – Missed The Boat

[A nicely understated moment amid the shiny production of We Were Dead..., with Isaac Brock at his fractured, hookiest best.]
FIND IT ON: We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank (Epic)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=UcTcLP9YF04

22. Josh Rouse – London Bridges
[Rouse’s moody brand of AM Seventies pop rarely gets its critical due, yet few songwriters break your heart in such simple, bittersweet fashion.]
FIND IT ON: Country Mouse City House (Nettwerk)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=NpbE8_rlddQ (Live TV version)

23. Paramore – Misery Business
[Every wannabe punkster oughta be able to trade in her (or his) old Avril CDs for the far-superior 2007 model. More authentic? Hell no. A lot more fun? Hell yeah.]
FIND IT ON: Riot! (Atlantic)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=aCyGvGEtOwc

24. Biffy Clyro – Folding Stars
[Eulogies come in all shapes and sizes: Simon Neil’s ode to his late mother strips away sentiment, leaving only the footprint of that massive chorus.]
FIND IT ON: Puzzle (Roadrunner)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=THGL3j4iugY

25. Anthony Hamilton – Do You Feel Me
[Proof that Hamilton was born in the wrong era. Listen to him channel Otis Redding's vibe—using Al Green's string arranger, no less—and you’ll discover where American Gangster truly got its authenticity.]
FIND IT ON: American Gangster Original Soundtrack (Roc-A-Fella)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=7ErJKRd7hfQ

26. Against Me! – Thrash Unreal
[Hardline punks do their spin on the “girl-goes-junkie” theme, complete with a “bah bah bah” hook tailor-made for noisy bars everywhere.]
FIND IT ON: New Wave (Sire)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=BKzNZDXfm0Q

27. Justice – D.A.N.C.E.
[Building on the foundations of Daft Punk—or, less charitably, Junior Senior—the latest French wunderkinds prove you can never have too much goofy club music.]
FIND IT ON: Cross (Vice)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=fo_QVq2lGMs

28. Matthew Good – Champions Of Nothing
[Give the Canadian his due: For any non-prog-act, opening an album with a nine-plus-minute song is a throwdown of the highest order. Making it the strongest cut on the disc? Even better.]
FIND IT ON: Hospital Music (Universal, import only)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=SO7xALRU0LU (Fan video)

29. Spoon – The Underdog
[Britt Daniel and company tend to write better grooves than songs, but that said, their Billy Joel homage—complete with horns—is every bit as intoxicating as the “Billie Jean” swipe from 2005’s record.]
FIND IT ON: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=LenPKPqvdJA

30. Patty Griffin – No Bad News
[Trading melancholy for a backbeat, Patty unleashes a barn-stormer that’s easily the best track on Children... even before the horns from Love’s Forever Changes show up.]
FIND IT ON: Children Running Through (ATO)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=GZYhhZtKmvg (Live Lizard Lounge version)

31. The National – Start A War
[Matt Berninger’s idea of a breakup song is—surprise!—subtle and restrained, with just a touch of menace creeping around the edges of a chorus (“Walk away now and you’re gonna start a war”) both plea and threat.]
FIND IT ON: Boxer (Beggars Banquet)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=8cjORoHfTcg (Live TV version)

32. Radiohead – Bodysnatchers
[First fuzz guitar, then the beat, then skronky leads. And finally Thom Yorke welcoming us to the 21st century, which makes sense when you consider Radiohead haven’t rocked this hard since 1995.]
FIND IT ON: In Rainbows (TBD)

WATCH IT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAIHRIO73e8 (Scotch Mist Version)

33. Rogue Wave – Chicago x 12
[Zach Rogue’s songs work best when he lets his yearning run wild and messy, a trait largely absent from Asleep..., yet gloriously present throughout this unfolding epic.]
FIND IT ON: Asleep At Heaven’s Gate (Brushfire)


34. Feist – 1 2 3 4
[Viral video plus iTunes commercial plus Saturday Night Live? I smell indie crossover!]
FIND IT ON: The Reminder (Interscope)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=p8Z-DIAthbM

35. The Avett Brothers – Go To Sleep
[Concord, NC’s finest write another feels-like-it’s-been-around-for-a-hundred-years classic: No stompin’, no gimmicks, just pure songcraft.]
FIND IT ON: Emotionalism (Ramseur)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=5_TyIACqfWw (Live in-store performance)

36. Band Of Horses – Detlef Schrempf
[Gorgeous torch song moving at glacial pace, in contrast to the former Seattle Supersonic referenced—or not—in the title.]
FIND IT ON: Cease To Begin (Sub Pop)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=eYhrCsgHa0k (Audio only)

37. Kenna – Daylight
[No longer the hot new thing in multi-format crossovers, Kenna reteams with The Neptunes—no longer the hot new thing in production—for this retro corker, a pounding start to a frustratingly uneven album.]
FIND IT ON: Make Sure They See My Face (Interscope)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=G4NwSPqTQEo (Audio only)

38. Glen Hasard & Markéta Irglová РFalling Slowly
[How to capture the sound of falling in love? The opening track to the breakthrough movie Once comes close.]
FIND IT ON: Once Original Soundtrack (Columbia)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=wAEB53-QILA

39. The White Stripes – Conquest
[If The White Stripes are basically an extended gimmick anyway, then this is their ultimate novelty song: Jack White covers Patti Page while battling mariachi trumpet to a draw.]
FIND IT ON: Icky Thump (Warner Bros.)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=77EMzwScHy0

40. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals – Fight Outta You
[Harper's last few releases left me cold, but this album—and this song in particular—feel more like the singer/songwriter so brilliant and understated on his initial three albums.]
FIND IT ON: Lifeline (Virgin)

WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=golCPnUiKv4

41. Arcade Fire – Intervention
[Opening with a massive swell of organ only to deliver the lyric “Working for the church while your family dies” is either a happy accident or sheer genius. Knowing the Montreal collective, bet on a bit of both.]
FIND IT ON: Neon Bible (Merge)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=3ARxDXHk0rs (Live SNL version)

42. Jimmy Eat World – Big Casino
[I don’t miss emo and I don’t miss 2001… except during the 3 minutes and 40 seconds I listen to this song.]
FIND IT ON: Chase This Light (Interscope)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=TXn2Ox42aHc

43. Rilo Kiley – Under The Blacklight
[Dreamy, gorgeous title track from an album that wasn’t nearly dreamy or gorgeous enough.]
FIND IT ON: Under The Blacklight (Warner Bros.)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=_XTwgR2T7g8 (Audio only)

44. Robyn – Konichiwa Bitches
[Title and video of the year, both in service of an electro-pop trifle endearingly goofy enough to make you miss L’Trimm. Or at least wish Fergie had a sense of humor.]
FIND IT ON: Robyn 2007 (Island, import only)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=qd4Su5qmf1o

45. Plain White T’s – Hey There Delilah
[Remember “Time Of Your Life” from your high school prom? No? Too young? Don’t worry, this one is better anyway.]
FIND IT ON: Every Second Counts (Hollywood)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=h_m-BjrxmgI

46. Cold War Kids – Hang Me Up To Dry
[Atonal piano, yelped vocals, and a big stuttering riff. What’s not to love? Other than the rest of the album, of course.]
FIND IT ON: Robbers & Cowards (V2)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=LrrGKR8Xii4

47. Tracy Thorn – Hands Up To The Ceiling
[Half of Everything But The Girl on the Sunday morning cab ride home, sun coming up, ears still ringing.]
FIND IT ON: Out Of The Woods (Astralwerks)

48. The Hold Steady – Girls Like Status
[Outstanding B-side that shoulda been a contender for Boys And Girls In America.]
FIND IT ON: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters Colon Original Soundtrack (Williams Street)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=RURod5D0UTI (Audio only)

49. Fall Out Boy – I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (Me + You)
[Ridiculously catchy punk-by-numbers. Bonus points for Patrick Stump actually, ya know, singing. Points off for that title though.]
FIND IT ON: Infinity On High (Island)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=aT434G38OBg

50. Flight Of The Conchords – The Most Beautiful Girl In The Room
[If, as Spinal Tap put it, “There’s a fine line between stupid and clever,” then this Kiwi duo walks said line brilliantly, never more so than on this track from their debut HBO episode.]
FIND IT ON: The Distant Future (Sub Pop)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=lmDTSQtK20c


PLUS THE SEVEN BEST COVER SONGS

1. My Morning Jacket – It Makes No Difference
[Last year’s announcement that MMJ would be paying homage to Rick Danko was one of those “please don’t blow it” moments. The end result? One of those “all is right with the world” moments.]
FIND IT ON: Endless Highway: The Music Of The Band (Columbia)

2. Pearl Jam – Love Reign O’er Me
[Eddie Vedder’s Townshend obsession finally gets its recorded due on this note-perfect rendition, easily the best thing to come out of an Adam Sandler movie in a decade.]
FIND IT ON: iTunes (download only)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=7fgMXef0MJk (Audio only)

3. Cat Power – Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
[Better female channel for Dylan: Chan Marshall or Cate Blanchett? Discuss.]
FIND IT ON: I'm Not There Original Soundtrack (Columbia)

4. Foo Fighters – Band On The Run
[Dave Grohl and company have been spinning their wheels for three albums now—memo to Grammy voters: The Colour & The Shape came out in 1997, not 2007—but they can still take comfort in the fact that World’s Best Cover Band is their title to lose. “Baker Street,” “Darling Nikki,” and now Wings: The trifecta is complete.]
FIND IT ON: Radio 1 Established 1967 (Universal, import only)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=DSIUrba-aoc (Audio only)

5. Mark Ronson featuring Daniel Merriweather – Stop Me
[The man behind the Winehouse turns his retro ray on The Smiths. Think Morrissey does Motown, only not awful.]
FIND IT ON: Version (Columbia)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=S4kBr5WWiBM

6. The Narrator – All The Tired Horses
[Reinventing Bob Dylan’s mope-folk as a hypnotic indie dirge. Possibly genius.]
FIND IT ON: All That To The Wall (Flameshovel)

7. Ryan Adams – Down In A Hole
[Reinventing Alice In Chains’ mope-rock as a hypnotic country dirge. Possibly genius.]
FIND IT ON: Follow The Lights (Lost Highway)
WATCH IT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=7wWVFUODSGo (Live TV version)