These are the 50 albums that I dug the most in 2007. In past years, this list has gone to 100, but I figure that 50 albums sounds more reasonable and believeable coming from one person. My singles list, which always goes north of 100, will be up next week.
1. Amy Winehouse-Back To Black
Without a doubt, the album I played the most in 2007. Part of that is due to the short running time, but Back To Black is long on quality. While there isn't as much attitude as there was on her debut, Frank, the songwriting is embellished more and Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi's production is engagingly retro without hitting you over the head with it's 60's girl group references. Back To Black is one of those albums that as soon as the final track is over (the wonderful "He Can Only Hold Her" in this case), you want to immediately play it again.
2. LCD Soundsystem-Sound Of Silver
I've long been a fan of individual LCD Soundsystem songs, but I was kind of let down by their first full-length. While I doubt that James Murhpy's sarcasm and wit will ever go away, the heart shown on songs like "Someone Great", "All My Friends" and "New York I Love You, But..." was an artistic growth that few could have predicted and made Sound of Silver as rewarding thematically as it is musically.
Halfway into her Lollapalooza set, I was convinced that Kala would be a much better album than Arular, which I loved as well. While the hooks weren't as catchy as before, the experimental transglobal arrangements popped out and there was a lot more going on than just programmed drums and samples. The beats this time around are more killer and aggressive, resulting in a lot more sweat on the dancefloor. Political commentary aside, it's one of the most joyous listens I've had all year long, especially the hypnotic, Clash sampling "Paper Planes".
4. 4Hero-Play With The Changes
4Hero's latest seemed to go by largely unnoticed this year, which is a shame since I think it's just as good as anything that they've released. The whole nu-jazz and broken beat genre may not be as popular as it was in the earlier part of this decade, but standout soulful tracks like "Morning Child" and the Jack Davey assisted "Take My Time" prove that there is still life left in the field. This is the perfect soundtrack for an early Sunday morning after you've been out partying all night and you've made it home.
5. Lucinda Williams-West
One of America's best songwriters continues to do what she does best: release collection after collection of stunning songs. It's easy to take Lucinda Williams for granted since she is so consistent and her albums rarely stray from her trademark alt-country sound, but to do so would be to ignore one of our best artists still in her prime.
6. Rihanna-Good Girl Gone Bad
Whether Good Girl Gone Bad turns out to be Rihanna's Control remains to be seen, but even if she never releases anything on par with Rhythm Nation 1814 or janet., Rihanna's latest is a definitive portrait of a young pop diva coming into her own and developing an identity, on par with this decade's similarly independent Aaliyah and Brandy's Full Moon. The album tracks finally hold their own against the singles and the dramatic arc of the album, and the entire experience overall, leads to one of the best sequenced albums of the year.
7. Bebel Gilberto-Momento
At this point, there are no surprises with a Bebel Gilberto album. There will be bossa nova. A few songs will be in Portuguese, but we really don't listen to her albums to have our minds blown. I can only speak for myself, but Gilberto's soothing voice puts me at ease like few other modern vocalists. But it wouldn't mean nothing if the music wasn't on the same level, best seen on the enchanting title track and "Os Novos Yorkinos".
8. Puffy AmiYumi-honeycreeper
I'm probably a bit preemptive in putting this on my list since it's only available in Japan right now, but since a U.S. release date has not been set yet, I have no choice but to put honeycreeper on my list. Coming off the lackluster (by their standards) Splurge, honeycreeper is less worried about conquering the American market and returns the focus on making some of the giddiest power pop in all four hemispheres.
9. Dungen-Tio Bitar
Another album that got significantly less attention than its predecessor, Tio Bitar should please fans of Ta Det Lungt and any new ones who have an appreciation for psychedelic rock. Although the songs are shorter and more concise, Tio Bitar is more challenging than any of their records, but it is all the more rewarding upon multiple listens.
10. Kanye West-Graduation
When Kanye first arrived on the scene in 2004, he was the underdog that everyone loved to root. Two years and several million albums later, he is no longer the hip hop Everyman that he was on The College Dropout, but his fanbase has only increased, and it's easy to see why. Graduation is his most relaxed and energetic effort so far, but it also remains compelling thanks to the upgrade in his lyrics and the fresh synth rock production that solidifies his willingness to experiment with new sounds. Plus, there are still introspective songs like "Big Brother" and "Champion" to prove that there is still some heart in the Louis Vutton Don.
11. The Postmarks-The Postmarks
12. The Fratellis-Costello Music
13. Lily Allen-Alright, Still
14. The Eames Era-Heroes + Sheroes
16. Radiohead-In Rainbows
17. The Last Town Chorus-Wire Waltz
18. Norah Jones-Not Too Late
19. Field Music-Tones Of Town
20. Of Montreal-Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
21. Ciara-The Evolution
22. Mark Ronson-Version
23. Explosions In The Sky-All Of A Sudden, I Miss Everyone
24. Balkan Beat Box-Nu Med
25. Brother Ali-The Undisputed Truth
26. Sage Francis-Human The Death Dance
27. Apples In Stereo-New Magnetic Wonder
28. K-Os Atlantis: Hymns For Disco
29. El-P-I'll Sleep When You're Dead
30. The Dollyrots-Because I'm Awesome
33. The Winks-Slumber Party
34. Gruff Rhys-Candylion
35. Klaxons-Myths Of The Near Future
36. Snow Leopards-Debut
37. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists-Living With The Living
38. The Noisettes-What's The Time, Mr. Wolf
40. Electric Soft Parade-No Need To Be Downhearted
41. Talib Kweli-Eardrum
43. Joakim-Monsters & Silly Songs
44. Surreal & DJ Logic-Future Classics
45. The Charms-Strange Magic
46. Sa-Ra Creative Partners-The Hollywood Recordings
47. Phat Kat-Carte Blanche
48. Adult.-Why Bother?
49. Mika-Life In Cartoon Motion
50. Slavic Soul Party-Teknochek Collision