I’ve been working for about a week now trying to hammer down my top albums of 2007, and it’s come down to these fifteen albums. I will present 15 through 11 here today, followed by the remaining ten later this week.
15. Bassnectar – Underground Communication
Bassnectar’s first offering, Mesmerizing the Ultra, was a darkish, eclectic type of take on the Breaks genre that, while interesting, was too unsure of itself and where it wanted to be to really stand on its own. With Underground Communication, though, Lorin Ashton seems to have addressed the issue head on, dropping the intentionally overdone minimalism and inaccessibility for a more direct, hard-hitting sound featuring crisper beats, more vocals (with a whole gaggle of guest artists), and a far lusher sound. The album falters a bit in the middle, as can be expected with its running time, but it is book-ended by incredibly strong tracks, the best of which are a number of instrumentals toward the end.
Key tracks: Underground Communication, I Am Back, FSOSF
14. The Nightwatchman – One Man Revolution
Tom Morello’s solo project The Nightwatchman is completely separate of what he put out with Rage and Audioslave (or even Electric Sheep). There are no guitar pyrotechnics to be found here, no groove-driven music to headbang to. Instead, what we find here is solid, wholesome political folk music. Armed with only his nylon-string guitar and a harmonica, Morello sets out to continue the political note in his musical projects, and in doing so assembles a collection of incredibly catchy, heartfelt songs about the various predicaments of our hostile society, sung in a surprisingly pleasant baritone. One Man Revolution proves that Morello’s songwriting ability is top-notch even when stripped to the most bare essentials.
Key tracks: The Garden of Gethsemane, Maximum Firepower, No One Left
13. KJ Sawka – Cyclonic Steel
There are few musical experiences in existence today more inspiring than KJ Sawka’s live performances. Ripping to shreds most live electronic music shows seems to be what he was born to do, as he literally plays Drum and Bass on his drum kit, with a sampler in tow, constructing and morphing ideas and tracks as he goes on for an hour or more. When he sits down to put something on vinyl, however, he realizes that it’s much more difficult to impress people without the visual of him playing along. As a result, the material on his albums tends to be a bit more IDM-inspired than his already highly experimental live sets. Cyclonic Steel is no exception, and in many ways is much more abstract than its predecessor. When a set groove does arise, it doesn’t stick around for long, and it’s easy to tire of the endlessly dark IDM, but accessibility has never been the reason to listen to KJ Sawka. Much more produced than Synchronized Decompression, Cyclonic Steel is an entirely different, more adventurous album, and it is better for it.
Key tracks: Brotherhood of the Drum, Globalize This, Press Machine
12. Bloc Party – A Weekend in the City
There seemed to be a general disappointment with Bloc Party’s sophomore effort when it arrived, but as people slowly began to accept that the band is still evolving, and listening with that acceptance, it seems that the general sentiment began to shift, and most people enjoy the album for what it is: something a little more subdued, but no less charming or energetic. A much more melodic effort, A Weekend in the City shows a new side of the band that wasn’t entirely necessary just yet (there was much life to be had yet in the more spastic, untethered rawness of Silent Alarm), but isn’t altogether unwelcome. Perhaps the band’s members have become slightly more world-weary than when they wrote Silent Alarm.
Key tracks: Song for Clay (Disappear Here), Waiting for the 7:18, Sunday
11. Rush – Snakes and Arrows
Rush is one of the most seminal, important bands of all time. Influencing and inspiring a whole generation of prog rockers and bands, Rush’s effect on the history of music can only be matched by the length of its own history. As their eighteenth studio album, Snakes and Arrows furthers Rush’s incredible and indelible 30+ year mark. The album somewhat furthers the direction Rush diverted upon with its previous album, Vapor Trails, moving away from progressive for progressive’s sake, and towards a more balanced state of being. While maintaining Rush’s trademark not-quite-dissonance, Vapor Trails was a more full album than previous efforts, and Snakes and Arrows follows suit. Slightly darker and more furious than Vapor Trails, the newest effort seems to be an attempt to push the band’s edges even while following this new direction in songwriting, and it largely succeeds. The album’s only weak point seems to be a small number of songs which drag on longer than they should have; this point, unfortunately, is rather grave, and cost the album several positions on this list.
Key tracks: Far Cry, Armor and Sword, Malignant Narcissism
To be continued…