Regardless, here are the 10 2007 releases I thought most noteworthy.
- Burial - "Untrue"A last-minute entry, surprisingly topping this list. This moody downtempo record by a guy from South London is like "Blade Runner" meets DJ Shadow. Simple, spare tracks that conjure vivid images and a variety of moods. Cinema for your mind. Not too long, not too weird. The sort of record I wish I would make sometimes.
- LCD Soundsystem - "Sound of Silver"
Electronic/Rock. I didn't care for their last record, but this one has actual songs plus production that even makes the hipsters shake their butts. The basslines are almost all cribbed from other songs, which makes for a fun game of "where'd he steal that from?" But the influences are at least a bit novel, and there's a sense of longing and melancholy beneath the partying, and it's carefully leavened with humor and irony. I don't know if I'll be listening to this record a lot in 2008, but it certainly made 2007 better.
- Amy Winehouse - "Back To Black"
Pop/Soul. Take her personal life out of the equation for a moment. She's got a great voice, writes great songs, and manages to make music that isn't for children but doesn't make you like a complete old fart listening to it. The production is a decent blend of retro and modern. And the songs are catchy and melodic without being stupid.
- Nine Horses - "Money For All"Alternative. If this were a full-length record instead of an EP, it would almost certainly have topped this list. Most of this is semi-decent remixes of tracks from the David Sylvian-masterminded group's first album "Snow Borne Sorrow". But the ringer here is the title track, whose edgy and topical lyrics ("...I'll take that coat/remove them shoes/should a guy like me be afraid of a man like you?...") practically made it my theme song for the year.
- Stars Of The Lid - "And Their Refinement Of The Decline"
Ambient. Unusual in that it's not electronic - the record is all cellos and brass (or at least convincing samples thereof). A double-album with some unfortunately juvenile titles for what are quite beautiful compositions. The record unfolds extremely slowly. The sort of music I would want played at my funeral. I mean that in a good way. If these guys had gone to music school, you'd be reading about them in The New Yorker or New York Times or other classical publications.
- M.I.A. - "Kala"
This Electronic/Pop album makes me feel very old and very young. Very young because it's au courant and hip and fun and makes you want to dance and everyone's talking about it. Songs are reasonably solid and it's an example of a contemporary record and artist that don't make me completely wince. It makes me feel old because I can't listen to the whole thing without getting a headache. Hell, I can barely look at the album art without getting a headache. It's a bit much all at once, but who listens to albums all the way through anymore?
- Nine Inch Nails - "Year Zero"
Industrial rock. Back in the 90's, Nine Inch Nails were one of my favorite artists - very exciting, fresh, and different. Then they started making records like "The Fragile" (all of the NINnies love this record. It bored me to tears). "Year Zero" isn't an incredibly amazing record, but it's consistent, has some interesting production (while being less reliant on that production than previous albums), and some decent songs ("In This Twilight"). I'm also giving them a spot here because of the unusual marketing campaign and "alternate reality game" which I believe will be one of the most influential things about the album. And there's Trent Reznor's issues with the traditional music business.
- Tie between After The Night Falls
Electronic/Dance. Underworld put out an album this year, which all-but-guarantees placement on this list, as I think they are awesome. This record is not their best, but it has some very strong moments ("Crocodile", "Beautiful Burnout") and only a few really weak ones ("Ring Road", for example).
My 2006 picks are here for reference.