The time has come to celebrate and scold the music, artists and events of the past 12 months. Medleyville.us staffers Joe Belock, Michael Corby, George Henn, Chris M. Junior and Mike Madden have their say about 2007.
Top 10 albums of 2007
1. Glenn Mercer — Wheels in Motion (Pravda)
2. Neil Young — Chrome Dreams II (Reprise)
3. The Sadies — New Seasons (Yep Roc)
4. The Makes Nice — Candy Wrapper and 12 Other Songs (Frenetic)
5. Paul McCartney — Memory Almost Full (Hear)
6. Graham Day & the Gaolers — Soundtrack to the Daily Grind (Damaged Goods)
7. Gondoliers — s/t (Earie)
8. Wild Billy Childish & the Musicians of the British Empire — Punk Rock
at the British Legion Hall (Damaged Goods)
9. Southern Culture on the Skids — Countrypolitan Favorites (Yep Roc)
10. The 1990s — Cookies (Rough Trade)
* Song of the year: “Let’s Party” by Luis & the Wildfires
* Concert of the year: Roky Erickson & the Explosives at Southpaw, Brooklyn, N.Y.
* Story of the year: Starbucks launches music label, Hear Music, with Paul McCartney’s Memory Almost Full
* Hype of the year: (Tie) Amy Winehouse and Wilco
* Disappointment of the year: The Donnas (above)
* Best kept secret of the year: Sales of vinyl albums on the rise
* Music book of the year: Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock’N’Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood by Domenic Priore
* Joke of the year: Van Halen reunion tour, complete with misfiring backing tapes
Top 10 albums of 2007
1. Bruce Springsteen — Magic (Columbia)
Undoubtedly Springsteen’s most listener-friendly album since 1984’s Born in the U.S.A.
2. The Fratellis — Costello Music (Interscope)
A mix of fun punk/folk-driven singalong music separates this band from the usual U.K. hype.
3. The Foo Fighters — Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (RCA)
The Foos deliver a solid spectrum of musical style and influence and continue to be one of today’s most consistent bands.
4. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals — Lifeline (Virgin)
Harper decided to go back to the old days of recording — live as a band on 16-track analog tape.
5. Amy Winehouse — Back to Black (Universal)
With a throwback ’50s/’60s R&B voice, she mixes hip-hop with Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound,” resulting in a fresh album.
6. Eddie Vedder — Into the Wild soundtrack (J Records)
Pearl Jam‘s Vedder takes a much quieter approach for the Sean Penn-directed movie.
7. Bright Eyes — Cassadaga (Saddle Creek)
Conor Oberst leaves behind the British goth/electronic mash of 2005’s Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and stays more true to I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning
8. The White Stripes — Icky Thump (The White Stripes/Third Man Records)
Jack and Meg White mix rock, country and blues, also adding some keyboards and mariachi horns.
9. John Fogerty — Revival (Fantasy)
Fogerty delivers on his trip back to his Creedence Clearwater Revival days.
10. The Shins — Wincing the Night Away (Sub Pop)
This moody, inward-looking album will definitely will solidify this group as a mainstay.
* Song of the year: “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse
* Story of the year: The dramatic fall of Britney Spears.
* Hype of the year: The showdown between 50 Cent (above) and Kanye West releasing their new albums on the same day.
* Disappointment of the year: Guns N’ Roses‘ Chinese Democracy remains unreleased.
* Joke of the year: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham having the nerve to put on a concert billed as Led Zeppelin.
Top 10 albums of 2007
1. Ian Hunter — Shrunken Heads (Yep Roc)
Even in his 60s, the former glam-rock hero sounds incredibly fresh and contemporary.
2. The Broken West — I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On (Merge)
California boys meld Beach Boys-style harmonies and Wilco‘s Summerteeth-era folk-pop sensibilities.
3. Grand Champeen — Dial ‘T’ for This (In Music We Trust)
Four albums into its career, the gritty Austin, Texas-based quartet probably is past the point of drawing interest from major labels, but this disc shows again why the band has long deserved a shot at the big time.
4. Buffalo Tom — Three Easy Pieces (New West)
Nineties college-rock darlings took their time with this reunion disc (the band’s first in nine years), and it was well worth the wait.
5. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — Baby 81 (RCA)
With drummer Nick Jago back in the fold, the gang’s all here as B.R.M.C. gets back to cranking out shoegaze-tinged epics on its fourth long player.
6. Albert Hammond Jr. — Yours to Keep (Scratchie/New Line)
The Strokes guitarist offers up sweet, measured melodicism that hints at what his band might sound like if not for its screeching lead singer.
7. Kaiser Chiefs — Yours Truly, Angry Mob (B-Unique/Universal Motown)
Singer Ricky Wilson certainly has a bit of Morrissey in him, but don’t let that dissuade you — he and his bandmates don’t engage in self-loathing, a la Moz, only self-asssured ego-stroking (“Love’s Not a Competition But I’m Winning,” “I Can Do It Without You”) on this well-rounded set of Britpop.
8. Peter Case — Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John (Yep Roc)
As an under-the-radar, road-weary troubadour for most of the two-plus decades since the Plimsouls disbanded, Case has suffered for his art, and the payoff is in songs like these that resonate with bare honesty.
9. Dale Watson — The Little Darlin’ Sessions (Koch)
Watson nails this collection of old-school country covers that apparently was released over his objections, making it one of the year’s sleepers.
10. Dollar Store — Money Music (Bloodshot)
There may not be any acts left waving the alt-country banner louder or prouder than these guys, who offer up a dozen foot-stomping, blue-collar anthems.
* Song of the year: Art Brut‘s “Direct Hit.” Eddie Argos‘ nervous-twitch vocals make it sound like he actually is there on the dance floor, mulling a move on an unsuspecting female. It doesn’t hurt that the song is insanely catchy, either.
* Concert of the year: Squeeze at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville N.J. On their first tour in nearly a decade, Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook — backed by the umpteenth Squeeze “lineup” — sounded ageless, just as the best of their material still sounded timeless.
* Story of the year: With iTunes establishing itself as the top online music retailer, will the price of downloads (and the artists’ meager cut from them) finally increase, or does the industry fear losing even more music consumers?
* Hype of the year: Bruce Springsteen‘s ballyhooed late-summer single, “Radio Nowhere,” was a well-aimed shot at what has become an FM radio wasteland, but Tom Petty mined that territory better — not to mention five years earlier — with “The Last DJ.”
* Disappointment of the year: Fountains of Wayne‘s Traffic and Weather (above). It’s not so much that their shtick has gotten old; more alarming is that it’s too often missing altogether on the power-pop combo’s fourth proper album, which finds the band’s material suddenly as mundane as the characters in its songs (“Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim”).
* Best kept secret of the year: The Cult‘s (latest) comeback single, “Dirty Little Rockstar,” seemingly cops a prominent riff from the Rolling Stones‘ “Undercover of the Night.”
* Joke of the year: Van Halen “reunites” for a tour with original singer David Lee Roth at last, but without bassist Michael Anthony, who is not only excluded but reportedly has had his name removed from some of the band’s songwriting credits. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to expunge the Gary Cherone era from the VH annals?
CHRIS M. JUNIOR
Album of the year: Amy Winehouse‘s Back to Black. Don’t be turned off by the media hype or her bad habits.
Band of the year: The Dap-Kings. For their work with Winehouse and Sharon Jones, making the latest albums by both singers sound like lost gems from the 1960s.
Concerts of the year: Booker T and the MG’s, during SXSW, at Antone’s in Austin, Texas; The Raspberries, Oct. 13, at Highline Ballroom in Manhattan.
Duets of the year: “Your Love Alone is Not Enough” by Manic Street Preachers with Nina Persson and “Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart” by Against Me! with Tegan Quin (of Tegan and Sara).
Surprise of the year (recording): How great Robert Plant and Alison Krauss sound together on their Raising Sand album.
Surprise of the year (live performance): Chuck Berry, Sept. 15 at the Union County Music Fest in Cranford, N.J. Backed by his regular band, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, 80, made up for an embarrassing performance the previous September in the Garden State.
Music book of the year: Slash by Slash with Anthony Bozza.
Top 10 albums of 2007
1. The White Stripes — Icky Thump (Third Man/Warner)
The things that make this band so consistent (blues influences, guitar heroics) are the heart and soul of this album once again, but with the addition of newer sounds (more synthisizers and bag pipes), the Stripes prove that not messing with the basics yields the best results.
2. Mike Farris — Salvation in Lights (INO Records)
Filled with soaring vocals and plenty of songs of spiritual awakenings, the former Screaming Cheetah Wheelies frontman finds new life here with a gospel/soul album.
3. Bruce Springsteen — Magic (Columbia)
Definitely The Boss’ best work in more than a decade and a fun listen that offers more than enough new ideas to make it essential.
4. Grand Champeen — Dial ‘T’ for This (In Music We Trust)
The Austin, Texas-based band’s fourth offering is by far its most studio-friendly effort and shows how its musical influences can merge together.
5. Grant-Lee Phillips — Stranglet (Zoe/Rounder)
Phillips has the storytelling abilities of a great indie filmmaker, and they are on full display on this album, which boasts more of a band feel than his last few outings.
6. Bright Eyes — Cassadaga (Saddle Creek)
Heart on sleeve, check. Sincere and almost wide-eyed view of the world, check. Twangy/quakey vocals, check. Simple yet powerful arrangement, check — another successful Bright Eyes project.
7. Amy Winehouse — Back to Black (Island)
OK, the girl is a walking Page Six article, but she has a distinct, original voice, retro but forward-leaning writing, ace production from Mark Ronson and a knock outstudio band behind her in The Dap-Kings.
8. The Fratellis — Costello Music (Interscope)
Pub rock has returned with this Glasgow brothers trio.
9. Pop Levi — The Return to Form Black Magick Party (Ninjatunes)
Someone wound this glam-rock act up real tight and then let it loose in a studio to create what it felt like.
10. Josh Ritter — The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (Sony)
A far more rocking collection of songs on this album for the singer/songwriter, but he doesn’t skimp on the lyrics that have made him a star in Europe and a critical fave over here.
* Concert of the year: Live Earth. On a serious note, it was for a good cause, but let’s be realistic here — how much trash was left on those stadium grounds after the concerts were finally over?
* Story of the year:The continuing death of music retail. The days of going to your local CD store on Tuesday for the hottest releases are long dead, courtesy of the Internet. And thanks to Radiohead, fans can choose their own price for music.
* Hype of the year: Reunions. This was a big year for the “I’ll never play with those guys agains” to play with those guys again. Maybe in 2008 there will be a 60-city arena tour for The Starland Vocal Band.
* Dissapointment of the year: Kanye West. When this guy gets done telling us how great he is, maybe then he’ll realize that his new album, Graduation, was boring and a total step backward.
* Best kept secret of the year: The Dap-Kings (above). The original backing band for Brooklyn, N.Y.-based soul stirrer Sharon Jones not only brought their A game to her 2007 release but hooked up with Amy Winehouse and producer Mark Ronson to become this year’s “sound I want for my next album.”
* Joke of the year: The personal lives of music celebrities. From Britney Spears to Amy Winehouse to that guy from Fall Out Boy, it was obvious that the media cared more about what happens after a performance than what happens during it.