Thursday, December 27, 2007

Here It Is: HAD's Top 10 Records of 2007

It's never easy picking favorites, but sometimes it's gotta be done. Here's what we at H.A.D. think were some of the finest musical gems of 2007. Enjoy.

#1 The Sea And Cake - Everybody
In some ways, we're probably as surprised as you are that this record is at number 1. A well established band that had always been off our radar, somehow the Sea and Cake rounded the corner and blew us out of the water with this pop masterpiece. It manages to toe the line between experimentation, pop accessibility, and technical skill in a way that we haven't heard in a long time. The album is a repeat-play winner, and even when it as been pretty worn thin, a few days off brings it right back to life. We're sorry to have missed The Sea and Cake's set in San Francisco earlier in the year, but we know that we'll be ready when they return, and when they deliver their next disc.

#2 Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Probably the only reason this record isn't at #1 is that we set the bar pretty high for Mr. Daniel. Okay, really high. Even at that, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is 36 minutes of sublime rock bliss. It takes Spoon back to some of the more seat-of-the-pants garage sound of A Series Of Sneaks, and is the first record to feature the current full band lineup. It's also the first Spoon record to go top 10. Let's just say these guys have been kicking ass for a number of years, and if this year's shows are any indicator, they don't show any sign of slowing down.

#3 Dirty Projectors - Rise Above
We hadn't really been aware of the Dirty Projectors until this record started getting hyped, but now we're glad we have. The band lays out a killer selection of layered melodies and guitar lines that, while at first inaccessible, become progressively more addictive. On top of that, the band is surprisingly adept at reproducing their intricate arrangements live. Forget that this is a reimagining of Black Flag - it's simply an awesome rock record.

#4 Babyshambles - Shotter's Nation
We're not sure if it's the fact that Pete got sober, ditched Kate Moss, or hired Steven Street to produce this record, but whatever it was, it worked. While Down In Albion was a bit of an underwhelming collection of demo-quality recordings, Shotter's Nation is anything but. The arrangements are tight, the songs are fantastic, and the performances are solid. We discovered the record just a few weeks ago, and we're sincerely hopin that the Babyshambles crew make it to the US for a tour this Spring.

#5 Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew - Spirit If...
It's well known that we heart all things BSS, so it's no surprise this little number made it on to the list. Still, Spirit If... holds something that transcends BSS: it appears to have a good bit more of Kevin Drew's soul. BSS' charismatic frontman was always kind of the ringleader of a band of dangerously talented musicians, but with this release he's so much more. He's got his heart on his sleeve (both on disc, and on stage), and it leads to a big payoff. If you took the more tender, honest moments of BSS and expounded upon them, well, you'd have this.

#6 The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters
We're kind of surprised how much we love this record. Something described as melancholy, anthemic, or involving childhood angst seldom holds appeal. And yet, The Twilight Sad's debut record has all those things, and still completely blew us out of the water. The melodies are addictive, and the guitar lines accent in a way that simultaneously fulfills the roll of rhythm and lead. We'd be lying if we didn't admit that it made us think of a certain Irish band on occasion. That being said, this band is firmly rooted in Scotland, and it their touring schedule doesn't confirm it, than the accent that pervades every song certainly does. We're just sorry they haven't made it to the states yet. 2008?

#7 Liars - Liars
While the last Liars album was an experimental masterpiece, this album does what seemed potentially impossible: it takes the fruits of that experiment, and rolls them back into accessible kick-ass rock songs. With their eponymous disc, the band managed to create a record that is all at once dark, fun, experimental and rocking. No easy feat. They're back in town in January, and we're psyched for the show.

#8 Kings Of Leon - Because Of the Times
The Kings' last two records were some of our favorites over the past few years, and so when this disc dropped we were eager with anticipation. At first the more "hard rock" vibe was a little off-putting: it initially had the feel of being based on the advice of a record company A&R man. However, after letting it sink in, it quickly became clear that the Kings we know and love are still in fine form - just rocking a bit harder. The Kings' fan base appears to be steadily growing, and we think it's well deserved. As their producer Ethan Johns said a while back: "They're the real thing."

#9 Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
When this disc dropped we weren't sure what to make of the mid-tempo seventies vibe and super-frank lyrics. Had Tweedy gone soft? Was the edge gone? Was it the dreaded "I've gone clean, and now I'm boring."? Well, the answer to all of those questions is "No.". We were first reassured by the bonus DVD that features live performances of many of the disc's songs. We were further enlightened by the band's show the Greek Theater this past summer. These songs are not soft, they're simply honest: when they go live, the Wilco rock machine is firmly in place. Now we're able to hear that every time we throw this disc on the stereo. Added bonus: to hear that show at the Greek Theater, put the CD in your computer: the show is part of the bonus materials. Apparently the band liked it as much as we did.

#10 Travis Morrison Hellfighters - All Y'All
Seriously, this record is fantastic. If you're into Travis Morrison's crazy-honest lyrics, and songs that jump from style to style, and really just music that makes you feel happy that someone is out there making great music, then this is for you. Sure, there are hit or miss moments, but the reality is that there are far more hits than misses. The self deprecating humor, great melodies, and amazing instrumentation all combine to make a record that gets better with every listen. Sure, it's not as emo as Dismemberment Plan, but in fact it's something altogether better: it's the portrait of a young man trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Honorable Mentions:

Scissors For Lefty - Underhanded Romance
Okay, this record officially came out in 2006 (in the UK), so we didn't really feel that great including it in the top 10 for '07. That being said, SFL are our fave local band, and their performances always leave us wanting more. If you don't already have this disc, get it.

Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
Another '06 UK release that wound up stateside in '07, Jarvis' solo debut is simply amazing. It moved up a few more notches after his show at The Fillmore this spring, and we're hoping there's a sequel is in the works. Too poppy and accessible for some Pulp fans, it suited us just right.

Vampire Weekend
There's not officially a record yet (at least beyond the self released stuff), but we still love this band to death. Their show at the Independent was amazing, and their self released material is to die for. We're eagerly anticipating the full-length that's on its way.