My Picks For The Best 15 Albums and 40 Songs of 2007

Here they are, finally, My Picks For The Best 15 Albums and 40 Songs of 2007. I'm not necessarily claiming these are "The Best" albums and songs of the past year since there were thousands of albums and tens of thousands of songs released over the year and I simply haven't heard them all. What I am claiming, however, is that the selections you'll find below are my favorite tunes and discs from the past 12 months - damn good music, all of it. Enjoy! And let me know anything I've missed.

15 FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2007:

Kanye West's "Graduation"
The man's only released three albums so far and all three are instant classics. Check out my full rave here: The Kanye West Rave

The White Stripes' "Icky Thump"
Yet another fantastic album from Jack and Meg White. To my ears it may not measure up to 2005's "Get Behind Me Satan", but it sure rocks a lot harder. And, hey, it features my favorite song of the year (see below). As for their previous 5 albums, check out my rave here: The White Stripes Rave (A.K.A. The Do Believe The Hype Rave)

M.I.A.'s "Kala"
The most adventurous and creative album of the year by far. British/Sri Lankan/Tamil M.I.A. has got everything going on here from Bollywood to African to British to American grooves and beats. It's just her second album but she seems to already have created her very own distinct genre of music. Incredible stuff!

Soundtrack to the film "I'm Not There"
Yeah, there are a couple of less-than-stellar covers here, but overall this 2-CD, 34-track collection of Dylan cover tunes, which serves as the soundtrack to Todd Haynes' Dylan-themed film "I'm Not There", is fantastic. The album's full of incredible songs from 3 different generations of artists/Dylan fans. For some of the best tracks see my favorite songs of the year below.

Wilco's "Sky Blue Sky"
Not as adventurous perhaps as 2002's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot", but to my mind an even more satisfying and beautiful listen than that most-highly-acclaimed album. Country folk at it's best.

Lucinda Williams' "West"

I'm a huge Lucinda fan, but when I first heard this I was more than a little disappointed. I had been hoping for more of her harder rockin' tunes, like I was used to from her previous albums, but instead I found myself listening to a very quiet and melancholy album. But, as Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen so clearly demonstrated decades ago, quiet and melancholy can be classic stuff. And this is. Ok, so it may not be anywhere near as great as her 1998 masterpiece "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road", but, nonetheless, it's a fantastic album full of beautiful songs of sadness and loss... and even a couple of hope and love too. Just don't listen to it when you're in the mood for "Car Wheels..."! And make sure you give it a few good listens before you judge it.

Rilo Kiley's "Under The Blacklight"
Another album that took quite a few listens to realize its true greatness. At first it sounded a bit bland, slick and generic, but after a few more listens it became apparent just what a great catchy rock album this really is. A few more listens and it became one of my favorite albums of the year. All the comparisons to classic mid-'70's Fleetwood Mac are pretty dead on. And lead singer Jenny Lewis is the real deal.

Kings Of Leon's "Because Of The Times"
An old-school rock 'n' roll album, jammed full of great songs, from the three Followill brothers and their cousin. Straight outta Tennessee, but sounding more like a cross between classic '68-'72 Stones and mid-'70's Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band's "Magic"
Bruce's hardest rocking album in two, possibly three, decades is also one of his greatest in the last 20 years. But the most moving - and my favorite - song is the only stripped down track on the album (see below).

Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible"
Montreal's Arcade Fire wanna be Bruce real bad, but they don't just imitate their hero, they've got a sound all of their own. And it's a sound of inspiration.

Lilly Allen's "Alright, Still"
A great album of bouncy Brit-rock. Put this on whenever you want to be cheered up. But listen closely to the lyrics and you just might find that it's not all quite as cheerful and happy as it first seems.

Amy Winehouse's "Back To Black"
Like "Alright, Still", "Back To Black" was produced by uber-producer Mark Ronson and you can hear the similarities in the production. Like Lilly Allen's album, the beats are really upbeat; however, Winehouse's lyrics are much darker, as is her life. As we've seen so much in the past, chaotic personal lives often produce great art.

Bright Eyes' "Cassadaga"
A perfect mix of folk, country and rock... and great lyrics to match. A wonderful collection of songs.

Neil Young's "Live At Massey Hall 1971"
An amazing solo live set by a 25-year-old Neil at the absolute peak of his talents. I was tempted to call this my album of the year as it was indeed released in 2007, but I thought that since it's actually 36 years old that would be a bit strange. Still, it is definitely one of the best albums of '07.

Ani DiFranco's "Canon"
Another fantastic 2007 release of non-2007 material. This is a 2-disc career retrospective covering Ani's entire 17 years of making great music. Hard to do with only 36 songs, but what a collection it is. Favorite cuts: "Shy" and "Untouchable Face".


FAVORITE SONG OF THE YEAR:

"You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)" by The White Stripes
Now hook-laden songs simply don't come much better than this. That is, rock 'n' roll doesn't come much better than this. But you have to crank it up to really, fully appreciate its beauty. Check out the video, if you don't already have the album. It's even filmed right here in Canada, up north in Iqaluit, Nunavut Territory. And in keeping with their garage-rock ethos, it's about as simple a video as you'll see these days, but it's perfect. So what if he's playing an acoustic guitar while the electric guitar wails away in the song? Maybe they didn't have any electricity in that graveyard? And whether you like the video or not, it's really all about the song and this song rocks! Here's the link to the clip, and remember to turn it up, way up.


ANOTHER 39 FAVORITE SONGS FROM '07:

"Effect and Cause" and "Icky Thump" by The White Stripes
My 2 other favorite songs from the "Icky Thump" album, both killer cuts. Check out the great video for "Icky Thump" here.

"Stronger" by Kanye West
A futuristic dance tune centered around a Daft Punk sample. Kanye just keeps branching off in new directions. The man may be pure ego, but perhaps it's justified considering all his pure talent. Check out the video here.

"The Good Life" by Kanye West feat. T-Pain
Built around a Michael Jackson "P.Y.T." sample and all about how his life is so damn good, this is possibly even better than "Stronger". Check it out here.

"Jimmy" and "Bird Flu" by M.I.A.
Music just doesn't get much more exciting and innovative than these two tracks from "Kala". Check out both clips here: "Jimmy" and "Bird Flu".

"Umbrella" by Rihanna feat. Jay-Z
Jay-Z starts it off, then Rihanna steps in and takes it to the end with her great Cranberries "Zombie" imitation and all the rest. While last year it was Gnarls Barkley's extremely catchy "Crazy" that was almost like a drug in its hypnotic power to make you play it over and over again, this year the drug was simply called "Umbrella". Check it out here.

"Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?" by The Hold Steady
This may sound like blasphemy to some, but I'd say this reinterpretation of Dylan's 1965 song is actually even better than the original. Yes, really! Pick up the "I'm Not There" soundtrack and check it out for yourself.

"Simple Twist of Fate" by Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco)
"Billy 1" by Los Lobos
"Pressing On" by John Doe
and
"You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
Four more fantastic stand-out tracks from the "I'm Not There" soundtrack. Covering Dylan with a passion. Great interpretations.

"I'm Not There" by Bob Dylan with The Band
Then there's the highlight of the whole "I'm Not There" soundtrack. This may have been recorded back in 1967 in the basement of Big Pink, along with the rest of "The Basement Tapes", but unbelievably it wasn't released until it appeared at the end of this great soundtrack this past fall. There are a lot of fantastic interpretations of Dylan songs on this thing, but nothing rivals this one and only track by The Bob himself.

"Fancy Funeral" by Lucinda Williams

The most melancholy, quiet and stripped down of songs on an an album of melancholy, quiet and stripped down songs. The most bare and raw emotionally. Written after she buried her own mother.

"Mama You Sweet" by Lucinda Williams
Another beautiful song to her recently-deceased mother.

"Say It To Me Now" by Glen Hansard
A slow-building passionate acoustic asskicker of a song from the great Irish film "Once". Check out the clip here.

"Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
The centerpiece tune to "Once" and another slow burner that builds to an emotional crescendo. Not quite as great as "Say It To Me Now", but pretty damn close. Here's the clip.

"Intervention" and "Windowsill" by Arcade Fire

"Keep The Car Running" may be the better known song, but to my ears these two tracks are the standouts on this great album. Check out "Windowsill" here.

"Combover Blues" by Todd Snider

Classic Todd! Funny and catchy as hell. From the album of B-sides and outtakes called "Peace, Love and Anarchy".

"Silver Lining", "Close Call" and "Breakin' Up" by Rilo Kiley

At first these three standout tracks from "Under The Blacklight" sounded a bit too slick, but with each new listen they just got better and better and better... Check out the video to "Silver Lining" here.

"True Love Way", "On Call", "Ragoo" and "The Runner" by The Kings Of Leon
Four terrific bluesy rockers from "Because Of The Times". Check out the video for "On Call" here.

"Impossible Germany", "Side With The Seeds" and "Hate It Here" by Wilco
Three impossibly beautiful songs by Jeff Tweedy and co., whether you be in Germany or not. Check out "Hate It Here" right here.

"Four Winds" and "Soul Singer In A Session Band" by Bright Eyes
My two fav cuts off "Cassadaga", though "Classics Cars" isn't far behind. Here's the "Four Winds" video.

"Smile" "Knock 'em Out" and "LDN" by Lilly Allen
The first three tracks on "Alright, Still" - all killers. Check out the video for "Smile" here.

"Rehab" by Amy Winehouse
A fantastic song as well as an autobiographical tale that she continued to live out, quite publicly, throughout the year. Check out the video here.

"Grey In L.A." and "Daughter" by Loudon Wainwright III
Two laidback standout tracks from the "Knocked Up" soundtrack.

"Terry's Song" by Bruce Springsteen
On an album of out-and-out rockers with the E-Street Band, this stripped down hidden bonus track at the end of the album is by far the most heartfelt and moving, which makes sense when you consider it was written for his friend of 23 years who died last summer. You can hear it here.

Honorable Mentions:

"Business Time" by the comedy/folk duo Flight of The Conchords and "Dear Penis" by Rodney Carrington as "performed" by Dr. Jay n Easy Lee. They may not actually be 2007 releases (I don't, in fact, know when they were originally released), but I never heard them until 2007 and they were certainly two of my favorite songs of the year. Or at least two of the most fun.

And, if you haven't seen them already, click here to see My Picks For The Best Films of 2007.

Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

kanye west? Bruce

kanye west? Bruce springsteen? neil young? someone is on drugs.......PLAY THE DAN DAMMIT!!!! -anonymous

Dan Hill

In case you were wondering, that was posted by my friend Derek, a HUGE Dan "Sometimes When We Touch" Hill fan.

Mike

Dan Hill

Wow Mike, But you must get your dad (or Ken or Chris Whiteley, or any of the "old folk" who were around your mom and dad's "youth group/save the world stuff" in the '70's) to tell you about how Ken and his friends ran a folk "coffee house" in Don Mills at that time where none other than the likes of Dan Hill used to sing. WAY before he was famous! Knee high to a grasshopper infact! I don't remember the name but I sure as hell remember how we served tea and juice and date squares - there were chianti wine bottles with candles on the tables. And I can remember clear as day a song Dan Hill sang about how he would NEVER EVER sell out to record companies like RCA and sing sappy love love songs like "Sometimes When We Touch"!! Good God, why wasn't this on you Worst Songs list?! I can remember he was actually kind of good way back then and how we were all so incredibly shocked when he became a sappy, sucky pop crooner! Sorry Derek, but Dan Hill makes me puke! PS Maybe ask Peter if he remembers this coffee house? Peace and love man, Chris

High on Dan

Hey, Chris, I'm guessing that rather than Dan being "actually kind of good way back then", you were probably just high. That's one of the documented hazards of drug use, thinking singers like Dan Hill are "groovy', "far out" or "actually kind of good". Drugs can also cause hallucinations too, of course. And another nasty side effect can be loss of memory. So I'm not sure which of the three is causing you to suffer from False Memory Syndrome, but I'm quite sure of one thing: Dan Hill was NEVER "kind of good". Mike

Clarification on who "the dan" is

Mike, Mike, Mike. What a masterful attempt at reframing the debate about the best fifteen albums of the year. Like a skillful propangandist you have attacked my personal character by claiming that I like guys like Dan Hill. "The dan" refers to Steely Dan, "the masters of erudition and irony" in the words of Marian McPartland. A more pointed diss on me would have been to mention the fact that Steely Dan didn't realease an album this year, but you failed to point that out and as it turns out YOU are the one with the previous connection to Dan Hill. Nice Try, Derek