Favourite albums of '07 part two: #20-#11

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4. Feb. 2008, 23:45

20. Akala - Freedom Lasso
I do like an album that's impossible to pin down. Is it hip-hop? Is it electroclash? Who cares, it's bloody good. "Electro retro meets techno rap rock" says the man himself in Electro Living, before going on to describe himself as the illest whippersnapper from the land of sausage and batter. The beats are manic, the energy's frantic. And the slow songs that turn up are tender and affecting. Into this breakneck mix, Akala startlingly introduces some prominent Siouxsie and the Banshees samples - twice, if I'm not wrong. And props for pulling off the unlikely and adorably un-hip feat of cramming in as many Shakespeare play titles and references as possible in Comedy Tragedy History.

19. The Bird and the Bee - The Bird and the Bee
Did you like the Feist album? Me too, but not nearly so much as this, which I think covers some similar sonic ground, if a bit more electronically. Gentle arrangements disguise hard-nosed sentiments; Again and Again celebrates the dreamy fun of mutually self-destructive relationships, and Fucking Boyfriend is genius in both title and execution. The album closes with Spark, an existential crisis translated into a shimmering and lovely kiss on the forehead.

18. M.I.A. - Kala
These clattering beats and clamouring sirens make a very appealing mix. Boyz is one of the best party tunes of all time, Jimmy is delirious and Paper Planes manages to make being personally shot dead for your money by M.I.A. sound billowy and comforting.

17. Kanye West - Graduation

It'd be fair to say that this album is "sample-led". That's a good thing, by the way, when yer man is this clever with them. Most of the tracks are daubed with glossy, slinky synth noises, and everything feels warm and fuzzy. Obviously Stronger is brilliant, I also thought Can't Tell Me Nothing was painfully good, with that nagging vocal bit and the fibrillated synth, and I liked the lurching of Drunk And Hot Girls. As I'm trying not to dwell on negatives in these reviews, it's best I don't go into the more than somewhat odd collaboration with Chris Martin.

{|8-] Elton-watch!!! Here he is, lending his wooo-ooh-oooh (that's not a euphemism by the way) to Good Morning. Not embarrassing!

16. Dizzee Rascal - Maths + English
I've seen a few criticisms of this third Dizzee Rascal album along the lines of "ooh he's gone a bit commercial"... well, bring it on. As the opening track makes clear, Dizzee wants to embrace and celebrate new horizons, and as the closing track makes clear, he doesn't care if you don't like it. So it's a joyful tour through everything urban music can do, from the righteous eighties beats of Pussyole (Old Skool) to the guitarry paranoia and moral ambiguity of Sirens, with excursions into two-step and drum & bass thrown in as we go along. Wanna Be with Lily Allen seems to be universally loathed, but when I listen to it I hear the glorious sound of a rapper who's not afraid to take the piss out of his own macho posturing, or - most brilliantly - to ransack the Bugsy Malone soundtrack.

15. Rufus Wainwright - Release The Stars
Oh Rufus, with your silky voice and your impossible orchestrations. Won't you make us an album that perfectly expresses how it feels to be in your mid thirties and still confused about what you want out of your emotional life? Could you also include a song that has a three-minute build-up to one single gigantic, camp and devastating chorus? Thanks, Bert x

Update: those things REALLY HAPPENED! The song was called Between My Legs.

14. Róisín Murphy - Overpowered
Here's class for you. Kicking off with the glorious, squelchy title track (the second song about brain chemistry in this list, interestingly), Róisín's icy voice straddles an hour of lovingly produced dance-pop, whether she's being sexy and predatory on Primitive, spinning a cautionary tale in electro-monster Movie Star (a grown-up version of Rachel Stevens's Some Girls?), pouring scorn on a particularly useless fella in Cry Baby or, er, saving the world from global warming in Dear Miami. Of course, if you build up a lot of chilly hauteur, it's all the more effective when the veneer slips. Towards the end of the album, there's a little crack in her voice in Tell Everybody, a song which expresses perfectly the desperation we all feel sometimes in, against all the odds, just wanting to be acknowledged, respected and loved.

13. Britney Spears - Blackout

A round of applause for the girl Spears, please. Her life may be falling apart spectacularly but she still manages to turn up with an exciting, dangerous (Danjarous?) and experimental album. It's a combination of the most beautiful and surprising production flourishes of the year, and a bucket-load of attitude and defiance. The vast majority of the songs are about having dirty electro sex, with the remainder given over to "fuck off if you don't like me" and, in Heaven on Earth, a sweet and romantic disco ballad. Thanks, love!

12. Bloc Party - A Weekend In The City
Here's another album that's suffered from hey-they've-gone-a-bit-mainstream-don't-you-think sniffiness in reviewing circles. But I'm won over by the earnestness, the pounding, the anger, the contradictions, the vulnerability and the beauty. "I'm trying to be heroic" sings Kele, brokenly, on Song For Clay (Disappear Here) and the songs that follow contrast the crushing banality of daily life with the desire to outshine the moon. Gradually the lyrics become less strident, focusing instead on stolen moments of happiness, forever lost, a reminder of all that really matters perhaps.

11. LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver
James Murphy's a man who understands the fine art of repetition, of layering, of holding back and giving it up. He's also got The Funk. The internet's full of reams of material about the emotional power of Someone Great and All My Friends, and rightly so - I won't try to add anything there. Every choice, every detail, is perfect, both vocally and instrumentally. No track outstays its welcome or stops short. It's a strange knack to be able to make music that sounds both immaculately planned and somehow spontaneous. And then to charm us completely with something like the little vocal quirks on North American Scum. Hooray!

Kommentare

  • Mimey

    reassuring that we get a little higher in the countdown and I POSSESS two of the albums. possession, like an evil spirit, sadly.

    5. Feb. 2008, 12:20
  • CvaldaVessalis

    More stuff I'll need to download at some point, then! We can agree though that Boyz retains your hyperbolic description perfectly well and that, in terms of production, Blackout may prove to be the most inventive pop album of the decade.

    5. Feb. 2008, 14:21
  • Post-Rocker

    So, I'm revisiting The Bird and the Bee. Mostly because 'Fucking Boyfriend' was featured in 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' (I know I keep talking about that movie, but I really don't get out that often). I'm only now realizing the 'gentle arrangements'. There really are some really splendid passages by Greg Kurstin, the solo on La La La being one great standout.

    29. Apr. 2008, 13:13
  • Orange_Anubis

    It really is a great album, Brad! And VERY good news for them that they're featured in a major soundtrack.

    29. Apr. 2008, 13:29
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