Well, I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring and do a write up on what I felt was the best and worst of the new albums, bands, and songs that I heard in 2007. Overall, it was a pretty amazing year, especially for metal (even if my top 10 albums doesn't really reflect that), and I discovered a lot of great new bands. So, without further ado...
Top 10 Albums of 2007
1. Tegan and Sara- The Con
What can I say about these two that I haven't already said on this board (and in real life) a billion times? I was a casual fan up until this year, and when I heard they were putting out a new album, I was just like "Oh, that's cool I guess." What I got was a nearly-flawless pop gem that's catchy as hell and brimming with emotion and passion. Usually, I feel that the sexuality of a band's members is irrelevant to their music, but knowing that both of these identical twins are lesbians actually adds a whole new dimension and meaning to their lyrics. Tegan & Sara's biggest strength is their ability to mix catchy, fun melodies with lyrics that can be absolutely heartbreaking. Simply put, this is an unbelievable record, and they get bonus points for the adorable/hilarious making-of DVD that comes with the deluxe edition of the CD.
2. Pig Destroyer- Phantom Limb
At one point, I thought "Terrifyer" was the most brutal and intense metal album I'd ever heard, and I saw topping that as an impossible task. Well, as usual, I was wrong. "Phantom Limb" retains their trademark unholy mixture of grindcore, hardcore, thrash, and death metal, but in an even more refined and brutally efficient way. Songs like "Loathsome" and "The Machete Twins" grab you by the throat and rip it right out, and like their previous album, there's absolutely no reprieve from the constant onslaught.
3. 3 Inches of Blood- Fire Up the Blades
This was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year for me. I had previously written off this band as an entertaining but mostly mediocre 80's throwback band, but they stepped it up to an impressive level with this record. The riffs are tighter, the melodies are stronger, the musicianship is sharper, and the lyrics are...well, okay, they still sing about stuff like killing Orcs, but that's fine with me. The opening riff to "Night Marauders" is one of the best metal riffs of the last 10 years IMO.
4. Chuck Ragan- Feast or Famine
Like a lot of people, I was pretty devastated when Hot Water Music broke up last year (even though they just announced a reunion), but singer/guitarist Chuck Ragan's first solo effort turned out to be a great substitute for more HWM tunes. You'd be hard pressed to find a more earnest and emotional folk record, and the songwriting is downright amazing. Ragan channels everyone from Woody Guthrie to Johnny Cash by making some fun and thought-provoking American folk.
5. High On Fire- Death Is This Communion
Like Mastodon, High On Fire is one of those metal bands that just steamrolls right over you with their sheer power and volume. Thanks to their relentless, pounding rhythm section and muscular guitar riffs, they make it impossible not to bang your head. They took the sound of "Blessed Black Wings" and made it a bit more polished, but retained their heaviness and managed to throw in some more melody at the same time. My only complaint is the fact that there are 3 instrumentals on this record, which seems like a bit much, but they're all great, so I can't complain too much.
6. Clutch- From Beale St. To Oblivion
Clutch once again stepped up to the plate and kept their title of "Best Rock Band In America Now That Sleater-Kinney Retired" with a bluesy, down home, southern-fried rock album. There's epic, winding tracks like "White's Ferry" and plenty of more punchy songs like "Electric Worry" and "You Can't Stop Progress." They may be expanding on their blues influences, but they still rock like motherfuckers.
7. Broadway Calls- Broadway Calls
Pop punk is a maligned term nowadays, but for those of us who know what proper pop punk is supposed to sound like, there's no better place to find it than newcomers Broadway Calls. They sound like a combination of Jawbreaker, Green Day, Saves the Day, and the Get Up Kids, and they've got plenty of big hooks and great lyrics to back it up. I expect big things for this band in the future.
8. Himsa- Summon In Thunder
If metalcore had a yearbook, Himsa would win "Most Likely To Succeed." They've managed to shake off their chugga-chugga metalcore sound and turn it into a vicious thrash metal attack with big, angry riffs and even angrier vocals. They have a fierceness and intensity that I think is lacking from a lot of metal bands today, and even if some won't give them their due because of their past, they probably don't give a shit and will continue kicking ass for a long time.
9. Streetlight Manifesto- Somewhere In the Between
4 years between a debut album and its successor is quite a long time these days, but I'm willing to forgive them when the result is this good. Plus, they got their all of their gear stolen. Twice. On the same tour. That's a pretty good excuse for a long time between albums. Made up of ex-Catch 22 members, these ska punkers keep up the good work with a batch of their usual fun, catchy, and energetic songs, and with poignant lyrics to boot.
10. Northern State- Can I Keep This Pen?
Northern State were another one of my favorite surprises of the year. I'd never heard of them before I saw them open for Tegan & Sara back in November, but they blew me away with their stage presence and energy. If the Beastie Boys had sassy younger sisters, they would sound just like these girls (it doesn't hurt that AdRock produced the album). While their rhyming skills won't blow anyone's minds, their youthful exuberance will. How can you diss a band that sounds like they're having the time of their lives?
Modern Life is War- Midnight In America
Another very solid effort by a band that writes the best lyrics in hardcore. The smoldering intensity of "Big City Dream" and "Stagger Lee" will damn near set your speakers on fire.
Municipal Waste- The Art of Partying
I don't think any metal band has more fun than these guys, and they know how to make the perfect soundtrack to a night of beer-fueled mayhem and destruction. Still, this record felt a little flat compared to Hazardous Mutations
A Wilhelm Scream- Career Suicide
Other than having a great name, this band puts out great punk rock that mixes the old and the new really well. The lyrics are great, and the bassist is downright amazing. "We Built This City! (On Debts and Booze)" and "Die While We're Young" were two of my favorite songs of the year.
I'm usually not too big on modern death metal (I vastly prefer the 80's stuff), but this is a good album. Not great, but good. The lyrical themes and Egyptian mood of the music are very cool, but this is an album that definitely suffers from poor production.
Darkest Hour- Deliver Us
Like Himsa, I think Darkest Hour get unfairly lumped in with the metalcore crowd despite the fact that their chops put them in the major leagues. That said, this album lacked a lot of the intensity and venom of their earlier stuff, and their attempts at big choruses fail badly. The opening track is great, though, and "Stand and Receive Your Judgment" sounds more like the older Darkest Hour that I love.
Arcade Fire- Neon Bible
Whaddya know, an indie band that doesn't instantly put me to sleep. I bought this album after giving into the massive hype it was receiving from critics and friends, and I was actually impressed. Some songs work better than others, but overall it's a solid album, and "Keep the Car Running" is the best ever Bruce Springsteen song that wasn't made by Bruce Springsteen.
Dillinger Escape Plan- Ire Works
After being very impressed by Miss Machine
, I was expecting DEP to hit this one out of the park, but it was disappointing. The heavier songs are the best, but some of them feel forced, like they're trying too hard to be technical. Their attempt at a pop song, "Black Bubblegum," actually doesn't suck, and is one of the better songs on the album.
Dropkick Murphys- The Meanest of Times
This has always been a band that I felt suffers from a severe lack of consistency: Their albums usually consist of 4 or 5 killer tracks, with tons of forgettable filler in between. This album isn't much different, but the good songs are better than they were on their last album, and overall it's a step back in the right direction.
Nine Inch Nails- Year Zero
I was extremely excited for this album, since the viral marketing was unbelievably awesome, with secret shows, mysterious flyers and cryptic websites that all tied into the album's concept of a society being crushed by censorship and an oppressive government (where do these crazy rock stars come up with these ideas?). The album itself was a bit of a letdown, but still a big improvement from With Teeth
, and had some great tracks like "Survivalism," "The Great Destroyer," and "Capital G."
Pyramid Scheme- House Arrest EP
These guys are an unsigned hardcore band out of Pennsylvania that I stumbled upon on Myspace, and they are pretty fantastic. They approach old-school hardcore with a reckless abandon and white-hot ferocity (the vocals are fucking amazing), and some of the songs have metal and grindcore elements that remind me a bit of Pig Destroyer. This is their second self-released EP, and I hope the put out plenty more.
Queens of the Stone Age- Era Vulgaris
After hearing the outstanding single "Sick Sick Sick," I was very excited for this album, but again I was disappointed. While there are a few other great songs (like "3's and 7's," which you may know from Guitar Hero III), most of the album is just boring. The Queens are still one of the best rock bands out there, though.
Say Anything- In Defense of the Genre
I initially dismissed this band as shitty pop-punk for the Hot Topic crowd, but after listening more carefully I noticed that there were some seriously fucked up, sarcastic, and awesome lyrics, and that always gets my attention. Doing a double album was definitely a bad idea, though, since even their normal length albums have quite a bit of filler. Still, it's hard to hate an album with a love song that has the line "I still know how to fuck your eyes crossed."
Skeletonwitch- Beyond the Permafrost
This is what I'm talking about. Good old fashioned thrash metal with awesome 80's-style death vocals and some serious balls. Like 3 Inches of Blood, they have two vocalists (the other has a higher black metal-like snarl), but that's where the similarities end. These guys are the epitome of awesome throwback metal.
The Weakerthans- Reunion Tour
If I did marketing for this band, I would use the slogan "Like Death Cab For Cutie, but not terrible." The Weakerthans have a very laid-back, mellow indie rock sound, but they have an outstanding ear for melody and write amazing lyrics. Their earlier albums were a bit better, but this is still a great album, and something I always put on when I want to relax.
Foo Fighters- Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace
I was immensely disappointed with the In Your Honor
double album, so I didn't have very high hopes for this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. The Foos are absolutely at their best when they just rock the fuck out, and they do, especially on "The Pretender" and "Let It Die." On the poppier side of things, "Long Road to Ruin" and "Cheer Up Boys (Your Makeup Is Running)" are amazingly catchy songs that will make great singles.
The White Stripes- Icky Thump
It took me a long time to appreciate the White Stripes, but then again it's taken them a while to really evolve into a great rock duo. Meg White still drums like a 5 year-old, but frankly their music would sound stupid with a technical, flashy drummer. Jack White is a bona fide guitar hero, and he proves it on songs like the title track and "Rag and Bone."
Jimmy Eat World- Chase this Light
This is another band I was kind of "over" after their last album bored me, but this was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year for me. Plus, I kind of have to cheer for them since they're Arizona natives. Anyways, this album gets back to their roots of catchy, heartfelt pop rock songs that will stick in your head for days, and it's actually probably my favorite album of theirs.
Down- III: Over the Under
I can't really believe it took me this long to finally listen to this band, but I'm glad I did. Like their previous records, this one is just riff after amazing riff, and Phil sounds fantastic as well. The guitar tone is flawless, and songs like "Three Suns and One Star" and the amazing "On March the Saints" will get you nodding your head instantly.
Top 20 Songs of 2007
1. Tegan & Sara- "Nineteen"
2. Pig Destroyer- "The Machete Twins"
3. 3 Inches of Blood- "Night Marauders"
4. Lemuria- "Pants"*
5. Against Me!- "Thrash Unreal"
6. Broadway Calls- "Call It Off"
7. Modern Life Is War- "Stagger Lee"
8. A Wilhelm Scream- "Die While We're Young"
9. Queens of the Stone Age- "Sick Sick Sick"
10. Arcade Fire- "Keep the Car Running"
11. Pyramid Scheme- "Jesus Floor-Punching Christ"
12. Jimmy Eat World- "Here It Goes"
13. Bruce Springsteen- "Radio Nowhere"
14. Down- "On March the Saints"
15. The Weakerthans- "Sun In an Empty Room"
16. Nine Inch Nails- "Survivalism"
17. Foo Fighters- "Long Road to Ruin"
18. Northern State- "Sucka Mofo"
19. Clutch- "Electric Worry"
20. Streetlight Manifesto- "The Receiving End of It All"
Against Me!- New Wave
Bad Religion- New Maps of Hell
Best Discoveries I Made This Year
Lemuria, Broadway Calls, A Wilhelm Scream, The Weakerthans, Built to Spill, Northern State
Whew! There you have it. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for 2008!!
*The album this song is on does not come out until this year, but the band released it on their Myspace in 2007, so I say it counts