What we have here are the best CDs that I have bought this year. I have included all sorts of CD releases – new releases, compilations, reissues and box sets (if I had bought any best-of compilations that were worthy of this list, they would have been included also). I know that some lists only include new releases, but as a CD buyer, I don’t stop to think about whether it is a compilation or whatever. If I like it and want to listen to it, then I buy it – that is all there is to it. So here is the list.
You are undoubtedly aware that this blog is in conjunction with my radio show. I can heartily recommend downloading the show that it goes with – it makes a fine sampler for the year. Please feel free to comment on the list, and if you want, debate my choices. Some serious agonising has been done, and particularly those that fell between 41-50 are sorely missed. The runner-up post has preceded this one, which shows positions 80-41. Just for your information, I bought 112 CDs that were released this year.
Special mention must be made for TV on the Radio’s ‘Return from Cookie Mountain’ (4AD). It arrived too late for inclusion, but haven given it a couple of listens, I think it might have made it onto the list given a while longer to establish itself.
Let’s get on with the show…
40- Lily Allen - Alright, Still (EMI) LDN
Mouthy, annoying but catchy. I doubt that she will ever match this CD. It is hopelessly flawed – especially the second side – but worth a listen if only for the painful infectiousness of LDN, Smile and Knock ‘em Out (with it’s Professor Longhair sampling…)
39- Danielson - Ships (Secretly Canadian) Did I Just Step on Your Trumpet
Sufjan Stevens on meths. Another out-there Christian freak-folker. Brother Danielson gathered all his friends and relations to make one huge wig-out, and this is it. It doesn’t get better than the track chosen, but it is worth it just for that track alone.
38- Nina Nastasia - On Leaving (Fatcat) One Old Woman
A slow one. I was really disappointed when I bought it, but repeated listens have been rewarding. Perhaps, by the time I hit the best of 2007 I will love it as much as ‘Dogs’ or ‘Darkened Air’… I don’t know.
37- Pipettes, The - We Are the Pipettes (
Fun is so not dead. Not as much the air-heads as you might want to think, but perfect for those moments when you do need to empty your mind of pesky things. Stick it on. Sing along. Revel in it’s carelessness.
36- Various Artists - Gypsy Beats & Balkan Bangers (Atlantic Jaxx)
Fanfare Ciocarlia - James Bond Theme
The year that the Balkan’s struck back. You could not move this year without bumping into some tuba-playing dance band touted as something glorious. This was a neat sampler: not consistent, but a great place to start – and worth it for Bulgarian Chicks by the Balkan Beatbox (not chosen because of length).
I mulled this for some time. I have not heard her other releases and I could not decide whether it was Tori Amos or Alanis or Kate Bush or what…. In the end, I put all of these things to one side and just let CD do it’s work. Eventually, it won a place on this list.
34- Sisters of Mercy, The First and Last and Always (Merciful Release)
Nine While Nine*
It has been a great year for goth reissues. This one was looked forward to excitedly, being unendingly satisfying for me. Almost certainly not a great LP for the ages, but some fantastic moments and a great reminder that Eldritch was a pretty good lyricist. Goth’s not undead… yet.
33- Comets on Fire - Avatar (Subpop) Jaybird
I just couldn’t grasp hold of their earlier CDs; they were just too wayward, with their endless sweeping solos and all. On Avatar, however, they have managed to reign themselves in somewhat, and write things that sound like songs – and the balance is just right.
32- Scritti Politti - White Bread Black Beer (Rough Trade)
I have to admit that I missed Gartside’s last offerings, and so jumped straight from ‘Cupid and Psyche ‘85’ to this. Nothing has changed – Gartside still has a voice so delicate, and the arrangement is so light, it could just blow away. Lovely.
31- Beyoncé - B’Day (Sony) Freakum Dress
This LP has not been given the same amount of adoration as her solo debut ‘Dangerously in Love’, and admittedly, it lacks a song of such outrageous catchiness as ‘Crazy in Love’. However, it is a far leaner LP with far less filler. Each track is a stand-up example of why R’n’B should not be dismissed so easily.
30- Siouxsie & the Banshees Juju (Polydor) Sin in my Heart*
The cream of the goth reissues. Even though, Sioux denies ever having had anything to do with goth, this is the goth LP par excellance. It has everything from cascading guitars, tribal drums and the subject matter. If you call yourself a goth and do not have this record you have two choices: a) Call yourself an emo, and go wet a bet somewhere; or b) buy this record now.
29- Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Domino)
Fake Tales of
The hype almost killed this for me. I was so incensed with NME’s declaration that this was the greatest record since Mozart (or something) that could barely bring myself to listen to it. Eventually, I succumbed and picked it up on e-bay (to hide my shame) and had to admit that it was, actually, quite good. To be honest, there is nothing devastatingly new or innovative here, but there doesn’t need to be – just 12 sharply-observed, well fuelled rock songs. All you need, really.
28- A Hawk and a Hacksaw The Way the Wind Blows (Leaf)
To my mind, the best of the LPs to make use of the East-European sound that is all the rage. Semi-instrumental and blends styles, instruments and sounds better than almost anything else I have heard this year.
27- All Saints - Studio 1 (Parlophone) Rock Steady
I am such a sucker for a good pop record – especially a good girl-group record – and to me, All Saints are the bomb. The Sugababes may have had better hits, but All Saints manage to carry it for an album. Welcome back, girls…. It’s been too long.
26- Howlin Rain - Howlin Rain (Birdman) Death Prayer in Heaven's Orchard
Comets on Fire and Sunburnt Hand of the Man people combine and come up with a record that sounds like it came from the West Coast circa ’72. Except that these guys took waaaaay too much acid, and when they wig-out, they do so with a fury. Great for when you want a crazy psychedelic sound, but need a decent tune or two to roll with.
25- Scott Walker - The Drift (4AD) Hand Me Ups
Heh heh heh… Scariest LP of the year? Damned straight. We all like a little fear from time to time, but the meat punching, braying donkeys and Donald duck impersonations, coupled with subject matter like 9/11 and Jesse Presley’s still-birth makes for a challenging listen. Listen with the lights on.
24- Various - The World is Gone (XL) Hater
Is it folk or is it grime or is it electronica? Who knows and who cares. This was an impulse buy for me, but one that was instantly rewarded by the glorious ‘Hater’.
23- Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther (Bella Union)
22- Clark - Body Riddle (Warp) Herzog
A fine slice of electronic psychedelia. It is one of the few pieces of electronica that has really sunk in with me this year. Wild cycles of sound that build up into something very interesting: an electronica LP that really rewards repeated listens.
21- Various Artists - Nuggets (1965-1968) (Elecktra)
The Leaves - Hey Joe*
Classic compilation remastered and reissued. Some of the finest garage tunes every committed to vinyl – back when garage meant garage and not R’n’B.
20- Tunng - Comments of the Inner Chorus (Full Time Hobby)
The alt.folk scene has given us many curious bands, and Tunng are certainly among them. Slightly clipped folk tunes, cut up a little and given occasional electronic treatments. Band Stand and Woodcut are the stand out tracks.
19- Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & Tortoise - The Brave and the Bold (Overcoat)
It's Expected I'm Gone
Yet another Will Oldham release, and this time with post-rock band Tortoise. As a covers album, it is, at the least interesting. The radical reworking of Elton John’s ‘Daniel’ turned a few heads, but it was were the band stuck to the spirits of the originals that the best results were found, such as in ‘Calvary Cross’ and ‘
18- Beatles, The - Love (EMI) For the Benefit of Mr. Kite…
Is this a new album or a compilation? Hard to say, but the Beatles have been given a stand-up, if slightly underwhelming, mash-up treatment. When it works, it is tremendous and exciting; when it doesn’t, it simply reminds the listener why the originals were so good in the first place – which ain’t no bad thing.
17- Six Organs of Admittance The Sun Awakens (
Ben Chasny (also a member of Comets on Fire) and his solo project ‘Six Organs of Admittance’ have been pushing the envelope of finger-picking styles for best part of ten years now. While this LP is not quite the equal of the flawless ‘School of the Flower’, it is still a quality piece of work. If John Fahey had burnt out on acid, and then spent three weeks in his garden with a big bag of weed, it would sound something like this…
16- Various Artists - Rockin' Bones: 1950s Punk and Rockabilly (Rhino)
Elvis Presley - One Night of Sin
Rhino Handmade make great compilations, and a box set like this is meat and drink to a show like Tunes from the Missing Channel. It is rammed full of classics that you know and classics that you don’t. Where else might you hear some teenage girl have an orgasm to a rockabilly rhythm (Little Girl by John and Jackie) or some preacher tell his bobby-socked listeners they are going to hell (Sinners by Freddie and the Hitch-hikers). In the end I plumped for an unreleased version of ‘One Night’ by the King – the lyrics changed
to ‘One night with you is what I am now praying for’ from the original ‘One night of sin is what I am now paying for.’ Wow! Elvis in Prostitution shock!!!!
15- Bob Dylan - Modern Times (Sony) The Levee's Gonna Break
Album number six billion or something. It may be five years since his last new offering, but if anything Dylan is improving with age, picking up a little more bounce and swing. While it only makes number 15 on my list (there were simply LPs I enjoyed more), I can fully anticipate ‘Modern Times’ picking up the top spot in many lists – and yes, it is that good.
14- Brian Eno & David Byrne My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (Virgin)
This is a stand-up classic. Eno & Byrne have rarely done better work than this experiment that grew out of Eno’s production of Talking Heads LP ‘Fear of Music’. By matching ethnographic recordings to sharp rock and funk rhythms, the pair created something completely timeless and spaceless. This new release includes a video, seven new tracks and extended versions of some of the original inclusions, such as on this piece.
13- CSS - CSS (Subpop) Music is my Hot Hot Sex
12- Lady Sovereign - Public Warning (Defjam) Gatheration
The marmite of grime and hip hop, but you can tell which side of the line I am on – I think that both of her releases to date have been great. Fun, stupid and full of fire. She is no MIA – she raps with the same insight of the Cookie Crew, but the inventive mixes and production that sound like they are more the product of cheap necessity than artistic sensibility propel the ‘biggest midget in the game’ to great things – well, onto the Defjam label, which is not necessarily the same thing. This LP has still not been released in the
11- Gossip - Standing in the Way of Control (Kill Rockstars)
Yr Mangled Heart
Cheap and trashy. This LP sounds to me like
10- Steeleye Span - Please to See the King (Castle)
False Night on the Road*
Folkier than Fairport, this LP saw the first classic line-up of Steeleye. Folk-legend Martin Carthy and Peter Knight took the places of Terry and Gay Woods and added the precise amount of dirt to an already authentic sound. Carthy’s guitar work in particular revolutionised their sound. He was used to playing acoustic and played the electric the same way, which forged a harsher more jagged sound. This song, a live favourite, makes great use of both new musicians. Crank it up loud and you’ll see what I mean.
9- Sol Seppy - The Bells of 12 (Gronland) Wonderland
A right old mixed bag of wonder this one. Multi-instrumentalist Sophie Michalitsianos has been performing with Sparklehorse for some time, but this debut is simply gorgeous. It covers a range of styles from instrumental tunes, made up of – principally – bells, to slowcore, to lush indie pop. Has been kicking around for almost a year, but needs a little word of mouth push.
8- Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (
Old Dan Tucker
The Boss does Seeger. Unlike his regular recordings, he invited a bunch of folk to a barn and knocked this CD up in a day or two. Fast, loose and true to the spirit of Pete Seeger.
7- Cat Power - The Greatest (Matador) Love and Communication
Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) has been making lo-fi indie tunes for best part of ten years and has gained herself considerable critical acclaim in doing so, but in going to Memphis and pulling together a team of crack session musicians, she has found the musical backing that her songs have been crying out for. At once muscular and yet vulnerable. Quality.
6- David Crosby - If Only I Could Remember My Name (
Music is Love*
5- Espers - II (
Psychedelic folk favourites. The impossible melding of pastoral folk with freaked-out acid-tinged psychedelia. Greg Weeks and Meg Baird and co. have been pushing out the boundaries since their debut in 2004. This release cements their sound and their status.
4- Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti-)
The voice. This is the first CD I have bought by Neko Case and it is beautiful. Country-tinged loveliness. She and her producer gathered a crack band of musicians (including Garth Hudson of The Band and Howie Gelb of Giant Sand) to give Case’s 12 songs as much musical clout as lyrical. A classic, no doubt.
3- James Blackshaw - O True Believers (Important) O True Believers
This guy was 23 when he recorded this, but you could never believe it. The quality of his guitar work is easily on a par with his mentors, John Fahey, Robbie Basho or Peter Walker. Listening to this CD is like walking through a waterfall – except less wet.
2- Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - The Letting Go (Domino) Strange Form of Life
The second Will Oldham release in the chart is as close to perfect as it comes in my mind. It is the first proper Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy release since Master and Everyone in 2001, but he has lost nothing. By enlisting Valgeir Sigurosson (the composer and arranger for Bjork’s releases), he has a backing that gives both warm and cool textures to his song, which follow the usual pattern of loss and solitude. However, Dawn McCarthy’s backing vocals add even greater depth to the lyrics, emphasising his separation. This LP is beautiful from start to finish.
1- My Latest Novel - Wolves (Bella Union) The Reputation of Ross Francis
Who? Why? Where? Why this band have not been catapulted into the stratosphere beats me, especially given the similarity to last years biggest release (Funeral by Arcade Fire). Where TAF crank up the energy and consequently the strangeness of their material, My Latest Novel emphasise the quiet and the familiar. The key to me came when I played the CD in anticipation for the show. I knew that it was going to be a big player, but on listening to it again, I realised that it had lost none of its charm, but had gained a depth and beauty. I cannot recommend this LP enough. Album of the Year.
* Denotes a reissue