Top Ten List Revisited: 2007

I know, right?  A second post only one day later!  I had this one sitting around and there’s a good chance I won’t get back to this until mid-week (or so) so I wanted to get this published ASAP.  So let’s get right into it…

In the year 2007, I posted a pretty crappy Top Ten Records list. First of all, I listed 14. Second they were in no order. And finally, I didn’t seem to even like a lot of what I listed at the time, much less do I stand by it now. So this is a welcome revision for me. The full post is here, if you’d like to read it.

What I “listed” at the time (in non-sequential order):

  • Black Francis – “Bluefinger”
  • Over the Rhine – “Trumpet Child”
  • Dream Theater – “Systematic Chaos”
  • Bruce Springsteen – “Magic”
  • Arcade Fire – “Neon Bible”
  • Foo Fighters – “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace”
  • Neil Young – “Chrome Dreams II”
  • Lucinda Williams – “West”
  • Bettye LaVette – “The Scene of the Crime”
  • James Blunt – “All the Lost Souls”
  • Modest Mouse – “We Were Dead…”
  • Liz Moore – “Backyards”
  • Eddie Vedder – “Into the Wild”
  • Rush – “Snakes & Arrows”

 REVISED Top Ten Records of 2007:

black francis

1. Black Francis – Bluefinger

This is the Pixies record that SHOULD have happened immediately after the reunion, but it came as a solo record with none of the other Pixies involved. So it goes. (They got back together in 2006 and didn’t release anything to write home about until THIS year in the form of a four-song EP without Kim Deal on it–the latter doesn’t bug me, but it probably explains why it took so damn long.) Bluefinger is basically a form of biography of Dutch painter and musician Herman Brood (pronounced “Broat”). It marked a return to the name Black Francis (formerly Frank Black, and real name Charles Thompson…so whatever) and also a return to the hard-edged tone we’d all been missing, even though the Americana stuff was great. Definitely the thing that’s stuck with me the most since that year. (Also, read up on Herman Brood here. He was fascinating and made art that people should really see.)

Favorite Tracks: “Threshold Apprehension,” “Angels Come to Comfort You,” and “You Can’t Break a Heart and Have It” (Herman Brood cover)

tori amos

2. Tori Amos – American Doll Posse

I have a soft spot for concept records…and whereas this one didn’t really have a STORY to it, it did have a concept. Tori Amos formed her own girl-group entirely made up of Tori Amos. Yeah. She’s weird. But there’s no doubt that this is a great record. Her music hadn’t felt this relevant in a long time, and frankly I haven’t liked anything she’s done as much since. It’s self-indulgent and self-mocking in all the right ways, and the songs will be stuck in your head forever.

Favorite Tracks: “Bouncing Off Clouds,” “Girl Disappearing,” “Body and Soul” and “Smokey Joe”

rufus

3. Rufus Wainwright – Release the Stars

I became a Rufus Wainwright fan the year AFTER this record came out. (Mostly thanks to a couple of appearances he did on Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross, respectively.) This album always should’ve been in my top ten–even though I didn’t do one that year. Ahem… Rufus writes songs that I don’t always identify with, but in which I always find myself blissfully lost. He writes beautifully. The fact that he is not a household name is just proof that the houses in this world suck.

Favorite Tracks: “Do I Disappoint You,” “Tiergarten,” “Slideshow,” and “Release the Stars”

rush

4. Rush – Snakes & Arrows

This is the Rush album I had hoped its predecessor would be. A little dark, but still a lot of fun. Classic Rush sound, but without feeling dated. Rush is a band about progress and change, and “Snakes & Arrows” saw them move into a place where I couldn’t WAIT for the housewarming. Or something. Point is, it’s a great record. I actually credit this record with being the statement they needed to finally get the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s attention. Even though it would take another five years for them to get in, this record showed everybody that not only was Rush still going STRONG, but the fans were still rabid for them–the record debuted at #3 on the US Billboard Top 200.

Favorite Tracks: “Far Cry,” “Workin’ Them Angels,” “The Larger Bowl,” and “Faithless”

fogerty

5. John Fogerty – Revival

As somebody that hated George W. Bush so much I still refuse to call him “President,” this record was a breath of fresh air. I just didn’t hear it until a year LATER. The alternate name of this record could easily be “Fuck George Bush…Fuck Him. Fuck Him HARD.” That seems to be the overall theme of the lyrics. It feels like a Creedence record that should’ve happened, and was dripping with, “Yeah! What he said!” The songs still hold up even if the reign of terror is over. If we’re still cool with singing, “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming…” then we should be fine with this as a snapshot of the BUllSHit that happened under W.

Favorite Tracks: “Creedence Song,” “Long Dark Night,” and “I Can’t Take It No More”

springsteen

6. Bruce Springsteen – Magic

Speaking of being pissed at Bush… Springsteen has never been afraid to take a political stance (Eg “Born in the USA” is actually a protest song). On this record, he doesn’t necessarily tell you how he thinks you should vote, as Fogerty did.  Instead he mostly just paints an accurate picture of America at the time. Deeply entrenched in a war that didn’t matter with leadership that mattered even less, Springsteen painted a dark, dank picture of the country and the world. Even the light-hearted “Girls in their Summer Clothes” has a sense of regret in the middle of watching the dresses dance in the breeze. In many ways, I think of “Magic” and Fogerty’s “Revival” as almost unwitting companion pieces. Springsteen paints a picture of what it’s like to be STUCK in the BUllSHit, and Fogerty told you how to fight back. Not to mention it’s got that big-ass E Street SOUND to it that almost envelops you from moment one.

Favorite Tracks: “Radio Nowhere,” “Livin’ in the Future,” “Last to Die,” “Long Walk Home” and “Terry’s Song”

arcade fire

7. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

I loved Arcade Fire’s debut record, the inescapable “Funeral.” “Neon Bible” is, of course, the follow-up. On my first listen, I wasn’t a fan of the great majority. (And I still think the title track is awful and it reminds me of the background music of a certain level of the old Nintendo game “Rygar” that was really hard to beat.) But it grew on me. A lot. One of the things I appreciate about Arcade Fire is that going into their fourth record in the year 2013, they haven’t done anything that’s felt like a rehash of a previous record yet. I think that’s what threw me at the time with “Neon Bible.” I was EXPECTING it to feel like the same vibe they had on “Funeral.” I was expecting the same thing I already loved, while they wanted to give me something else…and it just took a while to realize that even though it’s different, it’s still excellent.

Favorite Tracks: “Black Mirror,” “Intervention,” and “My Body is a Cage”

circa survive

8. Circa Survive – On Letting Go

I only became a fan of Circa Survive THIS year after seeing them with Coheed & Cambria. They’re of the hi-voiced, “This isn’t quite punk, but what is it?” genre. Sort of like a slightly wussy version of Billy Talent. And that’s my cup of tea. I dug their sound at the show and picked up a couple of the records. Liked this one enough that I thought it belonged on this list, now that I’m finally writing it.

Favorite Tracks: “Living Together,” “The Greatest Lie,” and “Your Friends are Gone”

shack shakers

9. Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers – Swampblood

Got into the Shack Shakers in 2009 and this was their most recent release at that time. It’s fun, gritty, and as the title would suggest, swampy. The Shack Shakers are one of those bands that are cursed with being much better live than on record (they tend to get mired in layering their records with dynamics they just can’t seem to be bothered with live–and dropping the production is definitely a big help for them). But the record is still strong, even if it doesn’t sound anything LIKE that live…though, in fairness, this one probably comes the closest to capturing them of any of their releases since “Cockadoodledon’t.”

Favorite Tracks: “Swampblood” and “Born Again Again”

NIN

10. Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero

Again…I have a thing for concept albums. 2007 seemed to be a BIG year for presenting glimpses of the US through the eyes of the discontent. And no one is more discontent than Trent. That rhymes. And you KNOW it fucking rhymes. Released through a very unusual series of reality-game based publicity stunts (many of which completely fell flat on the average guy who just wanted to hear the goddamn thing), the scope of the record was probably larger than the audience at the time. I don’t think we were ready for it yet…which is kind of what Trent does. Go to the Wikipedia page on it and read up…it was an interesting idea to accompany jarring, interesting music (when it isn’t jarring, interesting static). The whole damn thing feels like something Bowie WOULD have done if he’d have thought of it and not been retired at the time.

Favorite Tracks: “My Violent Heart,” “The Greater Good,” and “The Great Destroyer”

Honorable Mentions:

  • Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Good record that I often forget is more than an EP. On “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” we got the kind of “fun” side of the band, and on this one they seemed pissed off. And I liked that.)
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Baby ’81 (BRMC has become a recurring favorite rock act for me. Baby ’81 was probably the most accessible record they had out at the time, and it has been in my player a lot since I came to learn of them through my brother.)
  • Liz Moore – Backyards (Revisiting this list made me give it a re-listen, and I still think it’s great.)
  • Eddie Vedder – Into the Wild (I over-stated it at the time. Not near as Pearl Jam worthy as I thought when I originally wrote up the list…but I still like it better than the band’s self-titled record.)
  • James Blunt – All the Lost Souls (Still a guilty pleasure.)
  • Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (Still a lot better than it gets credit for.)
  • Bettye LaVette – The Scene of the Crime (Didn’t end up in regular rotation, but still pop it in occasionally, and it’s a good time.)

 Stuff I Definitely No Longer Stand By:

  • Over the Rhine – The Trumpet Child (It’s just not very good. It’s boring and lifeless. Sorry…but it is.)
  • Neil Young – Chrome Dreams II (It’s fine…but nothing stays in my head after I listen to it.)
  • Lucinda Williams – West (I don’t think I’ve picked it up SINCE 2007…)
  • Dream Theater – Systematic Chaos (I’ve listened to this VERY little since 2007. Played it recently and wondered why… Just not a very good record. The writing was on the wall even HERE that Portnoy needed to exit…he was clearly just not on the same page as the rest of the band, as it only seems to be HIS songs that got the right amount of attention–and unfortunately they weren’t very good.)

Up next: 2008! (This is really math you should be able to do on your own, you know.)

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